Friday 31 December 2010

P. Vo'eira - Y'hee l'Tanin

Vo'eira 7:9 Y'hee l'Tanin

Pick your Parshanut Preference

1. As per Rashi it is a SNAKE

2. As per R Hirsch and others it's a CROCODILE.

Advantages to #1
A it matches the symbol in P. Sh'mot 4:3
B Rashi says so

Advantages to #2
A Sh'mot SAYS Nachash - here it's Tanin. We naturally expect a distinction!
B. Crocodiles were symbols of Egypt, thus more symbolic. As Haftarah Vo'eira [EZE 29:3] says TaniM that is HaRoveitz. Crocodiles crouch, snakes don't
C. If you read Taninim in P. Breiseet 1:21 as great lizards, this matches it a bit better

Pick your preference


Thursday 30 December 2010

NISHMA: Policy -- Orthodoxy and Homosexuality

Originally published 12/30/10, 6:24 pm.
Our new blog, NISHMA: Policy, is devoted to analyzing policy issues within the world of Torah.

The latest post concerns Orthodoxy and Homosexuality and attempts to look at the issue from a holistic approach, identifying sub-issues as part of the greater picture.

We invite you to take a look...and comment.

P. Vo'eira - Modifying P'shat of Text Based upon a Contradiction

See Rashi on P. Vo'eira 6:18

Based upon "Hayyei Qehat", he proves that 400/430 years in Egypt cannot be taken literally - despite explicit texts saying so.

Literalism is set aside here by Rashi when logical deduction of other passages makes it difficult or impossible to a literal read

Then the issue remains what to do with the 400/430 years!?

It seems to me Rashi could have gone the other way. That is why not say the Yichus was not literal instead? And that generations were skipped and the number of years was literal!

The response to that is that Hazal have deemed that period as 210 years. It has been adopted AFAIK by Seder Olam

This same issue is in the current NishmaBlog poll re: may we set aside a literal read of text when Hazal themselves have not chosen to do so?



Wednesday 29 December 2010

P. Vo'eira - Koveid Leiv Par'oh

Pick your Parshanut Preference:

1 Koveid or Hazak BOTH refer to Paroh being stubborn. The terms are interchangeable. This seems to be the method of classic commentators.

2 Koveid means something else entirely - viz. HEAVY.

In Egyptian Mythology a Par'oh's heart was weighed at death. When light as a feather he earned "Heaven" otherwise..

Thus a HEAVY heart does not mean Stubborn but rather Evil

This p'shat might have some advantages
1. It is more literal
2 It matches what we know about Egyptian Culture
3 It places Israel in Egypt at the Exodus despite the "critics"
4 It distinguishes the 2 terms

1 It's NOT traditional

Pick your peference


Basic Rabbinic Literacy 2 - Outline

Originally published 12/29/10, 1:02 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
There is no one definitive version of topics, but we need to start somewhere. Details to follow BE"H in subsequent postings
1. Tanach
2. Parshanut
3. Oral Torah
4. Basic Halachah
5. Mitzvot
6. Machshava
7. Liturgy
I'm tempted to add. Something "analytical" or about darkei p'saq, but I'm thinking this goes beyond basic literacy and takes it to the all-important next step.
BE"H I will expand on these in future posts and allow for some flexibility and leeway.
One point to contemplate is how completely must one cover a topic or text? And when does a significant subset suffice.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Did Brisk Invent the "Cheftza Gavra" Method?

Recently While I was giving the Daf Yomi I came across this..

TB Z'vachim 31a on the Bottom

Rav Ashi asks:
What's the Halachah [re: piggul] when he planned to have one k'zayit eaten by TWO people?

Do we follow his machshavah and he has a k'zayit [the thought is one the cheftza]


Do we follow the consumers who have only half a k"zayit each [Gavra]

[See Below for original]

The conclusion is not as important as realizing that a major component of Brisker Methodology is merely an echo of the Talmud's own methodology



בעי רב אשי חישב לאכול כזית בשני בני אדם מהו בתר מחשבה אזלינן דאיכא שיעורא או בתר אוכלין אזלינן וליכא שיעורא

Monday 27 December 2010

Pick Your Parshanut Preferences 3 - A "shver" Rambam

What is YOUR preferred approach to explaining this "shver" Rambam in Hilchot Bassar Bechalav [Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 9:1,2 text below]

The Rambam seems to be forced to explain the absence of the term eating [Achila] in conjunction with the prohibition of dairy and meat.

What's Bothering the Rambam?

Traditional Technical Approach

The Lechem Mishneh says that the Rambam has a conundrum. Namely eating triggers malqut, but malkqut is NOT explicitly in the Torah. And anything derived by "middot" - even when construed as d'oraitto - does NOT trigger malqut - because of ein onshin min haddin

Perforce the Rambam punted to using incest with a "bat" as paradigmatic of NOT being "Min Haddin" but as tantamount to explicitly written [giluy milta b'alma]


What's bothering the Rambam is Malqut for eating due to the absence of the verb in the text

And so his resolution is: Despite the absence of the explicit verb, achilah is construed AS IF it
Were present in the original text.

Modern Sociological Approach

The Rambam was a rationalist. He was stuck trying to convince his audience that the prohibition of eating was implicit in "lo t'vasheil". In order to make his point sound more reasonable, he used the obvious paradigm of the prohibition of incest with a daughter to show how logical this case was, too.


What's bothering the Rambam is how to make a "kvetchy" implication sound rational

And so his resolution is: To say that this is comparable to a more obviously rational case.



הלכות מאכלות אסורות פרק ט

א בשר בחלב
--אסור לבשלו ואסור לאוכלו מן התורה, ואסור בהניה; וקוברין אותו, ואפרו אסור כאפר כל הנקברין. ומשיבשל משניהם כזית--לוקה, שנאמר "לא תבשל גדי, בחלב אימו" (שמות כג,יט; שמות לד,כו; דברים יד,כא). וכן האוכל כזית משניהם, מן הבשר והחלב שנתבשלו כאחד--לוקה, ואף על פי שלא בישל.

[ב] לא שתק הכתוב מלאסור האכילה אלא מפני שאסר הבישול--כלומר ואפילו בישולו אסור, ואין צריך לומר אכילתו: כמו ששתק מלאסור הבת, מאחר שאסר בת הבת.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Rabbi Ganzfried's two million Kitzurs - by Professor Jack E. Friedman

Rabbi Ganzfried's two million Kitzurs - Shlomo Ganzfried's book 'Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh - page 4 | Judaism


Note: Professor Friedman's son Alan and his family are close friends of ours

Kitzur SA still ranks - in my opinion - as the single best work on B'qiut in Halachah.

I recommend KSA as THE Primer for all who study Halachah - even for those who anticipate studying more advanced texts.


Some useful links

World Mizrachi Movement - News

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch links ‪

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with English linear translation:

Hebrew Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with nekudot: ‬ ‪

Hebrew Kitzur Shulchan Aruch without nekudot:

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch project, calendars and order books: ‬ ‪

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with Misgeret HaShulchan:

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with She'arim Ha'Metzuyanim B'Halachah:‬ ‪

Part 1 -

Part 2 -

‪Part 3 -

Part 4 -


Saturday 25 December 2010

Is Henry Kissinger a Self-Hating Jew?

Recent releases of the "Nixon Tapes" give damning evidence of Kissinger's disregard for Jews - at least Soviet Jews.

But let's understand the context. In the role of playing sycophant to Richard Nixon, Kissinger said some awful things about the Soviet Jewish Question. As such, it doesn't PROVE much about Kissinger's genuine attitude

On the Other Hand, we don't see a lot of evidence showing Kissinger as a self-loving Jew either

The Media opinions range from:




But also note: outrage sells more papers than cool reason.

My conclusion? Despite the recent revelations, we lack the evidence to be certain.
We certainly have enough to be suspicious.


Friday 24 December 2010

Results of Poll on: Faith, Action or Knowledge

In our last poll, we inquired:

New Poll: Faith, Action or Knowledge

Everyone would agree that there are three ingredients in a Torah lifestyle - emuna (faith or dogma), ma'aseh (action) and limud (study or knowledge) -- or, as some would like to define it -- heart, action and mind. While all three of these are clearly important and necessary, which do you think is the focus of Torah?

1) Emunah / Faith / Dogma - In the end, it all comes down to belief. Its what you believe, what is in your heart, that is the ikkur, the essence of Torah.

2) Ma'aseh / Action - In the end, it all comes down to how you act. Its how you behave.that is the ikkur of Torah.

3) Limud / Study / knowledge - In the end, it all comes down to your mind. Study, the acquisition of knowledge, the development of the mind, that is the kkur of Torah.

4) One cannot make such a choice because all three are equally important.

5) It is different for each individual and thus the focus of one's Torah is and must be a personal choice.

Which do you choose?

Your Responses (total 5)
Choice 1 - 00% (0)
Choice 2 - 40% (2)
Choice 3 - 40% (2)
Choice 4 - 00% (0)
Choice 5 - 20% (1)


Rabbi Hecht
I find it most interesting that, albeit a small sample, no one chose emunah. This may be an reflection of our belief that we really see faith as but the starting point upon which we are suppose to build. There can be no doubt that at Sinai everyone knew that God spoke to the nation. Our challenge is to meet the standard that God thereby established for us. It seems in this regard it is equal as to whether the focus of this standard is action or study. There is of course the one other view that the choice as to which should be a person's focus is really dependent on the nature of this person -- and this view did get some support.

Thursday 23 December 2010

The Need for Policy

In keeping with our stated goal to make Halachic policy analysis an important focus of Nishma, there is a new Commentary article on our website entitled "The Need for Policy" which articulates what we mean by policy and why the analysis and investigation of Torah policy must be an important part of our Torah study especially in these turbulent times. This article can accessed at:

We have also started a new blog entitled NISHMA: Policy at The first post on this blog concerns the above noted Commentary article but in future posts we hope to investigate specific policy issues within the Torah world. Our first post, iy"H, will be on Homosexuality and Orthodoxy covering the issue in its macro context.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

P. Sh'mot - The Risks of Political Partisanship

As the popular hypothesis goes - the Hyksos Pharaohs [the so-called Shepherd Kings] allied themselves with the Hebrews, and when their dynasty was overthrown, the Hebrews were left high and dry - especially since native Egyptians detested shepherds. [Miqqetz 43:32]

There are hints in Vayigash and Sh'mot that support this

In Vayigash, Par'oh asks the brothers about becoming his personal Royal Shepherds [47:6]

And in Sh'mot a new King [dynasty?] arose that knew not Joseph [1:8]

If this mode is true there is a pragmatic lesson here - <drum roll> "Don't put your [political] eggs in one basket."

That is to say, Joseph and his brothers enjoyed ascendancy whilst allied to that Hyksos dynasty; subsequently they were exiled to the political wilderness when their patrons were overthrown.

Simply said, since the Hebrews were unanimously allied to one single party, they were powerless when that party lost power

Something to think about when making "political bedfellows"


Wednesday 22 December 2010

Basic Rabbinic Literacy - Intro

What Jewish Literature Must every Rabbi know?

What are the Core Basic Texts that should be prerequisite to Semicha - if not prerequisites for entrance to Rabbinical School?

What should be THE common denominators in order for rabbis - and un-ordained lamdanim - to use as a basis for exchange ideas?

The Rambam made a suggestion of sorts - learn Nach and then his Mishneh Torah and one has all the basics. What he suggested for advanced texts remains as fodder for another post! :-)

The Shulchan Aruch suggests review his entire work monthly!

I once glanced at a Noam Elimelech and he suggested as basic to first learn SA Orach Hayyim followed by G'mara-Rashi-Tosafot from Brachot until the end [Note Kitzur SA was not yet an option]

The Breslovers push learning ALL 4 parts of SA. Similarly R. SR Hirsch suggested having balance there too as opposed to Orach Hayyim alone.

Many Hassidim seem to push the Kitzur SA as the preferred alternative to just SA O"Ch - perhaps slightly modifying the aforementioned Noam Elimelech.

Plus the halachah as Codified in SA Requires "sh'nayim Miqra v'echad Targum" preferably with Peirush Rashi.

Making for well-rounded and hopefully open-minded rabbis is an ideal that texts alone are unlikely to manifest. Having a solid foundation will enable rabbis to broaden themselves and speak to each other on the same wavelength.

I'm going to present some suggestions focusing upon "classics"

Next post I will BE"H focus on the outline of topics


Tuesday 21 December 2010

Obama 2008 Obama 2010

This is not about Obama! Ha! I fooled you! It's about simple psychology.

In 2008 Obama's messages sold like hotcakes. Why? He offered hope and a positive message...

In 2010 he tried "p" and vinegar. It went over like a lead balloon. The moral of this story is - that people flock towards

Good Feelings
Positive Visions

They are repelled by

EG See American Proverb quotes

"You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"

So Speak your truth
Speak it in a positive fashion!

You might choose to walk like an Egyptian but remember to
Speak Like a Lincoln

«With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations»

Quote Details: Abraham Lincoln: With malice toward none,... - The Quotations Page


Pick Your Parshanut Preferences 1B - Yaakov and Esav

Originally published 12/21/10, 9:13 am.
Which approach do you prefer?

A. Choice #1. Genesis 25 / Hebrew Bible in English / Mechon-Mamre
27 And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.
28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 And Jacob sod pottage; and Esau came in from the field, and he was faint.
30 And Esau said to Jacob: 'Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of this red, red pottage; for I am faint.' Therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said: 'Sell me first thy birthright.'
32 And Esau said: 'Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall the birthright do to me?'
33 And Jacob said: 'Swear to me first'; and he swore unto him; and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way. So* Esau despised his birthright.
* new JPS has "Thereby"
B. Choice #2. FREE Online Youngs Literal Translation. Genesis Chapter 25:1-34.
GEN 25:27 And the youths grew, and Esau is a man acquainted `with' hunting, a man of the field; and Jacob `is' a plain man, inhabiting tents;GEN 25:28 and Isaac loveth Esau, for `his' hunting `is' in his mouth; and Rebekah is loving Jacob.GEN 25:29 And Jacob boileth pottage, and Esau cometh in from the field, and he `is' weary;
GEN 25:30 and Esau saith unto Jacob, `Let me eat, I pray thee, some of this red red thing, for I `am' weary;' therefore hath `one' called his name Edom `Red';
GEN 25:31 and Jacob saith, `Sell to-day thy birthright to me.' GEN 25:32 And Esau saith, `Lo, I am going to die, and what is this to me -- birthright?'
GEN 25:33 and Jacob saith, `Swear to me to-day:' and he sweareth to him, and selleth his birthright to Jacob;
GEN 25:34 and Jacob hath given to Esau bread and pottage of lentiles, and he eateth, and drinketh, and riseth, and goeth; and Esau despiseth the birthright.
A Kayyom - do you prefer "first" or "to-day"?
B Vayivez do you prefer "And Esau" vs.
C. How does Yaakov come across differently across the 2 translations?
D. How does Esau come across differently across the 2 translations?


Monday 20 December 2010

Halachic Empathy, Martial Arts, and P'saq

In discussing a knotty Halachic issue with a colleague I was kidding around and wrote down my impression of his point of view. Then I challenged him - "Can YOU articulate MY sheetah in YOUR words?"

It then occurred to me that the Halachah follows Beth Hillel over that of Beth Shammai, and I had a flash of insight as to WHY that is so. Lich'orah the rationale is the one we know and love, namely that Beth Hillel respectfully preceded Beth Shammai's opinion before offering their own and this seems to mean that the Halachah follows the "Humble" Beth Hillel. While much more can be said about humility
I'd like to offer an alternate angle. Namely that Beth Hillel's arguments were superior because they could ALSO understand and even articulate Beth Shammai's viewpoint. Thus, their EMPATHY level was superior

Shloymie: What about BH's HUMILITY?

RRW: I'm thinking that their anivut was mostly a pre-requisite [hechser] for attaining the empathy for their opponent's point of view. But anivut alone would not allow them to "GET" BS's POV. Rather, it requires empathy to get past one's own convictions and be able to articulate the "other's". Note, too, that it takes a bit less energy to merely understand another's point of view than to actually explain it.

Shloymie: How does this relate to Martial Arts?

A significant component of Martial Arts is sparring and competitive fighting between two opponents. In a sense, it's quite similar to Talmud debate and discourse.

Once, a Martial Arts master explained what it takes to be successful in competition using a Zen-like formula:

It's important to know oneself

It's important to know one's opponent

It's best to know BOTH.


Knowing one's own strengths and one's opponent's weaknesses certainly makes for success in a competition. In Talmudic debate, the advantage is more subtle but similar. Understanding and articulating one's "competitor" will undoubtedly help that side to have a more "air-tight" case.

We can actually see this dynamic at work when BH changes its mind in the face of a challenge by BS. The fact that BH submits when its case is weak, suggests that when they DON'T concede, they THEMSELVES have evaluated BOTH sides. This also means when they don't concede, it says something! Conversely when BS does not concede, it says little, since they do not bother to articulate THEIR opponent's s'vara.

Consider a contemporary school that sees and comprehends both sides as opposed to a school that loudly advocates ONLY its own side. Such partisanship must undermine its credibility. Since it lacks objectivity, such a school is "Weak" during competition. It cannot overcome a well-reasoned riposte.


Sunday 19 December 2010

Are Passion and Partisanship Preludes to Prejudice?

Hazal give us a large dose of Mussar when it comes to Objectivity

Trivia Question:
When does a guilty vote by a member of Sanhedrin trigger an acquittal?

Answer: When Making the vote unanimous - IIRC in capital cases

And so when 23 Rabbis all conclude that the defendant is guilty what does THAT prove? It proves that the defendant was not properly defended and that we further suspect he was railroaded and was not tried objectively nor honestly.


Recently an advocate "Levi" stated a position on how to interpret a tricky passage in Humash He listed MANY sources that confirmed his pre-conceived read. He went over his list again and again and was convinced that he had THE definitive body of Mesorah confirming his take on the matter at hand.

However, others countered with some impressive sources of their own that apparently Levi had missed. Perhaps in his zeal, Levi consciously omitted contrary sources, or he was blinded somehow to their existence. At any rate, Levi's "unanimity" said more about being a slave to his pre-conceived notion than about the accuracy of his conclusion.

Tangentially, I never read Darwin, but his theories seem "too tight" to be plausible. He seems to leave no loose ends. While they say he methodically checked over his own work, that's the issue. HE checked HIS own work! How objective was THAT?

Compare that say with Einstein where independent confirmation took years in coming but eventually his theories emerged with independent observation, EG the bending of light during an eclipse.

Objectivity, balance, and intellectual honesty are Torah values. They may not be quite as paramount as they are in the scientific universe, but they nevertheless do count.


Saturday 18 December 2010

Intellectual Honesty and Diverse Opinions

Is it Intellectually Honest to Present only one side of an issue as being THE correct interpretation and to consciously ignore and omit that there are differences of opinion on the issue?

This could apply to secular matters just as much as it can to Torah matters, but I'm focused primarily on Torah matters.

EG, Once a Yeshivah Student "Proved" to me a Halachah from the Talmud. He said the Talmud required X. I looked at it and Rashi - right on the spot - had TWO l'shonot, one saying X and the other stating "NOT X". *

Was this fellow being honest?

Would Intellectual Honesty at least require him to acknowledge another point-of-view - albeit he rejects that POV?

Or since he "FEELS" it's his way or the highway therefore he can purposefully quash any dissension by omitting it from the discussion?


* PS in the interest of Shalom - I'm neither identifying the individual nor the issue. But I am willing to share the details of the issue in private.

Friday 17 December 2010

Pick Your Parshanut Preferences 2 - Yaakov, Yoseph, and Their Excuses

When Yaakov is approached by Rivka he demurs "ulie yemusheini avi" [27:12]

When Yoseph is propositioned by Mrs. Potiphar he refuses saying "v'hatati Leilokim" [Vayeishev 39:9]

Below are THREE approaches - pick your favourite Parshanut Preference

1. Straight-Shooting

Yaakov was no tsaddiq here. He is only genuine concern is "Getting Caught

Yosef OTOH IS a tsaddiq here. His concern is based upon "Yir'at Elokim".

2. Cynic

Yaakov - same as #1

Yoseph is a "tartuffe" he was either repelled by Mrs. Potiphar or -like Yaakov - by the spectre of "getting caught". His use of Elokim was merely an insincere excuse that "sounded right to him"

3. Dan l'Kaf Z'chut

Yaakov really was repelled by the idea of cheating. He demurred by using an excuse that he figured that Rivkah "would buy into." But in his gut he just didn't wish to go along.

Yosef same as #1

#1 the straight shooter is the most literal

#2 and #3 seem to reflect the Parshan's Preferences more than the text speaking for itself.

Then again, one may see the Torah as excoriating Yaakov and maybe his son Yoseph by extension.[#2]

Alternatively, the Torah seems generally to presume good things about both Yaakov and Yoseph [at least as he matured] , so why not apply it to the "doubtful cases" too?

Pick your preferred approach.


Asarah be-Tevet: Still Relevant (Unfortunately)

Originally published 12/17/10, 8:47 am.
«At first glance, its[10th of Tevet's] content also appears different from the other fasts, since it marks neither the end of a process nor an event with immediate impact. The tenth of Tevet marks the date on which the siege of Jerusalem began. Hence we must ask, what in the events of that day moved the exiles themselves to proclaim a day of fasting and memorial over the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem? »

My Obiter Dicta

May we merit to see the Reconstruction of the BhM BbY


Thursday 16 December 2010

The Battle of the Tunnel

Commuters using the Lincoln Tunnel connecting New York City to New Jersey have been subjected this month to a battle of billboards. On the New Jersey side is a billboard sponsored by Atheists advocating for their view. On the New York side is a billboard described as sponsored by Theists advocating their view. Actually on the New York side is a billboard sponsored by Catholics advocating Christianity. Isn't it strange how people lump all people of faiths together? The fact is that in certain ways, I, as a Jew, find myself having more in common with the Atheists.

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

Rabbi Ben Hecht

P. Vaychi, P. Vayeishev - When did Yosef become the B'chor? 1 - Sources, Q's

Vaychi 48:5

Vaychi 48:22
Torah T'mimah there 17
Quoting TB Bava Batra 123a

Vayeishev 37:3
"K'tonet Passim"

When did Yaakov choose Yosef to be the Bechor?

Is it Vaychi 48:5 when Yaakov said "KiR'uven v'Shimon yihyeh lee"

Vaychi 48:22 "shchem echad al achecha"?

Note: Both implying pee sh'nayim...


Vayeishev - when Yaakov gave Yosef the K'tonet Passim; which implied that Yosef now held the mantle of "B'chor"?

BE"H we will cover Vaychi next and reflect back to Vayeishev and Vayishlach later.

Note: Stay tuned for "surprise twist ending"
Hypothesis. :-)


Wednesday 15 December 2010

P. Vaychi - Umoladta Asher Holadta Achareihem

See Vaychi 48:5,6

We have an interesting debate between Rashi and the TT. [Yes, one MAY argue with Rashi and still be a Kosher Yid!] :-)

Rashi posits that any children Yoseph WILL have after Ephraim uM'nashe will be subsumed under THEIR names...

The Torah Temimah 48:5:5 objects because "Holadta" is PAST tense.

Rather TT suggests that this refers not to the future siblings of Ephraim and M'nasheh, but towards their respective children, some of which may have already been born.

Tangentially one may understand the quoted G'mara as quoting Passuq 5 as its source text as also referring to Passuq 6

Ayein Sham



Pick Your Pasqening Preferences 1 - Mincha, Sh'qiah, Minyan

I've engaged in an offline discussion as to "which trumps which"

Namely -
Davening Minchah alone BEFORE sh'qiah
Davening with a Minyan even after Sh'qiah

SA-Rema O"Ch 233:1
Ba'er Hetev 5
Mishnah B'rurah. 11,14
Biur Halach D"H "d'haynu"
Sha'ar Hatsiyyun 16,18,21

MB: "Lochein , l'chatchilah tzorich ... l'hitpalleil qodem sh'qiat Hahamah davqa"

Let's look at 2 similar scenarios and see how this applies. The specific "gray area" I have is "how to Pasqen scenario B" - especially in light of this MB..

Given - Scenario A

Minchah is scheduled to take place in shul AFTER sh'qiah.

So MB pashut says L'chatchilah daven Mincha at home before Sh'qiah

[Note: Others -like me say better go to minyan even after sh'qiah so long as before tseit. EG Rema, Kitzur SA]

Scenario B

Minchah is scheduled to take place in shul 15 minutes BEFORE sh'qiah. BUT the
Minyan is running late and it's 1-3 minutes before the z'man

Would MB consider this

1. a case of sha'at hadchak and would even he wait for a Minyan?


2. Would MB say it's STILL a lechatchilah and so it's time to daven now regardless even if it deprives the Minyan of tefillah betzibbur later on!?!

B1 says - the MB might allow the lechatchillah as having gone to shul and so now it's Sha'at Hadchaq.

B2 is saying the Lechathcilah is absolute.

* see B3 below

B1 might also say be mitztareif the other tzad [that of other sheetot] and use that as a s'nif l'haqeil since we're uncertain, [Dialetic]

B2 NO WAY! What part of Lechtchilah do you not understand? The MB would STILL insist in davening Minchah straight-away and sacrificing the later Tefillah betzibbur
[Absolute straight read of TEXT]

* There is a B3 of sorts namely - to consult Talmiddim of MB and determine what the MB himself would do. [Original Intent of author - regardless of the text]


Straight Read vs. Dialectic

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Is Pollard Entitled to Justice or Clemency?

Is Pollard Entitled to Justice or Only to Clemency?

YOU decide!

Jonathan Pollard


Regardless whether or not Pollard's ENTITLED to Justice,
IMHO, pleas for justice will likely backfire with the US government.

Instead, I suggest pleading for Mercy alone.

"She'ein anu azei panim lomar
Tadikkim ananachu v'lo Chatanu
Aval anachnu chatanu"

My 2 Cents

Sunday 12 December 2010

The Truck Donation from Christian Group

First, see, an article on how Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused a donation of fire trucks from a pro-Israel Christian group. Now ask yourself what you feel about this.

So many thoughts go through my mind. While this donation really had nothing to do with the recent forest fire in Israel, the fact that this article was written at this time immediately brings this tragedy in Israel to mind. On one hand, how can we turn down these fire trucks when they are so necessary. Isn't it an issue of piku'ach nefashot? On the other hand, I can also understand the hesitancy in accepting a gift from a Christian group whose agenda, to say the least, is not exactly the same as a Torah agenda. How do you make this call? My mind thinks of the Rav's distinction between a Jewishness of Fate and one of Destiny and this would seem to be an example of a case where these two definitions collide. This is not a simple decision to make and given this reality of this difficulty I find it difficult to critique his decision. It may or may not have been the decision that I would have made but given the judgemental nature of this decision, I must respect his call since he is the one who has the responsibility to make this call.

One thing though does bother me. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, from what I know, is an Orthodox rabbi and I think that should have made a difference. I am not saying that this should have changed the Interior Minister's decision but I do think the Rabbi Eckstein deserved a discussion/consultation/conversation. In that Rabbi Eckstein is within the boundaries of Torah, his position should be respected as such even if the Interior Minister disagreed. I, of course, would also call upon Rabbi Eckstein to respect the decision of the Interior Minister in the same way -- but as two Torah Jews there should have been communication. That lack affects everything.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday 11 December 2010

Tangential Lists in Mishnah/ Talmud - another Chicken/Egg Question

See EG Mishnah Niddah chapter 6 [Yeish X v'ein Y]

Or Mishnah Megillah end of chapter 1 [the Ein Beins]

Where the Mishnah Digresses a into long list off the topic of the Masechta.

So - Which comes first? The local text or the digression?

Kehatti seems to follows the Traditional explanation - Viz. It is derech agav -suggesting that the local text comes first. And only then, once we discuss ONE exemplary case fitting a certain structure, does the redactor bring down all similar cases. Thus the Mishnah is CREATING this list despite digressing off topic

From a Scientific Study of Mishnah, the converse is a better way of explaining it.

Namely - the Mishnah needs to quote a single relevant case. In order to do so, it quotes [from] a Pre-existing "Article" or "Theme" paper." And once it begins quoting - it proceeds to quote the article in its entirety without trimming it.

So the Mishnah is not adding similar cases as a mnemonic. Rather it is "pulling in" already existing, memorized material, wherein only one case really matches the local subject.

Shloymie: Frankly I do not see a difference or at least a significant difference. Who Cares?

RRW: Indeed the Nafqa Minah is quite subtle. This deals with understanding how the Mishnah [and Talmud!] were redacting tangential pieces.

In a sense - both models include more than is needed in order to preserve these cases.

The subtle difference is the nature of the digression

A. In the Traditional Model it's to teach other cases that have a similar structure although they're really off-topic because we shouldn't forget them.

B. In the Scientific Model the redactor is looking to quote an existing piece "AS IS". Therefore the excursion to side issues is perhaps an unintended consequence of being honest and quoting thoroughly. The digression is not the intended purpose of the quotation at all! Rather the quote is ONLY for local needs and the rest is "pulled in" derech agav to preserve the integrity of the quote - and perhaps also so those cases are not forgotten.

Shloymie: Can you support this with evidence?

RRW: Indeed there is some evidence, though no hard proof.

EG see Arvei P'sachim 101a v'hoamar Abbaye «Master did all [cases] like Rav except [these] 3 . ... #2 - we light from candle to candle [Rashi "MiNer Hanukkah]..."

Now follow Masoret Hashas to Shabbat 21a "Itmar Rav..." re: Ner Hanukkah ALL three cases are quoted, though ONLY the Ner [Hanukkah] case is locally relevant

Contrast this with Torah shebichtav where the Talmud frequently quotes a fragment!

Shloymie: Why do they do that with Tanach?

RRW: Simple! - Tanach is written, go read it. Oral Torah [TSBP] needs to be preserved and quoted fully.

Shloymie: So preserving the memory is important, n'est-ce pas?

RRW Yes, indeedy. Just that the quote already exists and it's not being snipped. Contrast that with the redactor who only at time of redaction begins to assemble a brand new series and thereby creates a digression off-topic.

In the Tradtional model such digressions are therefore lechathcilah being formulated.

While in the Scientific Model, they are more b'di'avad, sticking to the oral text as it was already preserved.

Test both models for yourself by looking at other cases and see which model seems to make more sense.


Friday 10 December 2010

The Reality TV - and its Antidote

Originally published 12/10/10, 1:17 pm.
Rabbi Dov Fisher wrote:
«The essence of "reality TV" shows is to show people's worst flaws when circumstances or, if necessary, artificial challenges press them to the edge, then to foment even deeper flaws by setting people against each other and filming every word of slander, every pettiness. These programs thrive on scandal and controversy. That is what makes "Good TV."»
This is the essence of Rechilus - the peddling of people's flaws.
Here we have it - a personality type that seeks out the dregs; seeks out lower types of people and seeks out the lowest aspects belonging even to good people.
Reality shows - are they the CAUSE of Rechilut? Or are they merely a popular manifestation of that all-too-human tendency to dwell on the negative?
What's the antidote?

Let's here it from Johnny Mercer
«Gather 'round me, everybody
Gather 'round me while I'm preachin'
Feel a sermon comin' on me
The topic will be sin and that's what I'm ag'in'
If you wanna hear my story
The settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin' The attitude of doin' right
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between»
Indeed. Betzedeq Tishpot Amitecha.

Thank you Rabbi Fisher and thank you Johnny.


Thursday 9 December 2010

Was Hanukkah a Reaction to Secular Liberalism? 2 - 2 Approaches

Originally published 12/9/10, 4:48 pm.

Olas Shabbos - Chanukah, 5760 -
What does the closing of the Wolozhiner Yeshivah have in common with The Maccabean Revolt?
 Hareidi Version:
Both the Maccabean Revolt and the closing of the Wolozhiner Yeshiva were protests by Torah Jews against the intrusion of any secular culture into our Torah culture.
A "Torah im Madda" Alternative:
Both the Maccabean Revolt and the closing of the Wolozhiner Yeshiva were protests against [a Government] IMPOSING any secular culture upon Jewish Society. However, it is OK for Jews themselves to incorporate certain secular studies - so long as it is subjected to Torah-based criteria such as R Hirsch did with Torah Im Derech Eretz in Frankfort.


P. Vayigash - Torah Temimah on Honoring Grandparents

A must see Torah Temimah [TT] on Vayigash. Here, the TT presents an encapsulated resource book on the issue of honoring grandparents

See TT Vayigash 46:1

The upper text quotes the Midrash Rabbah [MR] Stating Kibbud Av trumps kibbud Avi Aviv
[Literally paternal grandfather]

The Rema in Yoreh Deiah 240:24 deduces here that we see kibbud Avi Aviv is at least in the discussion it is therefore an obligation albeit a lesser one.

In note 1 below the line, the TT says the following:
• Rema rejects Mahari Kolon who sees zero obligation
• The GRA rejects kibbud Avi Imo [Maternal Grandfather]
thereby taking this MR very literally
• The TT suggests that the Bavli would disagree with this MR and leaves the GRA in "Tsarich Iyyun" status
•. He quotes several Bavlis and an interesting Rif and Rambam about miracles that occur to one's grandparents [or ancestors in general]

Quite a breadth of sources!

This might give us a brand-new research topic for Parshat Vayigash


Wednesday 8 December 2010

The True Miracle of Hanukkah

Originally published 12/8/10, 7:34 am. Link no longer works.
'Tis the season for "Feel-Good Stories"
NYT: Metropolitan Diary
«As I opened the box, I saw that the good Samaritan had written the following note: "This is the The true miracle of Hanukkah


Tuesday 7 December 2010

To Fast or NOT to Fast?

Originally published 12/7/10, 11:59 am.
Regarding the Recent Call to Fast by the Rabbanut in Israel.
On The Contrary: R. Mosheh Lichtenstein: Reasons Not to Fast for Rain
«A. Lack of danger‬‪ I will begin with a harsh statement that shows the absurdity, in my view, of fasting for rain nowadays: it is ludicrous to fast for rain while the sprinklers at the yeshiva, at the homes of its rabbis, of local residents, and of public gardens—here and everywhere else—operate as usual. How can we fast over a dearth of rain when we continue to water our ornamental garden? How can we open the aron kodesh and cry out about the lack of water when no serious effort has been made to minimize water consumption?!‬‪‬‪. More to the heart of the issue, masekhet Ta'anit addresses a reality in which a dearth of rainfall is, quite literally, life threatening. Fasting for rain is blatantly a prayer for survival. In a world without motorized transportation, the ability to transport food and water long distances, or refrigeration, lack of rain means famine, drought, and death, Rachmana litzlan. Without anything for man or beast to drink, without food or pasture, life is at risk. In the modern reality, however, in which water can be desalinated and food imported, the issue is no longer existence, but money or abundance. Desalination costs money, but it removes the mortal threat.‬‪‬‪ In actuality, the country's prolonged water crisis is not a crisis of existence, but a crisis of standard of living. Were we to dry out the gardens and give up the swimming pools and sprinklers, we would lose important things that broaden man's mind, but we would not be putting our existence at risk. Therefore, to a large degree, the issue is one of lifestyle, which warrants our hoping for more rain, but does not justify decreeing a fast because there is not sufficient water to maintain the present standard of living.‬‪‬‪ Simply stated, fasting is a response to danger, and in the modern reality, the danger that was present in a lack of rain in the times of Chazal no longer threatens us.‬‪‬‪»

"Lack of danger‬‪ - I will begin with a harsh statement that shows the absurdity, in my view"
Ponder the following:
Was this
Daat Torah
Rabbinic Hubris?
Did the recent forest fire present a manifestation of
"Mashpil gei'i'm"?
Was the danger to forests and lives ignored by focusing upon "trees" and not upon forests?
Therefore, are some rabbis today focusing upon minutia and thereby trivializing the "Big Picture"?
Kinda Sad!


Monday 6 December 2010

P. Vayishlach, Ben Ish Chai, Criticising Avot

In year two, the Ben Ish Chai [BIC] on Vayishlach mentions a criticism of Yaakov Avinu for procrastinating in fulfilling his pledge, his Neder....

Without dwelling on those specific topics - Viz. of promptness and of the seriousness of N'darim - I want to offer a sympathetic way of understanding the BIC Here, and of criticisms of the Avot in general.

The BIC uses a Key word here MUSSAR. The criticism is IMHO not intended to impugn Yaakov's reputation at all. Rather it is to teach US, the readers, a lesson in MUSSAR.

I have upon occasion used this technique myself - unfortunately with the nasty unintended consequence of being chided for criticising the Avot and the listener thereby tuning out my message!

Yes, I guess *I* need Mussar, too! :-). But the point is, dear readers - that the readers of BIC here or of other similar criticisms of Avot should be aware that the intended message - AISI anyway - is to use the Avot as a foil or as a strawman to teach an ethical lesson

And so the criticism aspect should be taken with a "grain of salt" and not necessarily as the actual, factual history of what happened. It's the ethical/moral lesson that ought to be the focal point

As in our case, BIC makes a classic Mussar point; namely that if Yaakov was chided for his procrastination - kol shekein US.

And so to teach US a lesson Yaakov "takes it on the chin" so to speak; but it's NOT meant to take Yaakov "down a peg" in our evaluation of him.


Science, Hanukkah, and Miracles

Originally published 12/6/10, 9:10 am.
Dreidles and Daily Miracles: What a Modest, Spinning Top Can Teach Us About the Miracles in Our Lives » - The Online Voice of Torah Jewry
-  R' Eliyahu Safran

«As Tamar Sofer wrote in a recent blog, "My husband, a laser physicist, tells me that scientists who study particle physics are more likely to become religious. Scientists are notoriously hard to convince of anything. Yet, when these skeptical scientists see the perfect, natural order of the world, they decide nano and up, that this world was planned. The marvelous design before them becomes the miracle they need to become convinced." Indeed, it is quite often those scientists who study natural law in its greatest complexity and detail who appreciate miracles the most. »
My Physics teacher Dr. Genovese from the summer of 1972 at UConn's W. Hartford branch - said that you cannot see what the particles can do without believing in G-d. I had always assumed he was a religious Catholic, but I'm not so sure of that now, rather, I'd say for certain that he witnessed the "Hand of G-d" in G-d's Handiwork.


Sunday 5 December 2010

The Music of David Nowakowsky (1848-1921)

The Music of David Nowakowsky (1848-1921): A New Voice from Old Odessa

Emanuel Rubin, University of Massachusetts Amherst

«The great triumvirate of nineteenth-century Jewish synagogue composers, Salomon
Sulzer, Louis Lewandowski, and Samuel Naumbourg, are generally acknowledged as having
reinvigorated polyphonic music for the synagogue.»

My musical expert friend once remarked that "Lewandoski was the Jewish Mozart [meaning most prolific] and that Nowakowsky was the Jewish Beethoven" [meaning of the highest quality]

Two of his pieces are perhaps the most moving music I've ever heard
1 his Lechah Dodi
2. his Hashem Z'charanu Yevareich

I was privileged to sing the latter for the CCA choir and the experience was overwhelming and surreal. Too good to be described



Saturday 4 December 2010

Acharei Rabbim L'Hatot in Halachah - 2

R S. Eider's Hilchot Hanukkah
P. 16 Paragraph 4 "Use for Mitzvah"
Fns: 107-110

See Aruch haShulchan [AhS] O"Ch 673
Especially s'eifim 7,8.

The Issue is Given:
We may NOT use Ner Hanukkah for our personal use. The remaining question is:
May one use Ner Hanukkah for Tashmish Mitzvah ?

The Ittur says: YES! this is not Bizayyon, rather it is Kavod and is exempt from any prohibition

Some say this heter is only ad hoc, but does not allow one to learn "derech qavu'a"

Most [Rov] Posqim say: No use is Good use! - because there is no Heker that it's for the sake of Hanukkah

And so is "haminhag happashut"

Methodology Questions to Ponder:

• Are Both Reasons necessary?
• Is each reason sufficient on its own right?

• Is it enough to Pasqen by Rov Posqim alone?


• Is it enough to follow the Minhag happashut even where there is no definite rov?

• How about a Minhag against a rov? Would Minhag trump Acharei Rabbim l'hatot? [as per AhS]

•. May one rely upon this Ittur?

• Is there any evidence from the original sources one way or the other?

• Would "hints" or philology from the original source matter one way or the other?


Friday 3 December 2010

P. Miqqetz - Is Avodah Zara the Same for Jew and for Gentile?

Here are the Source Verses:
44:5 15,16

First - Yosef identifies himself as "G-d fearing" 42:18

Subsequently, his servant sounds like he recognizes "Elokeichem" 43:23

So we have in place 7 Mitzvot B'nei Noah, but no Mattan Torah yet. Yosef is a G-d fearer and we may reasonable extrapolate that he is no idol worshipper

Yet in 44:5,15 Yosef and his servant PRESUME that Yaakov's sons should KNOW that he is a "m'nacheish" Now how would they know that - if Yosef is a practicing G-d fearer? Furthermore, Yehudah never challenges Yosef over this apparent contradiction.

On the One Hand [OT1H]
Yosef is into Elokim
On the Other Hand [OTOH]
Yosef is a "well-known" m'nacheish...


There may be room for a clever hilluq here, BUT the simple read is that a G-d Fearing Noahide could be a G-d Worshipper and still do Nichush regularly [as opposed to an occasional deviation.]

And the Brothers were presumed to be cool with this. This strongly suggests that a Noahide is permitted to engage in activity that for a Ben Torah would constitute a form of Avodah Zarah [AZ].

BE"H we will follow up upon this same theme during Parshat Vo'Etchanan - namely that the criteria for AZ for a Jew seems stricter than for a non-Jew.


P. Miqqetz - Reuven and Yaakov, Miscommunication

In 42:37 Reuven offers Yaakov to "kill" his 2 sons "et shtei bonai Tamit" if he fails to restore Binyamin.

[Question: why TWO sons and not one or four?]

Yaakov refuses. Rashi in 42:38 explains that Yaakov saw Reuven's offer as from a "B'chor Shoteh" because how would Yaakov gain by killing his own grandchildren.

Well just WHAT was Reuven Thinking any way?

Let's presume that Rashi is correct regarding YAAKOV's perspective. What DIFFERENT perspective did Reuven have?

My friend R Joel Stern explains Reuven's POV

In P. Vayeishev Yehudah Sells Yosef and then later goes on to bury HIS first two sons

Now Reuven did not know WHY those two sons died, so he simply assumed it was retribution for "selling Yosef"

Reuven was saying he would be willing to RISK the lives of his two sons if he failed to protect Binyamin. [Now we know why specifically TWO]

But Yaakov could not have seen the causal connection to Yehudah because Yaakov was - after all - clueless about Yehudah's role. And Reuven was making an offer to risk his sons based upon his [mis]perception of the deaths of Yehudah's sons

And then Yaakov missed this point and concluded that Reuven's offer was "shtuyot" because it was pointless to harm him his own grandchildren.

Interestingly, as per this, Reuven, like Yaakov, misperceived related situations. Like Father Like Son?


Thursday 2 December 2010

The Hanukkah I Hanukkah II Hypothesis - The Outline

Originally published 12/2/10, 8:42 pm.
The Outline

I have posted this previously on the web In the meantime I will present it again briefly using my taciturn New English terseness. :-)
Hanukkah was a "discontinuous" function. It originally was an "Independence Day" - namely from its inception until the Hurban. It then went "Kaput" * for several generations following the Hurban.
It was subsequently revived and resuscitated sometime later on during the era of the Talmud.
Hanukkah I:
• Maccabees I + II
• Josephus
Al Hanissim
• The Braitto of Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel
•. The Dedication of the Mizbei'ach
• Political Independence
Interruption *
•. The Mishnah
Hanukkah II
• TB Shabbat
• THe Scholion to Megillat Taanit
• The Miracle of the Oil

* Note that during the "interuption" Hanukkah was likely to have been practiced as a "Minhag


P. Miqqetz - Davar Shebiqdushah Requires 10

There is a curious "quote" in the Torah Temimah that seems a bit anachronistic..

See Torah Temimah Miqqetz 42:5:2

That any Davar Shebiqdushah Requires 10. He cites the Mishnah in TB Megillah 23b [Mishnah 4:3] then his list includes "... everything k'gon Qaddish Q'dusha, Bar'chu ..."

Surprise! None of those 3 are actually mentioned in the Mishnah and arguably of these three - only Bar'chu is implied.

Certainly WE apply Davar Shebiqdushah Requiring 10 to these 3, but this Mishnah does not.

V'tzarich Iyyun because there is a missing link here from the cases listed in that Mishnah to the one in the TT itself


Mishnah Text

. ד,ג
אין פורסין על שמע, ואין עוברין לפני התיבה, ואין נושאין את כפיהם, ואין קורין בתורה, ואין מפטירין בנביא, ואין עושין מעמד ומושב, ואין אומרין ברכת אבילים וחתנים, ואין מזמנין על המזון בשם--פחות מעשרה. ובקרקעות, תשעה וכוהן; ואדם, כיוצא בהן.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

P. Vaeishev P. Miqqetz - Reuven and Brothers - "I told you so!"

This d'var Torah spans these two Parshiyot re: the debate between Reuven and his brothers concerning Yosef's welfare.

In 42:22 Reuven may have become the first person in history to utter "I told you so!"

But Reuven's reference plea that NO HARM come to Yosef seems a bit misguided. Why? Because we see Reuven offered to throw Yosef in the pit. And we see that this pit was no bed of roses - EG see Rashi 37:24. So what did Reuven mean?

In P. Vayeishev 37:21,22 Reuven says TWO Vayomer's - why two?

In the First Vayomer Reuven says "don't kill him"

In the Second Vayomer he says "don't spill blood throw him in the pit! [Instead]"

Apparently between Vayomer One and Vayomer Two a Debate ensued. And Reuven started with "Plan A" and then punted to "Plan B"

And so when Reuven says in 42:22 he must be referring to the FIRST vayomer - because it ends "v'lo sh'matem" you didn't listen! But they DID listen when they threw him in the pit! So this perforce refers to PLAN A above which was ostensibly rejected.

The 2nd Vayomer was PLAN B which was "the pits" and THEN they listened! But it eventually led to Yosef's sale - especially when seeing the P'shat that the Midyanim drew hm up from the pit, and NOT the brothers as per Rashi

Thus Plan A was the "no harm" plan the brothers rejected

Plan B was the Pit Plan which was a compromise but ended up losing Yosef

And now Reuven Laments "I told you so" because had they followed Plan A no guilt or blame would have attached.