Tuesday 29 December 2015

More on Vatican Statement‏

From RRW

Why couldn't Christians simply make a "Grandfather Clause" for Jews to continue their ways and for Christians to focus upon Heathens, Pagans, and Idol Worshippers, and to leave other Abrahamic Sects alone?

This IMHO shows a weakness in their theology that requires an intolerance for competition and a "My Way vs. The HIghway‎" thinking. Classic "I'm OK You're not OK" thinking, which is essentially hostile at its core.

Whereas Judaism only opposed Idol Worship etc. And never imposed Judaism on others, only the 7 Noahide Commandments. This seems a more balanced position of imposing minimalistic Abrahamide Monotheism without the need for rituals etc. Quite a balanced and mild approach I would say. What say you?

Who really died at Auschwitz?‏

From RRW

As you read this please take a minute to reflect on what is happening to the world in the name of political correctness.

I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz ... We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world..

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride...

See, further...
Of course, we must still also recognize that the Muslim world is itself divided and that the critique of one group within this world should not be presented and/or understood as a critique of all Muslims. Nonetheless, Europe and the promoters of the values of rights and freedoms must also recognize that there must be some acceptance of a certain standard in order for one to be deserving of a claim to these rights and freedoms.  -- RBH 

Monday 28 December 2015

JVO: Circumcision

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) 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 and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars.

This post continues this series on the Nishmablog that features responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. This week's presentation is to one of the questions to which Rabbi Hecht responded. 

* * * * * 

Question: Even though circumcision is to enter into the covenant of Abraham, what about aesthetics, health, hygiene, and sanitation? Isn't circumcision for those things, too?

What exactly is your question? If circumcision indeed has many other benefits, what is the problem? What is your issue with saying that “circumcision is to enter into the covenant of Abraham” but it may also have benefits touching upon “aesthetics, health, hygiene and sanitation” and thus may be “for those things, too”?
What you may be addressing, though, is the question of: bottom line, why are we to be doing this? The issue is not the many benefits that may also flow from circumcision and the various reasons why individuals may wish to choose this procedure for their sons but why we, as Jews, are to undertake this commitment. It is in this regard that we are to say that THE reason why we adopt this behaviour is because it is God’s commandment to thereby enter into the covenant of Abraham. There may be other motivations and outcomes but, bottom line, we to commit to this behaviour solely because of this reason.
The issue really is tied to a powerful Talmudic discussion (see, for example, T.B. Rosh Hashanah 28b) of whether mitzvot, commandments, need proper intent (kavana) or not. If we say that mitzvot do not need proper intent, then all that is necessary to fulfill a commandment is the performance of the act, regardless of the reason one is undertaking this action. If that were the case, one who circumcises his son for any reason, without even any recognition of its religious value, would be considered to be fulfilling the Divine command.
The actual dominant conclusion, though, is that commandments do need proper intent in order to be deemed fulfilled. Proper intent means undertaking the action because it is so commanded by God. As such, pursuant to this perspective, for a circumcision to be deemed as having religious value, it must be performed because it is a Divine commandment. One may still recognize other benefits but the necessary motivation must be God’s command. (The issue of what one is then to do if a circumcision was not undertaken with proper intent and the responsible person now wishes the correct religious value of circumcision is actually a most pertinent one. I do not want to get into details in this regard but suffice it to say that there is actually a simple solution to the problem and one with this issue need only to consult a local Orthodox rabbi in this regard.)
So what about these other reasons? While we must always recognize our limitations in achieving a full understanding of why God gave us a specific command, such reasons can serve to some extent as partial explanations for the command. They can also be used to make our fulfilment of the command a bit easier; it is easier to do what we are being told to do when we can also see a benefit. There is nothing wrong in seeing the benefit(s) of a Divine command. It can even, as stated, make it easier and nothing wrong in that. There is a challenge, however, in that we still cannot thereby allow these other reasons to cause us to lose sight of the real reason we are doing this: to fulfill the Will of God. The point is that we must never to lose sight of the fact that circumcision is a Divine command and that it is the sign from Abraham of our covenant with God – and this is bottom line reason for this act.

The continuing failure to confront radical Islam

From RRW

Arutz Sheva Opinion
Kislev 30, 5776, 12/12/15 11:01
The continuing failure to confront radical Islam

Matthew M. Hausman

After a recent trip to Israel, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reportedly called upon Christians to step up efforts to convert the Jews.  Her pronouncement was met with indignation from across the Jewish political spectrum – and deservedly so, as it displayed a patronizing and flawed understanding of Jewish scripture and history.  But as misguided as it certainly was, it was not a call to pogrom or massacre; and while Jews have every right to be offended, such comments are benign, albeit insulting, and pose no threat to Jewish life, limb, or belief. 

Ironically, few of those who criticized Bachmann would ever chastise those Muslims who preach doctrinal supremacism or reject the very concept of a Jewish state.  Nor would they denounce leftist ideologues who defend progressive anti-Semitism as political speech or delegitimize Israel.  The question, then, is how they can reconcile assertive condemnations of Christian missionary zeal with apologetic attitudes towards radical Islam and a refusal to acknowledge the religious basis for much of today’s terrorism.

As suggested by ongoing dialogue between the nontraditional movements and dubious Muslim advocacy organizations, and by liberal support for progressive groups like the New Israel Fund, there seems to be growing tolerance for agendas that conflict with Jewish sovereignty and national claims.  There is also a tendency to express admiration for Islamic values while ignoring troubling dogmas that discourage free speech and demonize Jews. 

Sunday 27 December 2015

The Mesora: Beyond the Issue of Women Rabbis

 The gemara praises Beit Hillel for quoting Beit Shammai first. The reality its that there is a vast difference when people present their opinion as the only one and when they do so within the context of a disagreement on the subject. There is clearly greater depth and ultimate understanding in the latter context but a decision regarding the options also clearly becomes more difficult. In addition, it is important to also further recognize that Beit Hillel still did not present the Tzadduki view on the subject. The further parameters of Orthodoxy must always also be considered. All in all, though, the recognition of possible disagreement does open up the world of greater depth.

It is thus interesting in that the present discussion of the place of women rabbis within Orthodoxy, the discussion has generally not followed the process of Beit Hillel, with neither side, most often, (1) presenting their arguments while also presenting the divergent the views or, (2) if they believe the opposing argument to be beyond the pale, presenting why this is so.

See, for example:
the following shiurim arguing, from the Mesora, against women rabbis from Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman

and the following article from Rabbi Avi Weiss obviously in favour of women rabbis


My point is not to equate the two sides but to raise the issue of why the arguments do not include the obvious depth of the broader issue and disagreement that is inherent to the discussion.

In this regard, I should also mention the article from Rabbi Hershel Schachter at
which does attempt to present the greater depth of the issue in showing the complexity of it. It is because of this very complexity that Rabbi Schachter points out that it is, thus, most necessary that such decisions be made by a gadol.

The problem then becomes, though, defining who is a gadol, which is already a continuous and contentious issue within contemporary Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, Rabbi Schachter does not address this issue. In this regard, many people do not recognize that those who favour women rabbis actually maintain that they are following the view of a gadol in their eyes as they consider Rabbi Daniel Sperber in that category. No wonder that removed, objective looks at what is happening in regard to this issue are raising questions not on the issue itself but how the issue is being addressed. See, for example:

Alan Krinsky's article in the Forward at

and Garnel Ironheart's post on the subject on The Blog of Garnel Ironheart at

(I must say, it is with pride that I state that both authors actually have a connection with Nishma.)

 I just wish to add my voice to this concern. Beyond women rabbis, we have to recognize the true depth of Torah. I have great concerns when I hear those arguing for women rabbis in a manner which
negates the vast majority view of Torah scholars that have a problem with this issue in, at least, some ways. And I have similar concerns when I hear those arguing against the concept not having any recognition that those who are supporting this view also have their arguments. This doesn't make it right -- but its not so simple.

Rabbi Ben Hecht


Saturday 26 December 2015

Mussar: Bill Clinton on our Common Humanity

From an 0ld draft

How can we belong to a group or sect and still live beShalom with the world at large?
Similarly, how can Jews who belong to distinct group still have a sense of Eilu f'eilu towards their fellow Jews?

Years ago, I heard Bill Clinton express this on a late-night talk show. While I could not narrow him down to one solitary quote on this subject, it seems that he has expressed this again and again at various commencement exercises. I will cite remarks made at Harvard and University of Michigan as exemplars of this view:

And so I leave you with that thought. Be true to the tradition of the great people who have come here. Spend as much of your time and your heart and your spirit as you possibly can thinking about the 99.9 percent. See everyone and realize that everyone needs new beginnings. Enjoy your good fortune. Enjoy your differences, but realize that our common humanity matters much, much more.
- The entire article is available at the Harvard Gazette, here.
For the purposes of your being here today, what makes you a community? ... Because you think your differences are important. They matter. But on this special day, what you have in common matters more. That is the ultimate simple test of humanity's future. Are our important differences or our common humanity more important? You have to decide. You have to decide for our common humanity,
- Umich

Permit me to reduce and paraphrase this idea as follows:
While you should treasure the differences that make you and your Tradition unique, nevertheless, it is even MORE important to treasure Your Common Humanity
and to Transcend those differences.
 Now let's spin it regarding Jewish groups:
While you should treasure the differences that make you and your Tradition unique,
nevertheless, it is even MORE important to treasure Your Common Heritage
and to Transcend those differences.
  • If you think of fellow Jews as US vs.THEM, then your particularism is overcoming your ahavat israel. For instance, my rebbe is better than your rebbe, my way is better than your way, etc.
  • If your ahavat israel is on target, then you will transcend your differences regarding others without losing respect for that which makes YOU unique

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
Please Visit:

Friday 25 December 2015

Structure in the Works of the Choffetz Chaim‏

From RRW

I like to find and discuss underrated things.

IMHO the most underrated aspect of the works of the Choffetz Chaim Z"L is the structure found in several of his classics

1. Shemiras Halashon is an amazing anthology of Aggadah, Midrash, Zohar and Mussar on a single theme. This to me is an excellent paradigm of logically assembling sources to make a point.  ‎It reads quite smoothly.

2. The Sefer Choffetz Chaim. The opening begins with a "Sefer Hamitzvos "‎ on the topic. He them proceeds to pasken and to provide either his sources, or his sevoros, to back himself up.   Great combination of Halachah P'skukkah with Mekoros by the author himself.

3. The "Mishnah B'rurah". The idea of a bi-level Halacha Sefer may go back to the Rashba's Toras Habbayyis Ho'oruch v'hakatzar. Also D'reesha P'reeshah, et al.

The M"B's 3-tiered approach - which included adding "Sha'ar Hatziyyun" -. seems an innovation of his. B"H the Oz v'hodor edition (and perhaps others) has expanded the mar'eh m'komos to an even more user-friendly level.

There are already newer Seforim in our day that emulate that 3-Tiered approach (EG Badei Hashulchan)

Probably not since the Rambam, has an author put in so much energy into the structure of the presentation. 

Thursday 24 December 2015

Im Tirtzu to NIF donors: Demand end to support for defamation of Israel

From RRW
Israel News from The Jerusalem Post‏

“Their actions, the things they say and write against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in the foreign press, feed anti-Israel and anti-Zionist campaigns, and even terror organizations such as Hamas quote from things Breaking the Silence say during Hamas actions against the State of Israel on the international stage,” they said...

Pope Francis and the Renunciation of Jewish Conversion

From RRW


Tuesday 22 December 2015

Baruch Dayan HaEmes: RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Weiss ZT"L

From RRW

I join with his other talmidim in mourning the passing of my Yoreh Dei'ah Rebbe - RRW
The Yeshiva University - Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Family mourns the passing besavya tova of our Rosh Yeshiva and chaver,

Rabbi Yosef Weiss, ZT"L
אברהם יוסף בן חיים ישעי

Husband of Rebbetzin Miriam Weiss.
Father of Hershel, Chaim Yeshayah, Shamshon, Rivka Taub, Rochel Gottesman, and the late Esther Alster, a”h.
Grandfather and Great-grandfather.
Son-in-law of long-time president of the Breuers KAJ Kehilla in Washington Heights, Dr. Raphael Moller z"l.

Hespedim took place on Monday in the Glueck Beit Midrash in Yeshiva.  Recordings are available here.

Shiva is being observed at the Weiss home in Manhattan:

473 West End Ave (@ 83rd St.)
New York, NY
Tel: 212-873-9497
Tuesday Mincha at 4:10 PM
Wednesday and Thursday Shacharis at 7:15 AM
Minchah 4:20 PM

Born in Hungary in 1920, Rabbi Weiss immigrated to America with his family as a young child. Rabbi Weiss graduated from Yeshiva University High School, Yeshiva College, and received his semicha from RIETS as a student of Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik. He was a world renowned Talmid Hacham and Rosh Yeshiva. He began his teaching career at YU as early as 1938, when he delivered Rav Moshe Soloveichik’s Chazara shiur. Rabbi Weiss was the Perez F. and Frieda Friedberg Chair in Talmud at RIETS. In the mid-1960s, Rav Weiss took the helm of Kehillas Moriah on the Upper West Side and quickly became one of the community’s leading poskim. (Read more here.)

May Hashem comfort the family among all those who mourn for Zion and Yerushalayim.

Friday 18 December 2015

Jews Flee Muslim Attacks in France for Israel

From RRW

"Experts say European Jews have not felt this threatened since World War II, when 6 million Jews were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. Jews have been targeted in Belgium, Denmark and other European countries, but France has seen the worst of it. Jews have increasingly reported assaults and intimidation, mostly from Muslim extremists. While some attacks have been linked to anger at Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, most have been of an anti-Semitic nature."

Thursday 17 December 2015

Czar Nicholas II and Anti-Semitism

From RRW
Please see:
Question to ponder:
Had Hitler YS"V never lived would Nicholas II bad been deemed the worst Anti-Semitic ruler of the 20th Century?

Friday 11 December 2015

Why Hanukkah is the perfect festival for religious freedom

From RRW

From The Washington Post
" More than half a century ago, the Oxford philosopher John Plamenatz noted that religious freedom was born in Europe in the 17th century after a devastating series of religious wars. All it took was a single shift, from the belief that “faith is the most important thing; therefore everyone should honor the one true faith,” to the belief that “faith is the most important thing; therefore everyone should be free to honor his or her own faith.”
This meant that people of all faiths were guaranteed that whichever religion was dominant, he or she would still be free to obey their own call of conscience. Plamenatz’s striking conclusion was that “Liberty of conscience was born, not of indifference, not of skepticism, not of mere open-mindedness, but of faith.” The very fact that my religion is important to me allows me to understand that your quite different religion is no less important to you."

Friday 4 December 2015

Huffington Post: We Must Move Beyond Rhetoric To Solve The Refugee Crisis

The Challenge of the Syrian Refugees is a real one. On one hand, there is legitimate concern that within their midst are people with malevolent intent. On the other hand, they are in need and how can we, a people defined by chesed, not respond with caring. The situation presents a real dilemma.

See further on this in my latest Huffington Post blog: We Must Move Beyond Rhetoric To Solve The Refugee Crisis.

My original title for the post, btw, was 'The Syrian Refugees: Are We Finally Beyond the Rhetoric on Both Sides?' but it was changed by the editors.

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Monday 30 November 2015

Sunday 29 November 2015

Help Return the Body of Hadar Goldin‏

From RRW
A message from Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

As you all know, Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed last year during-and because of-the Kerry and Ban Ki Moon orchestrated cease fire. Now, his parents Leah and Simcha Goldin, ask for your help in putting pressure on the UN and US govt to have his body released.
(they can be reached at goldinl@netvision.net.il and
His parents refuse to succumb to the notion of releasing terrorists for his body.
At the same time, they ask for your help to put pressure on Hamas, the UN, and US government, to release his body. The UN and US orchestrated the cease fire, Hamas violated it. Those same bodies should stop all aid to Hamas until Hadar's body is returned. Anything you can do to help raise awareness and apply pressure would be deeply appreciated.

Blog- www.rabbipoupko.com

Thursday 26 November 2015

Three Quran Verses Every Christian Should Know‏

From RRW

Play video
http://www.answeringmuslims.com Christians can no longer afford to ignore Muhammad's teachings. In this short video, I present three Qur'an verses that every Christian should know.
Added on 05/07/2014

Three Quran Verses Every Christian Should Know

Wednesday 25 November 2015

United with Israel: …And the Result is Always to Blame the Victims

Is it not somewhat bewildering for the PA to make public pronouncements glorifying terrorists? Are they not thereby presenting themselves in a negative light to the world? The fact is that they see these pronouncements as actually furthering their cause in the eyes of many Westerners. Please see further, my latest UWI blog, at http://unitedwithisrael.org/and-the-result-is-always-to-blame-the-victims/

I am sure this will also be up on the UWI Facebook page in the near future. Please feel free to comment here or on one of the UWI sites.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Patriots Moment of Silence‏

From RRW
I have many dear friends in Sharon Mass having spent the last 4 or 5 Sedarim there.

Moment of Silence for Ezra Schwartz z"l (23 November, Gillette Stadium)
New England Patriots give moment of silence for Ezra Schwartz z"l (23 November, Gillette Stadium).


Monday 23 November 2015

Petition the Obama Administration in Regard to Ezra Schwartz

From RRW

We petition the Obama administration to:
publicly acknowledge 

Ezra Schwartz, 
an 18-year old American citizen from Sharon, MA, 
was murdered by a terrorist.

On November 19, 2015, Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year old American citizen from Sharon, MA, was murdered by a terrorist while on his way to do volunteer charity work. The government of the United States of America has failed to publicly acknowledge Ezra's murder and has taken no action to condemn the terror attack that took three lives.
We respectfully request that President Obama publicly acknowledge the senseless killing of Ezra Schwartz, condemn the attack and rebuke the Palestinian Authority for claiming that the third victim of this attack, an Israeli Arab, was killed by Israeli forces, when not a single shot was fired by Israeli military or law enforcement and the terrorist was taken into custody unharmed. Such lies are irresponsible and incite further terrorism.
Published Date: Nov 20, 2015

Go to:  http://wh.gov/iVP0m

Sunday 22 November 2015

Thursday 19 November 2015

Solidarity with Israel‏

From RRW

Ahavat Hinnom in action

You are invited to a Wedding in Jerusalem ( and stay for Shabbat)!
As many of you may have read - Sarah-Techiyah Litman and her chattan Ariel Bigel -- have invited the ‘entire Jewish People’ to their wedding next week. Sarah-Techiya lost her father and brother in a brutal terrorist attack last week.

We would like to, as such, open our home in Jerusalem (Baka) to you and would like offer a group from your Shul to be here next Thursday night – and to stay with us, have Shabbat meals with us and provide for your needs (in other words all you need to do is pay for your flight over). Our sole parameter is that we can only host around 10 people. We, though, will arrange everything on this end – just show up.

The wedding is Thursday night November 26th at Binyanai HaUma in Jerusalem.

Please be in touch if you would like to come – we would love to have you!

Mazel tov and may Hashem bless His people with peace.

The Goldscheider Family

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Sen. Cruz Hearing on American Victims of Terrorism - Mr. Miller's Testimony

From RRW

Sen. Cruz Hearing on American Victims of Terrorism - Mr. Miller's Testimony
Added on 05/11/2015

Sen. Cruz Hearing on American Victims of Terrorism - Mr. Miller's Testimony


Sunday 15 November 2015

Learning Kitzur S"A

From RRW

On Motz'ei Shabbos - we had a lively discussion re: learning Halachah in general and learning Kitzur S"A in particular. I thought it to be worth sharing

1. KSA covers many topics well. EG I feel KSA  covers a good subset of Aveilus and‎ Niddah

2. Unlike EG Hayyei Adam, it covers elements of Y"D, Even ho'Ezer and Choshen Mishpot

3. Perhaps it is weakest re: Shabbos and Pesach. I suggested supplementing KSA with EG Zichru Toras Moshe or Hayyei Adam for Shabbos,  and with R Shimon Eider's Sefer on Hil. Pesach

4. I saw a letter by R Ganzfried suggesting he used a "Beis Din" of Hayyei Adam, S"A haRav, and the Derech Chaim By R Yaakov miLisa.

5. Kitzur S"A is a popular limmud amongst Hassidim, BUT they don't slavishly follow it l'ma'aseh. Rather, they use it mostly as a Textbook of Halachah.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Study: Religious Kids Are Jerks

I invite you to view this article from the Daily Beast,

at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/06/study-religious-kids-are-jerks.html
and, please, do leave your comments -- and there is much to comment on!

The study was done on religious children in general -- it does not even mention that Jewish kids were included in the focus group -- but its application to our kids is quite possible and should be, in my opinion, considered and evaluated. The question then is how to rectify any such problem within our educational systems.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday 5 November 2015

New RBH shiur on Koshertube: Universalism within Judaism: The Syrian Refugee Problem

Balancing universalism and Jewish nationalism is a significant issue within Jewish thought. Its importance is, perhaps, somewhat indicated in the placement of Maftir Yonah on Yom Kippur. This issue has also recently become a most practical concern because of the present Syrian Refugee Problem. How are we, as Jews, to respond?

In his latest Koshertube shiur, Nishma's Rabbi Hecht discusses the issue both theoretically and practically. We invite you to view Universalism with Judaism: The Syrian Refugee Problem at http://koshertube.com/videos/index.php?option=com_seyret&Itemid=4&task=videodirectlink&id=21379.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

JVO Blog: The Distinctiveness of Judaism – Sdom: The Mask of Evil

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) 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 denominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars. Nishmablog, over the years, has also featured the responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. 

Recently, the Jewish Values Online website has offered a new service -- a blog which presents comments on various topics within Judaism and the Jewish world. See

Rabbi Hecht is now also a blogger on this site and will be developing a series entitled  
The Distinctiveness of Judaism

His Third post 

Sdom: The Mask of Evil
is now available at http://jewishvaluescenter.org/jvoblog/sdom-the-mask-of-evil

A link is also up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JewishValuesOnline?fref=ts

Monday 26 October 2015

New RBH Series in Toronto


Conflicts and Overlaps

at Adath Israel, 37 Southbourne Ave

Sundays at 9:00 a.m.

Second Series: Ethics: The Search for 'The Good'

November 8 - December 13

November 8     What is 'the Good'? Pleasure? Morals?
November 15     Are Ethics About the Other - Love Your Neighbour?
November 22     Are Ethics About the Self - Be The Best You Can Be?
November 29     Ethics as Duties
December 6     Ethics as Rights
December 13     Is the Possible Answer: All of the Above?

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Nishma Policy - Beyond 'Off the Derech' -- Why is Someone Committed?

NISHMA: Policy is devoted to analyzing policy issues within the world of Torah.

I have just uploaded the latest post, entitled Beyond 'Off the Derech' -- Why is Someone Committed?, which we hope will serve as a beginning of an investigation of this important issue.

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

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday 10 October 2015

Of Possible Interest to the Toronto Community: Honest Reporting Canada

37 Southbourne Ave.


Gary Kenzer 

North American   
Executive Director 

Israel is in the midst of a battle for public opinion – waged primarily via the media. To ensure Israel is represented fairly and accurately “HonestReporting” monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action.

Gary Kenzer began working for the organization in Sept. 2006 and was also the National Director for Magen David Adom US.  Gary consults with the professional association on political advocacy issues and trains over 500 students a year on becoming political advocates.

7:30 p.m. 

$15 in advance  $20 at the door  
635-5340 x308
Refreshments served   

Sunday 20 September 2015

United with Israel: Beyond ‘United with Israel’

A lesson from Yom Kippur that is beyond ‘United with Israel’. Please see http://unitedwithisrael.org/beyond-united-with-israel/

I am sure this will also be up on the UWI Facebook page in the near future. Please feel free to comment here or on one of the UWI sites.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Psalm and the Shofar: A Thought for Rosh Hashanah

first posted September 24, 2014

Douglas Aronin:

«... It was Korach who conspired with Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben to lead a rebellion against Moses.  Dissatisfied with the honor of performing the duties reserved for the Levites, Korach accused  Moses of usurping the leadership and priestly roles for himself and his brother Aaron.  (Numbers 16:3).  As a result of Korach's challenge to the leadership of Moses, the earth opened up and swallowed him and his followers, including Dathan and Abiram and their households (16:28-34).

In telling the story of Korach (Numbers chaps 16-17), the Torah makes no mention of the fate of his sons.  Only later in the book, in the course of reporting the results of the census taken of the Jewish people in anticipation of their entry into the Land of Israel, does the Torah mention them specifically.  The Torah at that point relates the census of the tribe of Reuben, including the branches of that tribe that would have come from Dathan and Abiram.  The Torah then relates:  "These are the same Dathan and Abiram, chosen in the assembly, who agitated against Moses and Aaron as part of Korach's band when they agitated against the Lord.  Whereupon the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with Korach …The sons of Korach, however, did not die." (26:9-11, JPS translation).

Why didn't the sons of Korach die?» 

The Psalm and the Shofar: A Thought for Rosh Hashanah | Douglas Aronin | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 6 September 2015

JVO Blog: The Distinctiveness of Judaism -- Sdom in Context (or The Surprising Evil of Ideology)

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) 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 denominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars. Nishmablog, over the years, has also featured the responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. 

Recently, the Jewish Values Online website has offered a new service -- a blog which presents comments on various topics within Judaism and the Jewish world. See

Rabbi Hecht is now also a blogger on this site and will be developing a series entitled  
The Distinctiveness of Judaism

His Third post  
The Surprising Evil of Ideology (JVO's title which is fine with RBH)
is now available at http://jewishvaluescenter.org/jvoblog/the-surprising-evil-of-ideology

A link is also up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JewishValuesOnline?fref=ts

Thursday 27 August 2015

Commenting on "Response to Dean David Berger on Open Orthodoxy"

Recently, Rabbi Ysoscher Katz wrote a response, in the Jewish Link of New Jersey, entitled Response to Dean David Berger on Open Orthodoxy, to Rabbi Dr. David Berger's article, also in an earlier edition of the Jewish Link of New Jersey, entitled The Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: A Response to Rabbis Avi Weiss and Asher Lopatin. The subject really is the nature and definition of heresy within Orthodoxy and, in many ways, this is a most serious issue which we are now facing. The essentially question is: What is Orthodoxy? -- and it extends even beyond the parameters of this specific issue. It is in regard to this specific issue, however, particularly in regard to Rabbi Katz's response, that I would like to comment.  (For the purposes of the further discussion of this specific issue, though, one should perhaps also look at Rabbi Asher Lopatin's Morethodoxy article, Revelation and the Education of Modern Orthodox Rabbis.)

The issue to Rabbi Katz would seem to be the nature of what he defines as Modern Orthodox psak. His argument is that Rabbi Berger's view "displays a simplistic understanding of the philosophy of Modern Orthodox halacha. It also, at its core, reflects a minimalist understanding of the Modern Orthodox enterprise." While it is difficult to hear Rabbi Berger's thought processes described in such terms, the question still is not really the nature of psak itself but the extent one's deviation from another's perception of psak is to be accepted as still within the pale of Orthodoxy. The scholars of Conservative Judaism in its early years believed that they were applying what they believed was the correct process of psak. The argument of Orthodoxy was not simply that it disagreed. Disagreements regarding the process of psak actually abound within Orthodoxy. The argument of Orthodoxy was that this methodology of psak was beyond the pale of Orthodoxy. 

Similarly, it is not enough for Rabbi Katz to maintain that he has a thoughtful approach to psak. It also serves no purpose for him to attack Rabbi Berger's methodology. It makes no difference whether Rabbi Berger's process is the most sophisticated Modern Orthodox approach to psak or not. No one is challenging that Rabbi Berger's system is within the pale of Orthodoxy. Rabbi Katz disagrees with Rabbi Berger's method but he never declares it not to be Orthodox. The actual question is whether Open Orthodoxy's system is within the pale. 

In a certain way, Rabbi Katz's presentation may actually further the arguments against this. He is clearly stating that he is in disagreement with Rabbi Berger's methodology of psak with the implication that Rabbi Berger would also disagree with his system. That, in itself, is not necessarily a problem - disagreements can exist within Orthodoxy. Disagreement, though, does open the possibility for a determination that a position may be beyond the pale. Rabbi Katz does not address this. He does not present an argument that even if Rabbi Berger disagrees with the YCT position, Rabbi Berger should still recognize it as within the pale. If anything, Rabbi Katz's presentation would, in fact, seem to work otherwise. Rabbi Katz's strong critique of Rabbi Berger would actually seem to even imply a denominational divide. What Rabbi Katz needed to do was to show that even though Rabbi Berger may disagree with YCT's views, there are still reasons to accept these views as within the pale. What he does, though, is show how these views are actually so foreign from those of Rabbi Berger. Could this not be the basis of a definition of a new denomination?

On a technical note, I should also state that I specifically had difficulties with Rabbi Katz's reference to the Binyan Tzion and the Chazon Ish. Those two scholars were not dealing with the issue of heresy per se but rather the culpability and effect connected to heresy. Their issue was how we are to relate to those with heretical views, not the very definition of heresy itself. Does this recognition imply that there are, as such, no disagreements regarding issues connected to heresy? The Slifkin Affair obviously indicated to us that there are. The point is, though, that the Binyan Tzion and the Chazon Ish are not indications that the nature of heresy within Orthodoxy can change over time. Their arguments concern how our approach to those who accept heretical views can change over time. Such arguments, though, would still not extend to accepting one with heretical views in a position of rav. I found it problematic in that I felt that Rabbi Katz was somewhat misleading in this regard.

Rabbi Ben Hecht