Sunday 31 October 2010

Liberalism Is Not Our Religion | The Jewish Week

«I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. I marched against the war in Vietnam, protested the bombing in Cambodia, and advocated for affirmative action.»


«Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S. Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become de-Judaicized.»

See the entire article at


Mitzvat Sh'virat Ha'etzem - Table Manners

Originally published 10/31/10, 10:49 AM, Eastern Daylight Time.
I'm just now covering R A Chill's work on Commandments

As a big fan of the Sefer HaHinuch, I'm enjoying this other work as a review of "taamei mitzvot". I find his pithy style quite fascinating and I like the range of commentators.

P. 18 para 1

«Most Authorities explain this prohibition as deriving from the fact that on Passover, the Festival of Freedom, the Jew becomes a king, and Royalty is expected to show decent table manners and to refrain from such primitive eating practices as breaking the bones of an animal and sucking out the marrow."

There are several ways to take this. Full disclosure: I'm privately debating the Torah Parameters of "Refinement" with a Chaveir...

Here is a proposed "Mussar Based" explanation:

"The Torah is teaching/preaching good manners. In General, the Torah, and the Mitzvot are a vehicle for refinement."

Here is a contrary explanation.

"The Torah is stating that ROYALTY has manners, implying that others do not. Such Refinement is limited to the cases of -
• "Royalty" or "Y'chidim" the year 'round
• To All but ONLY on a very limited set of occasions - as in one feast a year!

Thus, perhaps this generalizing from this Mitzvah comes from one's pre-conceived paradigms.


Saturday 30 October 2010

The Art of Letting Go

It is imperative for each of us, little by little, to "let go" of the hurt.

Yet Forgiving may not mean forgetting

Certainly, the hurt and evil may be remembered. Sometimes, it must never be forgotten. Thus, it even may be taught to others, as we recount every Yom Kippur what the Romans did to our rabbinic martyrs, and as a new generation builds a Holocaust Museum to teach what happened in the 1940s. We may hold the memory, refuse to forget,


When will justice come for the Justice? by Rabbi Dov Fischer



Friday 29 October 2010

Torah and Science - No Conflict Possible

Originally published 10/29/10, 11:02 am.
A colleague permitted me to quote this:

Professor Gerald Schroeder is a shomer Torah who is a physicist. ... [And] He [uses] the meforshim and scientists, including the Ramban and Einstein, to help explain relativity and how not only is there no conflict between Torah and Science, but how they must work in harmony, since they both have the same author.

I explained that the way I say it is that:
"true Torah and true science cannot conflict"

My Colleague added:
Schroeder also said that:
«If one thinks they found a conflict between Torah and science it's either because they don't understand what the Torah is saying or they don't understand the science.»


Thursday 28 October 2010

Towards a More Objective Method of P'saq - 2

Originally published 10/28/10, 9:30 pm.
Before coming up with an algorithmic methodology to force P'saq to become a cookie cutter exercise - here is a preliminary suggestion

Let's start with authorizing sources and "weighting" them
Not necessarily to force a bottom line decision,
Rather to take a more uniform approach to researching precedents

  • Yeshivat Chofetz Chaim is likely to follow Mishnah Brurah
  • Chabad has SA Harav plus other texts, including Siddur Harav
  • Some Iraqi communities have adopted Ben Ish Chai
  • R Ovadyah Yosef [ROY] pushes the Shulchan Aruch
  • The Yeshivah World and the YU world should set up its own set of preferences

For the UTJ, I might make the following Proposal
  • Make the Tur and Beth Yosef primary, and supplement it with Darchei Moshe, SA, and Rema
  • Then use Aruch Hashulchan as the Batrai, supplemented as needed by Kaf HaHayyim and/or Mishnah Brurah
  • I would also skip the primary nos'ei keilim and opt for the Ba'er Hetev and supplement with Shaarei T'shuva and Pitchei T'shuvah to round this out.
  • For more modern questions, a Bar Ilan Search of Shu"t would be helpful


A Noted Lack of Ritual - N'fillim

One of the saddest hardships is burying a stillborn, or a miscarried baby. And perhaps even worse, is to bury a baby that manages to survive a short time only to pass away a few days later.

Our mourning, shiva, and consolation rituals work quite well in the usual circumstances of death.

However, several friends have expressed deep disappointment that Jewish Ritual does not accommodate these exceptional tragic circumstances.

Can we fill this gap? Must we let these families in pain "slip through the cracks"? Or can we do something to ameliorate their pain?


Wednesday 27 October 2010

Rema YD 69:7

שו"ע יו"ד סט:ז
קודם שיתן הבשר בכלי שמדיחו בו ינפץ מעליו המלח שעליו, או ישטפנו במים, ואחר כך יתן הבשר בכלי שמדיחין בו, וידיחנו פעמים, וישטוף הכלי בין רחיצה לרחיצה. הגה: וי"א שצריכין להדיח ג' פעמים (חדושי אגודה בשם א"ז ומהרא"י ואו"ה כ"א דט"ו והג"א), והכי נוהגין לכתחילה, על כן ישטפנו או ינפץ המלח מעליו וידיחנו ב' פעמים דזה הוי כהדחה ג' פעמים או ישים המים תוך הכלי ואחר כך יניח בו הבשר וידיחנו ג' פעמים, והכי נהוג. ולכתחילה יתן מים הרבה בהדחה ראשונה, כדי שיבטל כח המלח שבציר (ד"ע). מותר להדיח הבשר במי פירות ואין צריך מים (הר"ן פ' השוחט ותוספ' שם).

The Rema SEEMS to be disputing the mechabeir here
  • Taz SQ 17
  • Shach 28
  • GRA 33
  • Sefer Hasheetot
One quick fix alluded to by Shach morphs the apparent dispute to a clarification by a minor textual change

Changing the. Rema's v'yeish Om'rim [VYO]
D'yeish Om'rim [DYO]
This avoids the questions of Taz SQ 17 and GRA 33


Which Form of Promiscuity is the Biggest theat to Torah Judaism?

Originally published 10/27/10, 9:00 am.
Five Critical Points,
Rabbi Michael J. Broyde and Rabbi Shlomo Brody
While halacha certainly recognizes the role of sexuality in shaping one's identity and human experience, it definitively limits sexual activity to marriage and encourages such activity within marriage. The Jewish tradition counsels self-sacrifice and restraint to an extent that our secular society deems unreasonable or untenable, even more so on sexual matters. In this context, the threats to the Orthodox way of life are much greater due to the culture of rampant heterosexual promiscuity than to homosexuality.


Tuesday 26 October 2010

Bachavura Nimnu v'Gamru - is a Sanhedrin Needed?

Makkot 21b re: kil'ayim
Here we see the term "Nimnu v'Gamru" used to determine a Halachah by majority vote OUTSIDE of a Sanhedrin
Shalom RRW

Neo-Cons to the rescue?

If the "Messiah Failed" maybe the Neo-cons can erase all the politically incorrect passages in Torah and conform to our society's sensitibilites! Or maybe we should Obey God? What are we religious or something? :-) Letter from Israel: A Solution To The Bastardy Problem

What's the Next Proposal? Make Pork Kosher when it's suficiently cooked?
Or Maybe my solution is to disregard Failed Messiah's!

Shalom RRW

Monday 25 October 2010

Israel and The Old Double Standard

Under Oath - by Lee Smith > Tablet Magazine - A New Read on Jewish Life

What the Political Correct World wants is to deprive Israel of the chance to be just like every other nation.
I actually take a kind of "perverse" solace in knowing that the enemies of Israel are so evil. I would be ashamed if Israel's foes had decency on their side. B"H that's no problem, because Israel's enemies have Satan on their side - which makes me even more proud to be a Jew.


P. Hayyei Sarah - Sh'nei Hayyei

The pun on Sh'nei Hayyei Sarah offers much in the way of Drash when we read this as "Sarah led [past tense] TWO lives"

Here are some of my favourites...

  1. A life here in Olam Hazzeh, another life in Olam Habba
  2. A life as a wife, a life as a mother
  3. A life as a public figure, a life as a private figure - I.e. both mother and wife
  4. Similar to #1 a Life as a real alive human being, and a postmortem life as a Matriarch and icon A legacy for the ages


Saturday 23 October 2010

Cyber Etiquette: Hochacha etc.

A major Rosh Yeshivah made a big flap a few years ago about monkeys-parrots-women reading the K'tubah at a wedding.

The reaction was swift but mostly inappropriate. The appropriate action would be to PRIVATELY remonstrate and give hochachah FIRST - before going to the WEB or the PRESS. Without seeking out the allegedly offending individual FIRST, public denunciations are IMHO strictly verboten..

Of course if following private Hochachah, the offender says "af al pi chen" then one indeed may have license to go public...

Furthermore, on discussion lists, chat lists, the same is true.
One Adam Gadol was always kind and considerate to me and would challenge me to clarify OFFLINE prior to getting into any debate. Often he had discovered a typo - such as a missing "NOT" - or an ambiguity and he allowed me to clean up my own mess and to save face. I cannot see how we can we permit less.

Furthermore, when a member of a group does or says something - Denouncing that group as a whole may be odious. EG We now see all Muslims under attack for the acts of Islamo-fascists. And I find entire subsets of Jews being broad-brushed for the acts of a few

Other examples,

• The Rubashkin case does not mean every Hareidi or every Lubavitcher has the same issues.

•. The Baruch Lanner case does not prove that the OU or that NCSY is pervaded by perverts! Broad-brushing is IMHO odious bigotry

Finally schadenfreude - it's simply repugnant. Taking joy in the downfall of others - even the NY Yankees - is anti-Torah values. The ONLY mishnah that says nothing other than a passuq is the Mishnah in Avos quoting Mishlei "binfol oyivcha al tismach.."


Friday 22 October 2010

A New Idealogical Anti-Semitism

Events, such as the court decision in England to find certain vandals innocent because they were motivated by an ethical conviction to stop the Israeli actions in Gaza, may be more than just another reflection of anti-Semitism. It may reflect a new idealogical form of anti-Semitism

In this recent Jewish Tribune article, I develop this idea. See, further,

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday 21 October 2010

P. Vayeira - Tiqqun Soferim

See Rashi on Vayeria 18:22 and "Avraham is still standing in front of Hashem"

Actually the converse is the case, but due to Tiqqun Soferim it got switched around. But, this was not literally done by some "editor" who changed the text. EG see Iqqar siftei Hachamim 1. [Any such idea of an editorial change could be deemed a perfect mis-understanding]

IIRC R Dr. MS Feldblum explained that tiqqun sof'rim is an idiomatic expression simply meaning "euphemism". This is only a slightly different than the Iqqar Sifte Hachamim and the sentiment is similar. It's not an editorial change TO the text; rather a LINGUISTIC change to say one thing but meaning another.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Response to R. Boteach article

The following is a letter I sent to the Wall Street Journal in response to Rabbi S. Boteach's article on homosexuality (available on line at

To the Editor:

I believe that Rabbi Boteach, in his article, in Houses of Worship, October 15, has done a disservice to your readership in his portrayal of Orthodox Judaism's position on homosexuality. Contrary to his presentation, the
significance and importance that Jewish thought assigns to any individual commandment is not coloured by this distinction between 'moral laws' and 'ritual laws'. Homosexual behaviour is, simply, a weighty prohibition.

To further clarify the Orthodox position, even though our faith directs us to be sensitive and empathetic to all individuals, including those struggling with this issue, our moral stand regarding this behaviour should not be perceived as waning, nor should it be allowed to weaken. We cannot twist the Torah in favor of a predetermined
result and still remain faithful to our traditional teachings.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Note About "Torah in the News"

Please note:

Our "Torah in the News" section is generated by Google and is offered as a service to our readers. We have no say about the entries.

At the present time, it has been brought to our attention that there is an article being presented that, we expect, our readership would find offensive. Please do not associate this article with
Nishma. We still do believe that the benefits of offering this section outweigh the occasional time that such an article is found on it.

Shocking Statement from Rava(?)

Recently - a Liberal Rabbi - Rabbi "Mattir" - approached me regarding an apparently "shocking" statement from Rava.

Rabbi Wolpoe: "what does Rava mean when he states in Yevamos 20a

«V'chol she'eino m'kayyeim divrei hachamim, kadosh Hu d'lo mikrei, rasha nami lo mikrei»"

[His translation:
«Anyone that does not fulfill the words of the Sages is neither termed Holy Nor Evil»]

Meaning so long as one disobeys the Rabbis he's still OK, but he is simply not Holy

But when one DOES obey the rabbis one would be holy."

As per this read, obeying the Rabbis is optional.

I protested that this cannot be what Rava means, because Abbayei said something similar and Rava is obviously disputing him

He then said to me - Rava is Abbayei's teacher. I found this really difficult because Rava was Abbayei's bar plugta and NOT his teacher.

Plus the conclusion of Rava's statement «ela amar Rava kadeish atzmecha b'mutar lach». [Rather Sanctify yourself with what is PERMITTED]

Implies that the previous statement was rhetorical, and that Rava said it to mean the Very Opposite of this Liberal Rabbi Mattir's read.

Why was this Rabbi Mattir opposed to reading Rava's previous statement as a rhetorical question? I was puzzled because the Talmud is replete with similar questions.

Apparently he never - or hardly ever - read the Talmud as using rhetorical questions as a debating device.

Strange indeed! Who would have thought the Talmud was devoid of rhetorical questions?

And who would read Rava here otherwise?


Tuesday 19 October 2010

P. Vayeira - Is Seeing What's Already Been There a Miracle

I Witnessed A Small Miracle

«Mark, Your friend was just under a lot of stress and likely "misplaces things" typical of someone with ADD/ADHD. When objects like wallets re-emerge from what I call "small object purgatory" (despite looking in that place before, sometimes compulsively looking again & again in that same place) as in your friend's experience, it is likely stress and his subconscious intervening so he literally can't see/find it. He had a subconscious hidden agenda for not seeing it, such as not wanting to spend the money, etc. This used to happen to me when I really did not want to date someone anymore, I'd misplace my wallet or my car keys just before going out, then they would appear right where I "knew" I'd left them. Your friend may have hit the nail on the head about it falling off the chair. »

Does this explain
Vayeira 21:19

"Vayiphtach Elokim et eineha, vateira b'eir mayyim"

That the well was always there
That Avraham KNEW that the well was there

That the well was always there and the miracle was noticing it

And that Hagar's vision had been clouded by "depression" until it was lifted by Elokim [via prayer?]

And this appearance of the well was the "miracle" of simply seeing what was there already?


Monday 18 October 2010

It USED TO go without saying


The Bet Yosef [YD 1:1] says "Lo ra'inu eino raya". IOW, that absent a specific probition, that none ought be inferred

Yet WADR to R Yosef Karo, certain positions used to be so SELF-UNDERSTOOD, they were in the "ein tzarich lomar" cateogry, and needed no declaration, until that need arose later on.

And so we have arrived at that day when such a declaration IS needed.


Sunday 17 October 2010

The Intellectual Honesty of the Hayyei Adam

See Hayyei Adam Hilchot Pesach 121:7 in the parentheses.

«What I wrote in the first printing that Mundlock is permitted to keep, and my brother investigated that it is actually Hameitz Gamur»

Here we see that despite putting a p'saq in print, nevertheless the Hayyei Adam exerted no ego in order to preserve or defend his original contention

Aderabbah, once a thorough investigation proved opposite of his original hypothesis he

•. Withdrew his original p'saq
•. Related to us how he had come to change his mind

Yishar Kochecha Hayyei Adam for being so forthright


Saturday 16 October 2010

To Flee or Not to Flee? - a Simple Lesson from Yonah

There is perhaps a wealth of lessons that may be culled from Sefer Yonah. The GRA even wrote a book on it.

Here is a really simple p'shat from a literary point of view.

The text states that Yonah ran away from Hashem. Every Jewish child knows this is impossible, so a navi would CERTAINLY know that one may not flee the Divinity!

Yet flee - Yonah did. And so what did he REALLY flee? He fled his Divine assignment, his destiny, his mission. He didn't flee G-d, rather he fled G-d's WORD.

What was the immediate result of Yonah's flight? The sea turned stormy and Yonah had to be cast aside

Rabbotai, we have Divine Missions and Assignments in life. When we flee them, our life turns stormy.

If we feel turmoil, it's likely that there is a mission we are avoiding.

For example, if we were meant to be a rabbi and we get into business, we will experience agitation.

The Yishuv hada'at will follow our surrender to what Hashem has mapped out for us

Sometimes the difficulty lies in identifying what that mission is.

Yes, we have free choice. And so we CAN run away. But we do so at our own peril.

And this is the lesson of Yonah to me


Friday 15 October 2010

Muslim Soup

The present rhetoric against Muslims concerns me on certain levels. Already in Ontario, the concern for Sharia law has been extended, through politically correct extension, to Jewish Law, questioning the functioning of Batei Dinim. Of course, distinctions can be made and, indeed, must be expressed -- but the underlying challenge must be recognized. Many of the issues surrounding the treatment of Muslims can be extended to the treatment of Jews, specifically Orthodox Jews. We must be careful in so many ways.

As an example of this concern, I invite you to read the following by a Muslim.,_and_now_i%E2%80%99m_muslim/

By extension, when I hear Islam being perceived as monolithic, I become concerned about how Judaism is also seen by many in the outside world as monolithic and how I am, incorrectly, coloured by a statement of another Jew who does not share my religious beliefs but is perceived to be by this monolithic perception. At the same time, though, we cannot weaken our efforts to challenge that which needs to be challenged. Recognizing distinctions amongst Muslims cannot lessen our need to defend ourselves against the intrusion of those who have a belief within the spectrum of Islam that is indeed a concern for us.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday 14 October 2010

Reflections Upon Mom's 100th Birthday

As I write this, it is my Mother's 100th Birthday having been 14-10-1910 - 11 Tishre.

And FWIW She was born on General Eisenhower's 20th birthday...

I cannot hope to encapsulate a 90+ year life in a Blog Post or two

I will just remind readers that my Mother's Prime Passion was Jewish Education, and that her favourite baby was the Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford.

My Mom was no zealot for frumkeit. Her views on Observance were somewhat moderate to liberal.

On the other hand, she advocated that EVERY Jewish child have a Day School eduction regardless of the religious philosophy of the parents. Any Parent who deprived their child of a solid Day School background was de facto forcing that child towards assimilation. There was NO free choice between a Torah life-style vs. A secular life-style without a solid Jewish background

She didn't condemn people for not being frum enough, but she had low-tolerance for ignorance of Judaism,.

She really didn't follow any particular shul rabbi. The drumbeat she marched to was beaten by Torah uMesorah

And her icons were:

• R Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz
• Dr. "Joe" Kamenetsky
• Rabbi Charles Batt
Aleihem Hashalom

Few realize that Hartford hosted one of the very first Jewish Day Schools in North America [outside NYC] when founded in 1939 - even BEFORE Torah uMesorah

My Mom was NOT one of its founders nor on the very ground floor. Rather several years afterwards, she was inspired. And recruited by the various "pioneers" who went collecting to keep the nascent Yeshiva of Hartford going.

Mom - I owe my Torah education to you - Thank you!

Your son,

P'saq Pitfall: Over-Generalizations

A common trap for beginners at P'saq is to over-apply generalities without regards to various nuances or exceptions.

For Example see SA YD 69 and in particular the N'qudot Hakkesef "maaseh ba l'yadeinu"
Here the Shach dismisses the rule "s'feiq d'rabban l'kulah" He knows it does not apply because "all the posqim require" something in addition, in this case "mei'siach lefi tumo" or "yotseit v'nichnas" - the latter a function of mirtat.

Why do Posqim require this additional evidence or Mirtat required? Why doesn't the s'feiq d'rabbanan suffice? - Because as the Shach here points out

«Vkchol heicha d'itchazeik issur lo amrinan "s'feiq d'rabban l'qula"» and as he elabourates further in YD 110:63.

In my experience, many rabbinical students and new rabbis are prone to repeat the broad rule and to ignore the second rule. Which is perhaps the reason for studying issur v'heter in depth, in order not to come up with over-simplistic Halachah based upon superficiality.


Wednesday 13 October 2010

RH Sermon by Rabbi Shalom J. Lewis

Rambam instructs us to learn wisdom from all. Whatever the denomination to which Rabbi Lewis belongs, hearing his words fits this instruction.

«We are at war. We are at war with an enemy as savage, as voracious, as heartless as the Nazis but one wouldn't know it from our behavior. During WWII we didn't refer to storm troopers as freedom fighters. We didn't call the Gestapo, militants. We didn't see the attacks on our Merchant Marine as acts by rogue sailors. We did not justify the Nazis rise to power as our fault. We did not grovel before the Nazis, thumping our hearts and confessing to abusing and mistreating and humiliating the German people. We did not apologize for Dresden, nor for The Battle of the Bulge, nor for El Alamein, nor for D-Day.

Evil – ultimate, irreconcilable, evil threatened us and Roosevelt and Churchill had moral clarity


[Re: GZM]

Can they build? Certainly. May they build? Certainly. But should they build at that site? No — but that decision must come from them, not from us. Sensitivity, compassion cannot be measured in feet or yards or in blocks.


Believe it or not, I am a dues-paying, card carrying member of the ACLU, yet from start to finish, I find this sorry episode disturbing to say the least.»

For the entire article see

Sermon by Rabbi Shalom J. Lewis of Atlanta Speaks to Truth | Now Public News Coverage


D'Regel Lo Shmeih Nissuch

TB: Avodah zara 56b
The Daf for Shabbat B'reisheet [see Schottenstein edition fn 15]

Wine [treaded] by feet is not considered a libation

There are two essential approaches here

Any Libation made by means of Feet instead of Hands is NEVER constituted as a Libation - provided a generalization and a broad implementation of this rule - because feet are unworthy of making a libation.

A Strict or limited application would be applied to treading because The Talmud here is discussing feet in the context of the treading process. In that strict case it is not subject to libation. However, outside treading, feet indeed ARE capable of "libating" wine.


Tuesday 12 October 2010

First Chilean Miner Brought to the Surface

I just saw the live clip from CNN showing the first Chilean miner-- of the 33 who have been trapped for 2 months deep beneath the surface -- brought to the surface. My emotions were strong. I felt for these people -- but significantly I was thanking HaKodesh Baruch Hu for this and felt that I was watching a neis in progress. It did not matter that this person was not Jewish. It did not matter that this was accomplished through the mechanics of science. To me it was most remarkable and was a true presentation of the Glory of Hashem, the One Who created a creature who could accomplish this -- both scientifically and with caring.

To me, the greatest indication of the greatness of HaKodesh Baruch Hu is in the very accomplishments of human beings such as this -- for He created this being who could do this.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Why I prefer Tosafot to Rambam or Rashi -2

Tosafot accepts that Minhaggim CAN trigger a brachah

Rambam and Rashi object and state that a minhag may NOT trigger a brachah

Tosafot is predicated on YT sheini which is replete with all the brachot of YT

Rashi and Rambam are predicated upon the Talmud saying no brachah on Aravot which is a minhag N'viim.

Arguments for Tosafot

1. Maybe the restriction is Davqa Minhag N'viim and Strict Construction on that point might allow for brachot on OTHER kinds of Minhaggim

2. Hallel on Rosh Hodesh is like YT Sheini in that these Minhaggim are mei'ein existing halachah, unlike Aravot. Therefore Rashi-Rambam are being too strict, maybe certain minhaggim could have a brachah due to their nature mirroring Halachah.


Monday 11 October 2010

Correcting a Parent Or Teacher

See Kitzur SA 143:10 quoting SA YD 240:11

Translation - Hyman Goldin

«When a Child sees his father transgress a Divine Law, he must not say to him: "You have violated a command of the Torah"»

Comment - such direct confrontation is deemed disrespectful and humiliating!

«But he should rather put it in the form of Question: "Father is it not written in the Torah thus and thus?"

Thus we see that Talmudic Judaism views rhetorical questions as a respectful and desirable alternative to direct confrontation!

«As though asking for information and NOT admonishing him; so that the father may correct himself without being put to shame»

We see that Talmudic Judaism views rhetorical questions as respectful
and an indirect way to remind someone of something they may indeed already know

This is NOT a power play nor a ploy. It is Talmudic parlance for offering deference

However, SOME Assimilated and Americanized Jews have lost their way and think rhetorical questions are somehow intrinsically mean or devious!


Have we lost our way?

Aren't rhetorical questions THE halachically mandated format for respectfully reminding people of what they might know and should know?

How can it be otherwise?

1 Avraham "corrects" Hashem - Haf tispeh?
Hashofet call ho'oretz lo yaaseh mishpat?
[Vareira 18:23-25]

Is this NOT a rhetorical question?

Does anyone construe Avraham as acting with Hutzpah here C"V?

Aderabbah. When addressing a superior, Torah and Hazal mandate rhetorical questions - whodathunk otherwise?

2. And how about Moshe Rabbeinu in Ki Tissa after the sin 32:11,12

Two "Lamah's" in a row

Are these not rhetorical in nature?


Sunday 10 October 2010

Arvit: S'michat G'ulah Litfilah

See Kitzur SA 18:2

«Uvmaariv, keivan she'ein habrachah shlifnei sh'moneh esrai m'sayemet b'go'al Yisroel, Muttar l'hafsik...»

Maybe this explains how Baruch Hashem L'olam, Kaddish, and v'shamru etc. are not a hefseiq and are even attributed sometimes to "g'ullah arichta"

Michdi let's see

We have established "hashkiveinu" as "g'ulah arichta"

Now the KSA is seeming to say
"Once we break the Go'al Yisroel <=> Amidah connection, therefore other tefillot may be legitimately added on, even though they are not literally g'ulah arichta. Just that g'ulah arichta has created a heter that may be further exploited - albeit on a limited basis

Baruch Hashem
• V'shamru
• Kaddish

are not literally g'ulah arichta, rather they just are not hefseiq BECAUSE of g'ullah arichta.


Saturday 9 October 2010

Young Israel Dilemma

The issue surrounding the Young Israel movement and its national stand against women presidents against the decision of a few of its member synagogues to elect female presidents is one that demands our consideration. The question, though, is how to approach this issue in the best manner to truly address the real substantive issues.

In this regard, I draw your attention to the following article at
which raises, for me, this very issue. The author of this article focuses on the American legal side of the issue which obviously, on a most practical level, has to be dealt with. The underlying question which the author does allude to yet does not really focus upon is the centralizaion/decentralization issue in Halacha and, more significantly, the very definition of Orthodoxy.

There can be no doubt that when the national Young Israel charter was first drawn up, one of the conerns of the founders of this entity must have been how to ensure that the organization indeed does remain Orthodox. At issue must have also been the very definition of Orthodoxy. The early Conservative movement in the US for example did not declare themselves as founding a new "religion" but saw themselves as simply extending the rule of Halacha as they saw it. In this regard, to be honest, it is most difficult to really define the line that separates. The greater question in this regard is, thus, not whether you disagree with someone or not but how you draw the line to determine when someone with whom you disagree is still within the pale and when this person is not. The simple way of drawing this line is often simply in action -- and so the safe way of ensuring some national standard is by critieria of action. The question, as such, cannot be simply whether the local rabbis who permitted a woman becoming president did so based on halachic standards but how these halachic standards themselves are to be measured. That ultimately is a much more difficult issue. The issue is not longer the practice but the very nature of the process of the psak.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friday 8 October 2010

P. Noah, the Rainbow Covenant

There are several approaches to the OT Brit found in the Keshet in Parshat Noah

1. The more "magicallly" inclined will read this that Hashem Created the Rainbow to signify the Covenant. That this was a brand new Creature...

2. The more "rationally" minded will posit that rainbows long pre-existed Noah. Only Now, Hashem was investing that Rainbow with new meaning, new significance by means of the covenant.

As per Hashqafah #2 we create Holy artifacts by sanctifying them. EG a mundane piece of Gold is endowed with holiness WHEN dedicated to the Sanctuary or the like

Thus, the role of humankind is not only to "complete" the existing creation, but to endow the mundane with sanctity


Thursday 7 October 2010

Infusing Our Schools With Ahavat Yisrael, by R. Shmuel Jablon


Cross Currents

Infusing Our Schools With Ahavat Yisrael By Guest Contributor, Rabbi Shmuel Jablon

If in the "ideal" world we would all learn to love all humanity

Then in the Real World Ahavat Yisrael is a necessary first step

Shalom al Yisrael

He Loves Him, He Loves Him Not...

Local NJ Jewish Standard flip-flops re: Gay Nuptials

N.J. paper rues hasty apology on gay announcement | JTA - Jewish & Israel News


Wednesday 6 October 2010

P. B'reisheet, First Rashi

On the very first Pasuq of the Torah - as we have it -
Rashi quotes R. Yitzhak as offering "hachodesh hazzeh" as THE alternative to B'reisheet for beginning the Torah...

Q: What's peculiar to Parshat Hachodesh - or Why should the Torah begin there?

A: There are several approaches, EG this was the first Mitzvah given to all Israel

Along those lines, I see the main significance is that this begins the Mechilta, and thus the earliest strand of Torah sheb'al Peh [TSBP] begins with this passuq. Hence it would be natural to start Torah shebichtav [Miqra] at that same point.


Ahavat Yisrael and Elu v'Elu

A colleague wrote concerning the recent interview with Rabbi Tendler (mentioned in the previous post):

«I see a love of Torah but a basic lack of ahavas Yisrael

I am not sure if this comment truly applies to Rabbi Tendler but this comment all too sadly does apply to many Jews and rabbis in all "denominations". This idea, though, still perhaps needs to be further examined.

I know this colleague follows the Carlebach tradition of Ahavat Yisroel. Similarly, there are parallel approaches such as

Rav AI Kook's approach
• That of many Chabad Houses who embrace Jews just as they are
• The Writings of Rav Zelig Pliskin

To name a few

Former President Clinton voiced the following approach

We need to honor our unique communities, and yet, still overcome our differences by honoring our common humanity

To Paraphrase

We need to honor our own community's unique approaches to Torah, and yet we still need to overcome our differences by honoring our Common Jewish Heritage.

A constraint, though, can still be voiced. The call of Elu v'Elu is often made in support of this perspective, ultimately applied to defend pluralism within the Jewish community. Elu v'Elu, however, was meant to express the attitude that existed between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai and that should exist between variant views within parameters of Halacha. It was not and is not meant to apply to every disagreement found within the Jewish world. Nevertheless, in our relations with our fellow Jews, even if our dispute is outside the parameters of Elu v'Elu, there is still a call for ahavat Yisrael for we still are part of the one Jewish nation. However we approach divergent viewpoints, we must relate to a fellow Jew as exactly that -- a fellow Jew.

(with input from RBH)

Tuesday 5 October 2010

An Interview with Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler

Hamevaser recently presented an interview with Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler. This interview is available at
and is worth reading for many reasons.

You get glimpses into the world of the Lower East Side in the early part of the 20th century, Rav Moshe and the workings of the Jewish world amongst many other insights. But what hits me most about the interview is the directness and honesty of Rabbi Tendler. He seems to speak without an agenda; he is not trying to sell Orthodoxy as is so often the case whenever we hear of anyone talking about the Orthodox world. He is simply calling it as he sees it -- still with a clear voice advocating for Halacha over, what he terms, "frumkeit". The strange thing is that while I do not read in his words an attempt to 'sell' over simply speaking the truth, his presentation of the truth is perhaps the most powerful selling point of Orthodoxy in any event. He simply presents the serene grandeur of Halacha.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Monday 4 October 2010

Rain on Sukkot

Recently Rebbetzin Toby Katz wrote in the Avodah List:

«The rest of Klal Yisrael considers it a "potsh in panim" if it rains the first night of Sukkos -- a sign that Hashem seems to have rejected our efforts at fulfilling the mitzva of Sukkah. We wait even until midnight to see if the rain will stop so that we can sit in the sukka and make the bracha»

Actually the Mishnah in Sukkah does indeed state this, but IMHO this may be misperceived...

This IS true imho in Eretz Yisroel - Tamid einei Hashem Elokecha bah [Eiqev 11:12] and the Mishnah was composed of course in EY!

This is not true - or at least not necessarily true and seems hubris to say so - in the Golah based upon the small percentage of Jews and the varying climactic conditions

Ergo the potsh in panim to me would be

Applicable in EY
Not applicable and probably an unnecessary guilt trip in the Golah [unless it's a desert or the like such as Bavel]


Confronting Homosexuality

Originally published 10/4/10, 12:25 pm.
One of the things that most bothers me is when a person cannot see that Torah Judaism is not taking sides on a specific issue but, rather, is articulating its own unique position. It is precisely because of this reason that many individuals mistook the message in the recent Statement regarding homosexuality signed by numerous rabbis including myself. See, for example, this editorial.

The author of this article maintained that the rabbis who signed this Statement were being influenced by modern mores and not Torah values. One could only say this if one believed that the issue is black and white -- as defined by our society -- and our allegiance to Torah simply informs us of what side to choose. Therein lies this individual's mistake. In that context, indeed Torah must be seen as siding with all the anti-homosexual forces in our society. The fact is that the Torah, in its own unique way, is actually articulating a third position -- separating the act from the individual who may perform the act. We are to have one attitude to the action -- clearly one of strong prohibition -- but quite another towards the individual. To that person, we are indeed to show caring, powerful caring. Where do we learn this from? The gemara informs us that, due to the mitzvah of v'ahavta l'rei'acha kamoch, we are to determine the kindest and least painful form of execution for a transgressor, even in the case of skila, stoning, the harshest form of execution. The act is one thing -- and that we must see as deserving a harsh punishment. The individual, though, we still must relate to as an individual -- thus bara lo mita yaffa, still treat him with caring and kindness.

Perhaps I really can only speak for myself as one who signed the Statement (but I am sure that I speak for many others that also signed) but my motivation was clearly from Torah -- and this, in fact, may be best shown by how much misunderstanding there has been over the statement. In reality, it actually is a statement with which either side in the world of the black-and-white definition of this issue should find difficulty. No wonder so many people had to define it a certain way, within their parameters, and thus miss the point even though the words were clear. It was a unique Torah document because it indeed came at its essence from the world of Torah.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 3 October 2010

New Project: Identifying Taarovet In The Mishnah

As Part of Nishma's Ongoing "Basic Rabbinic Literacy Program" is this Project

Identifying Illustrations of Taarovet In The Mishnah

That is to be able to obtain a basic level of Rabbinic Literacy in the Topic of Taaruvot by means of Mishnayot that are on topic

And so while I'm traversing Sha"s Mishnah I'm looking to locate and to identify those Mishnayot pertaining to the subject of Taarovet as defined primarily in Tur-SA Yoreh Deia'ah 98-111 and Mishneh Torah Maachalot Assurot 15-17

So far
D'mai 7:7, 7:8
last 2 Mishnayot

Virtually entire subject.

Please feel free to contribute your own findings

Thank You!