Yearly Archive: 2015



שַׁמַּאי אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה תוֹרָתְךָ קֶבַע. אֱמוֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה, וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת: Shammai would say: Make your Torah a fixture [of your day]. Speak little and do much. And be accepting of all people with a pleasant facial expression. – Pirqei Avos 1:15 Rav Yisrael Salanter says that we do not own the right to...


Living in Tranquility

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: “Yaaqov was living in the land where his father visited, in the land of Kenaan” – G-d, Bereishis 37:1 רש״י: … ועוד נדרש בו, וישב יעקב, ביקש יעקב לישב בשלוה קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף, צדיקים מבקשים לישב בשלוה אמר הקב”×” לא דיין לצדיקים מה שמתוקן להם לעוה”ב אלא שמבקשים לישב בשלוה בעוה”×–....


The True Hero of Chanukah

No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to HQBH, although clearly it could. (Or can it: Can we define “heroism” with respect to One for Whom there are no risks to take?) Nor Yehudah haMakabi, nor Matisyahu, nor Chana or any of her sons, nor Yehudis… The Beis Yoseif famously asks why we celebrate the first day of Chanukah....


Mazal Tov!

The Jewish People have been invited to the wedding of Ariel Bigel to Sarah Tichyeh Litman! Binyanei haUmah, Jerusalem at 10:30 pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 26th, 2015) Yaakov Litman Hy”d, the kalah’s father, and Netanel Litman Hy”d, her brother, were taken from us by the a terrorist’s hand while on the way to the chasan’s aufruf. The words gracing the...


Sefeiq Sefeiqa

Back in 2007, I posted 7 answers to the question of why we treat Torah law and rabbinic law differently. In particular, we are lenient when in doubt about a rabbinic law (safeiq derabbanan lahaqeil) but are stringent when it comes to Torah law (safeiq deOraisa lechumra). “[W]hy do we rule leniently for a rabbinic law? Isn’t every rabbinic law...


The Jewish Home

וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ. And Yitzchak brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent, and he wedded Rivqah and she became a wife for him and he loved her; and Yitzchak was comforted after losing his mother… – Bereishit 24:67 ויביאה האהלה והרי היא שרה אמו כלומר ונעשית דוגמת שרה...


Time During Creation

The whole question of time sequence in either description is questionable. Time itself was something created, and thus some rishonim (including the Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 1:30) understand chapter 1 (at least, perhaps ch. 2 as well) as discussing a logical progression, not a chronological one. That the concept of time and chronological order only make sense after creation. Rav Dessler...


My Life as a Pendulum

Usually, when we think of the pendulum as a metaphor, it’s of a process that goes too far in one direction, then too far in the other, until eventually it reaches equilibrium at the mean. I’m thinking of a different perspective.Think of the soul, not as some point within you, but as a line. The lowest region, the nefesh, is...



Back in 2001, when Napster was in the news, I attended a “lunch and learn” program at the OU office given by R’ Zev Reichman, then of REITS’ Kollel Elyon. I just learned of a beautiful insight on the topic by R’ Asher Weiss, that Rabbi Jonathan Ziring heard in 2013. So, here’s a survey of the topic… Not #1-...


What does Hashem ask of you?

We saw earlier in our discussion of yir’ah the following gemara (Berakhos 33b, Megillah 25a and Niddah 16b): ואמר רבי חנינא: הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. שנאמר (דברים ×™:יב) “עַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ×”’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ ×›Ö¼Ö´Ö£×™ אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה…?” Rabbi Chanina said: Everything is in the hands of [the One in] heaven except for yir’as Shamayim, as it says: “And...


בן חמישים לעצה

Among the list of landmarks Rabbi Yehuda ben Taima lists in psychological development (Avos 5:21) is “בן חמישים לעצה — a 50 year old is [ready] for planning / advice”. (This is 10 years after “בן ארבעים לבינה” — that 40 year olds are capable of comprehension.) Generally this is taken to mean that when someone turns 50, they should...


Gratitude and Thankfulness

It takes two skills to thank someone: hakaras hatov, recognizing the good, being able to see the good in your life, and hoda’ah, being willing to attribute its presence to someone / Someone else. (Same thought, but with more rigor and detail, here.)


Marriage and Gender

While I’m on the topic of gender roles, I might as well put in my two bits about Obergefell v. Hodges. As others noted, it’s the first time that holding on to classical Jewish Morality puts us in the counterculture. I R’ Aryeh Klapper writes (see moderntoraleadership: Chok, Mishpat and Obergefell) that I think puts a nice context on the...


Gender Roles

Rather than assuming the level of duties the Torah imposes on men is the baseline, and asking why women are exempt, I want to flip the question around and ask why men are obligated. What gender difference would make these obligations more meaningful to a man than a woman. I think we should just admit that synagogues (and, lehavdil, churches)...


Tefillah beHispa’alus: Building the Temple Within – part 1

This was a webinar given for The Mussar Institute on 3-Mar-2014. Class 1 of 2. (Part 2 is here.) The format is more introducing and practicing tools for kavanah than a class in the meaning of the words of the siddur. Audio only version is available here. (Admittedly this is a good deal of the blind leading the blind.)


Qoheles in a Nutshell

While tradition skips over the who said to whom before identifying the significant word or two to take as the text’s name, there are exceptions, notably Vayiqra (both the parashah and the book) and Qoheles. Focusing on Qoheles, there is good reason for that: דִּבְרֵי קֹהֶלֶת בֶּן דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם. The words of Qoheles son of David, king in Yersushalayim: (1:1)...


Naso: Society and the Priesthood

A thought struck me during the Torah reading this past Shabbos about a unifying theme throughout parashas Naso. Here are the topics in the parashah: The task assignments and census of the three clans of sheivet Levi. This section defines the sacred camp. The rest of the parashah discusses the porousness of the divider between the sacred camp and general...


Textualism and the Mishnah Berurah

I Dr Haym Solovetichik, in his famous paper “Rupture and Reconstruction“, describes a difference between the the Mishnah Berurah and the Arukh haShulchan as follows: This dual tradition of the intellectual and the mimetic, law as taught and law as practiced, which stretched back for centuries, begins to break down in the twilight years of the author of the Arukh ha-Shulhan, in...


The Question on the Quiz

During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my...


Halakhah and Virtue Ethics

In 1967 Phillippa Foote raised a thought experiment philosophers call the Runaway Trolly Problem. Here is how wikipedia describes it: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train...


HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l

When someone passes away, I try to find a life-lesson from their lives that I can incorporate into my own. This is rather easy with regard to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, as the rosh yeshiva left the Centrist / Modern Orthodox / Religious Zionist community with a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of our communal soul. Things that he saw we as...


Talmudic Sources for Avoiding Qitniyos

Here are two possibilities for the source of the minhag. The Yerushalmi makes the same statement that we have in the Bavli, that dough made from rice and water undergo a sirchon, not chameitz. Then it continues (Pesachim 2:4, vilna 17a): רבי יוחנן בן נורי אמר קרמית חייבת בחלה שהיא באה לידי מצה וחמץ ורבנין אמרי אינה באה לידי מצה וחמץ ויבדקנה על...


The Great Seal of the United State of America

Resolved, That Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, be a committee, to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America. – Journals of Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776 Rabbi Meir de Soloveitchik (as the rabbi of the Spanish Portugese Synagogue jokingly calls himself) recently mentioned this committee and the resulting seal when introducing...