Monthly Archive: כ״ט בשבט תשע״ד – Wed, Jan 29, 2014


The Value of Money

There is an often-cited dispute between Rabbi Yishma’el and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. ת”ר ואספת דגנך (דברים יא:יד) מה ת”ל לפי שנא’ (יהושע א:×—) לא ימוש ספר התורה ×”×–×” מפיך יכול דברים ככתבן ת”ל ואספת דגנך ×”× ×”×’ בהן מנהג דרך ארץ דברי ר’. ישמעאל ר”ש בן יוחי אומר אפשר אדם חורש בשעת חרישה וזורע בשעת זריעה וקוצר בשעת קצירה ודש...


Tools and Goals

Is observance the ends, the purpose, of our lives, or is it the means and the goal lies beyond it? And if they are the means, do we need to consciously frame the purpose of our lives, or should we just concern ourselves with following the halakhah, and rest assured that the goal will take care of itself?”

How would this play out communally?

One possible outcome is … that black letter halakhah — that which can be measured, laid out in clear obligated or prohibited terms — takes center seat without any attempt to become the kind of person more capable of fulfilling the full breadth of its commandments. There would be mixed reports of business ethics, scandals… yet others abusing their power over their students in other ways.

Another possible outcome is an idealistic community, but one whose ideals are not Torah derived. In such a community ideals would be taken from some segment of the surrounding culture, and halakhah would be reduced to a means of “blessing” goals that we assimilated from the outside…

A third possibility is particular to a community that teaches the need to engage the world around it…. Without a firm eye and a constant striving toward an ideal, the energy it takes to maintain this delicate balance too easily collapses into a life of compromise…..

Do these portraits sound familiar?


Eilu va’Eilu part II

[Updated 1/9/2014. The story so far: In part I I gave a survey of opinions from rishonim discussed in essays by RM Halbertal and Rav Michael Rosensweig.] RMHalbertal spelled out three approaches to machloqes: (1) retreival — all machloqes are about recovering forgotten laws, attributed to many ge’onim; (2) accumulative — Torah is built analytically, which means different people can...


Compassion for Our Enemies

Updated 1/8/2014. We have a minhag to pour out 16 drops of wine, once at each mention of a makah that befell the Egyptians. The earliest mention of this custom is in the Maharil (according to R’ Joseph Tabory, on Avodah), who says the reason is that we are promised “any distress which I placed upon the Egyptians I will...


Bread, Meat and Wine

Rav Aharon Rakeffet recently noted a contrast in wording between the Rambam and the Rama, and mentioned that someone might find “a whole pilpul” in the difference. (Listen to the shiur on Responsa Literature #14 – “Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz” 12-30-13, the observation starts at 8:24, in the opening review of the prior shiur.) Here’s my attempt. Rambam, Hilkhos...