Thursday, October 22, 2009

Audio Roundup LXIV

by Joel Rich

Question: You are driving an empty (but for you) train (not high on cocaine, Casey Jones?), when an electrical fire fills your cabin with smoke. As you pass out you manage to open the window. You regain consciousness shortly thereafter and note the train is hurtling down the tracks at a speed which will cause an almost immediate derailment in which you will surely be killed. At the same time you note that you are approaching a switch in the track that you can control from the cabin. On the track ahead of you, just past the switch, are 5 workmen who will be killed if you slow the train to avoid derailment. If you slow the train and throw the switch there is one individual on that track who will be killed.

What does the halacha 1) demand, 2) allow, 3) forbid you to do in this situation. (slow or not? If slow, divert or not?)

Click here to read moreIf you would divert, does it matter if the one person on the switch track is 1) a workman, 2) your father, 3) your child, 4) the gadol hador, 5) a woman, 6) a kohain, 7) a non-ben brit, 8) someone who is Chayav mita bydei shamayim, 9) someone with a 3-month life expectancy, 10) Jerry Garcia (oops, he’s already dead, wonder if he’s grateful?)

Now for extra credit, if you would divert, if the individual on the switch track is an expert marksman, can he halachically kill you before you hit the switch with no earthly or heavenly penalty ?

  • Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik: An Interreligious Dialogue, 40 Years Later: link

    A very worthwhile panel discussion for those who are interested in some real thinking. R’Korn presents his case that R’YBS in “Confrontation” was presenting policy, not psak and changing circumstances mean R’YBS would have changed policy.
    R’D Berger disagrees with R’Korn’s reading as does R’Klapper. R’Klapper looks for underlying rationale rather than close word analysis (wow – why would anyone do that?). Circumstances have changed – but are the changes permanent?
    R’DB and R’AK emphasize that we’ve kept the first half of the Rav’s directive (no theological discussion) but we’ve dropped the ball on working with non-bnai brit on communal “Tikkun Olam” (my word - oh, Joel why do you use loaded words like tikkun olam – what are you – conservative??).
    Fascinating presentation by Phillip Cunningham (non ben brit) seeing our world through other eyes (me – halevai we would say (as he did), and more importantly, mean, that our community has to do what’s right because it’s right). Insights into risks a majority culture can take. He thinks their path away from anti-semitism is irreversible.
    Great questions including can different religions communicate feelings of holiness? Can theology evolve? (me – does the orthodox community really think much or deeply about theology?) How do we relate to good people of other faiths (R’YBS – with dignity).

  • Rabbi Chaim Jachter - The Influence of Values on Psak Halakhah: link

    Outstanding, if too brief (since it reflects my values:-)), discussion of how a posek’s “values” impact on psak. Examples include geography, heritage (e.g. eidot hamizrach), and exposure to science.
    Bonus (for actuaries) discussion of occupational mortality (is it assur to enter a stressful profession?).
    R’YBS on “intuiting” (Lev shel torah) response and then trying to justify (me – see R’YBS chaplain draft tshuva in C-C-C) R’Jachter explains that there may be more than one path to a final response and values will direct the posek to the appropriate, for him, path. Thus, go to a posek with similar values to yours!
    Nice attempt to make this sound consistent with R’HS (someone in his shiur – my guess is R’HS would disagree – perhaps not 100%).

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky - Shabbas and Yom Tov Permissible Reading: link

    Reading (most feel includes w/o verbalization) of shtarei hedyotot (e.g. checkbook) was forbidden by chazal on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The gist of this shiur is R’Sobolofsky’s opinion that just about all “non-Torah inspired” (my term) reading is forbidden “ATU” (to guard against) these (possible exception – captions on pictures of gedolim).
    Discussion includes letters (how define “tzorech haguf” = immediate information need allowance), children’s books, Hebrew books (perhaps mitzvah to learn). Are these items muktzah?
    Good Mussar at the end on time prioritization. R’Sobolofoy advises you keep Shalom Bayit in mind if you act on this shiur (me-Good Luck!).

  • R' Chaim Brovender - Akeidat Yitzchak in the Teachings of the Sfas Emes and Mei Shiloach: link

    Perhaps he was tested to show us the model of complete faith. Yitzchak had complete faith – the educational program worked! Abraham was an example where dedication yielded thought equivalent to action and his true test (which causes self improvement) was to act even though he received seemingly contradictory messages from HKB”H.

  • R' Ben Zion Lazovsky - Selichos: link

    Selichos as a preparation for Yom Kippur, focusing on minhagim which parallel what bnai yisrael did in the midbar prior to matan torah as well as the avodah of the kohain gadol.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes - Kohelet and the other Yom Tov Megillot Oct 8 2009 Leil Hoshana Raba: link

    Detailed discussion concerning making brachot on reading the various megilot (al mikra, shehechiyanu). Reading from Klaf? Megillah reading as personal vs. communal obligation issue. General source of “mitzvah” of reading megillah.

  • Rabbi Marc Angel - Rambam and the Philosophers: What Reason Can and Cannot Attain: link

    Spinoza asked difficult questions – but are there really questions you can’t ask?
    Rambam integrated reason and belief – but must realize this can only take reason so far.
    Discussion of age of the world issue and anti-compartmentalization pitch (anti-charedi mdel?)
    Pitch for his organization – see

  • Prof. Lawrence Schiffman - The Significance of Community from Ancient to Modern Times: link

    Interesting history of “community” – Define community and different roles required. Question: When did the “portable minhag” vs. “geographical minhag” focus change? What was the halachic justification? (not answered – do you know?)

  • Rabbi Hanan Balk - Practical and Philosophical Perspectives Upon the Legitimacy of Personal Need in Prayer: Detrimental, Instrumental, or Essential?: link

    Great riff (not alfasi) on why halacha should be like Aruch Hashulchan, not mishneh Brurah.
    Different takes on when during Shmneh Esrai you can petition the lord with prayer (personal). [Yes-Jim Morrison-you can petition the lord with prayer-btw hope you found that sanctuary] Differing philosophies of R’YBS, R’Yeshaya Leibowitz and R’Buber on the centrality/effectiveness of petitionary prayer.

  • Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner - Apples and Honey and Nichush [superstition]?: link

    Rambam/Ramban on fortune telling efficacy. How to understand apple seeing/eating on Rosh Hashana – 1) psychological; 2) supplemental (i.e. it helps only if you do other right things; 3) need some action for the gezeirah to be chal on. [me – or it doesn’t matter if you understand it, you don’t have to be an electrician to turn a light on]

  • Rabbi Dr. Jacob J Schacter - The Intersection of History and Halakha: Ashkenaz, Sepharad and Praying for Rain: link

    Halacha and history of when to say vten tal umutar outside of Israel [me – sounds like a lot of “don’t touch that dial”]. Great story of the Rosh and “shul politics” impacting halacha (me – if only he had a phony consensus/fake buy-in consultant – so too for mari bei rav and the semicha controversy). Interesting logical implication from halachaic discussion that Jews were still oleh laregel after the churban! Good Mussar to “our community” (MO) about proper observance of chol hamoed (me – make aliyah, if you really want to be an erev Shabbat Jew!)

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein - Post Yom Tov Blues or the onset of true happiness-what's the Jewish response??: link

    Elul through Tishrei is “training wheels” period to get us ready for the rest of the year.

  • Tolne Rebbe - Mussar on Zrizut (I made up title): link (Click on 27 Elul)

    Thanks to David the B-I-L for this Hebrew shiur. Good Mussar (and he directs specifically to his community!) from the Akeidah on zrizut and the need to know when to go to sleep and when to wake up.
    Don’t put off for tomorrow…… Includes dealing with health issues. Understand that bad habits as a youth (e.g. smoking, eating) that are not dealt with then (with zrizut) will have implications. (Sounds like earlier reviewed Q&A with R’HS!) BTW, pay your bills on time!

  • Rabbi Shmuel Marcus - Yom Tov Sheni - Origin and Halacha: link

    History and Halacha of Yom Tov Sheni shel galuyot.
    Interesting discussion around the practices of Aretz and chutz laaretz folks when they are in the others bailiwick.
    R’YBS favored being stringent for all possibilities (e.g. ben chu”l in aretz would daven weekday but not do mlacha).
    Would have been more interesting if discussed why certain items (e.g. having chu”l minyan in aretz) have changed over time.

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