Category: Process

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The Legislative Authority of a Bas Qol

A brief summary of the Encyclopedia Talmudit entry on “Bas Qol”, the paragraph about its impact on halachah:An Achna’i-style oven was made from pieces of pottery that were not cemented together. So, the question arose: Can it, like any other oven, become tamei? Or, is it like shards of pottery which can not? Rabbi Yehoshua and the other sages ruled...

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Eilu vaEilu – part I

Before giving my own thoughts, I would like to discuss two recent articles on Eilu va’eilu: Moshe Halbertal on “The History of Halakhah, Views from Within: Three Medieval Approaches to Tradition and Controversy“ R’ Michael Rosensweig’s article “Elu Va-Elu Divre Elokim Hayyim: Halakhic Pluralism And Theories Of Controversy“ As background: The gemara (Eiruvin 13b) speaks of a protracted debate between...

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Appropriate and Inappropriate Kulos, Good Chumros and Bad

It is this rupture in the traditional religious sensibilities [caused by the Holocaust and the subsequent displacement in geographic location] that underlies much of the transformation of contemporary Orthodoxy. Zealous to continue traditional Judaism unimpaired, religious Jews seek to ground their new emerging spirituality less on a now unattainable intimacy with Him, than on an intimacy with His Will, avidly...

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Midrashei Halakhah

There are two kinds of medrash (which should technically be called “midrash” to be grammatically correct). Midrashei Aggada are non-halakhic statements, those of mussar, Jewish thought, Qabbalah, and the like. The thought is usually connected to the text through details added to the narrative, or other stories intended as metaphor (whether in addition to being historical or not).I want to...

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Types of Halachic Rulings

The following taxonomy of kinds of halachic ruling was culled from the Rambam, Hilkhos Mamrim ch. 2, and includes thoughts learned at a shi’ur given by R’ Yonasan Sachs (of RIETS and the Agudath Israel of Passaic). (I posted an earlier version on soc.culture.jewish, and from there made it into the group’s FAQ. I later repeated it on Avodah, and...

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Chidush and Shinui

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar ben Chisma went to Peki’in to visit their rebbe, Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Yehoshua asked them to repeat something they had learned in the beis medrash since their last encounter. They answered, “We are your students, and we drink of your waters.” Rabbi Yehoshua replied, “Ee efshar leveis hamedrash belo chidush — It is...

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What is Judaism?

Since Mosheh received the Torah in the Sinai, the Torah has evolved. It evolved according to the rules set out in the Torah itself, but still, halakhah has grown, courts of greater number and wisdom have overruled the precedent of inferior courts, etc… As the famous story goes (Menachos 29b): When Mosheh ascended to the Heavens, he found Haqadosh barukh...

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Safeiq deRabbanan

R’ Aharon Rakeffet has a 10 year series on responsa literature and the art of making a halachic rulings. The classes are available on YUTorah.org. The following is primarily from his shiur of Dec. 19th, 1994 “Safek from Torah or Rabbanan” (starting at around 52 min. in). As is my norm, I add bits here and there. The Rama writes...

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Halachic Change

Pesaq “changes” in a number of very different ways. I put the word in quotes, because I’m including things I do not consider an actual change in pesaq. R’ Herschel Schachter writes in a number of places of the difference between appropriate halachic innovation, “chiddush“, vs unauthorized change in established din, “shinui“. Much rests on whether one is actually changing...

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Halachic Process, part I

“Eilu va’eilu divrei E-lokim Chaim, vehalakhah keBeis Hillel — These and those are the words of the ‘Living’ G-d, but the halakhah is like Beis Hillel.” The voice rung out from heaven that even though the law is ruled according to Beis Hillel, Beis Shammai’s position is also the word of G-d. There is some variation in halakhah between people...

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Halachic Process, interlude: What it isn’t

(I am going to do something I try to avoid when writing in public — dedicate a post to criticism. This post may someday disappear, if I ever change my mind, so read it now while you can.) The story so far: In part I, I suggested that the process of pesaq isn’t a set of rules to be followed,...

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Halachic Process, part II

So far, I’ve discussed how I think halakhah works, and how I think it doesn’t. To refresh — fitting devar Hashem into this world an our minds requires simplifying modeling, “shadows” that only capture aspects of the fuller truth. These models can conflict, leading to machloqes. It also means that living by halakhah will requires assessing conflicting priorities. Ideally this...

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Halachic Process, addenda

With this post, I am closing the series (for now) with three other thoughts that came up during the Avodah discussion, but aren’t part of my core thesis. I The concept of minhag hamaqom impacts two different things — actual minhagim and local pesaqim. I’m now addressing only the latter. A community can’t survive with too much variation, so we...

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Ge’ulah and the Halachic Process

Last week I drew the conclusion from the Qetzos haChoshen that Torah is not Truth, it — combined with the Jewish People — is the process by which “Truth will bloom from the earth”. As I wrote then: One wonders if this is related to the Maharal’s explanation of machloqes (disputes in halakhah). In an earlier entry, I described his...

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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...