Monday 28 February 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 8

We were conducting an informal email chat concerning how Naftali Herz Imber has been unfairly blamed for the statement
"Lihyot am chofshi b'artzenu..."

When actually NHI wrote instead: "Lashuv el eretz avoteinu"

So one chaveir asked disappointingly - so there's no R Gorelick story?!

Then came the AHA!

Yes RYG did often similarly lament

"What did poor R Yitzchok Elchanan [Spektor] ever do to deserve naming this yeshivh after him!"

V'hameivin Yavin

Meanwhile back to Imber, tikvoseinu, Al Jolson and Rav Kook

Daled Amos: HaTikvah: Rav Kook and Al Jolson

Here too there is an error:
«L'yichod Dovid, Dovid chano»

AFAIK S/B "l'ir bah" instead of "l'yichod"


Sunday 27 February 2011

A Difference in Legal Perspective

There were two incidents that occurred in that past couple of weeks -- one in Toronto and one in Winnipeg -- that, in my opinion, clearly demonstrate to difference in perspective between Halacha and secular law.

Substantively, both incidents concerned sexual assault. In the first case, a member of the Toronto police force, in speaking to a group of university students in regard to sexual assaults on their campus, stated that a factor in this regard may be what they wear and, as such, to avoid attacks they should dress more modestly. For the details, see
As a result, this police officer was reprimanded for his comments and had to apologize. While the way he expressed himself was highly questionable, the challenge to the substance of his statement was somewhat surprising to me. There is, of course, the problem of the woman being blamed for rape because of what she was wearing -- and that clearly should not be a factor in judgement; a man has to control himself. In fact, this was the issue in the second incident that occurred where a judge gave a more lenient sentence to a man found guilty of sexual assault because of what the woman was wearing and what he described as the atmosphere in the air. See But the police officer was not discussing punishment and responsibility but rather how to accomplish a certain goal, i.e. not being a victim. Regardless of liability and who is right or wrong, he was simply saying that since dress may be a factor, one should be careful about dress. The issue is avoiding the crime, not liability for the crime.

This is exactly on point in regard to the difference between Halacha and secular law. One who asks a halachic question is asking about what to do: what is the right action? The issue in the secular legal system, though, is liability; who is responsible. The university students didn't hear advice on how to lessen your possibility of being sexually assaulted but heard the police officer saying that they are partly responsible. The reason I didn't think that the officer's words were so problematic -- although I clearly have problems with the language he used -- because I was thinking culpability but simple direction as to behaviour. This is because of my halachic perspective.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday 26 February 2011

Genius and Hiddush

Originally published 2/26/11, 8:17 pm.
Doesn't it seem odd that when a scholar with an IQ of, say. 130 comes up with a mildly radical idea it seems to meet with a lot of resistance
Yet - when a scholar with an IQ of 180 comes up with a really wild radical idea, people seem to flock to it with enthusiasm.


Friday 25 February 2011

Vayakhel: The Motivation for Giving

Originally published 2/25/11, 9:59 am.
In regard to this week's parsha, we invite you to look at Insight 5757-10: The Motivation for Giving, which looks at the important question of how we are to allocate our tzedaka monies. Please see:

Thursday 24 February 2011

You be the Rabbi - Correcting mistakes

You are the rabbi. What do you do in the following cases?

1. Someone gives a D'var Torah. EG they say that Vayeitsei is unique in that it's without any Parshah breaks. But you know that Miqqeitz also fits this description.

2. Someone is teaching Kitzur SA and explains the Halacha incorrectly?

3. Someone publishes an article and he misquotes a source?


Wednesday 23 February 2011

The New Definition of Chutzpa

You got to see this to believe it!
 ...And he says it with a straight face publicly.


When will the world learn what kind of person they are dealing with?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Jewish Content on Regis and Kelly's Greatest Love Stories

It seems that the Regis and Kelly tv program had a contest to find the World's Greatest Love Story and one of the finalists was an elderly, frum couple from Toronto. It really is an amazing story. To hear about the details, go to the following site
and follow the story of Nancy and Howard Kleinberg who were on the Tuesday show.

All the words -- hashgacha pratit, besheirt -- really seem to apply.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Monday 21 February 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 7

RYG was very frum. His observance of mitzvos and his long sh'moneh esrei revealed a passion for Piety. Yet as a Litvak, he had little use for empty piety.

In one sense he insisted that students master concepts and not be slavishly literal. He did not have much patience with mindless rote repetition of a principle that had not been properly internalized

One statement he used several times reflects this rejection of rigidity:

«Die problem mit du [eich] is ven du zogts Ashrei - du zits't

You're problem is that when you say Ashrei you [literally] sit! Meaning don't be so rigidly literal

It occurred to me only decades later that The Rov Z"L read this into the Rambam as normative Halachah. I still wonder today if there was a coded double entendre there somehow.?


Sunday 20 February 2011

P. Lech L'cha - Leaving Israel During Famine

What does the Rambam mean in MT Hilchot M'lachim 5:9
«Even though it was a famine and one is permitted to leave Israel [nevertheless] "Einaah middat Hassidut" ...
And because of that Machalon and Kilyon - 2 "gdolei hador" ..left and were liable to destruction by "the Maqom

1. If it's Halachically permitted to leave, then who cares about "Middat Hassidut"?

2 How does being a "Gadol Hador" change their liability or obligation? Aren't ALL Jews on the same level of obligation and liability?

3. Why did the Rambam say they were punished - when even he concedes that they actually acted within the parameters of Halachah?

4. In Lech L'cha, Avraham Avinu left The Holy Land under similar circumstances - and he apparently was rewarded and NOT punished! How does this Rambam address that case?

For further sources
See Torah Temimah on Lech L'cha 12:10 quoting
Bava Qama 60b
And Note 13 quoting
Bava Batra 91a
And the aforementioned Rambam Mishneh Torah M'lachim 5:9


Thursday 17 February 2011

Parsha: Ki Tisa, "Rashi on Ki Shicheit Amcha"

Originally published 2/17/11, 6:56 pm.
A liberal friend of mine would like to advance a correspondingly liberal conversion policy that is contrary to GPS and other more restrictive policies.

What does Rashi say about such kind-heartedness?

Ki Tisa 22:7 D"H "Ki. Shicheit Amcha"

Hashem told Moshe, "You went ahead and converted them without consulting ME, and said 'good that the converts should embrace the Sh'china' those are the ones who caused this corruption."

I'm sure that, nevertheless, Hashem does embrace Geirim. However, the context here is that Moshe accepted a mass of Geirim who were motivated by the Wonders of the Exodus and not by a solid yearning to embrace Hashem and the Jewish People - in stark contrast to Ruth! This "Erev Rav" was composed of "front-runners", not sincere proselytes.

The Road to 'H..L' is paved with Good Intentions. Moshe's Chessed lacked the necessary restriction, and his liberalism introduced a corrupting influence, that would eventually serve as an internal fifth column.

The history of the events here is not essential. What is essential is Hazal's attitude of warning us of the danger of being inclusive without weighing the potential negative consequences.

Of course, HOW restrictive we should be is a matter for discussion. It is only natural to react to a failed policy in either direction, namely either too exclusive or too inclusive


Wednesday 16 February 2011

I Guess It Did Some Good

As many of you are aware, I signed the "Statement" regarding the treatment of homosexuals within the Orthodox community and have questioned myself since. While I basically agreed with the Statement, at least as I understood it, this document has caused much consternation especially in how it has been used by various elements to promote an agenda which is clearly contrary to the Statement 's own words. It never sanctioned homosexual behaviour; simply called upon Torah Jews to respond to individuals as the Torah itself instructs.

It was thus truly sad for me, and upsetting, to see the Statement quoted in the promotion of the recently held Shabbaton for gays. I just wanted to have my name removed from the Statement for I did not want to be part of such events that would seem to sanction non-Torah behaviour. Yet, something else recently also occurred that made me feel to some extent that there may have been a Godly reason for my signing the Statement. Due to my signature, I was asked for my opinion in regard to the investigation of an Orthodox rabbi who serves as a chaplain to the York Regional Police. Allegations were made that he was homophobic and not suitable to serve in this capacity. The police investigators asked me for my opinion on this and my input -- that he was not homophobic but simply presenting the ethical position of Torah. This seemed to have been a factor in vindicating the rabbi -- and for that I am grateful. In this regard, I have reproduced a Jewish Tribune article on the subject for your perusal -- bolding my placement in the article.

This was actually the second article in the Tribune regarding this story. The first one was simply on Rabbi Kaplan being vindicated. That is why the focus of this article is not on the vindication of the rabbi but rather the role of the general, secular Jewish community in the original charges. This a further reason for why I am reproducing this article. The gay issue has emerged as a matter of contention within the greater Jewish community and this is something that has to be considered in an overall Orthodox response to the furthering emergence of gay rights. In this regard, please see my post on the subject at Nishma: Policy at

Rabbi Ben Hecht
(Tribune article to follow)

CJC CEO wanted investigation against Chabad rabbi, York Regional Police reveals

Written by Atara Beck
Tuesday, 15 February 2011

TORONTO – Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) CEO Bernie Farber took an active role in the recent challenge – initiated by a request from Kulanu Toronto – to Rabbi Mendel Kaplan’s chaplaincy role with York Regional Police (YRP), a police spokesperson revealed.

After an almost-six-month investigation into claims that Rabbi Kaplan, the popular spiritual leader of Chabad Flamingo, had expressed homophobic sentiments, and therefore, was unsuitable for the position, YRP concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated (see Jewish Tribune, Feb. 10, 2010).

In a back-and-forth email discussion among Rabbi Kaplan, JDL Canada head Meir Weinstein and Farber before the gay-parade last June, Rabbi Kaplan disagreed with the others, who were planning to march with Kulanu Toronto, the LGBTQ group under the UJA Federation umbrella, in support of Israel.

Kulanu Executive Director Justine Apple, who saw the email exchanges, wrote to YRP Chief Armand LaBarge, claiming that Rabbi Kaplan sent a “vile” email to rabbis across the GTA that “takes our Jewish community institutions – Canadian Jewish Congress, Canada Israel Committee and UJA – to task for its support of our organization.”

“The original letter of complaint was from Kulanu Toronto,” said YRP Inspector Ricky Veerappan, adding that Farber, too, “did mention it to us.” The Tribune had contacted Veerappan to confirm the facts upon hearing rumblings to that effect.

“There were a number of people who felt that we should look at Rabbi Kaplan’s ability to serve as chaplain, including Bernie Farber and Len Rudner [CJC’s Ontario regional director],” Veerappan stated.

Apple said when the investigation began that CJC and Federation were very supportive of her attempt to get YRP to reconsider Rabbi Kaplan’s competence as chaplain.

Even after the investigation concluded, Xtra!, Canada's Gay and Lesbian News, reported: “Like Apple, Farber questions whether Kaplan is the most appropriate choice to represent YRP. ‘That's what has to be answered,’ Farber stated.”

The Tribune tried unsuccessfully to contact Farber before deadline.

“The allegation that Mr. Farber, CEO of an organization that purports to represent the entire Jewish community, sought to condemn an orthodox rabbi for upholding Torah values is shocking, deeply offensive and totally unacceptable,” Rabbi Kaplan commented.

“We also spoke to [JDL Canada leader] Meir Weinstein and he had mentioned that he didn’t think the rabbi should be removed from the chaplaincy,” Veerappan explained, although Weinstein had disagreed with Rabbi Kaplan on this particular issue. ‘Weinstein thought that perhaps they [Farber, Rudner and Apple] should discuss it [with the rabbi], to see if there was any miscommunication.”

Following the rabbi’s vindication at the end of the investigation, Apple said she would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with him.

Speaking to the Tribune, she acknowledged that she had made no attempt to have a meeting with Rabbi Kaplan before sending the letter to YRP challenging the rabbi’s suitability for the chaplaincy.

From Weinstein’s perspective, according to Veerappan, Farber and Rabbi Kaplan “were just speaking on different levels,” in the email discussion. “In fact, he [Weinstein] was not the only person who said that.

“All the people we spoke to [during the investigation] were people whose names came up when speaking with us. Rabbi Benjamin Hecht [founding director of Nishma, a Torah think tank] was highly recommended as someone who would have knowledge on [orthodox] Judaism as related to LGBTQ issues. We met with him. We examined the emails and other material. It was a lot of work. He felt the emails were not hateful or homophobic.”

Weinstein told the Tribune that Farber was “livid” that Rabbi Kaplan had disagreed with him about marching at the parade. “He told me he didn’t think that the rabbi was the right person for the chaplaincy.”

Weinstein led JDL in the pride march with Kulanu.

“It wasn’t Rabbi Kaplan’s position not to attend the pride parade,” he said. “It’s the Torah position, and I agree with the Torah position. I went because I think it’s extremely important to confront the antisemites.

“It was my first time at that event. It certainly isn’t the place to bring kids.

“None of the rabbis think that individuals, gay or straight, should be discriminated against or treated disrespectfully. But the pride parade is something different, with gay strippers flaunting their bodies. What does that have to do with fighting for their rights?”
Weinstein plans to continue the fight against the anti-Israel organizers, although he isn’t sure yet whether he’ll attend the parade again, considering the “abominable stuff that goes on there.”

The original article can be accessed at

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Pardon my French! "Bon Matin" and "Franglais" - 2

A follow up from R Micha Berger to my original post on this subject. (See

Micha Berger:
Here is how I summarized RMK's position here in the post. This is about absorbing The language of Halachah -
"There are two ways to learn a language: The native speaker doesn't learn
rules of grammar before using them, he just knows what "sounds right". In
contrast, an immigrant builds his sentences by using formalized rules, learning such terms as "past imperfect" and memorizing the forms that fit each category. R' Koppel notes that the rules can never perfectly capture the full right vs wrong. A poet has to know when one can take license. *
He argues that halakhah is similarly best transmitted by creating "native speakers". It is only due to loss of our progressive loss of the Sinai culture with each generation that we need to rely on transmitting codified rules. (RMK notes in a footnote the connection between this idea and some ideas in R' Dr Haym Soloveitchik's essay "Rupture and
Reconstruction", Tradition, Summer 1994.) Earlier cited cases are the
loss of culture that occurred with Moshe Rabbeinu's death, when 300 halakhos were forgotten, and Osniel ben Kenaz reestablished them --
chazar veyasdum.
Similarly the reestablishment of numerous dinim by
Anshei Keneses haGedolah after the return from the Babylonian exile --
shakhechum vechazar veyasdum. Leyaseid, he suggests, is this codification."
Tir'u baTov!

RRW further comments:
The difference between native speaker and rules follower is simple in practice.
Illustration - I have a friend who presumes that the rule of "brachah oveir la'asiyatan" is defined so rigidly that perforce he says the brachah of "al n'tillat yadayim" before washing.
That itself is not the language hangup - because some people do this His language hangup is that he cannot fathom others who DO wash before the brachah- that those people can also STILL fulfill "over la'asiyatan" - simply by means of saying the Brachah prior to drying their hands. IOW he lacks the native "halachah speaker's" flexibility of poetic license and is stuck with just the rules of grammar His insecurity with these rules triggers the kind of ambiguity intolerance native speakers don't suffer.
Therefore he is befuddled.
He would need to internalize this Halachic Language in order to be liberated from a tyranny of grammatical shoulds that are beyond normative practice.


Monday 14 February 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 6

This post is dedicated
To R Reuven Mann,
To R Eliyahu Safran and
To Mel Reichert
whom I believe first related this story to me - enjoy!

Once Upon a time R Yerucham Gorelick [RYG] was appointed to be the young Rab in small town in Poland. RYG himself hailed from Lita and apparently the societies were different enough. And following the death of one of Poland's leaders. RYG was asked to be Maspid him. [For the sake of the simplicity - let's presume that it was Marshal Pilsudski who was the Polish leader and someone who was somewhat fair to Jews *]

• RYG's Polish was weak
• His personal knowledge of the niftar was weak
• His comfort level at sharing the podium with Gentile strangers and clergy was very low

And so RYG started out by boldly proclaiming: "MARSHALL PILSUDSKI". Then he repeated it over and over as he began weeping only to finally brake down dumbfounded!

The Poles ate it up! They supposedly remarked it was the most moving eulogy they could remember.
Such a display of feelings trumped any eloquent speeches!


* Józef Piłsudski

Widely recognized for his opposition to the National Democrats antisemitic policies,[131][132][133][134][135][136] he extended his policy of "state-assimilation" to Polish Jews.[129][130][137][138] The years 1926–35, and Piłsudski himself, were favorably viewed by many Polish Jews whose situation improved especially under Piłsudski-appointed Prime Minister Kazimierz Bartel.[139][140] Many Jews saw Piłsudski as their only hope for restraining antisemitic currents in Poland and for maintaining public order; he was seen as a guarantor of stability and a friend of the Jewish people, who voted for him and actively participated in his political bloc.[141] Piłsudski's death in 1935 brought a deterioration in the quality of life of Poland's Jews.[136]

YU SOY Book Fair

Link to Seforim sale
The Seforim Sale

An interesting piece in the NY Times

If you can't find a sefer, yout might find a shidduch!


Sunday 13 February 2011

Purpose of Prayer - R Albo and the Rav

Pursuant to a discussion re: praying. for a Super Bowl outcome, R Shlomoh Brody shared some insights with me; and granted me permission to share them.

«Beyond the issue of the propriety of praying for such a trivial matter, [EG victory in the Super Bowl], there is a larger philosophical question with regard to praying for any specific outcome/action to occur, as opposed to keeping one's prayers more general.
The most articulate critic of detailed result-oriented bakashot, as far as I know, is Rav Yosef Albo in his Sefer Ha-Ikkarim. Here is a relevant quote from IV:24. ‪
"All the acts which a man does do not necessarily realize the purpose intended in doing them. It happens that a person does all that is necessary in the proper way and yet fails to realize the purpose intended…So in the case of prayer. It often happens that a person prays in a proper way, at the proper time, and yet his prayer is not accepted, not because of any sin on his part, but because the will of God does not assent… For this reason the most fitting prayer I to ask the divine favor in general terms, and not in terms definite and specific. A person who prays to God in particular and specific terms, is, as it were, desirous of forcing the divine will to his own ideas and preferences instead of bending his ideas to God's will. But this is tantamount to a contempt for God's knowledge and power, as though God knew no other way of granting his request except the one which he has chosen."
R Brody Continues now citing RJB Soloveichik 

With regard to the notion that tefillah is meant to teach us our proper needs, - see this passage from the Rav.‬‪ ‬‪Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, "Redemption, Prayer, and Talmud Torah," Tradition 17.2 Spring 1978.‬‪

"Prayer in Judaism, unlike the prayer of classical mysticism, is bound up with human needs, wants, drives and urges, which make man suffer. Prayer is the doctrine of human needs. Prayer tells the individual, as well as the community, what his, or its, genuine needs are, what he should, or should not, petition God about. . . . In short, through prayer man finds himself. Prayer enlightens man about his needs. It tells man the story of his hidden hopes and expectations. It teaches him how to behold the vision and how to strive in order to realize this vision, when to be satisfied with what one possesses, when to reach out for more. In a word, man finds his need-awareness, himself, in prayer."‬‪
Less lofty perhaps and much pithy is George Meredith's famous quote - See
Who rises from prayer a bet... by George Meredith, an English Novelist |

"[He] Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered."

My comments -
If praying for a result in the superbowl serves to enhance one's experience from a spiritual perspective, why not?
If it fails to add anything worthwhile for the benefit of the petitioner, then it's probably too trivial to bother
To me - this Meredith quote - encapsulates the litmus test for worthiness of any prayer


cRc on Starbucks

Forwarding from R Josh Yuter with permission

The Chicago Rabbinical Council recently released a guide to what is and is not kosher in Starbucks cafe's and kiosks.  This list is valid until June 30th 2011

Shabbat Shalom

Saturday 12 February 2011

KSA 183:1 - Mussar about Damage by Words Alone

Here the Kitzur SA prohibits getting involved in a business transaction that might depress the price for a fellow Jew...

The following is based upon a true story:

Once upon a time, Ari the Mashgiach was learning at his post, which at that time was perfectly OK with the boss. Then in walked a Jewish man "Abie" and teased Ari to his boss....

Abie: "He's strong and he can work. He doesn't need to just sit there idly"

Ari was upset and afraid that his relationship with his boss was being undermined

Ari cried to Abie: "Parnassah! You're hurting my parnassah!"

B"H we have a happy ending. The man Abie was quite learned and quickly realized his error and apologized. He performed the requisite "Piyyus" as outlined by KSA here.

Otherwise, Ari's physical workload might have been increased, w/o a corresponding increase in pay and either his learning time would have decreased. Or
he might have had to find either a better paying job to make time for his lost Torah time


Friday 11 February 2011

KSA 80:42 - A Wipe of a Different Colour

Re: Tzovei'a on Shabbat
As per Kitzur SA 80:42 it is assur to wipe away even blood with a "mappah" [lest one color it or dye it red.] Lich'ora we may have a built in loophole for a heter in the case of TISSUE paper - since
A it's a davar shelo mitkavein
B it's going to waste anyway - unlike a Mappah
NB: there still may be concerns of p'siq reisheih mitigating this.
Bottom Line -
See Shabtai Frankel edition p. 231 fn 70 giving the related P'saq of the Mishnah Brurah:
"Uvimqom hadchaq - yeish l'haqeil"
I would say "Kol Shekein Yeish l'haqeil" with a Tissue paper that goes to waste anyway
Kein Nireh lee - so far anyway :-)


Thursday 10 February 2011

Snow Canada! Listening to "G'dolim"

I am fascinated at how inept the local snow and ice removal has been this winter..
Yet I'm told that Atlanta was hit with less snow and ice and was even in worse shape
And as I write this on Super Bowl Sunday, The Big D, Dallas, was paralyzed by relatively mild winter conditions.
My point? Why does every local municipality have to be so darned independent? Why don't they consult the experts, the G'dolim in Canada, and get THE definitive technique for handling a snow emergency?
It doesn't mean they would be absolutely bound by Canada's p'saq, but at least they would not be clueless!

Granted, not every municipality has the resources or equipment of EG Toronto or Montreal, but at least in terms of strategy why re-invent the wheel? Speak to experienced!


Wednesday 9 February 2011

Pardon my French! "Bon Matin" and "Franglais"

It seems no matter from whence my French-speaking friends come - be it France, Belgium, Canada or Switzerland - they universally correct me when I wish them "Bon Matin!"

Unlike most French-Speakers who are often curt - one kind Belgian fellow gently advised me at a Hotel in the Mountains -
"Matin is indeed French for Morning, but we do NOT say 'Bon Matin'".

Well, why not? How does the universe of French Speakers intuitively know that this is "Bad French"? AFAICT, they agree that there is no specific RULE that prohibits greeting "Bon Matin, yet it's KNOWN that this "franglais-ism" will NOT pass for French. Jamais! "Ils ne passeront pas!"

Yet, we have Halachic "Progressives" who push the Franglais envelope daily, they insist that absent any specific rule, it is permitted to speak as one wishes in the field of Halachah. Strange - n'est-ce pas? - to incorporate foreign idioms into French simply because there is no contrary rule. They seem to say that - without a definite rule to the contrary, why- "C'est un moreceau de gateau!"

As my Choveir R Michah Berger has stated, Halachah has its own language - or technical jargon - and we CAN intuitively know franglais from authentic francais even "sans" a contrary rule


Tuesday 8 February 2011

P. Toldot Sometimes a Concordance is better than a Dictionary

Quite a while ago -one fellow came over to me and asked me, re: T'hillim 104:1, what does "gadalta" mean here?
Hashem cannot be defined by SIZE.
• How can Hashem grow bigger?
• How can Hashem even grow older?

In order to answer my chaveir's question I picked up a Concordance.

Let's see what it showed us - Eureka!
One of the first entries was P. Toldot at the start of sh'lishi
Ber. 26:13
Vayigdal Ho'ish ...

Yitzckaq Avinu was not growing in size of even in spirituality in this context. Rather his r'chush - possessions, property, portfolio were on the increase! Yitzchaq was waxing into a "Billionaire"

Without recourse to a Dictionary let's look back at Tehillim 104:1
A quick review talks about the tz'va hashamayim, the wonders of the heavenly bodies.

The praise here is Hashem - YOU possess a magnificent portfolio of astronomical proportions. Not a Praise of Hashem Himself, nor really of HIS Middot, rather of HIS possessions. Hashem is GDL in the sense of "Qoneh Shamayim vo'Oretz."


Tangentially this peirush directly relates to the piyyutim of Keil Adon and Eil Baruch GD'oL dei'ah... Found in Birkat Yotzeir. And so
On Rosh Hodesh we remember the Creator and HIS Creation by means of reciting this magnificent "Kapittel"

In summary: we now know how to parse Psalm 104 and to attribute to Hashem HIS proper attributes
And we have illustrated what I term the Concordance Technique for Parshanut

Years ago, I had learned this technique from Rashi Z"L. When Rashi explains a difficult term w/o using Talmud, Midrash or Targum, he often resorts to TaNa"Ch itself as a resource. Rashi is not only giving a peirush, rather he is teaching us a technique for forming our own original peirushim. BE"H I will illustrate Rashi's usage and a few of my own based upon following Rashi's methodology


Previoulsy published on 5/27

Schools of P'saq, Getting to the Root

Many disputes on details can usually be traced back to differing schools of P'saq.
My agenda here is primarily to present an observation, to share an insight. Beyond that one may be able to see a deeper layer behind a decision by bringing these concepts to mind.
EG why does one Poseiq feel free to prohibit Bicycle riding on Shabbat as "obvious" while another poseiq says we should never embellish what Hazal have already defined, ergo bike riding is OK on Shabbat under certain conditions.

What triggered this post -
Rabbi Ben Hecht and I were discussing "Da'at Torah" vs. Other schools of Rabbinical Authority.
This divides into two broad domains:
1. P'saq Halachah
2. Policy or Meta-Halachah
I'm going to tackle Halachah for now.

Once, when I was debating a colleague about several specific issues, I just asked him "Just tell me your premise - your 'ani maamins' - and I can figure out the rest"
Some of conflicts associated with Modern or Central Orthodoxy face can often be reduced to
"Which school one follows."
I've been able to detect or identify 10 different schools of how to pasken. Remember - in practice many poskim combine more than 1 school, sometimes eclectically, sometimes consistently.
And several of the schools do overlap and may be reduced to sub-schools within a broader school.
Here are my top ten [so far].. This is still a work in progress. .

1. Da'at Torah(1) - Mystical. "Bashamayim hee." Ruach Haqodesh
EG Arizal learns from Eliyahu Hannavi, the M'chabeir learns from his "Maggid"
[This has major implications for Policy]
This Da'at Torah is about spirituality. Proof texts are not needed, it's more like an oracle.

2. Da'at Torah(2) - Gestalt. Mastery and internalization of authoritative Halachic texts produces a living p'sak "machine". Expertise - not spritiuality - creates a Champion Poseq. A Hacham is one who can answer a question on any issue w/o needing research. In our days, I term this a "Ga'on" one who has Torah Kullah at "his fingertips".
There is no single proof text supplied because it's a gestalt method that synthesizes many sources. So a given p'sak cannot be easily dissected. It is indeed built on valid sources, albeit on the "subconscious" level.

3. Best S'vara wins. Whatever is most mistavra Seems reasonable - yet this might also create an eclectic hodgepodge, Rema here, Rambam there, GRA over there, etc.

4. Tradition Trumps. Yekkes Follow Maharil, Chabad follows the Alter Rebbe , Chofetz Chaim Yeshivah follows Mishnah Brurah etc. Stick to your community's accepted school.

5. Most Sources win. Whoever can muster the largest number of sources [having the most clout] - wins the P'sak contest.

6. Consensus wins. We take poskim and perform a virtual "nimnu v'gamru" similar to previous but based upon not just a preponderance but more like a "super-majority" EG See Beth Yoseph and Kaf HaChaim on the issue of 2 vs. 3 matzot at the Seder.

7. Fundamentalism wins. Opposite of hilchetta k'batrai - find the original intent as far back as you can and one Divines the Original Divine Will. Start with Tanach and Shas; - posqim? Fugedabbout it! This l'havdil is the Anton Scalia method.

8. Consensus of the people - aka Catholic Israel - not quite consensus of poskim but easily confused with it. Minhag Yisroel Torah, combined with Minhag Okeir Din verified by Pok Hazei mai ama davar.

9. Eclectic Qula - find the most lenient view on any issue. [Left Wing Libertarian]. Agenda driven.

10 Ecletcic Humra - Right Wing reactionary that takes/makes a Humra whenever possible. [Right Wing authoritarian] also Agenda driven

Note the Qula Agenda and the Humra Agendists are locked in a mutual yin-yang relationship. Hyper-qula triggers Hyper-humra and vice versa.
Think of 19th century Reform and the reactionary opposition about preaching in the vernacular or other such disputes where extremism overwhelmed reason.

Monday 7 February 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Rav Yerucham Gorelick Z"L - 5

Here is another first person story.

Remember Photograys?

The Symbionese Liberation Army?

Once upon a time I got prescription photogray lenses. When I would walk in from the Sunshine it looked like I was wearing sunglasses for quite a while.

Once my glasses must have turned a very dark shade, and RYG turned to me and said something like "You look like [your with] Patty Hearst"

Looks were deceiving. The truth was they were NOT sunglasses, but .... It still makes for a good story. :-)


KSA 68:7 - Is Your Host Kosher?

«A person should make inquiries concerning his lodging to ascertain if the owner and his household are honest and trustworthy. If he desires to eat meat...»

Question - How should a Rabbi behave with his community?

Should he
A check out individuals? And eat only where he is comfortable?

B. Trust everyone as having a hezkat Kashrut?

C. Make a policy to trust no individuals at all, and therefore EG either
1 not eat out at all
2 bring his own food
3 supervise his hosts?


Sunday 6 February 2011

Civil Unions

The question arises many times: would I officiate at a wedding when the bride and groom are not Torah observant? I am not talking about a case where one of the wedding families are member in an Orthodox synagogue but the situation that I have confronted various times when someone calls me on the phone to ask if I do weddings. Invariably it is a couple not affiliated with a synagogue who are looking for a rabbi to 'marry' them. The question is: should I do it or not?

My first consideration may be the various technical constraints I would want to place in condition of my acceptance to officiate. Must the wedding celebration be kosher? Must the bride go to mikvah prior to the chuppah? (In a broader sense, would I want to ensure that the wedding date coincides for halachic purposes with her menstrual cycle?) Yet all these technical issues are not the real focus of my question. The bottom line is: do I want to impose Orthodox standards on individuals who do not value them?

In the back of my mind is the reality of the world that surrounds us with a greater divorce rate and a higher incidence, it would seem, of adultery. If I 'marry' someone, the wife would be an eishet ish according to Halacha. Would this couple truly understand what that means and act accordingly? If the marriage dissolved, would a get be a question? Is there within this couple a true concern for mamzeirut? Would there be more concern for the severity of a violation of Halacha?

My response has actually been to refrain from performing such marriages. While I recognize that there is value in the performance of a proper chuppah and kiddushin, I am simply reluctant to apply the world of Halacha standards to individuals who do not inherently have respect for such standards. I question the performance of a halachic wedding thereby the creation of Halachic standards when the individuals who are the specific guardians of such standards in this case have no concern for such standards. Although it is difficult for me to say this, I find it better to let someone get married not pursuant to halachic standards than to marry someone who will may then divorce this spouse without consideration for a get thereby creating a possibility of mamzeirut. There are clearly arguments against this but I just feel that there is a problem in imposing Orthodoxy and Orthodox standards upon those who have no respect of interest in these standards. The standards themselves become the further victims.

It is with this in mind, that I direct you to the following article dealing with civil unions in Israel,
The bottom line question I believe is the same: Is there not a problem in imposing Halacha upon individuals who have, r"l, no respect for it?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Chochmat Adam On Trusting Sources

The problems of relying on 2nd and 3rd parties in Hilchot R'chilut and Lashon Hara are basic. One must ALWAYS be wary of the press when presenting a case especially when it may be 2 or 3 parties removed from the original.

This also manifests re: ne'emanut in issur v'heter. EG see Chochmat Adam Hilchot Niddah 109:4

A. When a woman says Hacham Ploni says I'm pure - she's believed - because she's always
believed in the plain default case re: Niddah.

B. However, when Hacham Ploni himself denies he purified her, we believe HIM and not Her.

C. However, when Hacham Ploni is not here before us and just some third party contradicts the Ishah, we DO believe HER and not that third party.

Let's extrapolate

If Avraham says he's innocent of hitting Yitzchak we would typically believe him

But when Yitzchak argues and says he WAS hit by Avraham, he may legitimately litigate, and we cannot be certain of whom to believe.

However, when Avraham claims innocence, and some third party - EG a newspaper - denies Avraham's innocence, we still ought to believe Avraham - though indeed we may protect ourselves by harbouring legitimate suspicion. Nevertheless we may NOT presume guilt


Friday 4 February 2011

Kitzur SA 75:2 - Nerot Shabbat and S'gulah

Originally published 2/4/11, 10:03 am.
There has been a debate about the propriety of using "S'gulot" - whether it's a good thing or if it smacks too much of superstition and Darkei Emory
Kitzur SA 75:2 says that a woman who has trouble in raising children, or who has no children at all, should read, after lighting the candles, the haftorah of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, I Samuel 1-2:10.
The question is -
A.  Is this kind of S'gulah mystical bordering on superstition?
B. Is this a recitation bordering on T'fillah and hence quite a "rational" S'g'ulah?
The KSA adds -
«It is best that she should understand the meaning of the words so that she may say it with feeling»
If it were Choice A - a purely mystical ritual - then who cares?
However, if it's Choice B, then she is merely beseeching HKBH and also "psyching herself up" - thus making this ritual quite grounded in prayer and "self-affirmation."


Thursday 3 February 2011

Mar'it Ho'ayyin - For Hazal Only?

Some say that Mar'it Ho'ayyin can be applied by Posqim while others restrict this [somehow] to only what Hazal specified in the Talmud.

Although this debate has been attributed to a S'phardic - Ashkenazic dichotomy, this dichotomy may be misleading
See SA YD 87:4 re: a Mari't Ayyin issue in conjunction with Mother's Milk
See B'er Hagolah who quotes source as Shu"t Rashba [see more below]
See Be'ur Hagra 87:9 who says see SA YD 66:10
Also see GRA there 66:14

Working Backwards
See Beth Yosef YD 87 D"H Katav HaRashba citing Shu"t Rashba 3:257
Quoting Rashba as saying "Mistavra"
BY [apparently] endorses this with "Zeh Nir'eh Li Barur"
See Darchei Moshe 2
Who questions this

Bottom Line
1 Rashba promotes this al pi svara
2 BY endorses it
3 GRA seems to attribute it to a Talmudic Analogy


Yichus: Notifying the Community

We were debating the status of Geirim re: the issue of - do they need to inform their Rabbi, gabbai or their shul of their status as Geirim?
I ask rhetorically - don't we require that already for Kohanim and L'vyim?


Wednesday 2 February 2011

Mai Taama Mai Taama

Why does the G'mara bother giving Mai taama's? Read on

We were discussing the Hot Debate about the Brain Death Controversy. A Friend of mine "Rob" examined one position and said AHA - This is it! Another Friend Don challenged Rob for prematurely making up his mind...

Don: have you looked at the other side?

Rob: No this is enough for me to know!

Don: What about Avot 1:1 Havvu Mattunim Badin?

Rob: I'm not a Dayyan!

Don: Even citizen juries are cautioned not to decide after listening to just the first side!

Rob: I'm not sitting on a jury!

Don: I recently was studying a debate in P'sachim between" R Y'hudah amar Rav" and R Nachman. Why does the g'mara bother to say mai taama to BOTH sheetot? Why didn't the Talmud just pick ONE side and expound on that and simply ignore the other position entirely?

Rob. I dunno? Mai taama does the G'mara bother to say Mai Taama on BOTH positions?

Don: Isn't it to teach you to examine BOTH sides before deciding?

Indeed. Don's case seems compelling. Slow down before diving in to take one side, especially if you choose that side passionately.

Be Passionate about Being Fair-minded!


Yitro Vs. Ruth

Originally published 2/2/11, 10:35 am.
We read the 10 Dibrot on both P. Yitro and on Shavuot, and technically on vo'Etchanan, too! We also read the Scroll of Ruth on Shavuot so we can easily "connect the dots" between Ruth and the Dibrot

Now let's ask -

What do Yitro and Ruth have in common, and where do they differ?

What they do have in common is the discovery of the ONE TRUE G-D! No denying the sincerity of their common quest for that Holy Grail - so to speak.

Where do they differ?

Yitro found G-d, but - despite his relationship to his daughter and son-in-law - he subsequently abandoned the Jewish People to return to Midian.

Ruth, however, cleaved to Naomi and abandoned Moab to live the life of a beggar in Judea. Her commitment motto? Ameich Ami Veilokayich Elokai!. Her declaration of loyalty to the Jewish Nation preceded her commitment to G-D!

Blasphemy? Adearrabbah - a prerequisite! Yitro is the prototype of the Noahide who has found the True G-d but needs no society.

Ruth is the true convert, the prototypical "Ger Tzedeq" (actually Giyoert of course!). There is one reason to convert to Judaism following one's Spiritual Journey - to join the Priestly Kingdom and the Holy Nation. In truth, to live a life of G-dliness as an individual spiritual seeker needs no Judaism or Peoplehood.

Ruth's progeny? David and Mashiach. Her affiliation to our peoplehood earned her common destiny with us.
Yitro? A good guy to whom we say "fare thee well". Who of Yitro's descendants makes a glorious impact? Not the decscendants of Hever haKeini who are allies.

Any sincere spiritual seeker can find G-d as an individual Noahide, but the prototypical Ger/Giyoret shares Jewish Destiny and Torah, as well as G-d.


Tuesday 1 February 2011

Another Generality Bites the Dust

You Gotta HEAR this one - in Mishnah T'rumah 1:2 we are told that

«The heireish that the Sages discuss in EVERY case is one who can neither speak nor hear»

Yet Bartenura and Kehatti say "Lav Davqa" right away because the Opening Mishnah in Hagigah and the Talmud there define Heireish as one can even speak but cannot hear. Bartenura adds another exceptional case re: Halitzah.

Sh'ma Minah again :-)*, that "ein l'meidin [too much] min hakklalot"


* as previously noted "s'feiq d'rabbana l'haqeil" was another generality that generated exceptions.

Even Simple Generalities are Generally more complex than they might seem!

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