Category: Halachah

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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…...

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Divine Command Theory

Divine Command Theory (DCT) is a model of ethics in which “good” is defined by “that which Hashem wants. To quote my presentation of the Euthyphro Dilemma from an earlier blog entry: In his essay “Euthyphro”, Plato has Socrates ask a young student named Euthyphro, “Is what is righteous righteous because the gods love it, or do the gods love...

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תשעה באב

אמא! אמא! Memories of a more recent churban… Last year, Nariman House was a way-station in Mumbai for lost Israelis searching India for spirituality, and a place where a Jew in a strange place on business could feel at home. A center for reconnecting with one’s heritage for people who were so far from Jewish centers. Last year, the building...

TiDE and Slabodka

(The previous post was off topic, but on the blog. This post is on topic, but posted elsewhere.) Rabbi Rich Wolpoe posted to the Nishma blog an exchange we had by email. Here are some snippets of things I say in the post and consequent dialog (so far): Look how similar TIDE [Torah im Derech Eretz] and Slabodka are in...

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Natural Morality and Halakhah

What’s the relationship between a human’s intuitive sense of what’s moral and halachic mandate? There is a tendency in some circles to describe the Torah as though halakhah was the sum total of the guidelines Hashem gave us for behavior. This is belied by a number of the mitzvos that require we follow some sense of “right” or “holy” that...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – Chazaqah

At this point we’re so far mid-stream, that unlike the previous post, I’m not going to summarize the basic thesis or even pretend to try to translate terms already used. Instead, I will just point out the conclusions so far with respect to birur from just the last two posts (parts 2 and 3). Then we’ll discuss the concept of...

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Of Qorbanos and Flowers

I’m curious to know how many of us who believe we’re supposed to want a restoration of the sacrifices actually anticipate it. I must confess that I’m too 21st cent for that, and generally during Mussaf or Qorbanos (or parts of the liturgy that discuss sacrifices) my thought is asking G-d to help me learn how to want them, to...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Unperceived

Back on April 6th, I posted my previous entry to this series. The notion I’m exploring here is that: (1) Halakhah is about changing the one who performs it (as the Chinukh puts it “האדם נפעל לפי פעולתו”) and therefore (2) One can understand various aspects of halakhah by thinking of it in terms of the world as it is...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Actually Perceived

In the previous post, I presented the idea that The Chinukh repeatedly explains various mitzvos by explaining “ha’adam nif’al lefi pe’ulaso — a person is affected according to his action.” Contemporary hashkafos differ over what halachic life is supposed to cause, whether the ideal is better described as “wholeness”, perfecting the image of G-d, or “attachment” to G-d…. But notice...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Very Small, Tastes and Birkhas haChamah

The Chinukh repeatedly explains various mitzvos by explaining “ha’adam nif’al lefi pe’ulaso — a person is affected according to his action.” Contemporary hashkafos differ over what halachic life is supposed to cause, whether the ideal is better described as “wholeness”, perfecting the image of G-d, or “attachment” to G-d. (See the posts in the “Forks” category.) But notice that both...

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Osniel ben Kenaz

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שנפטר משה רבינו לגן עדן אמר לו ליהושע שאל ממני כל ספיקות שיש לך אמר לו רבי כלום הנחתיך שעה אחת והלכתי למקום אחר לא כך כתבת בי (שמות לג) ומשרתו יהושע בן נון נער לא ימיש מתוך האהל מיד תשש כחו של יהושע ונשתכחו ממנו שלש מאות הלכות ונולדו לו שבע מאות ספיקות...

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Kehunah and Unity

Back on Chanukah I wrote: Chomos migdalei, the walls of my citadel [mentioned in the poem “Ma’oz Tzur“], were not the mighty walls around the Temple Mount or the walls of a fortress. They were a see-through mechitzah, the realization that the Jew, as one of the Mamleches Kohanim, has a higher calling. One possible reaction to assimilation is to...

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Small Jugs

In the beginning, or a few days later, Hashem created the sun and the moon. In Bereishis (1:16) the Torah says: “And G-d made the two large luminaries – the large luminary to rule the day and the small luminary to rule the night – and the stars.” A famous gemara (Chullin 60b), quoted by Rashi, points out an inconsistency...

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Chanukah: Never Give Up

Chanukah tells us to never give up, no matter how formidable the challenge. When the Hasmonian family realized that they had no choice other than to confront the Greeks and attempt the impossible, they linked up with a force beyond themselves and achieved the impossible. They reached for what beyond their grasp and were thus privileged to initiate events that...

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Mitzvos of Sukkos

(Copied from Sukkos 5766. -micha) There are many mitzvos that are specific to Succos. Aside from the mitzvos we can observe today, Succah, Hakafos, and the Four Species, there are also a number that can only be kept in the Beis HaMikdosh, including the 70 Musaph cows, and Nisuch Hamayim followed by Simchas Beis HaShoevah. The Yom Tov has several...

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Simchas Beis haSho’eivah

(Copied from Sukkos 5764. -micha) I There are many mitzvos that are specific to Succos. Aside from the mitzvos we can observe today, Succah, Hakafos, and the Four Species, there are also a number that can only be kept in the Beis HaMikdosh, including the 70 Musaph cows, and Nisuch Hamayim followed by Simchas Beis HaShoevah. The Yom Tov has...

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Coronating G-d

(Significantly enlarged from the 2005 version. -micha) I Melukhah (kingship) is a major theme, if not the major theme of Rosh haShanah. Aside from the ubiquity of the word in our liturgy for Rosh haShanah and the Ten Days of Teshuvah, we find another indication in the Amidah for Rosh haShanah‘s Mussaf. Three blessings are inserted to the middle of...

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Gender Differences: Oaths

The Torah uses two different words for husband: ish, in particular when used with the feminine possessive “ishahh” (her man); and ba’al. Interestingly, in the beginning of parashas Matos, the section on annulling vows, only ishahh is used (v. 8, 9, 11, 12, twice in 13, twice in 14, 15; observation made to Avodah by Akiva Miller), ba’al is not...

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Types of Thought: Gender Differences, part II

In the previous post we spoke of gender difference in terms of extending society’s reach vs developing what we have – R’ Aharon Soloveitchik’s “kibush vs yishuv” (as discussed in this devar Torah for parashas Chayei Sarah), and R’ SR Hirsch’s outside vs inside. (And Dear Abby’s goal vs process.) And in the post before that we started discussing the...

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Gender Differences

(I had more to say on the each of yesterday’s post’s two topics, so it is being replaced with this and the next post.) In a post on parashas Chayei Sarah, I included R’ Aharon Soloveitchikzt”l‘s take on gender differences as reflected in halakhah. Men have an overly strong sense of qibbush, to conqure and subsue, women have a better...

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Mourning During the Omer, part II

As I wrote in the previous post, there are two events that we are commemorating by mourning during the omer, and they seem to have happened on different dates. Rabbi Aqiva’s students died in the first part of the omer, while the Crusaders reached Ashkenaz in late Iyar. Depending upon which is event you consider primary, I could see justifying...