Category: Halachah

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39 Melakhos

(Expanded from a couple of months ago.) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ, שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן לַה’; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת. Six days work shall be done, and the seventh day shall be holy for you, a Sabbatical Sabbath for Hashem; whomever does work on it shall die. – Shemos 35:2 The building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, is told...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – Symbolic Logic

This will only be of interest to people who care about Symbolic Logic and about the rules of birur, of resolution of doubt in halachic questions. But I found something I wrote back in 1994, and didn’t want to lose it, so I’m blogging it here. Hopefully I will have time to put up something of more general interest in...

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A Quantum of Time

There are two halachic indivisible units of time. When it comes to interruption, or for defining a single statement (e.g. when correcting oneself in davening) the unit is tokh kedei dibbur — within the time it takes to say [“Shalom eilekha Rebbe uMori“], a greeting of 4 words consisting of 10 syllables. For calendrical calculations, the unit is the cheileq,...

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Glory and Egalitarianism

I want to share, with permission, the following exchange I had with Ellen Rosen, a member of The Mussar Institute. On Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 09:15:00AM -0800, Erosen1@aol.com wrote: I have a question that perhaps Rabbi Berger might consider. And so, [Dr.] Alan [Morinis] forwarded me your email. This is: Why does Jewish tradition glorify men? Let me start...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – Addendum: Placebos

One more thought about my “Halakhah and Phenomenology” series…. A basic assumption behind the series is that what justifies looking at the world as experienced and as it could be directly experienced is the idea that this is what shapes a person and makes the deep down changes in character, in how the person relates to Hashem, other people and...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Unknown and Bitul

The Yerushami (Challah 3:5) discusses the case of when bread which didn’t have challah taken (or flour which didn’t have terumah taken from it), fell into a quantity of already separated bread. The gemara says the cases are different whether one takes challah from already separated and permissable dough instead of taking challah from another dough to permit its use,...

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Pesaq Without Resolution

In “Invoking Tradition” I suggested that the amora’im of the Yerushalmi would not add their own interpretations to the words of the tana’im. The traditions must be preserved in their integrity. (And in “On Nets and Pieces” I added that instead the Israeli amora’im saw their job as finding patterns that allow them to apply the quotes to other topics...

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Tevel is Called Holy

The Mishnah in Maaser Sheini 5:4 discusses the obligation to be finished with all maaser by the Pesach after the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle. The mishnah describes messages sent to remind people to remove the maaser from their crops, so that can give it out or destroy it before the deadline. The Yerushalmi (31b) opens the...

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On Nets and Pieces

The story so far: In the first post, I suggested that it was Rav Yehudah, founder of the Yeshiva in Pumbedisa, who really developed the style of shaqla vetarya (dialectic) that we find in the Talmud Bavli. Which implied that we wouldn’t expect to find the similar argument style in Israel. In the second post, I tried to show how...

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Invoking Tradition

So, I recently described Rav Yehudah’s trip down to Pumbedisa, where he founded a yeshiva where learning was based on the dialectic method, the style of shaqla vetarya (question and answer) that typifies the gemara. So what was happening back in Eretz Yisrael? To put the same question in a more straightforward way — after learning the first six mesechtos...

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Clouds of Glory

I There is a famous dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Aqiva about what it is we commemorate with the mitzvah of sukkah.  The Torah reads (Vayiqra 23:42-43): בַּסֻּכֹּ֥ת תֵּֽשְׁב֖וּ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים כָּל־הָֽאֶזְרָח֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יֵֽשְׁב֖וּ בַּסֻּכֹּֽת: לְמַעַן֮ יֵֽדְע֣וּ דֹרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ כִּ֣י בַסֻּכּ֗וֹת הוֹשַׁ֨בְתִּי֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהֽוֹצִיאִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם׃ You shall dwell in sukkos for seven days; every...

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Falluja

Now that the US’s role in Iraq has formally changed, I want to mention something about the city of Falluja. During the early years of US presence in Iraq, we heard a lot about violence there. E.g. four contractors were dragged from their cars, beaten and set on fire — and then their bodies were dragged through the streets and...

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Terumah and Maaser

It is interesting to contrast the Chinukh’s description of terumah, the first gift taken from one’s produce, given to a kohein, with his description of ma’aser rishon, the tenth given to the levi’im. Terumah, mitzvah #507: … משרשי המצוה, לפי שהדגן והתירוש והיצהר הן עיקר מחיתן של בריות, והעולם כולו להקדוש ברוך הוא הוא, על כן ראוי לאדם לזכור את...

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Balancing Community and Authenticity

This post, like the one I blogged last week, reflects a conversation with R’ Rich Wolpoe and R’ Ben Hecht on NishmaBlog and email, on the topic of R’ Nathan Lopez Cardozo’s “On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity“. That issue appears to be closely tied to the role of communal pesaq, and why do...

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Balancing Simplicity and Authenticity

This post is in response to R’ Nathan Lopez Cordozo’s “On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity” on the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals web site. First to quote some points with which I firmly agree: I teach Jewish Philosophy. I am confronted daily with countless young Jews who search for an authentic Jewish...

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Halakhah leMosheh miSinai

מעשה ברבי ישבב שעמד והחליק את כל נכסיו לעניים. שלח לו ר”ג, “והלא אמרו חומש מנכסיו למצות?” ור”ג לא קודם לאושא היה? ר’ יוסי בר’ בון בשם ר’ לוי: כך היתה הלכה בידם, ושכחוה, ועמדו השנים והסכימו על דעת הראשונים. ללמדך שכל דבר שבית דין נותנין נפשן עליו הוא מתקיים, כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני. ואתייא כיי דאמר רבי מנא: “כי...

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Yom Yerushalayim

“זְכֹ֤ר ה’֨ ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽרוּשָׁ֫לִָ֥ם …— Hashem, remind the children of Edom of the Day of Jerusalem…” – Tehillim 137:7 It seems odd to me, but this is the oldest source for the idiom which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel took as the name of the holiday. But what is Yom Yerushalayim? The name of the city...

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Because they did not serve…

In response to my previous post, Shmuel commented: “They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude.” That statement alone is worth its own post, or many, for that matter… So, a little more elaboration. Here’s the section we’re discussing: Qabbalistically, Beis Shammai is described as embodying the...

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Reality vs. Potential

משנה אלו דברים שבין בית שמאי ובית הלל בסעודה בית שמאי אומרים מברך על היום ואח”כ מברך על היין וב”ה אומרים מברך על היין ואח”כ מברך על היום: Mishnah: These are the things which separate Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel with [respect to the laws of] a meal. Beis Shammai say: [In Qiddush] bless the day [i.e. make the berakhah...

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The Structure of Maggid

I recently reworked and expanded an older piece on the structure of the Seder as a whole, and why it comes in fifteen steps grouped by the cups of wine into four. This section is also a rewrite, reflecting parallel changes to Maggid in particular. Within our framework, Maggid is the substance of the second cup of the seder. It...

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Things to Thank the Maccabees For

Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I noticed a number of ways in which Jewish and Hellenic thought differ. Not just difference of philosophy — differences even more fundamental than philosophy. Ideas that conflicting schools of thought that belong to the same culture rarely argue. The things people raised in each culture take for granted. I thought in honor...

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A Sukkah in the Sun

R. Hanina b. Papa, and according to others, R. Simlai, lectured: In the future to come, HaQadosh barukh Hu (HQBH) will take the seifer Torah and rest it on His “Chest” and say, “Whomever was occupied in it, let them come and take their reward!” Immediately, all the nations will gather and come in a mixed chaos… But HQBH said...

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Modern Consciousness and Mesorah

The Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks wrote the following in an article included in the 1992 book, Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy (Dr. Moshe Sokol ed.), pp. 165-167: [S]urely we are sociologically and philosophically sophisticate enough to realize — given the wealth of studies on this very point — that it is this modern consciousness that is radically subversive of...

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Postmodernism and Mesorah

I I don’t think I can touch this topic without first defining what I mean by Postmodernism. The old way of doing things, from the Enlightenment until the middle of the 20th century, was to encounter texts by trying to determine the author’s original intent. This requires finding the historical context of the author, learning about his mental state, etc…...