Friday 29 April 2011

Kedoshim - Kedusha: Beyond the Spiritual

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Kedoshim and the topic is kedusha. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at

Thursday 28 April 2011

Aggedita Preceding Kaddish DeRabbanan

I'm debating several colleagues on this issue

Does either the "R' Chananya ben Akashya" or the "Amar R Elazar" need to immediately precede kaddish, or can it be followed with a d'var Torah and Kaddish d'rabbanan come after that intervening d'var torah instead?

Someone mentioned that the Y'hi Ratzon is a prayer not an aggadic passage
I'm not certain of that premise. My Edot Mizrach Siddur Avodar Hashem has the entire quote of Yehudah Ben Teima there which is apparently an Aggadic passage immediately before the Kaddish
At any rate on a Friday Night the minhag I with which I'm familiar is when saying a dvar Halachah to end with Amar R Elazar [alternatively R Chananya] before the Kaddish.
Think of Avot - Why do we end a perek of Avot with R Chnananya, doesn't the opening "Kol Yisroel" accomplish the same task?

Nevertheless some say Amar R"E first and then say a d'var Halachah and then say Kaddish. I'm uncertain as to why.


Wednesday 27 April 2011

HHH Avot 1:2 1:18

As we have it Avot 1:2 has on 3 things "ho'olam OMEID"
While in 1:18 it is "ho'olam QAYYAM"
Yet, in Ben Isch Chai Year 2 Parshat T'harot [M'tzora] he has the 2 verbs reversed.


Tuesday 26 April 2011

Signs of the Times

Originally published 4/26/11, 9:23 pm.
As I went to daven Minchah a Chavruta was studying TB Shabbat.
One fellow was using a standard Vilna edition.
His Chavruta was using the original Steinsaltz Edition.
Between them, on the side, lay the Bilingual Schottenstein Edition.
They were apparently covering all of their bases!


Sunday 24 April 2011

Passover Survival Guide

Originally published 4/24/11, 3:42 pm.
How to deal with Passover Food - especially when away from the comforts of home

• LOTS of raw fruits and veggies
• Nuts
• Hard boiled eggs
• Passover cheeses
• Canned fish - tuna, salmon, sardines
• Toppings for Matzah - butter, margarine, cream cheese, honey, jam

Eat natural!
And, always remember, it's all over in 8.5 days!

Chag Koserh v'Samei'ach!

Hallel in Shul on Seder Night and the Authority of the Moreh d'Atra

Originally published 4/24/11, 10:38 am.
This is a famous debate that most people certainly know. There is another debate, however, that fewer people are aware of. What is the halacha if someone's personal minhag is not to recite the Hallel, but he happens to be in a place where the Hallel is recited? What should he do then?

This issue is a debate between Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l on one side and the Brisker Rav zatzal and ibl"t Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky Shlita on the other side....


Saturday 23 April 2011

Mussar: Silence is Golden

Originally published 4/23/11. Link has difficulties.
Could this popular proverb -
"Silence is golden; speech is silver"
- American Proverb quotes
Be an adaptation of this quote from R Yehudah Hechossid?
Sefer Chasidim, chapter 37:
"Silence is better than additional speech,
because silence causes you honor and glory and
increasing speech causes humiliation and disgrace."


Friday 22 April 2011

P. Acharei-Mot, K'doshim - A Novel perspective on Arayyot

Originally published on 4/22/11, 10:10 am.
The Traditional perspective in the various Arayyot taboos are that they are a function of indidivdual Q'dushah. In other words, these laws promote Holiness in the INDIVIDUAL person by a demanding code of highly moral behaviour, etc.

The Preamble in Acharei-Mot discusses avoiding Egyptian and Canaanite Behaviour. I suggest that the Torah is suggesting that we as a Torah society not emulate those societies. The clincher? V'nichr'tu Han'fashot ha'osot.

Shloymie: Let's say you're correct - Just how does this societal taboo work?

RRW: Let's assume that humans have a libido. And that this tempts humans to "objectify" targets in a predatory manner.

Left unchanneled, a man's Mother, Sister Daughter, might be subjected to predatory behaviour. Even boys and animals could become objectified via Mishkav Zachar or Bestiality.

This society creates a sense where a child has no safety at home. Nor could a child bathe or shower safely with members of the same gender. It is a society of predatory objectification.

Taboos to the Rescue

By imposing deep-seated taboos, the children are given a safety net. Girls need not fear their brothers or even fathers. Children may feel safe in same-gender showers or wash-rooms.

Take away this safety-net, and Egyptian-style objectification may run amok. Sisters grow up to be their brothers's spouses. They grow up as targets from an accepting society.

To my way of thinking, these taboos are targeted at creating a society of reduced objectification.

L'havdil it's analogous to Burkas in Moslem culture$

We take taboos against incest for granted because Xtian Societies have already adopted much of this from Leviticus.. Before mattan Torah, no one could take it for granted.


Thursday 21 April 2011

Why Doesn't Tanach Have a Single Definitive Meaning?

Dedicated to my Chaveir - R Arie Folger


P. Birnbaum Five Megilloth (c) 1973 Heb. Publishing Co.
p. v - Intro to Song of Songs

The virtue of an allegory is that it leads the reader to think for himself, since [it uses] veiled representations. Indeed the Bible as a whole is believed to possess no single definitive meaning [resulting] in its
[A] universal appeal
[B] [marking] it a continually relevant book...

Thus in order to span time and space, society and history, Tanach was designed to have no single definitive meaning. IOW it was designed at the outset to NOT be limited nor fossilized nor irrelevant.


Monday 18 April 2011

Harosset vs. Saltwater - Into what do we dip the Karpas?

Originally published 4/18/11, at 4:49 pm.
The Rambam MT Hilchot Hametz uMatzah 8:2 and the Shabbat Hagadol Piyyut of R Yosef Tov Elem [RYTE] both prescribe dipping the Karpas into the Harosset.
However as per contemporary Minhag Ashkenaz, we dip into salt water instead - with some literature offering vinegar as an alternative.
Question: is this something that evolved over time or was it always dependent upon community?
It would seem that since the Rambam was S'pahrdic and RYTE Ashk'nazic, this split appears NOT to have been originally based upon community.
It is also possible that RYTE's rite was never the prevailing minhag in Ashkenaz to begin with, and therefore this is indeed a geographic split and not a temporal one.


KSA 211:12 - Ein Tzrichin hag'arah b'feirush

Given - An Aveil for one's parents may not cut his hair until "go'arin bo chaveirav". KSA here notes that this is NOT necessarily a literal status, rather we ESTIMATE that it is worthy of being noticed...
RJB Soloveichik was known for a famous story that we do NOT determine the status of eino rauy la'achilas kelev [re: toothpaste for Passover] by literally consulting "stupid dogs". Rather it is a Halachic determination estimated by a Poseiq of what eino rauy laachilas llelev is.
Thus we see in several halachic contexts that these terms are not determined by an actual field test, and that KSA and RJBS are simpatico on that issue.


Sunday 17 April 2011

A Sign of the Times - Here Comes the Yerushalmi

Beth Aaron in Teaneck has scheduled TWO of its Erev Pesach Siyyumim on Talmud Yerushalmi.
Chag Kosher v'Samayach


Hasibah, Y'rushalmi, and Raaviyah

A while ago I once commented how greater proliferation of Yerushalmi will cause a shift - a paradigm shift - of how we view Halachah and Minhag.
Here is a likely case of just such a nexus between Minhag Ashkenaz and a Yerushalmi
I wish to gratefully acknowledge my colleague R Arie Folger who is a fellow-traveller in the World of Classical Minhag Ashkenaz for collaborating with me on this piece. We are working on connecting all the dots.
Also, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of R Abe Weschler for getting me an electronic copy of the Raaviyah text.
That Hasibah is required at the seder seems axiomatic See EG Mishnah P'sachim 10:1
The question here is - what are its parameters?
The Bavli and SA take it for granted that it implies reclining in just a certain way.
The Y'rushalmi says that Hasiba is in order not to eat like a an "eved" standing up
When I first saw this Y-lmi it occurred to me to connect it to the following Raaviyah.
The Raaviya claims hasibah is optional in societies in which dining bederech herut does not require "reclining"
The usual meaning in other contexts in Sha"s is "formal dining" [courtesy of my colleague RES]. In Roman times that might have implied reclining on mini-couches, but the main point was dining in a formal matter - a M'sibah.
The question is - is there any nexus between Raaviya of Ashkenaz and the Yerushalmi? It's a very tempting proposition but the text of the Raaviyah does not necessarily suggest that connection. Nevertheless, an unconscious connection does make sense.
Alternatively, even if Raaviyah is 100% independent of this Y-lmi, would the Y-lmi add a snif to be lenient in 2 cases? Namely -
1. Women l'chatchilah who decline to recline?
2. Men b'diaavad - who forgot to recline?
Due to Blackberry limitations, I usually paste the Hebrew texts at the end in order not to mess up standard formatting

מסכת פסחים פרק י
י,א ערב פסחים סמוך למנחה, לא יאכל אדם עד שתחשך. אפילו עני שבישראל, לא יאכל עד שיסב; לא יפחתו לו מארבעה כוסות של יין, ואפילו מן התמחוי.

מסכת פסחים פרק י
דף סח,א פרק י הלכה א
אמר רב לוי ולפי שדרך עבדים להיות אוכלין מעומד וכאן להיות אוכלין מסובין להודיע שיצאו מעבדות לחירות.

פרקדן לא שמיה הסיבה הסיבת ימין לא שמה הסיבה ולא עוד אלא שמא יקדים קנה לוושט ויבא לידי סכנה אשה אצל בעלה לא בעיא הסיבה ואם אשה חשובה היא צריכה הסיבה בן אצל אביו בעי הסיבה איבעיא להו תלמיד אצל רבו מאי ת"ש <אמר> [דאמר] אביי כי הוינן בי מר זגינן אבירכי דהדדי כי אתינן לבי רב יוסף אמר לן לא צריכתו מורא רבך כמורא שמים מיתיבי עם הכל אדם מיסב ואפילו תלמיד אצל רבו כי תניא ההיא בשוליא דנגרי איבעיא להו שמש מאי תא שמע דאמר ריב"ל השמש שאכל כזית מצה כשהוא מיסב יצא מיסב אין לא מיסב לא שמע מינה בעי הסיבה שמע מינה ואמר ר' יהושע בן לוי נשים חייבות בארבעה כוסות הללו
דף קח,ב גמרא שאף הן היו באותו הנס א"ר יהודה אמר שמואל ארבעה כוסות הללו צריך שיהא בהן כדי מזיגת כוס יפה שתאן חי יצא שתאן בבת אחת יצא השקה מהן לבניו ולבני ביתו יצא שתאן חי יצא אמר רבא ידי יין יצא ידי חירות לא

Raaviyah on Massekhet Pesachim 525:
ראבי"ה ח"ב - מסכת פסחים סימן תקכה ד"ה ונכנס לבית
וחוזר לביתו, ויושב בהסבה . ובזמן הזה שאין רגילות בארצינו <להסב> שאין רגילות בני חורין להסב ישב כדרכו:
It is cited in Hagahot Maimoniot, Hilkhot Chametz uMatzah 7:2 as well.
Thank You RAW

SA O"Ch 472:1-7
סימן תעב - דיני הסיבה וארבע כוסות, ובו ט''ז סעיפים
א. יהיה שלחנו ערוך מבעוד יום כדי לאכול מיד כשתחשך ואף אם הוא בבית
המדרש יקום מפני שמצוה למהר ולאכול בשביל התינוקות שלא ישנו אבל לא יאמר
קידוש עד שתחשך:
ב. יסדר שלחנו יפה בכלים נאים כפי כחו ויכין מקום מושבו שישב בהסיבה
דרך חירות. הגה: ואפילו עני שאין לו כרים ישב על הספסל (מרדכי ריש פרק
ערבי פסחים):
ג. כשהוא מיסב לא יטה על גבו ולא על פניו ולא על ימינו אלא על שמאלו
(ואין חילוק בין אטר לאחר) (טור בשם רש''י ותרומת הדשן סימן קל''ו):
ד. אשה אינה צריכה הסיבה אלא אם כן היא חשובה. הגה: וכל הנשים שלנו
מיקרי חשובות (מרדכי ריש פרק ערבי פסחים ורבינו ירוחם) אך לא נהגו להסב
כי סמכו על ראבי''ה דכתב דבזמן הזה אין להסב (דברי עצמו):
ה. בן אצל אביו צריך הסיבה אפילו הוא רבו מובהק תלמיד לפני רבו אינו
צריך הסיבה אפילו אינו רבו מובהק אלא אם כן יתן לו רבו רשות ותלמיד חכם
מופלג בדורו אף על פי שלא למד ממנו כלום חשוב כרבו ואינו צריך הסיבה
(ודוקא כשאוכלין על שלחן אחד אבל אם אוכל על שלחן בפני עצמו צריך להסב):
ו. השמש צריך הסיבה:
ז. כל מי שצריך הסיבה אם אכל או שתה בלא הסיבה לא יצא וצריך לחזור
לאכול ולשתות בהסיבה. הגה: ויש אומרים דבזמן הזה דאין דרך להסב כדאי הוא
ראבי''ה לסמוך עליו שבדיעבד יצא בלא הסיבה (אגודה פרק ערבי פסחים). ונראה
לי אם לא שתה כוס שלישי או רביעי בהסיבה אין לחזור ולשתות בהסיבה דיש בו
חשש שנראה כמוסיף על הכוסות אבל בשני כוסות ראשונות יחזור וישתה בלא ברכה
(מנהגים) וכן באכילת מצה ולכתחלה יסב כל הסעודה (מהרי''ב):

Thank You RAF


Saturday 16 April 2011

Mussar: Don't Take Everything Said to Heart

Originally published on 4/16/11, 9:42 pm.
Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra, commentary on. Kohelet [Ecclesiastes], chapter 7, verse 21:

If you want to find tranquility [menuchah], [then] do not pay attention to everything
people say.

And if someone curses you, even your servant, if you pay attention to their words, you will. become angry and the light of the wisdom of
your soul will be darkened.

Courtesy of:

Something I need to master, not to REACT to provocative statements, not to allow my buttons to get pushed.


Friday 15 April 2011

Feminism and T'fillah; expressing the Feministic side of Judaism or a Manifestation of Me-Tooism?

Thanbo paraphrasing me [RRW]

R' Richard Wolpoe has said that he doesn't understand why women's tefillah groups feel so bound by the traditional forms of public prayer. Since they are not actually commanded in daily public prayer, they have the freedom to compose their own liturgy, to say prayers that are meaningful to them, as women in the past have done through their own compositions called techinot, personal prayers, which were often collected and published for other women to use.

ThanBook: April 2009


Thursday 14 April 2011

Jewish Tribune: Let My People Go???

The question can be asked. Why does Hashem send Moshe Rabbeinu to ask Pharaoh to free the Jewish People? Why, effectively, does Moshe ask for permission? Why not just pick up and leave?

In my latest Jewish Tribune article, I present my thoughts in response to these questions. This article is reproduced below.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Let My People Go???

It is the line that encompasses in most of our minds the force and intensity of the holiday—Let My People Go. Moshe Rabbeinu stands before the most powerful ruler of the world at the time, demanding of Pharaoh, again and again, that he free the Jews. Each refusal is met with a Divine plague, each one worse than the one before, still Pharaoh says no. Then comes the final plague and Pharaoh can take no more. The tables turn and it is now this mighty ruler who must search all over for Moshe, to declare before this great leader of our people that the Jews are now free, that Pharaoh indeed will finally let the people go. I, though, have always had a bit of a problem with this story. Why did Moshe, in the first place, need to go before Pharaoh to request that he let the Jews go? Why didn’t the Jews, under the guidance and protection of God, just leave?
There was, of course, great drama in these confrontations between Moshe and Pharaoh. The story would not be the same without them. But why were they necessary? Could the Jews not have just left Egypt without this so-called permission? The God Who brought the plagues against the Egyptians could also have easily protected the Jews from any potential assault against them if they would have just left. Why the need for “Let My People Go”? Could Moshe’s line not just as easily have been “So long, We’re Leaving”?
The drama of the story would no doubt have been different but it could also have had its force and imagery. Imagine – the Jewish nation, under the direction of Moshe, gathering together and starting to simply march out of Egypt. Pharaoh comes to challenge them, ordering them to return, even sending his army against them to stop them – of course, unsuccessfully. The armies’ arrows fall helplessly to the ground. Soldiers attempting to attack the Jews fall into pits that open underneath them. Maybe walls of water would fall mightily on these Egyptians attempting to prevent the Jews from leaving without permission. Wait a second, though – isn’t that already, in a certain way, part of the story, down by the Reed Sea? Indeed, Moshe’s final line, if there was one, was, simply, “Goodbye.”
There is a drama within this drama of the Passover story that is often overlooked. In the end, the Jews did not leave because Pharaoh let them go. In the end, at the Reed Sea, the Jews actually left against Pharaoh’s will. It is also then, subsequent to this event, that Yul Brynner (playing Pharaoh) drops into his throne and states “He is God” – and this film presentation in The Ten Commandments wasn’t very far from the truth. Even after all the plagues in Egypt, even after finally succumbing to the pressure to release the Jewish slaves, Pharaoh still doubted – was this supernatural power that brought devastation to his nation truly the Divine Creator and Master of all existence? What was Pharaoh’s problem? Why did he still question? His problem was precisely that Moshe and the Jews didn’t just leave, that Moshe kept asking for permission, requesting “Let My People Go.” This led Pharaoh to believe that he was still necessary, that he still had to release the Jews. As long as Pharaoh believed that he had some power, that he was necessary, he could not truly comprehend and accept God in all His Majesty.
Each time that Moshe came before Pharaoh with the request to let the Jewish nation go, Pharaoh’s belief that he had rights was reinforced. These slaves were his and he, thus, had rights over their destiny, immutable rights, he believed, that were inherent in existence. Even as this Supernatural Force was wreaking havoc on Egypt, he still believed that the Jews could not leave without permission. To him, even this Force was bound by these inherent rights within existence. This principle, however, came crashing down with the waters of the Reed Sea. This is where he learned the true message of the Universal God: He is not subject to the rules but Writer of the rules.
.If God would have simply marched the Jewish nation out of Egypt, Pharaoh would not have fully felt this message. God thus had to set Pharaoh up, had to have him believing that his rights were immutable, only to discover at the Reed Sea that God could have really taken the Jewish People out of Egypt at any time, that the drama in Egypt was not really necessary in order to free the Jews. God was not bound by the events but, rather, He orchestrated them to, thereby, teach Pharaoh, and all, an important lesson about reality—that God is the very Source of existence.
The Passover story is not just about freedom. It is also our introduction to the Torah, the Jewish, view of God. It is for this very reason that the Passover Seder is built around the Question. The Question ultimately opens us up to new ideas. It is only thereby that we can learn from the Source—beyond our inherent perceptions and limitations. 

TB M'gillah 13b - R'fuah before the Makkah

Originally published 4/14/11, 9:54 pm.
«Rava said: "Only after the Holy One, created the affliction did HE send the affliction"» Tr Schottenstein

Question: what r'fuah did HKBH create before the European Holocaust?

I thought of two possible answers

A. Escape to America [as B"H my own grandparents did]

B Zionism

It is up to History and to Greater People than I to verify the validity of these hypotheses.


Wednesday 13 April 2011

OU Passover Parameters - R Schachter and R Belsky

Originally posted 4/13/11, 9:58 pm. Link no longer works. : Channel


Some Humour and Wisdom from TB M'gillah 11a

Originally published 4/13/11, 8:57 pm.
While working on a Siyyum on TB M'gillah I noticed these tidbits...

Q: How do we know that the yud in the Hebrew word Vayhee [EG Esther 1:1] has a sh'va nach?
A: Because of Rav's drashah
TB M'gillah 11a
VayHee = Vay Hee
QED ;-)

Q: How do we know that the levying of taxes will impoverish the nation?
A: Because of Rav Haninah's D'rashah TB M'gillah 11a viz.
That the king was named
"Achashveirosh" because he levied taxes making all poor [rash] in his time ;-)


Tuesday 12 April 2011

JVO: Being Jewish and Belief in God

Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

* * * * *

Question: Can one be Jewish and not believe in God?

We do not recognize any renunciation of one's Jewish Identity

As the Talmud states "Yisroel af al pi shechata, yisroel hu" Meaning an Israelite remains so despite any sinning or renunciation. A Jew is born Jewish and can NEVER forfeit that status. Thus, Disbelief in God cannot undo one's innate Jewish identity. Nor can a Jewish Apostate - one who converts to another faith - ever undo their natural born Judaism. *

And so personally, I treat Jewish Non-believers who become Professing Atheists as "Full Apostate Jews" They have the same status as any Jew who converts to any another religion. A Jewish Buddhist or a Jewish Athheist, either way is still an Israelite.

Now let's rephrase this query to address "Orthodoxy" - Can one still be an Orthodox Jew and not believe in God?

One expects a resounding NO! I choose to give a more nuanced answer It's axiomatic that Orthodox Jews are required to Believe in God, or preferably to "KNOW God" which is the superior translation of the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, also called Maimonides) in several places. However, this requirement does not necessarily presuppose that one STARTS from a position of firm belief. "Not at all," say I. One may start from inner doubt or even agnosticism

This sets up at least these two caveats
  • An Orthodox Jew may indeed express doubt., but not denial of God. An Orthodox Jew is deviating from basic Judaism if/when he professes disbelief as outlined EG by Maimonides 13 articles, or by Albo's 3 Fundamentals
  • Second an Orthodox Jew is obligated to KNOW God. This is clear from the aforementioned writings of Rambam [EG Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah and Rabbi AJ Heschel "God in Search of Man"] Despite any misgivings or inner doubts, an Orthodox Jew must take steps to Seek and Find God. This mitzvah [commandment] is indispensable.
A born Jew is always a Jew despite one's beliefs, disbeliefs, or even apostasies.

An Orthodox Jew is required to Believe in God. However, if one starts from a position of doubt, it is legitimate to then begin the journey to discover God and eventually to Know God.

Some Sources for further Research:

Talmud Bavli 47b
"If one immersed - behold he is like an Israelite for every matter. How is this halakhah applied? If he returns [to practice idolatry], after he married an Israelite woman, he is considered Israel-mumar, however their marriage stands. [Despite his renunciation]

Rambam, Issurei biah 13:17 and Rif quote this gemara verbatim. Note: Research is courtesy of my colleague...

Talmud Bavli qiddushin 36a R Meir says "either way you are called Children ... And when they worship idols they are NOT Children [of the Lord]?" -Rambam Hilchot T'shuva Ch. 3 regarding apostates and their repentance

Here is a Link to in-depth research on the status of Apostates in Halachah:

cRc Passover Faqs

Originally published 4/12/11, 10:55 am. Link no longer works.

Note the article on Tums is of particular interest.


Monday 11 April 2011

How to get Seder Started Early?

Originally published 4/11/11, 12:31 pm.
The Trumat Hadeshen notes that since Kiddush is the first of four cups, it must be recited after tzeit.
If we grant this decision as axiomatic - how then may we begin the Seder early anyway?

Here is a quick workaround the issue of doing Kiddush after nightfall.
Before Tzeit spend say 30-45 minutes before the Seder introducing various aspects that will take place. Add to that overview some stimulating questions
As the seder progresses, intersperse brief comments as well as answers to the questions and tie them back to the introduction. This could cut the comment time during the seder in half
I hope this helps!


Sunday 10 April 2011

Qitniyyot and TB Megillah 5b

Originally published 4/10/11, 12:12 pm.
See M'gillah 5b regarding planting on Purim.

«But now that we have established that work is permitted on Purim, [then] why did RAV curse the man whom he saw sowing flax?

Because it was a case of "things that are essentially permitted yet some treat them as forbidden" .... RAV therefore cursed the man for violating the custom» [tr schottenstein]

How is the custom of qitniyyot any different?

Don't they also constitute a case of an essentially permitted food that some treat as forbidden?


Saturday 9 April 2011

Mussar: R Herschel Schachter and R Mordechai Willig at Beth Aaron 1 - - The 13 Ikkarim

Originally published on 4/9/11, 9:34 pm.
Please permit me to boast a bit, as you may see below:

R Willig questioned the Marc Shapiro read of the 13 Ikkarim and declared them as having been accepted by all Israel [Similar to Baer's Avodat Yisroel comment on Yigdal at the end of Shacharit]

Briefly - here is how I interpret the disconnect between Academic Scholars [Acad] and Rabbis

Shapiro and other Academics approach the ikkarim - they
• Read the original source. Viz. Rambam's Peirush Hamishnah
• Follow the Rambam's points precisely [pedantically]
• Find numerous sources that quibble - sometimes significantly
• Conclude that the devil is in the details and that the Rambam's ikkarim are really not [so] normative

Rabbis see it more like this
• They see Yigdal and Ani Maamin
• They understand how widespread [nitpashet] these principles are now and have been.
While they also see the quibbles -
• They determine that the ikkar re: the ikkarim is indeed normative acceptance - but with some caveats still debated
For example, R' Willig illustrated this using the issue of the piyyut Machnisei Rachamim. Those who recite such piyyutim feel perfectly compliant with the ikkarim, albeit lav davka with a very strict read of the ikkarim. But since when do rabbis take things without a hachi ko'amar or a bame d'varim amurim, or a haha b'mai askinan? Doesn't P'saq often follow a Mishnah? - yet often so with an Amoraic caveat, even though Amoraim [theoretically] may NOT dispute a Tanna!
 Dispute? No. Qualify? Yes!
The Ikkarim are universally accepted, but not quite as originally formulated. Rather the ikkar for Rabbanim is "the ikkarim are normative as has been accepted and applied, but not as conceived by the Rambam.

The boast is that this matches my longstanding position on the Avodah List - that the more generalized Yigdal or the Ani Maamins are more normative than the Rambam in Peirush Mishnayos, because that is after all how they've been viewed and embraced halachah l'maaseh.
R' Willig did continue with several other points on the ikkarim such as how R' Hillel in Sanhedrin could quibble regarding moshiach [#12] but that we may no longer do so.
P'saq, or, history happens.


Friday 8 April 2011

M'gillah 18a, Wolpoe's First Law

Originally published 4/8/11, 10:28 am.
Wolpoe's First Law of Oral Law [TSBP]
"We often know the WHAT without knowing the WHY"
We have a great illustration in TB M'gillah 18a using the Artscroll Schottenstein edition...

Rephrasing -
Q: Given that Anshei K'nesset haGdolah [AKHG] instituted. the 18 blessings - so what did Shimon Hapakuli arrange?

Literally -
A1: The Brachot had been forgotten and he restored. them
A2 as per Artscroll: The sequence Of The Brachot had been forgotten and he restored it [viz. The SEQUENCE.]
A3 as per Schottenstein fn 12 quoting Ben Yehoyada: The REASON(s) FOR THE SEQUENCE Of The Brachot had been forgotten and he restored them [the REASON(s)]

This last understanding is mamash Wolpoe's Law #1. Practice, Mimetics, and Minhag survives the loss of the underlying rationale, [often due to upheavals, persecutions and migrations] and it is our task to restore THAT rationale.


Thursday 7 April 2011

SA YD 1:1 Women and Schechita

Several Years ago we debated the issue of women doing Schechitah on the Avodah List.

The Rav ZT"L opposed Minuy of women for sch'chitah due to "s'rarah"

This is expounded in this article by R Aryeh Frimer

The L'vush, however, explains that the Rema's point of "ein l'hani'ach" women to do sch'chitah is due to the fear lest they faint.

Which means the policy was due to feminine squeamishness or perhaps a reaction to one or several incidents and was not a function of "Minuy".

L'mai Nafqa Minah?

If women would no longer seem as squeamish or if they have bona fides that they're OK with blood and guts [think EMT's or medical professionals] then there would be no need to be machmir any longer.

And E.G. I don't think we'd apply "lo plug" to a minhag.

Most schochtim today hold no communal office. They usually are staff members of slaughterhouses under strict supervision

What is your P'saq Preference -
The Rav's S'rarah or the L'vush's Fainting?

Wednesday 6 April 2011

TB M'Gillah 25a on Avot in the Amidah - Monkeying with our Ancestors

Originally published 4/6/11, 10:38 am.
Liberals have altered, revised, and changed the Avot to include the Imahot

A quick glance at TB M'gillah 25a will find that the praises in Avot are specifically designated. "just so"

«If Moses had not written them in the Torah, and the Men of the Great Assembly not come and established them [THEN ] we would not recite them». [Tr. Schottenstein]

These praises in the Amidah are seen as needing to conform to Talmudic Norms. No ersatz praises need apply.

Aderabbah, they are a mosif that is a gorei'a. Which is ironic since the Left frequently disputes the Right of adding on to the Torah in such a way as to degrade it. Yet here they do so with gusto! <LOL>


Tuesday 5 April 2011

JVO: Distributing Charity

Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

* * * * *

Question: I have several regular charities I give to, but this year I am unable to keep up my level of giving due to salary cuts. Is it better for me to cut out a few charities, or to reduce or minimize my level of giving to all of them?

Rabbi Wolpoe's answer

I have several regular charities I give to, but this year I am unable to keep up my level of giving due to salary cuts. Is it better for me to cut out a few charities, or to reduce or minimize my level of giving to all of them?

Let's see
"Charity" works on several levels

1. Most obviously the good it does for the recipient(s)
2 Less obviously: the good it does for the donor.

In terms of doing more Mitzvot and Kindness - giving $1 one hundred times will impact one's psyche more profoundly than writing one single check for $100.  Imagine walking one mile a day versus running 7 miles once a week.  A daily ritual is usually more beneficial

Jewish Literature on this is vast.  EG when gifting a Kohein [Priest] one should NOT spread it around too much. Rather any gift must have its own significant amount  Re:  Purim we have a Dichotomy.  Namely:

A   One extravagant set of Manot to one dear friend seems to trump many modest offerings.

B.  OTOH, when gifting the poor, many small donations trump one big one.  In fact one is obligated to "spread the wealth around" to a minimum of Two Indigent people.

It seems therefore it all depends upon the donor's ability

EG if a donor gives EG $20 to 20 charities, reducing each one in half makes a lot of sense - though less dollars

However, if many of the donations are modest to begin with [and that is subjective] I would suggest suspending those until "Happier Days are Here Again"

I would suggest that if one has a "dearest" charity, to try to preserve one's level at the expense of the others.
Shalom< RRW

Monday 4 April 2011

Divine Origin of the Torah

Originally published 4/4/11, 11:06 am.
In Artscroll's "The Laws of Kashrus" fn8 on pp. 34-35 the author, R' Forst, makes a cogent argument for the Divinity of the Torah based upon the identity of Kosher animals and UnKosher animals with but one siman. This strongly refutes those who deny the Divinity of the Torah.


This does not prove that EVERY iota or scintilla of Torah is Divine. It merely PROVES that SOME Torah Passages or Texts are Divine.

This becomes the crux of a much more subtle debate. Surely, we can reject Reform's denial of Torah Min hahshamayim w/o necessarily buying the absolute converse that every p'rat IS min hashamayim. And where to draw that line - becomes a tricky issue.

Illustration - a given Halachah or Principle might be genuinely derived from Torah miSinai, and thereby rooted in Sinai, but not literally from Sinai and therefore not immutable for all time and contexts.

Thus we can discredit the far Left position and not necessarily embrace a far Right position - While the Far Right might reject any such subtle or nuanced positions as untenable.


Sunday 3 April 2011

Halachic impact on Hashqafah 1 - Judging Both Sides of the Story

One of the major themes on's Avodah list is the nexus or overlap between Halachah and Hashqafah

E.G. See

The Avodah/Areivim Discussion Group

The Avodah mailing list hosts a chevrah that focusses on analysis of hashkafah, avodas Hashem, ta'amei hamitzvos, lomdus, machshavah, and halachah -- with an emphasis on the places where halachah, machshavah and hargashah meet.

Recently I received an email along these lines - showing us how judgments should be predicated on Hashqafic principles informed by Halachah. I am reproducing it here with permission

R Reuben Poupko
Halachot which guide our conduct in specific
encounters carry with them values, which are applicable outside the realm where they are first articulated. For instance, when we are told
not listen to the claims of a litigant absent the other party, common sense demands that in all situations we need to at least hear both
sides, at the very least consecutively, before making judgments.
Reuben Poupko

Makes sense. Here, the Halachah "sensitizes" Observant Jews as how to live even in areas not directly impacted by the Halachah.


Saturday 2 April 2011

Exaggerations in Halachic Literature

Originally published 4/2/11, 9:14 pm.
There is a set of individuals who vigilantly decry certain exaggerations found in Halachic Literature. For instance, terming a "D'rabbanan" as a "D'oraitto" or even treating a s'feiq d'rbbanan l'humra is beyond the pale. Describing a MINHAG as a Halachah is similarly protested .
Yet ironically (inconsistently?) many of this "kat" consider and state literally that the Bavli is a product of or has the authority of a Sanhedrin? How could this be?
It was neither a product of Eretz Yisrael [EY] nor of Musmachin from EY - in contrast to the Mishnah or the Yerushalmi! Any such designation MUST be a gross exaggeration!
Yet, indeed, we all acknowledge that the Bavli does often supersede the aforementioned potential products of a Sanhedrin! So the claim has merit, albeit not literal merit.
This reality, of exaggeration regarding the Bavli in turn calls into question the entire issue of exaggeration in general Halachic Literature, that indeed some d'rabbanans might be tantamount to d'oraitto and some Minhaggim tantamount to Halachah.


Friday 1 April 2011

Jewish Tribune: Evil's Sleight of Hand

In response to the horrific murder of the Fogel family in Israel, the American tele-journalist Glenn Beck stated that this is an indication of the dark times in which we live. He added that even more indicative of the evil of our times was the celebratory response in Gaza to the news of these barbaric murders which he showed on air. In watching these clips, I wondered, given the tight control of the media in Gaza, why would Hamas want these celebrations to be filmed and then distributed world-wide. Would they not be concerned about negative responses such as the one demonstrated by Mr. Beck?

In my latest Jewish Tribune article, I present my thoughts in response to this question. This article is reproduced below.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Evil's Sleight of Hand

It is not only the Jewish community that is
reeling from the horrific attack on the Fogel
family ztz”l in Israel. American tele-journalist
Glenn Beck powerfully expressed his
emotions in his Fox News show.
“What kind of monster can butcher an
infant, a small child?” Beck reiterated
many times that while he had the photos
of the murder scene in his hand, because
of their gruesome nature he could not
show them to the television audience. His
heart went out to the family and indeed
all of Israel, in shock as a result of this
Coming upon a break in his show, he then
made a most interesting comment enticing
his audience to return. He stated that there
is “great and powerful evil and darkness,
but if you think this is evil, wait until I tell
you how the story ends.”
I was immediately intrigued. What could
be a worse expression of “evil and darkness”
than this horrific attack on the Fogel
family? To what could Beck possibly be
referring? I waited with interest.
When he continued with his presentation,
he stated that while he could not show the
audience the pictures of the murder scene,
he could show them other pictures which
he, in fact, found more disturbing. They
were pictures of the reactions of the Gaza
residents to news of this brutal slaying.
They were passing out candies. One resident
said that the “joy was a natural response to
the pain the settlers inflict on the Palestinian
To Beck, this was a more disturbing manifestation
of powerful evil than even the murders
themselves – people celebrating the
slaughter of children.
There would seem to be some truth in
his assessment. As I looked at the pictures
that he showed, I wondered,
though, whether the smiles on the people
who were taking the candies were real or
whether they were doing what they were
told to do, in fear of the consequences of
not listening.
The greater question for me, though,
was: why would the terrorists in Gaza
evenwant these pictures to be taken?
Media is highly controlled in the Arab
world. They are very adroit at public
opinion. Would they not know that Beck
would not be singular in his response?
They must have known that people who
saw these pictures of celebration would
be disgusted by such a response to murder.
The fact is that this may be the precise
emotional response they desired.
I was watching an Arab-produced video
recently about the Jewish historical presence
in Europe. The agenda of this video was
clearly antisemitic, yet the Holocaust was
still not ignored. In fact, many of the infamous
pictures that reflect the treatment of
the Jewish people by the Nazis were shown.
The narrator further pointed out the cruelty
of how the Jews were treated, even expressing
empathy and sympathy. But then came
the line that reflected the whole purpose of
showing this footage – it was clear that
what the Nazis did was terrible, but imagine
how horribly they must have been treated
previously by the Jews to have responded as
An emotional response to the pictures of
people taking candy and celebrating the
death of children similar to that of Glenn
Beck is exactly what is desired. They want
people to be disgusted, but then their goal is
to assure that Beck’s moral response will not
be the only one forthcoming. Indeed, there
will be those who will question what could
possibly have motivated these people to
have acted in such a barbaric manner. The
terrorist’s objective is then to promote a different
moral conclusion: not that people
really are that evil, but that these people
only act in this way as a result of despair.
Through barbarism, the terrorist knows that
he can actually evoke sympathy. The more
horrific the act, in fact, the greater the sympathy;
the contention presented is that there
must be some human reason for people to
act in this manner. A desire for evil is rejected.
This is the real challenge that we are now
facing. I applaud Beck for declaring the
truth – that the brutal attack on the Fogel
family and the presented response of the
Gaza people were manifestations of powerful
evil. The greater question, though, is
why is it even necessary for someone like
Beck to state what would seem to be so
obvious. There is such a desire to not see
evil, though, that segments of the population
are motivated to always explain it
away. Such people cannot accept that
human beings can simply choose evil
motivations and thoughts, and so they
have to find a reason why such people do
horrific acts. It must be that they are
oppressed, that they are suffering, that
something inhuman is pushing them to do
these acts – for it cannot be the person’s
true choice. The sad truth, though, is that
people can choose to be evil.
Indeed, within Torah thought we also find
recognition that there may be, at times,
explanations for a person’s evil acts; there is
room for understanding. There really is only
One True Judge.
Nevertheless, the possibility of evil cannot
be denied. Evil acts still can be defined and
declared – and no explanation can allow us
to lessen the impact of and response to such
acts. There is no justification for brutality.
There is no justification for the celebration
of brutality. Unexplainably, the Fogel family
confronted evil that Shabbat. That is the
only message of this tragic event. Our
greater challenge may be the multitudes of
individuals who cannot accept this, who
always try to explain evil away. As Beck
stated, though, there is a powerful evil in
the world. We are not only at war with
those who commit atrocities, but also with
those who wish to rationalize atrocities.

P. Tazria - "Uvayom Hashmini"

Originally published 4/1/11, 8:16 am.
Short version:

1. How is it that a woman giving birth to a Zachar makes her Tum'ah for only seven days while birthing a N'qievah lasts a fortnight?
2. What is uvayom hashmini yimol b'sar orlato doing here?

The Brith Millah on the 8th day shortens the woman's condition either due to:
A. The Torah gave her dispensation to attend the Brit
B. The healing power of the mal'ach habbrit mitigates the damage she suffers, thereby "commuting her sentence to time served."