Monday, September 29, 2008

Just In Time For Rosh Hashanah

Something to pray about:

Happy New Year

Le-shanah tovah tikasevu ve-sechasemu

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year

תהא שנת ספרים טובים

Click here for the Ezras Torah synagogue calendar for Rosh Hashanah: link.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Periodical: Meorot Journal 7:1

Announcements #057: Yom Kippur Headache Study & New Semester at VBM

Do you Suffer From Headaches When Fasting on Yom Kippur?

Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem is currently recruiting healthy volunteers, aged 18-65, who suffer from headaches when fasting - for a study to take place over the coming Yom Kippur.

Click here to read moreThis clinical study involves a commonly used and proven-safe pill, taken before the fast, designed to alleviate these headaches.

To participate or for more information,

Please email:
Or Call: 054 627 2867 (This study is only relevant for readers in Israel)

New Semester at VBM

Here are the course offerings (register here: link):
Click here to read more
  • Tanakh
    • Parashat Ha-shavua - the Weekly Torah Reading
      An analysis of the parasha, incorporating innovative approaches as well as traditional commentaries.
      This course was originally sent out ten years ago and is being repeated.
      Instructor: Rav Yonatan Grossman
      Level: Advanced
    • Introduction to Parashat Ha-shavua
      A beginners-level examination of the weekly Torah portion, discussing themes and teaching one how to learn parasha.
      Instructor: Rav Yaakov Beasley
      Level: Beginner
    • The Book of Shemuel (2)
      This course will use textual and literary analysis to illuminate the figures of Shemuel, Shaul, and David, as well as to clarify the meaning of the text. This year we will commence with I Shemuel chapter 16, David's anointment. Previous classes are archived.
      Instructor: Rav Amnon Bazak
      Level: Intermediate
    • Studies in Sefer Tehillim
      This course seeks to reveal the themes and religious messages of the psalms by examining their structure and literary form.
      Instructor: Rav Elchanan Samet
      Level: Intermediate
  • Halakha
    • Topics in Halakha
      A weekly shiur discussing a specific halakhic question, an analysis of a broad halakhic topic, or the meaning and philosophy behind a particular aspect of the Halakha.
      Instructor: Yeshiva staff
      Level: Advanced
    • Laws of the Festivals
      A course on the laws of the chagim. Each topic will commence with an examination of the primary sources, tracing the halakha from the relevant gemarot through the rishonim and acharonim, and will address practical applications as well.
      Instructor: Rav David Brofsky
      Level: Intermediate
    • Mishna Berura (2)
      A guide to accompany the self-study of the Mishna Berura. The study sheets summarize and expand on the basic issues in the assigned sections of the Mishna Berura, beginning this year with Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 55, the laws of Kaddish.
      Instructors: R. Yosef Zvi Rimon & R. Asher Meir
      Level: Intermediate
  • Jewish Philosophy
    • Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
      Addresses (sichot) on the weekly parasha by the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Harav Yehuda Amital and Harav Aharon Lichtenstein.
      Level: all
    • Mikdash (2)
      The course will examine the importance and role of the Temple in Tanakh, Halakha, Jewish philosophy, and history. This continues our series on Jerusalem, but is independent of the previous parts.
      Instructor: Rav Yitzchak Levi
      Level: All
    • Faith and the Holocaust (2)
      Where was God in the Holocaust? How can we continue afterwards? This course will explore how a broad array of Orthodox thinkers grappled with these and other questions.
      Instructor: Rav Tamir Granot
      Level: All
    • Modern Rabbinic Thought
      An analysis of major themes in the thought of some of the most important and creative rabbinic thinkers of the last two hundred years, including the Tiferet Yisrael, Rav Hirsch, the Netziv, the Meshekh Chokhma, the Seridei Esh, and Rav Hutner.
      Instructor: Rav Yitzchak Blau
      Level: All
    • Understanding the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy
      A close analysis of the meaning of each of the "thirteen attributes of mercy," the central component of Selichot, based on Talmudic sources and later philosophical writings.
      Instructor: Rav Ezra Bick
      Level: All
  • Talmud
    • Gemara Ketubot
      An analysis of the major issues in the gemara, geared for students who are learning the basic text on their own.
      Instructors: Rabbanei HaYeshiva
      Level: Advanced
    • Introduction to the Study of Talmud
      A structured tutorial on how to learn Gemara, starting from the basics, using text and commentaries. We will be studying the final chapter of Kiddushin.
      Instructor: Rav Michael Siev
      Level: Beginner
    • Reading Midrash: Vayikra Rabba
      This class will give you the tools necessary to study classical midrashic texts on your own. You will learn to understand the logic behind Chazal's interpretations of the Bible and to recognize the important literary forms through which Chazal formulate their ideas.
      Instructor: Dr. Moshe Simon-Shoshan
      Level: All
    • Talmudic Methodology
      A shiur using different talmudic topics to illustrate the nature of rabbinic legal thinking, emphasizing the analytic methods practiced in modern Yeshivot.
      Instructor: Rav Moshe Taragin
      Level: Intermediate
      Special packages sent out before each holiday, with articles on philosophic and halakhic topics, to enhance our appreciation of the holiday.

  • For the Record

    Georgia's Prime Minister did NOT call Israel and ask for Rav Steinman to pray for him, despite the e-mails I've received to the contrary. The Jerusalem Post reported a few weeks ago (link):
    Click here to read more
    News reports that Georgia's Prime Minister Vladimer (Lado) Gurgenidze called Israel to ask for a blessing from a prominent haredi spiritual leader are totally fictitious and were timed to take advantage of Georgia's plight, said sources close to Gurgenidze Thursday.

    "The Prime Minister never called anyone in Israel for a blessing," said the sources.

    "Rather, this is an attempt to capitalize on Georgia's plight and international sympathy right now."

    In parallel, an organization called Hava'ad L'hatzelat Nidchei Yisrael (The Council for Savind Lost Jews), a haredi organization that builds educational institutions in Georgia,
    denied that it had any ties with the Israeli man who publicized the story.

    Rabbi Barry Hertz, Chairman of the US branch of the Council, said that according "well-informed sources" Gurgenidze never asked for a blessing and never talked with Rabbi Shimon Bruk.
    I only post this because it came to my attention that people actually took that story seriously.

    Link: Yeshiva World

    I Answer Ten Questions

    I wasn't planning on posting a link to this interview I gave because it seems a bit self-aggrandizing. But a reader whose judgment I respect prevailed upon me. You can read it here: link

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Transgender Professor II

    According to an article in The Commentator (link), my judgment (link) on the subject of a transgender professor at YU matched that of R. Hershel Schachter and R. Hershel Billet. The article quotes the two rabbis as follows:
    Click here to read more
    Rabbi [Hershel] Schachter noted that many of the professors in the university are Jewish and are not observant. "Why is this any different?" Rabbi Schachter asked. Furthermore, there are professors in the college who are homosexual, which has not been a major source of contention for students. "This is an issue every Yeshiva that teaches secular studies has to deal with," said Rabbi Schachter. He felt that YU should not dictate that its faculty hold Torah perspectives. At the same time, he felt that students should be able to take students [professors?] who share their values: "if students want to boycott the course, let them boycott the course."

    Rabbi Herschel Billet, rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere and former president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RIETS '75, BRGS '80), largely agreed with Rabbi Schachter. He said, "SCW, like most Orthodox Jewish schools, never required its secular faculty to be halachically observant." So long as a professor was "respectful of the Orthodox Jewish character of the student body," Rabbi Billet did not feel they should alter this policy - regardless of the sexual orientation of the professor.

    New Periodical: Kol Hamevaser 2:1

    There is a new issue of Kol Hamevaser: The Jewish Thought Magazine of the Yeshiva University Student Body. Here is a link to a place where you can download it in full: link
    • On Selihot by Alex Ozar
    • On Optimism and Freedom: A Preface to R. Kook’s Orot ha-Teshuvah by R. Shalom Carmy
    • Levinas and the Possibility of Prayer by Emmanuel Sanders
    • Interview with Rabbi Hershel Reichman by Ari Lamm
    • Praying with Passion by Rena Weisen
    • The Supernatural, Social Justice and Spirituality by Gilah Kletenik
    • Lion, Tigers and Sin- Oh My by Simcha Gross
    • Lord, Get Me High by Ruthie Just Braffman
    • Finding Meaning in Teshuvah by Joseph Attias
    • Interview with Rabbi Marc Angel on His Recently Published Book, The Search Committee by Gilah Kletenik

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    The Opportunity of Prayer

    When describing the options that God places before man, the Torah uses two different descriptions of them -- in Parashas Re'eh (Deut. 11:27-28) they are a blessing and a curse, and in Parashas Nitzavim (Deut. 30:15) they are life and death. Why do the options change from blessing/curse to the more severe life/death?

    The Meshekh Chokhmah (Deut. 30:20) explains that in between the first passage and the second, the mitzvah of teshuvah (repentance) was given. People make mistakes and God recognizes that. Therefore, the result of sin alone is not death but merely a curse. However, once repentance was commanded, and we have the opportunity to undo our misdeeds, then the failure of someone who fails to do so is even worse than someone who merely sins.

    Click here to read moreSinning alone leads to a curse but additionally failing to take advantage of the opportunity to repent greatly compounds the misdeed. While repentance is a great thing in that it can undo your sins, this very power is what makes ignoring it so dangerous. God has given you the ability to reverse your sin and you have repeatedly failed to do so. That is why the later passage has a much harsher way of referring to the sinful path.

    The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Teshuvah 3:3) writes that someone who on Rosh Hashanah is a beinoni -- has even merits and sins -- is given until Yom Kippur. If he repents, he is written among the righteous and if not, he is written among the wicked. R. Yitzchak Blaser (Kokhvei Or no. 5) asks why he specifically has to repent. Shouldn't it suffice if he does any big mitzvah?

    R. Blaser answers that, particularly during the 10 days of repentance (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur), God gives us the specific opportunity to repent and undo our sins. If someone fails to take advantage of the possibility, then not only does he not have the mitzvah but he is considered as if he turned his back on God and has greatly increased his sins.

    R. Mordechai Willig, in a recent lecture in Baltimore (link - audio, beginning around minute 38), applies this lesson to prayer. Prayer is an incredible opportunity to communicate with God. If we do not to take advantage of it, this too is a great failure. Just like repentance is an opportunity to change ourselves and failing to do so is counted seriously against us, prayer is an incredible privilege and opportunity to connect to God (or better ourselves through prayer) and failing to do so is a terrible loss to ourselves.

    Audio Roundup XII

    by Joel Rich

  • Rabbi Michael Rosensweig - How to relate to the study of Tanach?: link

    A must listen (imho) in which Rabbi Rosensweig discusses (among other things) seemingly conflicting Talmudic statements (e.g. Brachot 4b – Nach all from Sinai vs. Nedarim 22b – Most of Nach might not have been given except for the golden calf) about the halachik force of Nach. Opinions on halachik force (there are many) of Nach included. Whatever position you take there, Nach is certainly a source of Mussar/Jewish lifestyle lessons.

  • Rabbi Shalom Morris - Sefer Yonah: link

    Jonah as a mussar sefer – you can run but you can’t hide. Part reminds me of the Rav (with a patach = Kook in my sister’s family) as quoted by the Rav (with a kamatz = Soloveitchik in my family) concerning the Yom Kippur liturgy - ad shelo notzarti implying each of us was born at a specific time for a specific mission (now if they only sold a decoder ring!).

  • Click here to read more
  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks - Bal Tosif: link

    Analysis of the two sources in the torah. It includes detailed discussion of the Rambam’s understanding of the prohibition related to making rabbinic prohibitions seem biblical.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter - Shiur on Parshas Ki Seitzei: link

    Episode #2973 in R’HS’s kol hatorah kulah series. Discussion of Melech v’lo Malka (R’YBS vs. R’MF), Sanhedrin of a Shevet (I’d still like some clarity on the chain of authority), Matnot Khunah and the requirement of not being superstitious or as my Zayde Z”L used to say “You can be religious or superstitious, not both”.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz - Rachmanim, Bayshanim, v'Gomlei Chasadim: link

    We are Rachmanim, Bayshanim, Gomlei Chassadim. Work on relationships with spouses and remember that bayshanim implies modesty; certain things about relationships not discussed in public are what distinguishes us.

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb - The Parameters of Lo Tilbash: link

    A discussion of Kli Gever including pants, coloring of hair and issues of intent of wearer. Important reference – Tur Y”D 182 and prisha – standards based on non-Jewish community or maybe not!? Any input on this specific issue appreciated.

  • Rav Mayer Twersky - Growth During Downtime: Serving Hashem 24x7: link

    The Torah recognizes the need for relaxation and one can relax lishma (Hmmm- My grandmother z"l used to always say "there will be plenty of time to rest in the grave" - that's probably where I got my sunny, care free disposition.), yet;
    - our society thinks we need too much relaxation
    - the sounds we hear and images we see impact us therefore
    - no TV
    - internet is more nuanced
    - innocent relaxation (e.g. schmoozing, vacation) can turn deadly if you are not careful

  • Rav Mordechai Willig - In G-d We Trust? Balancing Work & Other Mitzvos: link

    Life requires a dynamic balance at different times but always remember you can’t say Kshe'efneh eshneh (when I have time, I’ll learn) – (me – requirement is be a learner and an earner who edited the R’YBS machzor?). Discussion of the real meaning of bitachon and hishtadiut.

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb - Lo Sasur: Rabbinic Authority: link

    Lo tasur – Ramban vs. Ramban and source of rabbinic authority if this isn’t it.

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff - Contemporary Problems; Feminism: link

    The always entertaining R’ Rakefett shares his take on feminism. Interesting points – it’s not a problem in the 5 towns. Discussion includes Sotah and women’s learning.

  • Rabbi Zvi Ralbag - Koach Chachamim Laakor Davar Min HaTorah: link

    Interesting (to me) technical discussion concerning whether when the Rabannan added “conditions” to mitzvot when (if at all or always) do those conditions keep you from a kiyum on a doraita basis (and by what authority?) IMHO the question is very powerful and gets to the root of rabbinic judaism (and rabbinic authority).

  • Rav Yisroel Reisman -“The Two Aspects of Tefillah.”: link

    Part of Shomrei Emunah’s “Rosh Yeshiva Road Trip” (I hope they gave out cool T-shirts). An analysis of the positions of the Chayei Adam and Steipler concerning what to do if you’re not sure where you lost track in the middle of Shmonah Esrai. Focuses of the issue of Bracha Lvatala and are there 2 elements in Shmoneh Esrai which may help understand the difference of opinion (Emunah/Avoah (belief) and Bakesh Tzrachav (requests)). In any event always be thankful.

  • Prayers of the Yamim Noraim - Rav Binyamin Tabory: link

    Discussion of Malchiyot, Zichronot and Shofrot as representing the Albo’s 3 principles of faith. Also discussion of why the ordering of the verses we recite are Torah, Ketuvim and Navi.

  • Themes of the Yamim Noraim - Rabbi M Lichtenstein: link

    Focus on 3 barren mothers and how they are all examples of self sacrifice (and obvious message to us this time of year).

  • Praying with fire siyum (Baltimore Community) includes Divrei Chizuk from Rabbi S. Kaminetsky & Rabbi M. Willig: link

    Reflections on Tfilah/tshuva (prayer/repentance). We should take neither for granted and the fact that we are granted this ability (me – which R’YBS thought a chiddush) means if we don’t use in we’re even worse off. Similarly insincere usage (no kiyum shebelev) is bad news on the doorstep.

  • Rabbi Allen Schwartz - Moshiach: link

    Beginning of series discussing sources and concepts.

  • Rav Hershel Schachter- Tekias Shofar al Seder HaBerachos (Rosh Yeshiva Road Trip): link

    All tefilot have bakashot (requests), just of different nature. The blowing of shofar with the tefilot raises them to a higher level. Some bonus side points including: 1) how do we rank zrizin versus brov am, 2) in Breuer’s the Kohanim washed in the shul, 3) it’s a Yerushalmi which gives reason for why there’s no osek bmitzvah patur bmitzvah by learning – because it would be Llmod al minat shelo laasot.

  • Rabbi Meir Goldwicht - Kaporah: link

    Our job is to expand the kingdom of God in this world through our everyday lives. Beautiful explanation of why Yaakov said Kriat Shma upon seeing Yosef – he showed how to do so on foreign soil (Baruch Shem Kvod).

  • New Periodical: Azure no. 33 (Summer 5768/2008)

    New issue of the always-well written Azure (link):
    • The Sabra's Lawless Legacy by Assaf Sagiv - A plea for obeying the law
    • Kissinger: The Inside-Outsider by Jeremi Suri - A discussion of how Kissinger's experience as an immigrant shaped his political views and actions
    • A Culture of Endless Mourning by Hamutal Bar-Yosef - Bemoaning the prominence of mourning in Israeli culture and comparing it to traditional Jewish attitudes of moving on after a period of mourning
    • A Right Above All Others by Amitai Etzioni - Arguing that US foreign policy should be driven by encouraging respect for human life
    • A Tale of Two Sinners by Ido Hevroni - Trying to explain how repentance allows you to build something great on the foundation of a sinful past
    • Occidental Truth by Daniel Mandel - Review of a harsh rebuttal of Edward Said's (in)famous book, Orientalism
    • Maimonides at the Margins by Orly Roth - Review of a book that looks at the Rambam's perspective on "outsiders"
    • Sexing the Catastrophe by Marla Braverman - Scathing review of an outrageous feminist take on 9/11
    • Letters - Comments and response on A.B. Yehoshua's essay on anti-semitism (link), Marla Braverman's essay on the Israeli brain drain (link) and a review of Richard Pipes' legacy (link)

    Business Ethics Guidelines

    From the RCA website (link):
    RCA Task Force to Publish Jewish Principles and Ethical Guidelines for Business and Industry

    Sep 24, 2008 -- The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has today announced the formation of a high level Task Force that will produce a detailed practical guide to Jewish Principles and Ethical Guidelines, as applied to business and industry in general, and the kosher food industry in particular.

    The Task Force will be chaired by Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir. Rabbi Meir is a leading authority in the field of Jewish business ethics and is the author of two weekly syndicated columns on the topic. The first, "The Jewish Ethicist," analyzes contemporary ethical dilemmas from the standpoint of Jewish tradition. The second, "Ethics at Work," adopts a more general ethical perspective, and has appeared weekly in the Jerusalem Post since 2004. In addition, other prominent members of the RCA, including well-known experts in the field of business ethics, have been appointed to the Task Force. The Task Force will also consult with respected representatives of the kosher food industry as well as business professionals.

    Click here to read moreWe believe that the kosher food industry as a whole maintains an exemplary level of ethical practice, thanks in part to the presence of kosher agencies and supervisors. Nonetheless, we attach importance to having ethical guidelines incorporated as a matter of policy by companies receiving kosher supervision, thereby further raising the level of ethical compliance throughout the industry.

    The purpose of the Guide will be two-fold:

    1. It will require that a condition of kosher food certification be an agreement to adhere to all relevant civil laws and regulations as formulated, monitored and enforced by existing government regulatory and enforcement agencies, in whichever country they occur. Violations of such laws will be viewed by kosher agencies with utmost seriousness.

    2. It will formulate and clarify relevant principles of Jewish law and ethics governing business conduct. Companies interested in conforming to the highest standards of Jewish ethics will be encouraged to adopt these principles voluntarily wherever possible, as a matter of corporate social responsibility.

    In announcing the initiative, Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, President of the RCA, stated, "Ethics and social responsibility are central to the Torah and the rabbinic tradition, in business no less than in the home, the synagogue and the school. We are fully aware of the realities of a competitive marketplace spread all over the globe, and the need to provide affordable kosher food. In taking this step, the RCA seeks as a practical matter to reinforce ethical values and corporate policies, while ensuring a reliable and affordable supply of food products for the kosher consumer."

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    The Problem of Prayer

    With the high holiday season in full swing and Jews across the world in repentance mode, it is worth pausing to think about why we pray. Philosophically, prayer poses a big problem. God is just and knows everything. If that is the case, why does He need us to tell Him what we want through prayer? Doesn't He already know it? And if we deserve it then He will give it to us anyway, regardless of whether we pray, because He is just. And if we don't deserve it, then He won't give it to us.

    Think of a righteous person who is struggling to earn a living. Surely God knows that this man needs money and deserves it. So why the need to pray? It would seem that prayer implies either a deficiency in God's omniscience or justice. (In case anyone thinks that this question is somehow sacrilegious, R. Chaim Friedlander, the former mashgi'ach in the Ponovizher Yeshiva, asks the same question in his Sifsei Chaim, mo'adim p. 74ff.)

    Click here to read moreThe Rambam explains in Moreh Nevukhim (3:36, 51) that prayer is not about telling God what we want. Rather, it is about contemplating our relationship with God and, thereby, growing in our understanding of God. When we pray, we verbalize and internalize truths about this world and particularly about the human condition in the world. We explore our dependence on God and his sustenance of the universe. This raises us to higher levels of knowledge of God. Within Maimonidean philosophy, reaching a higher level of knowledge of God involves a corresponding greater prophetic and providential connection. This is what prayer, at its best, achieves. (See, however, Marvin Fox's attempt to merge this philosophic view with the popular view of prayer in Interpreting Maimonides, pp. 297-322.)

    Others see prayer in a slightly different way. R. Yosef Albo (Sefer Ha-Ikkarim 4:16-18) explains that prayer is a way of improving ourselves and making ourselves worthy of reward. Before we pray we might be worthy of reward X but after we pray, when we have come closer to God, we are now worthy of X+1 reward.

    I think it is readily understandable why this would be the case. The vast majority of our day is spent in a materialistic, cause-and-effect world. We constantly see how our effort (or lack thereof) yields corresponding benefits (or the opposite). We need prayer to bring us back to the spiritual reality that God controls the world. It is this regularity of prayer that lifts us out of the mundane world and raises us to a higher level of belief in God, turning us into more believing and spiritual people.

    According to R. Albo, it is this transformative power of prayer that explains why prayer sometimes yields results. Through prayer, we become more worthy of receiving what we need or want.

    R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik has a different approach to this subject in his posthumously published book, Worship of the Heart. As described by R. Josh Amaru in his review of the book in The Torah U-Madda Journal (no. 13 - link - PDF), p. 162:
    Meaningful prayer must be just that. It must reflect my own concerns and needs and my own sense of dependence on God. It is not a means of influencing God, but the expression of my desire to do so; I beseech God to address my concerns, to help me with my problems, to relieve my pain and distress.
    I don't pretend to understand what that means. Bottom line: When I pray to God to heal a sick friend, am I asking Him to do that or not and do I expect/hope for Him to do it or not?

    Parashah Roundup: Nitzavim 5768/Rosh Hashanah 5769

    by Steve Brizel

    The Great Transition
  • R. Yissocher Frand analyzes how Moshe Rabbeinu transferred the reigns of leadership to Joshua:

  • Brachos uKlalos
  • R. Yonasan Sacks explains why Parshas Netzavim always precedes Rosh HaShanah:
  • R. Shlomo Riskin and R. Berel Wein underscore the importance of reading Parshas Netzavim before Rosh HaShanah: link 1, link 2

  • Click here to read moreHidden and Revealed Sins
  • R. Mordechai Willig suggests that we condemn the sin, but not the sinner and set forth what constittutes behavior that is deviasionist in behavior: link
  • R. Ephraim Buchwald reminds us that in our generation, we must embrace Baalei Teshuvah who are Tinokos Shenishbu and Gerei HaTzedek who have a demonstrated self sacrifice in order to live a life of Torah observance: link

  • The Mitzvah of Teshuvah
  • R. Michael Rosensweig sets forth a blueprint for teshuvah: link
  • R. Zvi Sobolofsky reminds us that Teshuvah is a responsibility, and not a gift: link
  • R. Asher Brander, based upon a comment of R Elchannan Wasserman, HaShem Yimkam Damo, zt"l stresses that teshuvah reminds us that God desires a strong relationship with Klal Yisrael on a communal and individual level: link
  • The Kli Yakar, as prepared by R. Eliezer Kwass, emphasizes that teshuvah is a two-way movement between man and God: link
  • R. Jonathan Sacks suggests that God's faith in mankind and our ability to choose how to behave is the fourteenth principal of faith: link

  • Rosh HaShanah-Halachic and Hashkafic Insights
  • Rav Soloveitchik zt"l (especially for those who missed these shiurim when they were posted earlier) discusses the halachic and hashkafic aspects of Slichos and Rosh HaShanah: link
  • R. Shlomo Wolbe zt"l explains that on Rosh HaShanah, Klal Yisrael emphasizeopenly that HaShem is the true King of the Universe, after fighting a guerilla war and seemingly serving a government in exile during the year: link (DOC)
  • R. Moshe Wolfson, speaking in the RIETS Beis Medrash, provides an overview of what we should be striving for during Elul and the Yamim Noraim in terms of Emunah: link (audio)
  • R. Baruch Simon discusses why we recite Selichos for at least four days before Rosh HaShanah: link (audio)
  • R. Herschel Shachter delineates many of the events that followed the creation of man which remain relevant today (link) and Tekios
    Al Seder Habrachos (link - audio).
  • R. Doniel Schreiber discusses the definition of the mitzvah of Shofar and the numerous views regarding the number of Tekios that one should hear on Rosh HaShanah: link 1, link 2
  • R. Reuven Brand reminds us that Tekias Shofar enables us to transcend our past and to connect to HaShem through sincere Teshuvah: link (PDF)
  • R. Daniel Feldman explores the differenece between Teshuvah MeAhavah and Teshuvah MeYirah and based upon an observation of R Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zt"l, why Teshuvah is such a difficult mitzvah to implement in one's life: link (PDF)
  • Cantor Sherwood Goffin discusses the origins and the importance of knowing and adhering to the Nusach HaTefilah of the Yamim Noraim: link (PDF)
  • R. Avraham Gordimer discusses certain minhagim of Rosh HaShanah: link (PDF)
  • R. Joshua Flug, based upon an analysis of the relevant Talmudic passage and views of the Rishonim, discusses how Rosh HaShanah serves as a Yom HaDin: link (PDF)
  • Mrs. Daphna Fishman Secunda explores the views of many of the Gdolei HaMharshim on the meaning of the Akedah and why the Akedah is symbolic of complete teshuvah: link (PDF)
  • R. Aharon Lichstenstein explains why Rosh HaShanah is Yom Hazikaron and the views of Chazal and Rishonim as to the meaning, the effect on Shemoneh Esreh and the consequences of not saying HaMelech HaKadosh: link 1, link 2
  • R. Mosheh Lichtenstein shows why HaShem's remembrance of Chanah was chosen as the Hafatarah for the first day of Rosh HaShanah: link
  • R. Avigdor Nevenzal explains why Shofaros represent the unfolding of the Divine Plan: link
  • R. Yitzchak Etshalom investigates the importance of Psalm 47 and why it is recited before Tekias Shofar: link (PDF)

  • Aseres Ymei Teshuvah
  • R. Dovid Gottlieb explains why HaMelech HaKadosh is such an important theme in Tefilah during Aseres Ymei Teshuvah: link (audio)
  • R. Shmuel Hain discusses many halachos and minhagim that are affected by Aseres Ymei Teshuvah: link (PDF)

  • Announcements #056: WebYeshiva This Sunday - Rosh HaShana Learning

    Join WebYeshiva Online This Sunday for Inspirational Rosh HaShana Learning

    Join WebYeshiva online for a day of inspirational learning in honor of Rosh HaShana - Sunday, September 28th. During the course of the day, there will be 8 fully interactive, live, online shiurim given by WebYeshiva's renowned teachers. Each online class lasts 1 hour.

    Click here to learn moreRabbi Gavriel Pransky / 10:00am Israel time / 3:00am NY time
    Apples, Honey and Fish Heads: The Kavana of Rosh HaShana Dinner

    Rabbi Asher Meir / 11:30am Israel time / 4:30am NY time
    Visiting Graves before Rosh HaShana:
    Communing with the Soul Above or the Body Below?

    Rabbi Stuart Fischman / 1:00pm Israel time / 6:00am NY time
    What is the Mitzva of Shofar?

    Dr. Yoel Finkelman / 5:00pm Israel time / 10:00am NY time
    The Inevitable Failure of Teshuva

    Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky / 9:30pm Israel time / 2:30pm NY time
    The "Famous Rambam" That Never Was & The Secret Message of the Shofar

    Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel / 11:30pm Israel time / 4:30pm NY time
    HaMelech: The High Holiday Tefillah Adjustments

    Rabbi Avi Weinstein September 29th 4:00am Israel time / September 28th 9:00pm NY time
    The Complexity of a Simple Sound

    Rabbi Chaim Brovender September 29th 5:30am Israel time / September 28th 10:30pm NY time
    Blowing the Shofar - Highest of the High

    Step #1: Go to
    Step #2: Click on the link "Free Yom Iyun on Rosh HaShana"
    Step #3: Click on "Login as a guest"
    Step #4: On the top left hand box, entitled "Next class", Please enter your first and last name in the "Name" form field and click "Join Now". This option will only appear 15 minutes before the commencement of each shiur.
    (Note: You must have your microphone, head phones, and/or webcam plugged in before you click on "Join Class")
    Step #5: If this is your first time logging in to a class at WebYeshiva you will have to go through a onetime 5 minute setup process (click here for simple instructions which detail that process).
    Step #6: Click YES when asked if you want to join the Integrated VoIP Conference.
    Note: Archived shiurim will be available following each class (usually within a few hours of the shiur). You can view these archives regardless of whether or not you attended the shiur.

    (Announce your simchah or Torah lectures by clicking on the button in the top right corner of Hirhurim. See here for readership statistics and here for instructions on buying an announcement.)

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Corrections to Rav Soloveitchik Machzorim

    Dr. Arnold Lustiger sent me the following corrections to the Rav Soloveitchik Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Machzorim, that were incorporated into the latest printing (see also this post).
    Corrections to First Printing of the Mesoras Harav Rosh Hashanah Machzor

  • page xxvi– ten lines from bottom replace “in one of his recorded letters” with “in a letter attributed to the Rambam”

  • page xlv – Hanhagah 2 should read “Different traditions…to pronounce it as zeicher as quoted by R. Chaim of Volozhin in his Shaarei Rachamim, and the latter, to pronounce it as zecher is presented in the sefer Maaseh Rav.” The hanhagah as printed has the sources reversed.

  • page li – Hanhagah 35 – Insert “(Notes of R. Isaiah Wohlgemuth)”

  • page 20 – Eliminate “(see hanhagos harav 26)”

  • pages 22, 454, 664 - zeicher instead of zecher in Ashrei (change as well in Yom Kippur Machzor, pp. 6, 307, 506, 770)

  • Click here to read more
  • page 211, 2nd paragraph - Change translation “Whoever sits Hidden on High” to “The Most High dwells in Concealment”. Change translation in comment on p. 210 as well (make change in Yom Kippur machzor on pages 290-291 as well)

  • page 237, line 5 - Change translation “This is My God and I will build Him a sanctuary” to “This is my God and I will make myself like Him”. Change translation in comment on page 236 as well. (make change in Yom Kippur machzor on pages. 316-317)

  • page 268 – Added hanhagah footnote 1 after “…recites one of these versions, according to its tradition. – Add footnote on bottom read “The Rav used the version on the right (C. Gold)”

  • page 405, 14 lines from top - Change “Asher” to “Alter” Blau

  • page 467 - Insert this sentence in commentary 15 lines from the top, after the words “Malchuyos as well”: “ Thus, the Rav infers that this disagreement goes beyond liturgy into the realm of eschatology” :

  • page 512, 586 - Insert, before Kedusha, in brackets Naaritzcha venakdishcha kesod siach sarfei kodesh hamakdishing shimcha bakodesh followed by a footnote 1 which should read: “The Rav said these words in brackets.”

  • pages 528, 600 – Delete the word Malchuyos from on top of the page

  • pages 534, 606 – Insert the word Malchuyos as a heading before the words ve’al ken nekaveh

  • page 560, footnote 1; page 636, footote 2 - replace the word “sentences” with “phrases”, i.e. “The Rav reversed the order of the last two phrases of this paragraph, saying vesham naavadcha…”

  • page 578, introduction to Unetaneh Tokef - Remove the words mochel vesoleach

  • MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE - page 682: Remove the words Baruch Atta Hashem Hamelech Hakadosh on the last line of the page.

  • page 702 - reference to page 644 before “Tefila Al Haparnassa” should be to page 710

  • page 779 - Reference to “Halachic Man: [insert] “Translated by Lawrence Kaplan” (correct also on p. 935 of Yom Kippur machzor, as well as within reference to Kol Dodi Dofek in Yom Kippur machzor)

  • page 780 - Insert reference “Wohlgemuth, Isaiah, 1998 – A Guide to Jewish Prayer, Brookline, Massachusetts, Israel Book Shop.”

  • Other changes to Yom Kippur Machzor:
  • page 288, last line of commentary - Instead of “(see commentary on Shabbos Shabbason, p. 544)” it should read “(see essay on page xxvii)”

  • page 420 7 lines from bottom, and page 570, 7 lines from top - Correct Gadlach to Gadlecha

  • page 826 top line – remove asterisk over word chovoseinu

  • Announcements #055: Support TorahWeb

    TorahWeb is gratified that since February of 1999 we have been able to provide weekly original divrei Torah. In addition, TorahWeb organizes yemei iyun on contemporary religious and social issues at regular intervals. The audio and video of these yemei iyun is made available online. We are gratified at the harbotzas Torah which b'ezras Hashem has resulted from these undertakings.

    While the rebbeim and the maintainers of the web site happily volunteer their time and services, there are costs associated with maintaining the web site and organizing the yemei iyun. Donations made to TorahWeb will help us continue our efforts. The TorahWeb Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductable.

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    (Announce your simchah or Torah lectures by clicking on the button in the top right corner of Hirhurim. See here for readership statistics and here for instructions on buying an announcement.)

    New Periodical: RJJ Journal no. LVI

    The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society LVI (Succot 5769, Fall 2008):
    • Birkat Hachamma by R. Alfred Cohen -- Covers the basics although avoids the calendrical problems.
    • End of Life Therapies by David Shabtai -- Comprehensive review of the opinions of leadings rabbinic authorities on what you must do for a terminal patient and what you may not dom
    • Praying With a Minyan on an Airplane by R. Jason Weiner -- Deemphasizes the importance of minyan (you don't hear that too often) and lists the halakhic problems of praying with a minyan on an airplane. I would have liked to have seen more development of issues like kevod ha-beriyos. What precisely is the problem and what precedents substantiate this claim?
    • Wireless Networks and Halacha by R. David Etengoff -- Important research on Amercan law. Also discusses Dina De-Malkhusa Dina on unenforced laws, differentiates between personal and commercial use, and examines the ISP user contract.
    • Coffee, Pizza, and Hard Cheese: Eating Meat After Dairy by R. Moshe Walter -- Discusses the difference between "soft" and "hard" cheese.
    • Kol Sasson V'kol Simcha: Halachic Considerations of Loud Wedding Music by Jason DiPoce and R. Shalom Buchbinder -- Is the mitzvah of attending a wedding sufficient reason to go to a place where your hearing will be damaged?
    • A Note on Talking During Davening by R. Dr. Aaron Levine -- A brief appeal to recognize what we are defiling by talking in shul.
    • Letters (referencing this issue) -- Great exchange between R. Yaakov Blau and R. Aryeh Lebowitz about coeducation and some important points by R. Ari Zivotofsky about Heter Mekhirah

    Selichot ---> The Chazzan

    By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

    There is a prevailing custom in many congregations for the one who leads the selichot prayers to also lead the remaining prayer services that day.[1] This is based on the principle that "one who has begun a mitzva – we tell him to finish it!",[2] intended to encourage people to persist in the performance of mitzvot, especially communal ones.[3] Indeed, the one who leads the selichot takes priority over anyone else in leading the day's remaining services, including mourners who otherwise take preference. A further reason cited for this custom is that it was once customary for the one who leads the selichot prayers to fast that day. Since it is always more auspicious for an individual who is fasting and repenting to lead services, it was therefore decided that he should be the one to lead the remaining prayers of the day, as well.[4]

    Click here to read moreIt is also suggested that the reason for this custom is to serve as a form of compensation. This is based on the perception that the task of leading the selichot prayers is one of the more inferior honors that one can receive. As such, the one who led the selichot was offered the privilege of leading all the other services that day in order to make up for any insult he may have felt for having been assigned to lead selichot.[5] This is reminiscent of another ancient custom well. It was once customary in many communities for the one given the Maftir Aliya to also be honored with leading the Mussaf prayers, as a form of appeasement for having received an Aliya which was viewed by many as an inferior one.[6] Finally, it is also noted that the one who leads selichot is required to go through the trouble of waking up earlier than everyone else and the privilege of leading the remaining services of the day is his reward for having lost sleep.[7]

    There is a difference of opinion whether or not the privilege of leading the remaining services of the day extends to the Ma'ariv service as well. As Ma'ariv essentially inaugurates a new day on the Jewish calendar, some authorities feel that there is no reason it should be included. Nevertheless, there are other authorities who argue that Ma'ariv should be included in these benefits, as well. This is because the daily Ma'ariv service corresponds to the burning of any remains which were left over from the day's sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash.[8] As such, a connection can certainly be drawn between Ma'ariv and the services which preceded it earlier in the day. It is also suggested that the one who will be leading the selichot services in the morning be honored with leading Ma'ariv the evening before as well.[9]

    There are a growing number of contemporary authorities who insist that this custom is no longer relevant today and the one who leads selichot deserves no additional honors. It is noted that the role and responsibility of the chazzan in ancient times was to personally discharge the recitation of Selichot on behalf of the entire congregation. In order to accomplish this, the chazzan would read every single word out loud, slowly and clearly so that everyone would be able to follow along. In our day, however, the chazzan's role is much different. Today, the chazzan merely serves to ensure that the congregation proceeds together in unison at a comfortable pace. This is basically accomplished by simply reading the first and last lines of every paragraph out loud. As such, the job of leading selichot today is much less demanding than it once was and therefore not warranting any additional honors.[10]


    [1] Rema O.C. 581:1
    [2] Yerushalmi Megilla 2:7
    [3] Magen Avraham 581:7
    [4] Minhag Yisrael Torah 581:15
    [5] Binyan Shlomo 37
    [6] Minhag Yisrael Torah 136:1
    [7] Binyan Shlomo 37
    [8] Magen Avraham 581:7
    [9] Binyan Shlomo 37
    [10] Binyan Shlomo 37

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Announcements #054: Big Sale on Book & Mussar Kallah VI

    Big Sale On Rav Yaakov Weinberg Book! Only $10!

    Due to a large sponsorship, Forever His Students is now available at a massive discount of over 60%!

    Click here for more informationPrepare for the High Holidays with the profound thoughts of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisrael Baltimore, of blessed memory.
    • The key to growing spiritually and how to stick with it.
    • Discover how to love G-d, love your job, and appreciate life.
    • Why celebrities can't seem to behave.
    • Learn our best weapon in fighting assimilation.
    • Getting the most out of our possessions.
    Order yours today, and receive an autographed copy from the author, Boruch Leff.

    Click here: link

    Mussar Kallah VI -- New York -- November 16

    The extraordinary gathering that is the Mussar Kallah will take place on Sunday November 16 at the JCC in Manhattan in New York. This is your opportunity to learn from some of this generation's foremost teachers of the profound and ancient Jewish spiritual discipline of Mussar, and to gather with the growing community of people walking a Jewish path with heart.

    Click here for more informationWhether you have little or no knowledge of Mussar or if you are an experienced student, the Mussar Kallah is your opportunity to meet and learn with:
    • Rabbi Micha Berger, founder of the AishDas Society
    • Rabbi Yaacov Feldman, translator of The Duties of the Heart and The Path of the Just
    • Rabbi David Lapin, great-nephew and student of the Mussar master Rabbi Elya Lopian, and creator of the website
    • Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin, author of Novarodock
    • Rabbi Zvi Miller, director of the Salant Foundation, translator of Ohr Yisrael
    • Dr. Alan Morinis, author of Climbing Jacob's Ladder and Everyday Holiness
    ... among other sweet and deep souls who will share their wisdom and experience with you, to help you guide the journey that is your life.

    The theme of this year's Kallah is "Lifting the Veils to Relationship." The day's full program of sessions will focus on learning, insight and practice to remove the obstacles to relating to yourself, to other people, and to HaShem.

    Though little known outside the Orthodox world, and even neglected there over the last decades, the embers of Mussar have continued to glow, and this tradition is being reinvigorated today. Mussar addesses the spiritual yearning that is arising in every corner of the Jewish world today.

    Only 200 places are available! Register now to reserve your place.

    For more information and to register, please visit the JCC website or email

    If you are coming to New York from out-of-town, or if you are already a student of Mussar, you are invited to join in the rich and intimate Shabbaton that will precede the Kallah. Information on the Shabbaton is also available at the JCC website, where you can register as well.

    (Announce your simchah or Torah lectures by clicking on the button in the top right corner of Hirhurim. See here for readership statistics and here for instructions on buying an announcement.)

    New Periodical: Tradition vol. 41 no. 2

    The latest issue of Tradition (vol. 41 no. 2, Summer 2008) is out and it is an overwhelming tribute to its former editor, R. Dr. Walter Wurzburger. This double-issue is well over 200 pages long and is just so full of fascinating articles that I can't even skim through it; each article needs to be read carefully. For the sake of timeliness, I'm posting the table of contents without any comments. You can see the issue here (link) and online subscribers can read each article:
    (Note: I ommitted the title "Dr." because the articles don't say who has a PhD.)

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Renewing the Rabbinic Model

    The latest issue of Jewish Action has a fascinating interview with seven veteran Orthodox rabbis on a variety of interesting topics. One issue discussed was the shtiebelization of Orthodoxy, i.e. the breaking up into small, relatively homogeneous congregations. R. Ralph Pelcovitz had the following to say about the phenomenon, including a surprising but sensible recommendation (p. 36):
    Click here to read more
    We should ask, Is there a role for the cathedral synagogue in the present Jewish society, as there might have been thirty or forty years ago? The answer is, We always serve the needs of the populace.

    Synagogue Jews always associated the synagogue with the big shul in town. And they were the only ones who could afford to have a rav... and to offer different kinds of activities. [These synagogues] were the address of every Jewish need, be it here or in Eretz Yisrael.

    This generation no longer really needs the cathedral synagogue. If your customers no longer need your product, they're going to go elsewhere. That's why, when [new synagogues are built], physicaly, they... [are] smaller.

    Then, of course, there is always the ego involved. There are people who need to be the rosh [head] and not the zanav [tail]. You can't have that many heads, you can't have that many zanavim. But, in the final analysis, people who need to feel important get lost in the bigger shuls.

    [Since] the trend is going to be smaller rather than bigger shuls, the question is, Will there... be a rav in the community or not? Many of these smaller shuls have rabbanim, but... in order to make parnassah, [they] end up teaching part time in an educational institution. As a result, they are not able to fully serve as the rav of a shul or of a community. I suggest that these smaller shuls, which serve a purpose and fulfill the needs of the congregants, should not necessarily all have a rav. There should be a re-institution of the rav of a kehillah. (emphasis added)
    I think that this is a fascinating suggestion that, in addition to allowing communities to have full-time rabbis, would achieve greater communal unity.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Jnews Roundup X

  • Dr. Benzion Twerski resigns from sexual abuse task force (Jewish Press, Jewish Week).
  • Dr. Benzion Twerski explains his reasons for stepping down (VIN). He says that his children asked him to step down (Jewish Star). All sorts of other interesting quotes in the article.
  • R. Yaakov Horowitz writes about the intimidation that led to Dr. Twerski's resignation (Jewish Press).
  • R. Mark Dratch also comments about the intimidation (Jewish Week).
  • Dr. Michael Salomon also weighs in (JPost).
  • Drs. David Mandel and David Pelcovitz write about educating children about sexual abuse (Jewish Week). Why publish it in the Jewish Week and not a newspaper more widely read in the Orthodox community?

  • David Luchins on Orthodox voting patterns (Forward).
  • Rabbis stick their noses where they don't belong -- endorsing a political candidate (JTA). Note the legal issues involved in a rabbi endorsing a candidate from a pulpit (OU IPA).
  • Pope Benedict XIV defends the legacy of Pope Pious XII in regards to intervene on behalf of Jews during the Holocaust (JTA).
  • Rabbi David Wolpe describes his new book against the vocal atheists, Why Faith Matters (Jewish Week). His local newspaper puts it on the front page (Jewish Journal). I just finished the book. It is touching, eloquent and profound.

  • Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Guns on Shabbos

    Muktzah is often considered an extremely difficult halakhic concept to master but I've never understood why. It isn't that hard to get a good grasp of the basics.

    I. Muktzah

    Muktzah refers to the rabbinic prohibition to carry certain items on Shabbos under certain conditions. One of the categories of muktzah is k'li she-melakhto le-issur, an item that is used for a prohibited purpose. You are only allowed to carry it for two reasons -- to use it (for a permitted purpose) or to use the place on which it is resting. For example, a pencil is used for writing which is forbidden. Therefore, you may not pick up a pencil to show it to someone. However, you are allowed to pick it up if you want to put something else down in the place where it is currently resting or you want to use it to nudge a hot mug.

    The question has arisen, particularly in Israel, what the status is of guns on Shabbos. Presumably a gun should be a k'li she-melakhto le-issur like a pencil because a gun is used to fire a bullet, which is prohibited on Shabbos. However, this case is not that simple.

    Click here to read moreII. Item Used For Both Prohibited And Permitted Purposes

    There is a middle category of a utensil that is used for both permitted and prohibited activities. For example, a casserole dish can be used for cooking (prohibited) and serving (permitted). Are you allowed to randomly pick up an empty casserole dish on Shabbos? It is a k'li she-melakhto le-issur u-le-heter, an item used for both prohibited and permitted purposes.

    The Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav (308:2) writes that a k'li she-melakhto le-issur is something that is designated for prohibited purposes. Based on this definition, R. Chaim Na'eh (Ketzos Ha-Shulchan, Badei Ha-Shulchan 108:12) deduces that it all depends on what the item is designated for, regardless of how often it is used for permitted versus prohibited purposes. However, the general practice seems to be that the frequency of use is also taken into account. R. Yisroel Bodner writes in his The Halachos of Muktza (p. 44): "The halacha of the utensil is determined by examining its primary function and the majority of its usage, if it is for permitted or prohibited uses." The Mishnah Berurah (Bi'ur Halakhah 308 sv. kardom) requires both: its primary function must be prohibited and the majority of its usage must be for prohibited purposes.

    This would put a gun in a questionable category. Its primary function is firing a bullet, which is forbidden but the majority of its function is for scaring people away (i.e. as a deterrent, carrying it on guard duty or similar), which is permitted. It would seem that according to the Mishnah Berurah the gun would not be muktzah. According to R. Na'eh, a gun can be (and probably is) designated primarily for carrying and scaring rather than shooting, so it should not be muktzah.

    R. Zekhariah Ben Shlomo, in his Hilkhos Tzava (p. 304 n. 1), disagrees with both of these approaches and says that an item's status is determined by what it is made for. A gun is made to be shot, which is forbidden on Shabbos, so it is muktzah. Similarly, R. Shlomo Min Hahar (Dinei tzava U-Milchamah, par. 220) implicitly rejects all of the above arguments and rules that a gun is considered a k'li she-melakhto le-issur.

    R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah, ch. 20 n. 28) is quoted as saying something puzzling. He says that you may carry a gun in order to scare people, because that is considered carrying it to use it for a permitted purpose, one of the two reasons (listed above) that you many carry a k'li she-melakhto le-issur. But then in parentheses he is quoted as saying that, except during wartime, the majority of a gun's use is for scaring people. But why is that necessary? Even if the majority of a gun's use is for a prohibited purpose, you should still be able to carry it to scare people. Perhaps that parenthetic remark was meant to say that, outside of wartime, a gun is not muktzah.

    II. Item Used For A Permitted Purpose

    R. Shlomo Goren (Meshiv Milchamah vol. 2 pp. 53-54) has a unique approach to this. He points out that the vast majority of times that you shoot a gun it is in some direct or indirect way to at least potentially save a life. Doing that overrides Shabbos. Since almost anytime you shoot a gun you are allowed to do it on Shabbos -- even though it is technically forbidden, the technical law is overriden -- the usage of a gun is considered permitted and not prohibited. Therefore, a gun is not muktzah.

    This is a fascinating approach that I am still trying to digest. It is so creative that I think it requires further analysis and approval by other authorities.

    Based on the ruling by R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach above, it seems that there is not much difference between the varying approaches because a gun may be carried for protection and guard duty. And it probably isn't advisable to pick up guns for other purposes anyway.

    Unanswered Prayers

    A great and moving post on Tzipiyah: No Is Also An Answer (hat tip)

    I wonder whether (some of) the Gush Katif evacuees would be having such faith problems if, instead of insisting that God would not let the Disengagement happen, their leadership had physically and emotionally prepared their community for it (and negotiated with the government for guarantess about adequate relocation and compensation). At the time, people were saying that it is psychologically better to fight for your home than to just walk away from it. Isn't there someplace in between they could have been? I don't think it's politically correct to suggest that but I'm putting it out there. We might have to confront it again and maybe we should learn from the past.

    Audio Roundup XI

    by Joel Rich

  • Rabbi H Schachter - Geirut: link

    Who ya gonna call – roofbusters (mrafsei Igra!) Lots of great insights into hilchot geirut (perhaps inspired by the presence of the moetzet benonei hatorah of the Vilna of Essex County).
    R’Yochanan (perhaps) was using midot Shehatorah nidreshet to create new d’oraita’s which mikan u’lhaba (Chazon Ish seems to hold this way) change our reality!
    We rarely follow precedent in halacha (mishnah brurah turned the whole world upside down).
    Kabbalat ol – we don’t tell them all but they must agree will accept others.
    What about chutz Ldavor echad? If it’s with “broken heart” (he accepts it but breaks it for own benefit)? In Europe accepted b’dieved.
    Some thoughts at the end about current personalities.

  • Allepo Codex - Rabbi Yossi Azose: link

    Just when it gets interesting, its cut off! Does Rose Mary Woods work for YU? Is a sefardi yotzeh with ashkenazi tfillin? (no) Is a sefardi yotzeh hearing kriah at a ashkenazi minyan? (yes) Is an ashkenazi yotzeh kriah from a sfardi sefer torah at a hotel where the majority of the minyan is ashkenazi????

  • Click here to read more
  • Dr. Ya'akov Elman - Resources in Biblical and Talmudic Literature: link

    Warning, Warning, Danger, Danger, Will Robinson! If you don’t want to be in proximity to outside the beit medrash thinking – read no further!
    Discussion of literary patterns in sugyot (e.g. rule of 3) explaining otherwise seemingly inconsistent Talmudic entries.
    Discussion of academia having its own issues and biases (but does that mean we ignore it?)
    Observation that when this shiur was given (which was quite a while ago and IMHO it’s gotten worse) frumkeit is suspicious of ambiguity (i.e. R’ Moshe’s Shiur for Kiddush is 4.42 ounces and 4.4197 won’t do)

  • Rabbi Yona Reiss - Sichos Mussar - Beginning of the Zman: link

    Lessons of the shofar of Elul for us as individuals and as a kahal. (Repent!)

  • Rabbi Z Sobolofsky - Checking Mezuzot in Elul: link

    Is checking when there is a miyut hamatzui a torah requirement lchatchila or not? How often do tfillin and mezuzot need to be inspected. Whether you check your mezuzot or not this Elul, remember to check your gut.

  • Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz - On the Topic of Mesira: link

    There’s a broad range of opinions on when secular authorities may be brought in to a case (e.g. hmmmm – child abuse – calling Dr. Twerski). He relates this to issue of Dina Dmalchuta Dina.

  • Gittin - Advanced Talmud - Rabbi H Schachter and Rabbi B Simon: link 1, link 2

    Rabbi Simon’s introduction to the mesechta of choice this year for the oldest and largest which enables and enobles. There’s a magid shiur available no matter what your taste. He focuses on bfanai nichtav.
    Rabbi Schachter discusses a number of issues including shtar rayah vs. shtar kinvyan.

  • Rabbi Yona Reiss - What Torah U'madda means to me: link

    Mussar at the YU Beit Medrash – too much cynicism, we need to be more positive. Describes some changes within the YU Limudei Kodesh programs. One thought from R’YBS that really hit home – fatalism vs. free choice is no contradiction – your early choices in life can have a strong influence (of course we need to try and overcome them – for example, can you imagine somebody who wasted his time at YU and spent much of his adult life trying to make it up).

  • Mrs. Nechama Price - History Repeats Itself - The Shevatim in Tanach: link

    Analysis of how the personalities of Jacob’s sons are seen in all their descendants mentioned in Tanach (here Reuvain and Yosef are the focus). She talks real fast (a woman after my own heart).

  • Rabbi Daniel Feldman - Perspectives Tzedaka and Chesed: link

    A good overview of priorities in the allocation of charity. Of particular interest is the question of whether the impact on the giver or recipient is primary. Also of interest is the concept of dai machsoro as a communal rather than individual obligation.

  • Rebbetzin Smadar Rosensweig - Teshuva, Tahara and Haftora: Preparing for the Yamim Noraim: link

    Lessons in Viduy and Tshuva from Tanach as illustrated in the haftorah of Shabbat shuva. (What – someone in Tanach had to do tshuva?)

  • Rabbi Y Kahn - Hilchot Yamim Noraim: link

    A discussion of slichot as a form of prayer (R’YBS) – most likely the classic b’eit tzarah (essence is 13 middot – with ashrei, kaddish titkabel and talit). It is similar to maamad har Sinai and the answer to the request of hareini kvodecha. The objective is to be lifnei hashem by Yom Kippur by breaking down the walls between us.

  • Prayers of the Yamim Noraim #01, by Rav Binyamin Tabory - Malkhuyot, Zikhronot and Shofarot: link

    First in a series.The Tosefta has a version which says imru implying the sayim of psukim is an important part of the process. Listen for the discussion of how a problem in Rashi is addressed in the academy versus in the beit medrash.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter - Laws of Yomim Noraim: link

    Practical Rabbinics for Rabbis. Discusses many issues including birchat kohanim, proper time to say Amen and getting people who need to, to fast on Yom Kippur. Mentions that nusach hatfila wasn’t written down because it was torah shebal peh. Repetition of hatara 3 times follows the cutting of the omer practice which was said 3 times in order to emphasize that the Tzadukim were wrong on the date.

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky - Inyanei Pruzbul: link

    Everything you wanted to know about the source and scope of shmitat kesafim. When you employ a prozbol remember the original message – none of it is really yours!

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks - Rabbinic Authority: Parameters and Limitations: link

    A Brisker analysis of Lo Tasur including differing understandings of the scope of Mitzvah Ishmoa Ldivrei Chachamim from R’Chaim and R’Shkop. One of my favorites – Tzar baalei chaim is “ratzon hatorah”!

  • Rabbi Baruch Simon - Hagdaras Nidah: link

    Introduction to hilchot nida. Here a discussion focused on hargasha (or lack thereof in our times) perhaps due to women being “busier” these days? In general you can’t go wrong with any of the smicha focused series if you want a real in-depth understanding. My suggestion is you try out different maggidei shiur from the archives (e.g. R’ Glickman, Simon, Schachter, Sobolofsky…) on any topic till you find one whose style and content match your needs.

  • Rabbi Y Spotts - Maharal: link

    First in a series on insights from the Maharal. Why no Nun in ashrei? It’s deeper than just the pasuk of nafla. Nun stands/falls by itself. We only exist/survive because of our relationship with hashem.

  • Rabbi Mordechai Willig - Grama: link

    Does a delay factor alone make it gramma? R’ Schachter says no, R’ Heinemann says yes (big issue for shabbat mode electronics). Israeli poskim allow gramma which works on either miniat hamonea or hamshachat hamatzav. All the detail you could want on gramma.

  • Mrs. Elana Stein Hain - High Holidays and World Religions#1 - Confession: link

    History of confession in Christian thought. There have been changes but primarily is reconciliation with Church (not sure how important this was to our understanding other than a contrast?) Then discussion of vidvi and tshuva. Is it vidui leads to tshuva, once you do tshuva we discuss what we did, or external vs. internal (R’YBS on Kiyum blev) or just enhancing our relationship with hashem.

  • Rabbi M Rosensweig - L'Dovid Hashem Ori: link

    Analysis of the connection between Lachatzot bnoam and bzot ani boteach. Everything we do as both tactical and strategic is towards Lachatzot and this defines our bitachon.

  • Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Does The Agunah Crisis Need A Solution?

    R. Mordechai Torczyner writes about how local rabbis struggle to "free" agunos and resolve difficult divorce cases (link). His main point is that rabbis put in a great deal of effort and creativity in solving these cases. Unfortunately, they do not always succeed but the many successes -- the majority of cases -- generally go unrecognized while the failures are trumpeted as if they are the standard procedure.

    I think that this can be said about a number of communal problems. Capable community leaders spend an incredible amount of time trying to solve complex problems, generally with success. But it is the failures that get the press coverage, even if they only account for a minimal number of cases.

    Click here to read moreI see multiple ways of responding to the recognition of this pattern. One is to focus only on the failures. Any suffering is problematic, even if it is only for a minority of cases. If the current communal structure is unable to avoid that then a new structure needs to be built.

    Another is to respond sympathetically to the suffering but to recognize that no system is perfect. There is no way to resolve every case. While every failed case is heartbreaking, and the media attention tends to make that pain even more evident, the sad reality is that the current system works most of the time. The exceptions are just part of the unfair world in which we live.

    A third way is -- you guessed it -- the middle way in between those two extremes. We can acknowledge the good of the current system but keep an open mind to changing it, either marginally or by totally revamping it. We can constantly reevaluate how we do things and whether we are truly following best practices. We can also assess whether the current system is really resolving the majority of cases or that is just an optical illusion.

    Regardless of which path we choose, it is certainly important to have all the facts. That includes recognizing the quiet small-scale victories that are consistently won.

    Parashah Roundup: Ki Savo 5768

    by Steve Brizel

    The Mitzvah of Bikurim
  • R. Yitzchak Etshalom explores Havaas Bikurim and Mikra Bikurim: link
  • R. Yonasan Sacks discusses the similarities between Mikra Bikurim and Birkas HaTorah:
  • R. Baruch Simon, quoting a Medrash Tanchumah, suggests that Tefilah can serve as a perpetuation of the purpose of Mikrah Bikurim: link
  • R. Shlomo Riskin, based upon R Elchanan Samet's analysis of a comment of R Menachem Ziemba HaShem Yimkam Damo, zt"l, in the name of the Ari, explains that Mikra Bikurim serves as a Tikun for the sin of the spies: link
  • R. Zvi Sobolofsky explains why Mikrah Bikurim was chosen as one of the key texts in the Haggadah: >link
  • R. Larry Rothwachs compares the halachos of Mikra Bikurim with Hilcos Tefilah and Krias HaTorah: link (PDF)

  • Click here to read moreHakaras Hatov
  • R. Shlomo Wolbe zt"l suggests that Hakaras HaTov is so important that we have to integrate it into our personalities: link (DOC)

  • HaKohen Asher Yihiyeh Bayim Hahem
  • R. Ephraim Buchwald reminds us that just as a contemporary Kohen is entitled to a certain amount or respect even if he is spiritually inferior to a past Kohen, our present spiritual leaders and political leaders are entitled to the same amount of respect: link
  • R. Asher Weiss explores different halachos that relate to a Kohen's abilities: link

  • Vidui Maaser
  • R. Yissocher Frand urges us never to say “I've done it all” before God: link

  • The Tochacha
  • R. Aharon Lichtenstein analyzes the differences between the two Tochachas: link
  • The Sfas Emes , as prepared by R Eliezer Kwass, underscores the importance of Shemiras Shabbos as the source of all blessings: link
  • R. Mayer Twersky suggests that suffering facilitates the correction of our flaws and brings us closer to our ultimate redemption: link
  • R. Yonasan Sacks reminds us that we read that the Tochachah to remind us to approach our personal and communal obligations with a heightened appreciation and awareness of the uniqueness of our mutual responsibility and Kedushas Yisrael: link
  • R. Herschel Schachter urges to remember that the Tochacha is a symbol of our national commitment: link
  • R. Jonathan Sacks challenges us neither to accept a lachyrmose version of Jewish history nor to become forgetful because of our affluence: link (PDF)
  • R. Asher Brander warns against assuming an attitude of blindness towards others less fortunate in their lives: link
  • R. Elyakim Koenigsberg reminds us that Avodas HaShem requires an attitude of Simcha: link (audio)
  • R. Dovid Gottlieb surveys the halachic and hashkafic aspects of Arvus: link (audio)
  • R. Avigdor Nevenzal suggests that the recitation of Zicronos teaches us that every person's actions are of critical importance: link
  • R. Berel Wein reminds us that the Jewish People, as a people, will always survive the most cataclysmic events: link

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