Monday 27 February 2017

A Philosophy of Mitzvot" by Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel

From RRW
Guest blogger: Rabbi Shlomo Appel
In response to the many requests that we have had, I am happy to announce that Ktav has just reprinted my father (Z”L)’s work on the Sefer HaChinuch, “A Philosophy of Mitzvot.”

Below is a blurb from the Hirhurim Blog from when this edition was originally published by Yashar.

Hirhurim blog
Friday, April 11, 2008
New Book: A Philosophy of Mitzvot

By: Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel

What divine purpose do the mitzvot, the Biblical commandments, serve? What moral and spiritual goals do the mitzvot envision? In a book made newly available to the reading public, Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel presents a comprehensive view of the structure and meaning of the Torah’s commandments.

The Sefer ha-Hinnukh, one of the principal works in Jewish ethical and halakhic literature, is a primary source for ta’amei ha-mitzvot, the reasons and purpose of the divine commandments in the Torah. In A Philosophy of Mitzvot, originally published in 1975 and revised for this second edition, Rabbi Dr. Gersion Appel sets forth the Hinnukh’s objectives and his approach to revealing the religious and ethical meaning of the mitzvot.

In this wide-ranging study that is ideal for school courses, the author presents a comprehensive view of Jewish philosophy as developed by the Hinnukh and the classical Jewish philosophers. The Hinnukh emerges in this study as a great educator and moral and religious guide, and his classic work as a treasure-trove of Jewish knowledge, religious inspiration, and brilliant insight in the molding of human character.
“Appel’s study is a definitive evaluation of the Hinnukh’s approach. But, more than this, it is an exploration of significant perspectives and new directions for further studies of the meaning of the commandments. The book is comprehensive, informative and authoritative. It is a work of immense scholarship and deserves to be widely read.” —The Jewish Law Annual

Table of Contents
Introduction: The Mitzvot: Their Nature and Import in Jewish Philosophy
  1. The Taryag Mitzvot
  2. The Quest for the Meaning of Mitzvot
  3. The Divine Purpose
  4. The Preamble of Faith
  5. A Rationale of Mitzvot
  6. Man's Ethical Duties
  7. The Individual and Society
  8. Man's Spiritual Dimension
  9. The Service of God
  10. The Divine Imperative
  11. Perspectives on the Mitzvot
  12. Conclusion: The Continuing QuestExcursus: The Sefer Ha-Hinnukh: Authorship & Sources

Other books published and edited by Rabbi Appel include Torat Ha-Mitzvot Be-Emunat YisraelThe Concise Code of Jewish Law: Compiled from the Kitzur Shulhan Aruch and Traditional SourcesSefer Ha-Neyar: A Thirteenth Century Code of Jewish Law and the S.K. Mirsky Memorial Volume: Studies in Jewish Law, Philosophy and Literature.


From RRW

Defending Trump, ex-envoy to US says nobody blamed Obama for leftist anti-Semitism

From RRW

Sunday 26 February 2017

BIG NEWS: Teach NYS Helps Secure $25 Million Security Grant for Jewish Schools

From RRW

Aliyyot for Women in Halakha – Rabbi Jeremy Wieder

From RRW

Invoking Holocaust Rhetoric

From RRW

David Friedman is being forced to apologize as a Republican who "mis-spoke" when he invoked the term "Kapo" re: JStreet.

See how US Senator Ribicoff had no remorse in accusing fellow Democrat Mayor Daily on National TV ‎of using "Gestapo Tactics"!

Maybe this has nothing to do with Party but with the advent of political correctness?
"Then-Congressman Donald J. Irwin of Norwalk, a delegate, lent him his badge.
Mr. Irwin said he thought that the Senator was just going to make a nominating speech, and he didn't like what he heard either. The next morning, he angrily confronted the Senator at a reception, called him a ''creep'' and said his remarks at the convention were ''contemptible.'' His parting shot was ''I hope they Mace you.''
''Even to this day, I really can't believe he used that kind of language,'' Mr. Irwin said of the Gestapo reference. ''It was a time of very deep passions, yet people could have used some restraint.''
Mr. Ribicoff said Mr. Irwin's criticism ''went in one ear and out the other.'' He added, ''what I said was the truth and that was it.''
Ribicoff And Daley Head To Head -

Saturday 25 February 2017

Mussar: Don't be a "Sore Winner" Don't Gloat

From RRW
How Yankees' Randy Levine ripped Dellin Betances' request |

‎Randy Levine's criticism of his sensitive star Dellin Betances seems to have aroused a lot of ill-will
A few pieces of mussar heskel:

Randy Levine may not be technically wrong, but it was damaging to Betance's feelings. A little "grace" goes a long way. Any legitimate criticism is better left said in private.

Dellin might be better served by "thickening" his skin. Stars on any New York team are subjected to a lot of scrutiny. Under-reacting may serve him in the long run.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Parshas Mishpatim: There Are No "Alternative Facts"

From RRW
We would like to blog Rabbi Eliyahu Safran on the parsha. Hope you enjoy

Baltimore Jewish Life | Parshas Mishpatim: There Are No "Alternative Facts"

CRC Kosher Articles:Hotel Kashering

From RRW

Russia, Ukraine, and Israel

From RRW

I want to flesh out some context to my remark about various  Putin's annexation of a piece of Ukraine.  

I have an Israeli Havruta who is a somewhat astute observer of international affairs...

I mentioned about Putin annexing Ukraine and he said something along these lines

Putin had given Ukraine a warning (ultimatum?) not to join NATO. Why? (here comes the West Bank parallel)
Because the Easternmost areas of Ukraine are in a vulnerable area of Russia. This would put Russia in a "precarious" position vis-a-vis NATO. (remember Cuba and JFK?

So when Ukraine did not refuse to join NATO, Putin felt that situation warranted an annexation of some Ukrainian territory.... in order to keep NATO out of his "front yard"

The analogy to the "West Bank" and Israel's security issues seems apparent. Israel needs to avoid a 6-9 mile wide "isthmus" as it had before 1967. It needs territory for its security.

Monday 20 February 2017

A Principled Pesak and a Window into Pesak

From RRW

Jewish Leaders Applaud Trump's Focus on Palestinian Incitement

From RRW
As published by the Jewish News Service - February 16, 2017

By Rafael Medoff/

Jewish groups berate Trump for blasting reporter who asked about anti-Semitism

From RRW
The Reporter was interviewed on Fox and he was totally forgiving of Trump's reaction.

Others noted that the question was a tad convoluted and lent itself to being misunderstood by Trump, who tends to be impatient. A more direct question such as
"Mr. Prez... how will you address Anti-Semitism?" 
probably would elicited a different reaction

It appears to me that these Jewish organizations are more offended than the reporter himself. Do you wonder why that is so? I think I know!

Of course Mr. Trump ideally should have been more patient and heard the fellow out. That would have been more menschlich then "shushing" him. So the President seems to suffer from a limited attention span. And so he is not "blameless". Yet the bottom line is that the reporter himself was understanding....

Sunday 19 February 2017

Friday 17 February 2017

Where Judaism Differed - By Abba Hillel Silver

From RRW
  Where Judaism Differed: An Inquiry into the Distinctiveness of Judaism
AH Silver was one of the few Reform Rabbis whom I "admired" to an extent

His Book - Where Judaism Differed‎ - was a classic in its time

Where Judaism differs TODAY from the politically correct zeitgeist can be reduced IMHO to a simple point of departure

Does justice INCLUDE
V'Dol lo sehedar b'reevo
Does it exclude it?

EG Affirmative action, 
Do you judge on merit or by race, Colour creed, national origin or economic class?

Same with many crimes. 
Same for illegal immigrants
Do you tip the scales of JUSTICE to favour the disadvantaged?

The Torah says "not in a court of law"

It's OK to privately give Tzedaka. But can merits be overlooked in favour of the disadvantaged in public policy? In the court system?

And if being disadvantaged becomes an advantage
Will that foster a society of "victims"?

Thursday 16 February 2017

The Jew And The Survival Of The System

From RRW
Thought Provoking....

Kerensky: "No Enemies to the Left"

From RRW

"His philosophy of "no enemies to the left" greatly empowered the Bolsheviks and gave them a free hand, allowing them to take over the military arm or "voyenka" of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. " 
Alexander Kerensky - Wikipedia

Also see:

Ideological slogans may not always seem to be very important. Sometimes, however, they can reveal basic and persistent mind-sets. This is the case with the slogan that originated in the French Revolution, "No enemies to the Left." Students of European politics will recognize that this slogan has persisted, and that the ideas behind it still apply to today's politics.

New Oxford Review

So do today's "Bolsheviks" feel the corollary -
"There are only enemies to the Right"?

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Jewish Bolshevism - Wikipedia

From RRW

While some prominent Bolsheviks were Jewish
1. Jews never dominated the Bolshevik Party
2. Nor were Jews primarily attracted to Bolshevism. EG the Jewish Bund was in the Menshevik party.

Thus we see the phenomenon of fakenews may be rooted in prejudices such as anti-Semitism

JVO Blog: The Jewish Revelation

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 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 also a blogger on this blog.

His latest post 

The Jewish Revelation
is now available at 
A link is also up on Facebook at

Thursday 9 February 2017

Trump’s Shul

From RRW

Huffington Post:We Must Understand The Necessary Distinctions Within A Religion

There is a problem in that the general populace is sloppy in its attempt to understand religions. They thus choose to relate in a monolithic manner to all religious people although such individuals may actually be very dissimilar. In the broadest way, they simply want to assume that all religious people are the same and/or think the same. In the same regard, they tend to believe that all members of a broad religious grouping must share the same theology. This, of course, is not true -- and the consequences of such fallacy can be major. In regard to Judaism, I have addressed this issue, and its negative effects on Jewish unity and Jewish thought, in Adjective and Non-adjective Jews, Nishma Introspection 5761-2. What we are now experiencing in the world, though, is the problematic effects of such fallacy in regard to Islam.

I develop this idea further in my latest Huffington Post blot -- We Must Understand The Necessary Distinctions Within A Religion -- at

My original title for the post, btw, was 'We NEED to understand religion' but it was changed by the editors.

Feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 7 February 2017

OU Congratulates Betsy DeVos upon Her Confirmation as Department of Education Secretary

From RRW
This afternoon, the United States Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – issued the following statement:
“The Orthodox Union congratulates Betsy DeVos upon her confirmation as Secretary of Education. We have long supported education policies that empower parents with the resources and choices to ensure their children receive the best education they deem fit for their children. We believe Secretary DeVos will be a force for such empowerment and we look forward to working with her to ensure all American children have access to great schools and the opportunity to realize their God-given potential.”

Germany's Turkish-Muslim Integration Problem

From RRW
Are Germany's Immigration Policies Ripping at the Seams?

Monday 6 February 2017

Jerusalem Schools, Synagogues Could be Shut if UN Resolution is Implemented

From RRW
 Guest Blogger

As published by the Jewish News Service - January 24, 2017

Jerusalem Schools, Synagogues Would be Shut 
if UN resolution is Implemented

WASHINGTON—The human consequences of implementing the recent United Nations resolution about Israel would be devastating, say American representatives of Israeli schools, synagogues and other institutions in parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured in 1967.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted Dec. 23 with the U.S. abstaining, asserted that all “Israeli settlement activities” in “the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” are “a flagrant violation of international law.” It stated that Israel must “immediately and completely cease” such activities and also take action to “reverse negative trends on the ground.”

A number of major Jerusalem neighborhoods are situated in what the U.N. calls “East Jerusalem,” which is the area that Jordan occupied following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Nineteen years later, those sections of the city were reunited with the rest of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War.

One of those neighborhoods is French Hill, a major urban area located in the northeastern part of the city. “I live in French Hill,” award-winning Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi told “So the recent U.N. resolution has criminalized me and my family as occupiers.”

“I’m not illegal, and I’m not a ‘settler,’” said historian Maurice Roumani, a professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who resides in Armon HaNetziv (East Talpiot), a neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem with a population of 14,000. “These artificial definitions by the U.N. do not reflect reality.”  

Teenage ‘settlers’ with disabilities

The institutions that could be adversely affected if the U.N. resolution leads to international boycotts or other actions include the Ilan Residential Home for Handicapped Young Adults and the Beit Or Home for Young Autistic Adults, both of which are located in the Gilo neighborhood; forests and housing projects sponsored in and around Jerusalem by the Jewish National Fund (JNF); and portions of the Hebrew University campus. Even the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives might be affected.

“My grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, going back seven generations, are buried on the Mount of Olives,” Washington, D.C.-based attorney Alyza Lewin told “Does the U.N. propose to ban Jews from using the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world? The notion that Israel is violating international law by burying its dead on this sacred spot is unthinkable.” 

Could members of the British family find themselves accused of fostering the “illegal occupation” of eastern Jerusalem? Princess Alice of Battenberg, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is buried in a small Christian cemetery at the foot of the Mount of Olives. A number of British royals have visited her gravesite over the years, including Prince Charles during his trip to Israel last October.

There also are Arab residents in a number of across-the-line Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Givat HaMatos, Gilo and Neve Yaakov. “Some of my neighbors [in French Hill] are Arab Israelis,” Halevi noted. “Are they occupiers too, or is it only the Jewish Israelis? Now that I am officially outside of the law according to the U.N., I imagine that anything can happen.”

Effects across denominational lines

Possible international action against those sections of Jerusalem would cut across Jewish denominational lines, affecting Orthodox and non-Orthodox institutions alike. 

The Masorti movement—the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism—sponsors a school and synagogue in French Hill, a school in Gilo, and synagogues in the Ramot neighborhood and the Jerusalem satellite community of Ma’ale Adumim. “The U.N. resolution is indiscriminate and historically obtuse,” said Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, who is one of the most prominent Conservative rabbis in the U.S.

Wolpe told, “Many of the areas the U.N. purports to ‘return’ are historically and by rights Jewish territory recognized de facto by the parties themselves. For the Masorti movement in Israel, enacting such a resolution would have terrible consequences religiously, economically and to the spirit of religious pluralism in Israel.” 

The Women of the Wall group, which demonstrates for egalitarian prayer rights at the Western Wall, is operating in an area that the U.N. has designated as “occupied territory,” the Old City section of Jerusalem. Hypothetically, even the Orthodox Union’s Yachad program of sending pizza to Israeli soldiers could be jeopardized, since some of those soldiers are stationed in post-1967 sections of the capital.

The religious Zionist social service organization AMIT is planning a “Yom Yerushalayim Mission” to Israel in May, which will include a number of events and activities in post-1967 parts of Jerusalem, including the Old City area. AMIT Executive Vice President Andrew Goldsmith told the U.N.’s action will not interfere with his organization’s work. During the past century, “we have witnessed many different political statements and efforts, none of which have had an impact” on AMIT’s work, he said, adding that the U.N. resolution “will not have an impact on our ability to serve our students.”


Venerated Zionist institutions could also be affected. There are JNF-sponsored forests or housing projects in various Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the 1967 lines, such as Neve Yaakov, Givat HaMatos and Ammunition Hill, as well as in nearby Ma’ale Adumim. Portions of Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, including one of its dormitories, likewise are located in the post-1967 areas of the city. Spokespeople for JNF and Hebrew University declined to comment on the matter.

"David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first prime minister) coined a phrase which accurately sums up how most Israelis feel about the United Nations," said Mordechai Nisan, a professor of Middle East studies at Hebrew University. "The phrase was ‘Oom-Shmoom’—‘Oom’ is how the abbreviation for the U.N. is pronounced in Hebrew, and ‘Shmoom’ was Ben-Gurion's way of dismissing its relevance.” 

Nisan, who resides in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot Bet, parts of which are beyond the 1967 lines,, “Nobody is going to chop apartment buildings or streets in half in Ramot Bet or any other Jerusalem neighborhood. More than 250,000 Jews reside in parts of Jerusalem past the 1967 lines, and they are here to stay. The supporters of the recent U.N. resolution are delusional—they are living in their own little echo chamber, with no connection to reality."

Hoping for a new position

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. took a position similar to that of the U.N., branding the post-1967 parts of Jerusalem as “occupied territory.” Many observers are hopeful that U.S. policy will change under President Donald Trump. “It's hard to imagine any American government being less favorable to Israel on Jerusalem-related issues than the Obama administration,” Yossi Klein Halevi said. “I expect the new administration to be better—perhaps significantly better.”

Alyza Lewin said it is “imperative” for the Trump administration to “promptly recognize Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem.” Lewin and her father, Nathan Lewin, were the attorneys in a recent suit by a Jerusalem-born American citizen concerning his request to have his passport state “Israel” as his place of birth, instead of “Jerusalem,” which has been the State Department’s practice because the U.S. does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel. The Supreme Court turned down that request in 2015, on the grounds that the American president has the exclusive authority to recognize foreign sovereigns. 

“Since that is the position of the Court’s majority,” Alyza Lewin said, “President Trump should use his authority to promptly recognize Israel's sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.”

Women Communal Roles

From RRW and RBH

Recently, the following was sent out by the OU in regard to the communal role of women:
A number of months ago, the OU posed two questions to a panel of its leading poskim:

1) Is it halakhically acceptable for a synagogue to employ a woman in a clergy function?

2) What is the broadest spectrum of professional roles within a synagogue that may be performed by a woman? 

Recently, the Rabbinic Panel provided their Responses to us to these questions. At a meeting of the OU's Board of Directors yesterday, the OU adopted the Responses of the Rabbinic Panel as a statement of OU policy. In addition, the OU has prepared a Statement, commenting on the Responses of the Rabbinic Panel.

To view the Responses of the Rabbinic Panel, and the accompanying OU Statement, please click on the links below:

Statement from the OU
Allen I. Fagin
Executive Vice President / Chief Professional Officer
Orthodox Union

In response JOFA made the following statement
Courtesy of Rabbi A Gordimer

To further your study and investigation of the topic, we also wish to direct you to the Women Rabbis Archives at Torah Musings

Friday 3 February 2017

Thursday 2 February 2017

The Museum's Statement on Refugees

From RRW
Today, the Museum issued the following statement:
The Museum is acutely aware of the consequences to the millions of Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, as noted in our November 2015 statement on the Syrian refugee crisis. The Museum continues to have grave concern about the global refugee crisis and our response to it. During the 1930s and 1940s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, generally refused to admit Jewish refugees from Nazism due to antisemitic and xenophobic attitudes, harsh economic conditions, and national security fears.
In our view, there are many legitimate refugees fleeing the Assad regime’s sustained campaign of crimes against humanity and the genocidal acts perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities. American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit

Panel on Discuss Monday Night Massacre Trump Fires Acting AG Part 3 @AlanDersh @TimNaftali 1

From RRW