Monday, 31 January 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 4B

Again - it's almost New Year's Eve as I write this. On another year RYG had warned his boys NOT to be caught dating on New Year's Eve.

Here is story #2 on this topic.

RYG caught a fellow "David" on the subway dating a young woman.
When caught, David protested: "This is NOT a date! She's my sister."
RYG responded: "Avraham Avinu gehot die zelbe taynah"
[Avraham made the same claim]


Throwing a "Hissy Fit"

Urban Dictionary: hissy fit

Well this is my wife's favorite [rhymes with Fight] :-) expression when someone gets all bent out of shape

Recently some friends of mine were aghast about a certain pronouncement made by a Jewish Leader and they proceeded to throw a "Hissy Fit"

While they had some reason to take the statement a certain way, the statement - taken out of context - was tough to pin down

Re: another "apparently" outrageous statement, my colleague "RSG" practiced a bit of "Havvu mattunim baddin" and asked some cogent questions

«Could you put the statement in context? It would help understand why the comment was made.
What was the incident?
What was the comment that preceded it?
Was it meant as a guzma?
Was it said in frustration?
In reference to what type of X was the comment made?»

IOW before throwing a "Hissy Fit" some times it pays to verify the nature of the context and the background before acting outraged.


Sunday, 30 January 2011

Halachic Death vs. Medical Death 2 - The Slippery Slope

Originally published 1/30/11, 9:11 pm.
Even those who completely accept the position that Brain Stem Death [BSD] = respiratory death = Halachic death STILL must exercise caution.

[For the record, currently it appears to me that BSD has a strong "yeish al mi lismoch". But let's defer that to another day]

Meanwhile there is a poignant true story. I've been given permission to share this as a warning, BUT I have altered some identifying facts to protect the family

Here goes from Rabbi "Sholom"

«Several years ago I was involved in a tragic situation of a Teenage boy who had a bleed in the brain. Medically, the situation was hopeless. Aware that there were different opinions on the matter, the parents were adamant about wanting to donate their son's organs.

Given the machloket haposkim on the matter, I felt I could not deny them their
wish. I called Rabbi Tendler, and he was extremely helpful in guiding me
through the protocol and the tests that had to be done to establish brain death.

What was most disturbing was that I felt - as far as the doctors were concerned - that I was slowing things down. They clearly wanted to move
things along, given the utter hopelessness of the situation. As a result of their eagerness, I could not afford to leave the boy's side, for fear that they would skip steps and not do what. was necessary even for their own protocols.»

I hesitated to share this, nevertheless, I felt obligated to do so.

"Let the families beware"


Halachic Death vs. Medical Death 1 - The Cardiac Death Conundrum

Originally published 1/30/11, 10:39 am.
[Mi]Mah Nafshach!

How can WE/YOU Jews refuse to donate organs from the "brain-stem" dead [BSD], but conversely are willing to ACCEPT organs from those donors who are merely brain-stem dead!

If BSD is dead - donate! If BSD is alive how dare WE/YOU accept organs by killing!

Sounds like a persuasive argument.

Rabbi/Lawyer R Dov Fischer has pierced the veil of this apparent "cake-and-eat-it-too point of view"

«Meanwhile, we must continue to emphasize, apparently again and again and again:  Among the "cardiac death" school, absolutely no one advocates or permits inducing organ-harvesting from the "brain dead."  Nevertheless, if someone else (Jewish or non-Jewish), in his darkness and ignorance (as perceived by the "cardiac school"), chooses to have the plug pulled at "brain death" and to have organs harvested at approximately that time so that he may have the comfort of knowing that he is saving other lives, there is no reason under "cardiac death" theology to refuse the organ when presented.»

There you have it

The "CSD" school recipient would be a willing recipient of a BSD school donor, despite the fact that the CSD would not himself encourage such a donation in the first place. BUT post facto - why not accept it?

There might indeed be a perception problem, but only because the common perception fails to make this necessary hair-split match the reality.


Saturday, 29 January 2011

Can we Learn Mussar from the Kitzur? - KSA 165:2

There is AISI some really good Mussar here from the Kitzur
Goldin Translation:
"It is important that children be trained to behave at the synagogue with awe and reverence. Children who run about to and fro and cause confusion should rather be kept at home."
There are some Minyanim where unfortunately the kids do disrupt the decorum. Ideally, the parents should be aware of this Halacha and see to it that the kids stay home - or alternatively they are supervised to maintain proper decorum.
And - who says we can't get Mussar from the Kitzur? :-)


Friday, 28 January 2011

P. Mishpatim 2 - "Et Ishti" The Answer

Originally published 1/28/11, 11:03 am.
I received this answer
From Gershon Eliyahu
Giorgies E. Kepipesiom

«For that matter, bonay is equally troublesome, as the children are not legally his sons, they are the adon's property, they have no yichus to the eved ivri, for example, if he later dies leaving no other children alive, these do not exempt his lawful wife from yibbum or chalitza.

My guess: the key word is "ahavti". True, she is not his, and not his wife. But he has fallen in love with this woman and these children. He is using the possessive forms ishti, bonay, in the sense of "I love this woman as if she were my wife, I love these children as if they were my own sons.


I said "this makes sense to me" and I received GEK's permission to share.


Thursday, 27 January 2011

P. Mishpatim 1 - "Et Ishti" The Question

Originally published 1/27/11, 9:01 am.
I posted the following in the Leining discussion group:

See Shemot: 21:5 "et ishti."
Rashi - [namely] the shifchah.
Rashi makes perfect sense because, after all,  his regular wife goes out with him...
My query is about the term ISHTI. How is this applicable to a woman who is not his lawfully wedded wife, and is merely given over to produce children for the Adon?
The terminology ISHTI seems a bit strange because she never really belongs to this eved Ivri in the first place.
Any suggestions?


P. Mishpatim - Midrasho vs. P'shuto

Originally published 1/27/11, 10:23 am.
See Mishpatim 21:28
Rashi: "Baal Hashor Nakki"

The Halachah is "Midrasho"
P'shuto is something else.
So - as per Rashi - a Halachic translation here would be "al pi midrash, even though it is based upon Midrash Halachah and not upon Midrash Aggadah.  P'shat - while not anti-Halachic - does not [necessarily] imply the Halachot derived here.


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Jewish Tribune: My History, Our History

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, a new museum devoted to the evil of genocide is now being planned. A controversy, though, has developed in response to the Museum's special area devoted specifically to the Holocaust. Some are arguing that it is wrong to focus on one particular action of genocide; the evil of genocide in general should be the consistent focus within the museum. Others are contending, though, that for a variety of reasons, a special exhibit on the Holocaust is fully justifiable and a good idea.

In my latest Tribune article, I weigh in on this debate. See

P. Yitro - Last 3 Mitzvot, the Answers

Originally published 1/26/11, 9:54 am.
I wrote, «There are 3 mitzvot a the end of P. Yitro that are wedged in between the end of the 10 Dibrot and P. Mishpatim:
What are they?
What underlying theme connects these three together?
Hint: one is explicit, the other 2 are only subtly connected.»

The 3 mitzvot are
1 "Lo Ta'asoon iti ...elohei chessef..."
2. "Mizbach adama.." thru "ki charb'cha..."
3. "V'lo ta'aleh b'ma'alot...Asher lo tiggaleh ervatcha..."

The common thread?
1. Idol Worship
2. Murder [charbecha]
3. Gilluy Arayot [explictly so]

These constitute the 3 "cardinal sins" - albeit the last two are "subtle / abbizraihu" cases related specifically to the Mizbei'ach.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

M'lameid l'Hoil O"Ch 1:121

שו"ת מלמד להועיל חלק א (אורח חיים) סימן קכא שאלה מאת הרב דק"ק שוואבאך. בנר חנוכה אי צריך שידלקו נרות ביהכ"נ שיעור, והעיר השואל על מג"א /או"ח/ סי' תר"ע ס"ק ב' ופמ"ג שם דמשמע שהיו דולקין עד חצות הלילה, וכן העיר על אשל אברהם /או"ח/ סי' תרע"ה ס"ק ב' דמשמע דבעי שיעור. תשובה: באמת תימה שלא דיבר אחד מהפוסקים דבר מפורש האיך נוהגין בנרות בית הכנסת, ורק מכותלי דבריהם נראה שיש מנהגים שונים בדבר. והנה להדליק נ"ח בביה"כ לא מצאתי בפוסקים ראשונים המפורסמים לא ברי"ף ולא ברא"ש ולא ברמב"ם גם לא באור זרוע ולא באשכול ולא במחזור ויטרי, והיותר קדמון שדיבר מזה הוא בעל העיטור בעשרת הדברות שלו והוא כתב המנהג להדליק נ"ח בביהכ"נ אבל לא כתב שמברכין. והשבלי הלקט והתניא הביאו ומסופקין אי מברכין, אך הכלבו דף מ"ד פי' טעם המנהג להוציא את שאינו בקי, משמע מדבריו דמברכין. גם היה בימיו מנהג כל המקומות להדליק בביהכ"נ. והריב"ש הוא הראשון אשר החליט לברך בהדלקת ביהכ"נ ;נ והובא בב"י סי' תרע"א עיי"ש ונפסק הדין בש"ע. והח"צ סי' פ"ח פקפק עליו לאותם שאינם מברכין על ההלל בר"ח, עיין באר היטב ופתחי תשובה. והנה לענין השאלה אימתי ועד כמה דולק בביהכ"נ ראיתי בספר דברי קהלת לר' זלמן גייגער דבפראנקפורט דמאין דולק הנר מערב עד בוקר לאחר תפילת שחרית, ולפמ"ש המג"א /או"ח/ סי' תר"ע סק"ב (לפי פי' הפמ"ג, וכן הבינו היעב"ץ בסידורו) היו הנרות דולקין עד חצות הלילה. אמנם מפמ"ג שם משמע שהנרות דולקין גם בתפלת שחרית, וקשה דדוחק לומר שאחד ילך בחצות הלילה לביהכ"נ לכבות הנרות כדי שישארו קצתן להדליק בתפלת שחרית. וע"כ נ"ל דמאן דתני הא לא תני הא דבמקומות שנרות ביהכ"נ דולקין עד חצות הלילה הן דולקין עד כלה, ויען שהנרות גדולות דולקין עד חצות, ובמקומות שמדליקין גם בשחרית בתפלה, מכבין הנרות לאחר תפלת ערבית כדי שישאר להדליק מהן לתפלת שחרית וכן הוא המנהג כאן בבערלין בכל בתי כנסיות. ומצאתי בספר שדה חמד בסוף ערך חנוכה שהביא תשובת בנין שלמה (ספר זה אינו בידי וכנראה מחברו מוהר"ש מ"ץ דק"ק ווילנא) שחקר טעם על מה שנוהגין בכמה מקומות בבתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות להדליק נרות גם בעת תפלת שחרית על מה הוטבע מנהג זה, ועיי"ש מה שכתב ולי נראה דהמנהג נתיסד לפי שברוב פעמים לא דלק בערב כשיעור והשלימו זה בשחרית, ואף שבבית אין להדליק נ"ח בשחרית היינו דשם לא נתקנה כלל בלילה דשרגי בטיהרא מאי מהני, ואף דמנורה דלקה (לכה"פ נר מערבי) גם ביום, מקדש שאני (וע' שו"ת הרשב"א סי' ש"ט ולח"מ פ"ג מה' תמידין ומוספין הי"ב). ומ"מ בביה"כ דעיקר טעם הדלקה לפרסם הנס גם ביום מדליקין. ומכש"כ דאתי שפיר לדעת הרמב"ם שם דבהטבת הנרות דשחרית היתה ג"כ הדלקה וכמו שהביא השדה חמד בשם בנין שלמה, והשתא מיושב ג"כ המנהג שאין ממתינין בערב בביהכ"נ עד שדלקו חצי שעה, דהא שיעור חצי שעה היינו משתשקע החמה עד שתכלה רגל מן השוק, ושיעור זה לא שייך כלל לביהכ"נ, אלא דלא פלוג בין ביהכ"נ לבית היחידים, אך במקום שנהגו להדליק בביהכ"נ גם בשחרית, שפיר יש לצרף הדלקת שחרית להדלקת ערבית וזה עדיף דהעם מתאספין בשחרית מלהניח דולק בערבית ואין איש שם וביותר שקשה להנהיג שידלקו בביהכ"נ חצי שעה דהיכי נעביד, ימתין השמש אחר תפלת ערבית עד חצי שעה א"כ יאחר הדלקתו בביתו יותר מן הראוי, ואם יקדימו להדליק בביהכ"נ קודם הלילה, הא תינח בחול, במו"ש מאי איכא למימר, ומעתה נצטרך להטריח את השמש לילך אחר חצי שעה לביהכ"נ ולכבות את הנרות, כדי שידליקו גם בבוקר, או לבטל המנהג של הדלקת בוקר ולהניח הנרות דולקות עד כלה. ובשני האופנים האלו אין דעתי נוחה, ועל כן במקום שאין עושין כמנהג פפד"מ לעשות נרות גדולות כל כך שידליקו עד הבוקר, אין למחות לכבות הנרות אחר תפלת ערבית ולהדליקן שוב בבוקר. ולולא דמיסתפינא הו"א דגם במג"א /או"ח/ סי' תר"ע סק"ב הכי פירושו עד חצות היינו חצות היום, ובמקום המ"צ (היינו מעגל צדק) שהביא היו מכבין הנרות בערב אחר מעריב ומדליקין אותן בבוקר, והיו דולקין עד כלותן, וזה היה בחצות היום, ודלא כפמ"ג. והלא ק"ק פיורדא קרוב לו ידרוש אחר המנהג דשם, וכן יעשה גם הוא.

P. Yitro - Last 3 Mitzvot, the Questions

Originally published 1/25/11, 10:38 am.
There are 3 mitzvot at the end of P. Yitro that are wedged in between the end of the 10 Dibrot a nd P. Mishpatim.
What are they?
What underlying theme connects these three together?
Hint: one is explicit, the other 2 are only subtly connected.


Monday, 24 January 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 4A

It's almost New Year's Eve as I write this.

Well once RYG had warned his boys NOT to be caught dating on New Year's Eve.
Here is story #1 on this topic.
RYG caught a fellow "Binyamin" on the subway dating a young woman.
Next time in shiur RYG kept his peace for a good hour or so. Meanwhile, Binyamin was trembling, dreading the certain moment of humiliation.
Quite abruptly in the middle of shiur RYG turned to Binyamin and blurted out "chodsh a sheina!". [At least a good-looker!]


Chief Rabbi's Immoral Stance?

Joel Braunold from the Guardian (UK) at argues that Chief Rabbi Sacks has taken an immoral stance.

Let's just take a look at his title and his bi-line to see what he means

The chief rabbi's immoral stance on donor cards
Orthodox Jews should be free to make their own decisions about what constitutes death

On the surface, he seems to be challenging the Chief Rabbi's position on organ donations. As you read further and as he already clarifies in his bi-line, it seems that what he is really challenging is the Chief Rabbi's refusal to allow Orthodox Jews to make their own decision regarding what constitutes death. But wait a second, of course Orthodox Jews cannot make their own decision regarding what constitutes death for that is a halachic decision which can only be made by someone proficient in this halachic area. Arguing that the Chief Rabbi is immoral for not allowing individuals to decide this matter of Jewish Law would be similar to describing him as immoral for not allowing people to decide what is kosher or what is prohibited on Shabbat. It would seem that Mr. Braunold is just simply attacking the Chief Rabbi for being Orthodox and insisting that the Orthodox follow the religion. So why not just say that and argue that, he feels, Orthodoxy is immoral.

Mr. Braunold, of course, would contend that this is not what he saying. He is just saying that Orthodox individuals should be allowed to choose the decision within Orthodox law that they wish to follow. The argument is that they should free to choose the opinion they like within Orthodoxy and the Chief Rabbi is immoral for not allowing them to do so -- after all Orthodox Jews around the world are able to make that decision. The question then is: what exactly is a Chief Rabbi? More succinctly, what is a rabbi? Is the rabbi's function to give you the choices available to you within Halacha, leaving it to you to choose the opinion you favour or is the rabbi's function to tell you the law (as he sees it)? That is what is so strange within this article -- it seems to imply that there is a right in the individual to choose.

The reality is of course that today we choose our rabbis, i.e. the person we wish to learn from and/or the person we wish to ask in regard to Halacha. This, of course, may have been the way it almost always was -- after all Pirkei Avot states twice "Aseh lecha rav" with some mefarshim stating that it refers to the two tasks noted above. Today, though, there is more flexibility than before -- but what one is really choosing is still an authority figure. This is what is so problematic in this article. The job of a rabbi is to state the law, to make the decision. This article seems to imply that the individual has a right to choose the decision to follow. That actually challenges the very role of a rabbi.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Why aren't Day Schools open before YT? - KSA 165:11

The teacher is bound to teach the children the whole day and also part of the night and the only interruption is erev Shabbos and erev YT

Source given is fn 20 in SA YD 245:11,12,13

So how is it that our Day Schools give off many days before Yamim Tovim? This seems to contradict the Halachah here..


Results of Poll on: Parshanut - How Liberal may We Be?

In our last poll, we inquired:

New Poll: Parshanut - How Liberal may We Be?

How liberal may we be when we interpret the Tanach?

1) We must never deviate from the firm parameters of Hazal.
ex. As per Hazal, the statement "Vayaqem Moshe et haMishkan" MUST be taken literally as Hazal explained it -- i.e. that Moshe did it - as opposed to Moshe merely supervising it, even though there is no pragmatic difference in terms of our behaviour.

2) We may deviate from Hazal so long as we
A. do not do violence against any Halachic norms
B. do not transgress any Ikkarei Emunah
C. Do not present our Avot etc. in an unfavourable light
ex. While reading Vayakem as a statement of supervision would be okay, it would be inappropriate to demonize Yaakov as some kind of a "usurper" which is suggested in Non-Orthodox Circles.

3) We may deviate from Hazal so long as we
A. do not do violence against any Halachic norms
B. do not transgress any Ikkarei Emunah
Parameter C from Choice 2 is dropped.
ex. We must accept the story of Mattan Torah as is, but personalities are fair game

4) We may deviate from Hazal so long as we
A. do not do violence against any Halachic norms
Parameters B and C from Choice 2 are dropped.
ex. Since Hazal's understanding affects halacha, "Ayin Tachat Ayin" MUST be seen as monetary damages; Lex Talionis is out of bounds. However, Parshanut of Tanach need not comply with the Iqqarim as we have them now.

5. Parshanut allows total free thinking since it really has no impact on actual behaviour.

Which one do you choose?

Your Responses (total 4)
Choice 1 - 00% (0)
Choice 2 - 40% (2)
Choice 3 - 25% (1)
Choice 4 - 25% (1)
Choice 5 - 50% (2)

Rabbi Hecht
It would seem that all the respondents agree that, in non-halachic matters, we are not totally bound to the parameters on thought developed or presented by Chazal although there is some disagreement on what parameters we are bound by. Half even believe that as long as our ideas do not impact on actual behaviour, we also can even understand, in theory, the thought of a verse in a manner that disagrees with its practical halachic application. To a large extent, this really indicates that to Torah it is not "The Truth" that reigns supreme -- for in many ways Man cannot comprehend "The Truth" -- but rather the focus is on the ideas that Man develops through effort and correct thought. It is this spectrum of ideas that God wishes us to uncover and then use, as indicated by Halacha, in our lives. This makes Eilu v'Eilu not just a statement of tolerance but a reflection of the real knowledge that man must apply in life which is not The Truth but the variance of ideas that emerges from conscientious Torah study.

Rabbi Wolpoe
Agreed! The focus is the development of humanity at large - or the Nation of Israel in particular Whether on a Societal Level or on a personal level - any peirush that undermines one's emunah, middot, or observance must be questioned if not outrightly rejected.
However, given a highly committed audience, more latitude might be allowed because it may be deemed as harmless.
Thus, EG "Bashing Avot" might have the same parameters as "Maaseh B'reisheet" - namely only in private with a committed chaveir
However, publically publishing material that undermines Torah may be an abuse of Parshanut Liberties.
Kein Nireh Li

Friday, 21 January 2011

Does the Sanhedrin Operate "Democratically"?

On the one hand [OT1H], each vote on a Sanhedrin counts the same
On the other hand [OTOH] there is a definite hierarchy that precludes junior members from contradicting their senior members during the debating phase. Thus opinions are solicited from the most junior members first in order that they not contradict their seniors.
And On the other Hand again :-) - the seniors MAY contradict their juniors
So the answer is YES and NO
OT1H The Voting is indeed Democratic
And OTOH the discussions are quite
Thus, even Sanhedrins are complex!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hoq l'Yisrael - Proposed Enhancement

Originally published 1/20/11, 9:30 pm.
One of the most well-rounded approaches to "programmed learning" is the Hoq l'Yisrael. It includes selections from Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud and Zohar.
It already has been enhanced once, yosef or yusaf l'Hoq was already added to include a piece of Halachah and Mussar on a daily basis.
What else could be missing?
The first thing I would add is a companion volume to complete the Mishnah. The Hoq already covers approximately 300 chapters of Mishnah in the course of doing 6 chapters per weekly "Sidrah."
My edition has a table of the missing pieces in my edition, telling the reader WHAT to finish
My proposed enhancement is simply to publish a companion volume with those missimg Mishnayot with the very same commentaries and layout. They could be covered after completing the sefer or during Shabbat and Yamim Tovim.


P. Yitro - "Navol Tibbol", Torah as a Co-operative Venture

Recall that no one Jew can do all 613 Mitzvot!

We can easily understand the necessity for "G'dolim" to address the complex, knotty issues such as agunot, and definition of death, etc.

There is no doubt in my mind that if every Rav were required to master every Halachic complexity, then each of us individually would face "navol tibbol" - we'd be overwhelmed by the Yam Hatalmud, and Pos'qim, Chas v'Shalom

OTOH, let's recall Yitro's Mussar to Moshe Rabbenu. If Moshe Rabbenu himself could not handle the sheer volume without a hierarchy beneath him, Al achat kama vakammah that g'dolim today could be overwhelmed too!

So it's mistavra that the role of Sarei alafim etc. is just as vital to avoiding "navol tibbol" as Moshe's own role on the top of the pyramid. IOW - this is a co-operative venture. Local Rabbonim, G'dolim, and any "vaad" or Dayan in between, are all necessary components to keep this mechanism going.

Therefore, all levels really need each other. It seems this is the Mussar Heskel from our Parshah, that Torah is a co-operative venture


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

It's MLK Day - Why is our Day School Open?

OK Canadians, you can skip this one

For the Yanks in the readership - why are our Hebrew Day Schools open on MLK Day? [That's Martin Luther King Day]

Actually this is a "strawman" -- we can have our cake and eat it too - meaning we CAN have our schools open and still instill our students to revere both the Day and the Man who inspired it.

I myself had been similarly inspired by my Day School Teachers to grow up with HEBREW stories and plays concerning the biographies of, for example, G. Washington and A. Lincoln. We actually spent class time learning something constructive educationally and inspirationally as well
Win Win

My friend R Avi Herzog says the following re: the Nearby Moriah School in Englewood, NJ

I'd like to tell you what transpired (and transpires every year) in Moriah School in Englewood, NJ on Martin Luther King Day.

1) The principal encourages ALL faculty to devote some time in some way to this day and the man for whom it is named.

2) All secular studies grades have some sort of program in their classrooms.

3) Some (and I personally wish it were all) limudei kodesh teachers as well devote some time to the significance of the day. I personally pride myself (I teach 4th grade limudei kodesh) on the fact that I make an unequivocal statement that MLK was a great man who was willing to stand up, even risk his life and lose his life, for what he felt was right. I then ask all of my talmidim to keep in mind that we are devoting all of our learning on this day lichvod and l'zecher MLK. We then close this short piece of our day with a moment of silence, after which we proceed to learn. I think it's important for our kids to see that we can/should not only tolerate leaders of a different color, but that we (in my case rebbeim) actually respect and recognize them and their contributions.

The exciting part is

A. We can keep school open

B. The Kids can grow intellectually

C. Without dishonoring the day or Dr. King's Memory

D. And the students can even be inspired - by Dr. King's persistence to his ideals - to apply them to Torah Ideals.

This is how we can actualize Torah uMadda ideals.


Halachic Methodology 1 -Intro

While learning Bartenura on Mishnah Shabbat 1:4 I noticed several terms that tweaked my curiosity pertaining to this matter. So I became motivated to post this series.

First, BE"H I'm going to discuss some terminology. Some have been discussed here in the past. The point of review is to lump some ideas in a different series and to see how they play out within slightly different contexts.

The order with which I will proceed is to first seek to define those terms and their legitimate Halachic parameters. This is in the process stage and is by no means a finished product.

That said, some hypotheses have already been refined based upon research and education, and so they are not exactly starting on ground level

Here is a set of terms to investigate

1. Nimnu v'gamru
Amdu l'Minyan
2. Hilch'ta
3. Qayma Lan
4. Hilch'ta k'batrai
5. Aharei Rabbim l'Hatot
6. G'zeirah

This gets even trickier! Each term may mean ONE thing in the context of Sha"s and another in the context of Pos'qim!
So therefore, it is incumbent upon us to look at both contexts.

This loosely touches the next level - viz. Meta-Halachah - which RBH and I are on the process of mulling over.

Note: I doubt I will have the time to bring more than a few examples per definition - meaning the posts will eventually need to be expanded to present a more complete picture


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Do we have the Brains to accurately determine Brain Death?

Let's concede arguendo that Brain Stem Death meets all Halachic requirements for time of death.

Question: Can we trust the physicians involved NOT to be biased - ESPECIALLY when they have a self-interest in harvesting organs?

For a Rare, "Fair and Balanced Viewpoint" of the issue please read

R Yitzchok Breitowitz's article

RYB raises my very same concern

«One could easily subscribe to "whole brain" death as a concept and yet reject the particular diagnostic tools employed.»

RYB is a musmach of Ner Israel and a JD from Harvard

Full disclosure: we grew up together in Hartford and around when he reach 7th grade we knew he was a full-blown illuy.


Monday, 17 January 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 3

Now for some "first hand" stories that were not directed at me personally. This one I call:

The "death" of R Hershel Sh?chter

[note my spelling is intentionally ambiguous.]

RYG was emphasizing to a student that one should be clear as to what he means. Here goes the story as I recall it The first person below is RYG speaking:

«I saw your uncle in Shul this morning. He announced: "Rav Sh?chter iz geshtorben!". [Rav Sh?chter has died].

I was upset And I wondered which one? The elder shul rabbi or the younger YU Teacher? *»

While RYG was "klerring" which one had passed ways; "the uncle" finally blurted out:

«"Rav HESCHEL fun die Schechter Seminaar iz geshtorben"».

[IOW Rabbi AJ Heschel of JTS passed away. He had been "misnamed" R Heschel SCHECHTER - as JTS was known in Yiddish]

Quite a story about confusion and getting the story straight! Thus neither of the YU Rabbis Hershel Sh?chter had actually passed away, but the announcement had been oh so misleading.

And RYG was able to make his point in his own witty way with words.


* Note the YU community circa 1973 had two R Hershel Shachters. A senior rabbi and RIETS alumnus - in the Bronx IIRC.. And then there was of course the more famous R Hershel Shachter, son of R Melech Shachter, who was already a popular Maggid Shiur albeit a young man at that time.]

Is Dr. House in the House?

Yes OK! This really has little to do with my neighbour Dr. Gregory House of Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital in NJ [as I say to my friends, come to NJ and visit Canada - we're about to have another foot of snow - Oops! I mean 1/3 meter!]

Rather he has a rather cynical viewpoint of religion and its medical ethics, I'm wondering how he would counsel in the following scenario. I'm talking about a quote from Rav Dov Fischer shared with me re: the touchy issue of organ donation.

[A final word: ]

«Would any fair-minded person think that it is hypocritical and unethical for a hospital patient to be saved with a life-saving transplant even though the doctors learn that the patient has not yet filled out an organ-donor card and is too squeamish ever to do so?»

Good question!

What would Dr. House Say?

What would Torah Ethics say?

What would YOU say?


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Avot de R. Reuven - Fault Finding

There are four measures of fault Finders

One -- finds Fault with himself and with others equally. He is always critical but always equitable

Two -- finds NO Fault with himself nor with others. He is always pleasant, but always oblivious to error

Three -- finds Faults with others and never in himself - Rasha

Four -- finds no Fault in others but does find Fault with himself - Tsaddiq



Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mishnah Hallah 4:6 - Literal vs. Conceptual

The crux of the great difficulty in this obscure [as described by Kehatti] is the term D"MAI

How is that term used here?

D'mai refers to Ma'aser of Unknown Status because amei haa'aretz were not deemed trustworthy to separate Maaser

However, the catch is, that they WERE trusted to take T'rumah and Hallah! This presents us with some amazing dohaq answers [Kehatti's adjective]

The Term D"MAI is "Mush''elet" it has been borrowed from its proper context and used as a mataphor for something OF UNKNOWN STATUS in the context of Hallah, too. But it's unknowness is circumstantial it is NOT due to any g'zeirah

This understanding of the term "d'mai" as a borrowed term, is presented by Kehatti in the name of the Rambam.

Is it any wonder that students of the Rambam would tend to focus upon concepts over literalness in their parsing of texts such as Talmud?



ד,ו נוטל אדם כדי חלה מעיסה שלא הורמה חלתה, לעשותה בטהרה, להיות מפריש עליה והולך חלת דמאי, עד שתסרח: שחלת דמאי ניטלת מן הטהור על הטמא, ושלא מן המוקף.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Pick Your Poseiq Preference - KSA vs. MB

Kitzur SA


• Single author
• More than just Orach Hayyim
• Many different editions and commentaries
• Widespread Acceptance
• Easy to Finish - may be completed in a single year

• Has a local perspective on many issues
• Not written for scholars
• Does not teach skills in Analysis or P'saq

Mishnah Brurah

• Also widespread acceptance
• Many authors on the page
• Robust source notes [Be'er Hagolah and. Shaar Hatizyyun]
• Broad spectrum of opinions
• Analysis in Bei'ur Halachah

• It's long to complete
• Difficult to cover all commentaries on the Page
• Oriented to the Litvisher Mussar School
Orach Hayyim only

As to the issue of Humra, most codes tend to simplify and therefore tend to be machmir. It goes with the territory of simplification that they err on the side of caution


Thursday, 13 January 2011

H. B'shalach - Ambiguous Imagery - The Questions

Here is a question regarding the imagery in Haftarat B'SHalach.

See the last passuq
"Kein Yov'du kol oy'vecha"

How does that sentiment connect at all to verse that precede it - Viz. 28-30? IOW how does KEIN work here?
It appears to be a complete non-sequitor.
In 28-30 they seem to be cheering up Eim Sisera with decadent images of conquest -
and then the Haftarah concludes Kein Yov'du? After a lewd celebration of victory Kein seems out of place!

What's going on?


P. B'shalach - Mah Titz'aq Eilai?

See P. B'shalah 14:15
Rashi -
A No time to lengthen prayer people re suffering
B. Why Bother ME? It's in Your hands!

This reminded me of a wise statement about Prayer and Action

PRAY as if everything depends upon G-d

ACT as if everything depends upon you!


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Did Brisk Invent the "Cheftza Gavra" Method? - 2

Originally I posted this

NishmaBlog: Did Brisk Invent the "Cheftza Gavra" Method?

in order to demonstrate that Brisk did not invent the "Gavra/Heftzah" dicohotomy as a method of analysis.

Tangentially embedded in the comments was an interesting link:

Can Retson Hashem matter in Lomdus?: Mitsvah ha-Ba'ah ba-Aveirah and the Limitations of Formalism » Kol Hamevaser

Which deals with the issue of Spirituality in Learning.

I just want to say that Sources as Early as Halachot G'dolot and Rif extracted from the Halachic Portions of Talmud leaving the Aggadic portions behind

I have two lighthearted comments. Once I suggested - when learning Mishneh Torah, just add En Yaakov. Similarly as I once quipped: "If you add Rif to the En Yaakov do you get a complete Shas?"

Perhaps Brisk holds that developing and enhancing mental clarity leads to interpersonal sensitivity. Cognitive and Rational therapists might support that.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 2

Often RYG could use a Mashal like the Dubner Maggid!
Once I was trying to "kvetch a teirutz". RYG wanted me to be explicit and I was allowing myself enough ambiguity to go either way...
RYG said "Wolpoe! du bist vi azei a KRECHST In KOPP" [Wolpoe you resemble "scratching one's head"]
He then proceeded to explain. Once upon a time a Jew was in the field and he thought he spied the local "poretz" from a distance. But he was uncertain
What to do? He had a dilemma - to leave his hat on in front of the Poretz was disrespectful and even dangerous. To otherwise go bareheaded was [quoting Tevye] Unthinkable!
So he removed his cap and proceeded to scratch his head. If this was the Poretz - behold his cap was doffed! If it were a fellow Jew - no harm being bareheaded, because after all he was merely scratching his head!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Gabrielle Giffords

First and foremost, the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords must be seen as exactly that -- a tragic shooting, part of a greater tragedy that included the loss of life. My comments below regarding the Jewish status of the Congresswoman should not in anyway be seen as lessening this tragedy. I raise the following simply as an issue within the societal structure of the Jewish community without any implication on the specifics of this case. These questions simply have no bearing on the personal and specific context of this case. On the most basic human level, our heart and prayers go out to the Congresswoman. Her status as a Jew has on bearing on that or on the evil of the act that fell her. Her status as a Jew, however, has great implications on the nature of the Jewish society and community and needs to be addressed.

Simply, the news reports are very clear. Congresswoman Giffords considered herself to be a Jew -- not just a Jew by default but with strong commitments to her ideal of Jewishness. See:

The difficulty is that, it would seem, by Halachic standards, she is not Jewish as she was born to a Christian Scientist mother. (I write, "it seems", because it is possible that her mother, by Halachic standards, may still be Jewish -- but that doesn't seem the case.) This, of course, is something that occurs every day -- someone Jewish by one definition but not by another, especially the definition that matters most, that of Halacha. Yet, this case must motivate us to think more about this situation. First, look at the language of the news reports -- her definition of her Jewishness is almost taken as a given. More and more, the colloquial understanding of Jewishness is moving away from the Halachic definition. Fifty years ago, the rhetoric on the street was that someone was Jewish if born to a Jewish mother. This is now changing.

The significance is the power and commitment that is also now being attached to this definition of Jewish identity. As mentioned, Congresswoman Giffords sees her self as a Jew and, perhaps more significantly, is seen as a Jew. I saw a further report that clearly defined the person who shot her as linked to an anti-Semitic group. See:
My thoughts immediately went to the words of the Rav who said that there were two bonds of Jewish identity: fate and destiny. The Rav, of course, was speaking with the confines of Halacha and a reality of shared fate amongst individuals who met the basic Halachic definition of Jewishness. Now we have a new phenomena. People who bond with us in a context of shared fate yet who do not meet the basic Halachic requirements of Jewish identity. How are we to look at such individuals? Of course, we cannot grant them the status of a Jew because they share our fate but they are also not totally outside our grouping because we do share fate. Josephus speaks of non-Jews who, in the time period before Churban Bayit Sheni identified with the Jewish world although not Jewish. Is that a grouping that we should be looking at more to assist us in dealing with this phenomena? Yet, in Josephus' time, these people knew they were not Jewish.

I am not sure what to do. On one hand, Congresswoman Giffords has aligned herself with the Jewish People -- and may even have been attacked because of it. Still, she is not Halachically Jewish. We cannot deviate from our commitment to the standards of Halacha but a reality of shared fate, it would seem to me, also cannot be ignored. Perhaps we have to come up with a new grouping, but what and how?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Torah T'mimah 2 - Proposed Enhancements

The Shaar haTziyyun on the Mishnah Brurah has been enhanced and expanded and has begun to catch on

Similarly I propose a rewriting of the Current Torah T'mimah to include:

A. Expansion of Roshei Teivot
B. Match the original Language of the Sources quoted above the line [Sometimes TT only paraphrases].
C. Provide the sources cited in the commentary; especially when they are parallel sources. EG sometimes the text has a Bavli and the comments has a parallel quote from Yerushalmi or Midrash
D. Perhaps add some omitted sources.


Friday, 7 January 2011

P. Bo - Makkat Hoshech and Posh'ei Yisra'el

See Bo 10:22 Rashi D"H "Vayhee Hoshech..."

Where Rashi notes that Hoshech was an opportunity to purge "Posh'ei Yisra'el"

It has always troubled me, how did r'shaim such as Datan va'Aviram manage to survive?

A clue is to be found by being medayeiq in Rashi's own words! The posh'im that were purged were [as per Rashi] ONLY those "shelo hayyu rotzim latzeit"

IOW the one's unwilling to leave during the Exodus were purged. However, other "nudniks" may have indeed survived to make trouble in the Midbar, because only one SUBSET of Posh'im were purged


Thursday, 6 January 2011

P. Bo - V'yameish Hoshech Onkelos, Rashi and Sinai

See Bo 10:21 "V'yameish Hoshech"

k'mo v'ya'ameish...

Then he says
V'Onkelos Tirgeim l'shon hassarah k'mo
"Lo yamish"

If Targum Onkelos is miSinai how can Rashi argue and say
"Ein hadibbur m'ushav al havav"

If Rashi MAY argue - then what does it mean to say Onkelos is MiSinai?


P. Bo - Rashi on P'shat and D'rash

See Bo 12:4 and Rashi D"H V'im yim'at habbayyit...

First Rashi says X l'fee f'shuto..

Namely that if there are insufficient people to complete the eating of the lamb, and they will come to Nottar, then join up with a Neighbour.

V'od yeish bo Midrash:
That following "shenimnu" they may still withdraw whilst the lamb still lives....

Thus, Rashi does NOT force the P'shat to conform to D'rash EVEN when that D'rash is Halachic and Not Aggadic.

Thus, P'shat of a phrase can be independent of the Halachot derived from it - albeit the p'shat here IS influenced by Halachah in that it conforms to an explicit text concerning Nottar. So it does not CONTRADICT halachah either! [Can't be certain if it MAY not]

While Rashi does suggest that
P'shat conforms with Halachah

BUT he also adds

That Halachic D'rash adds a dimension that goes well beyond P'shat.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Torah T'mimah 1 - Proposed Expansion

The TT spans all 5 of the Humashim and the 5 Megillot

I would like to see a 2-step expansion

1. All of the Haftarot
2. All the Rest of Nach.

I wonder if a Kollel can be commissioned to do it?


Monday, 3 January 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 1

I only wish we had tapes of Rav Yerucham Gorelick's [RYG] Shiur. They were lively, informative and he MADE you think. He was ultimately the sharpest person I've met, albeit his sharpness cut both ways, and some feathers got ruffled

First - being self-referenced :-) - I will start with my own First Hand stories

I was a "split-personality" @ YU. Not Torah uMada but Torah and Sports! I obviously had boundless nervous energy and jogging and sports allowed me to expend it in a semi-constructive way.

But it also meant that if I had played hockey until 11:00 PM I did not get to sleep before 1:00 AM - so I was often drowsy in shiur. This is before I got addicted to the miracle drug popularly known as COFFEE. :-)

One fine day in RYG's shiur I was slouched down in my desk with my long legs stretched out in RYG's general direction. I was wearing my usual pair of running shoes..

While I was in a revelry of sort, RYG turned towards my direction, gave me his "once over" and proceeded to give me a swift kick into the soles of my shoes..

As I woke up startled he exclaimed "Ich shpiel ball aich" [I play ball too - no doubt a reference to Soccer]

Suffice it to say he got my attention and restored my focus. Now for another cup of JAVA!


Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Peto Thesis

In Toronto recently, a Jewish woman received her MA from the University of Toronto with a thesis entitled:

The Victimhood of the Powerful:
White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education
(available at

The woman, Jennifer Peto, is a member of "Jews Against Israel Apartheid" and the basic contention of her thesis is that Jews, in their own interest, attempt to maintain a world perception that they are subject to anti-Semitism, thus discriminated against and persecuted, although they really are not, in fact are now persecutors.

As you can imagine, the Jewish community responded negatively to this both in terms of the statements of Ms. Peto and in regard to the University of Toronto for giving this document a sense of legitimacy as an academic work. In the future, I hope to publish an article reflecting my views on this matter but I thought it would be interesting to offer to the blog readership the opportunity to review the thesis on their own and to develop their own opinions. The question is not just whether Ms. Peto is correct or not, but whether her arguments even have enough academic and/or intellectual muscle to be voiced and recognized as deserving of a graduate degree.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Kli Rishon and Degrees of Separation

Scenario #1
A pot of Chicken Soup on the fire. The pot is deemed a Kli Rishon [K1]

A pot of Chicken Soup on the fire. A Ladle has been inside that pot and has the same temperature as that pot.
Q: Is that Ladle now a K1 or K2?

A pot of Chicken Soup on the fire. A Potato or Matzah Ball been inside that pot with the Ladle and has the same temperature as that pot.
Q: Is that Kneidel now like that Ladle?

A pot of Chicken Soup on the fire. A Ladle has been outside that pot and is currently at room temperature. I place that Ladle in the pot and draw out some soup.
Q: Is the soup in that Ladle now already a K2?