Category: Other-Focused Orthodoxy

Minyan Saying Shema 0

Shema Yisrael

The following is a post I wrote for the Judaism Reclaimed Facebook page, a space that in general discusses Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah, by R’ Shmuel Phillips (Mosaica 2019). The opening in italics is an introduction by R’ Phillips. And the paragraph in sans-serif font was in my original submission, but removed from the post when...

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Chessed and Tzenius

There was one movement in the Twentieth Century CE that was definitively established as an Other-Focused Orthodoxy (OFO). From its founding by Sarah Schenirer in 1917 until the late 1990s, the Judaism girls were taught in typical Beis Yaakov schools was one of chessed (Lovingkindness) first and foremost and only then the other mitzvos. But I noticed that there has...

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The Role of Ritual in Other-Focused Orthodoxy

Rav Shimon Shkop gives a very inter-personal view of Judaism, writing that the we were made “וְחַיֵּי עולָם נָטַע בְּתוכֵנוּ — and eternal life was planted among us” (quoting the berakhah‘s description of the giving of the Torah) is entirely ” להיטיב עם זולתנו — to be of benefit to others, in imitation of the Creator. Rav Shimon even defines...

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Did Hashem Command Us About Qorbanos?

Well, given this and next weeks’ parashios, as well as numerous other places in the Torah, the question in the subject line appears to have an obvious answer: Yes! And yet, that’s not what Yirmiyahu appears to say (7:22-23): כִּ֠י לֹֽא־דִבַּ֤רְתִּי אֶת־אֲבֽוֹתֵיכֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א צִוִּיתִ֔ים בְּי֛וֹם (הוציא) [הוֹצִיאִ֥י] אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם עַל־דִּבְרֵ֥י עוֹלָ֖ה וָזָֽבַח׃ For when I freed your ancestors from...

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Seforno on the Purpose of Life

Rav Ovadiah ben Yaaqov Seforno (15th cent CE, Cesena, Italy) writes…

The similarity to Rav Shimon Shkop’s philosophy should be obvious to readers of this blog. Enough that it is surprising Rav Shimon doesn’t quote the Seforno….

We get one important addition to the picture with this look at the Seforno. In the Seforno we find a taxonomy to analyze ritual mitzvos in the context of an Other-Focused Orthodoxy. A direction Rav Shimon doesn’t explore in his haqdamah.

Ritual in halakhah serves to:

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HaTov Shimkha

We close Birkhas Hoda’ah (“Modim”) “‘HaTov’ shimkha, ulkha na’eh lehodos — your Name is “The Good”, and it is pleasant to praise You.” And yes, it does mean that Hashem’s name, the way we perceive Him, is “HaTov — The Good”. The more intuitive translation, that Hashem’s name is Good (good being an adjective), would have been “shimkha tov —...

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Choosing Role Models

Next time you hear a speaker or a rabbi speak about “the goyim” in some disparaging stereotype, ask them about this gemara. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asks about an apparent contradiction in seifer Yechezqeil. The first pasuq (5:7): לָכֵ֞ן כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר ׀ אֲ-דֹנָ֣י ה֗’ יַ֤עַן הֲמָנְכֶם֙ מִן־הַגּוֹיִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר סְבִיבֽוֹתֵיכֶ֔ם בְּחֻקּוֹתַי֙ לֹ֣א הֲלַכְתֶּ֔ם וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֖י לֹ֣א עֲשִׂיתֶ֑ם וּֽכְמִשְׁפְּטֵ֧י הַגּוֹיִ֛ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר סְבִיבוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם לֹ֥א עֲשִׂיתֶֽם׃...

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A Lesson of Shushan Purim

Rabbi Meir Simchah haKohein from Dvinsk (1842-1926, Lithuania), in his Meshekh Chokhmah (on Shemos 12:16, s.v. “uveyom”), writes that Jews do not celebrate even the vanquishing of our enemies. As the verse in Mishlei (22:17) says, “בִּנְפֹל אויביך (אוֹיִבְךָ), אַל-תִּשְׂמָח — when your enemy falls, do not rejoice”. And this is why the verse he is explaining does not say...

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The Interpersonal Aspect of Parah Adumah

The most fundamental difference between the kind of reasoning one finds in the Bavli with that one finds in the Yerushalmi is “vertical” vs. “horizontal”. The Bavli will drill down to get the full depth of an opinion, whereas the Yerushalmi will refuse to speculate about the implications of a position and will instead compare statements from various discussions to...

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Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City

Rav Shelomo al-Qabetz actually addresses much of Lekha Dodi to Jerusalem: “מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה — Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City.” “הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי \ לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי — Arise, get up from the dust / dress yourself in your glorious clothes, my nation.” “כְּבוד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּהּ — Hashem’s Glory is revealed upon you.” “וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר...

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There is a Person who Craves Benefiting Others

For the past three years or so, I belonged a va’ad led by haRav Naftali Kaplan shilit”a,the mashgiach and administrator of Yeshiva Netiv haDaas in Ramot. (His sons include Rav Avraham shilit”a, the Rosh Yeshiva, and Rav Nissan shilit”a, a popular maggid shiur in the Mir.) A few months after we began, the mashgiach gave out artistic cards that contained...

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Pesel Mikhah

From Sanhedrin 103b: תניא רבי נתן אומר מגרב לשילה ג’ מילין והיה עשן המערכה ועשן פסל מיכה מתערבין זה בזה בקשו מלאכי השרת לדוחפו אמר להן הקב”ה הניחו לו שפתו מצויה לעוברי דרכים. A beraisa: Rabbi Nasan would say: From Gerev [the town which housed the idolatrous temple of Mikhah] to Shilo [where the Mishkan was located] was 3 mil...

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Welcoming Guests is Greater

Shabbos 127a: אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: גדולה הכנסת אורחים יותר מהקבלת פני השכינה, דכתיב “וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲ-דֹנָ֗י אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ, אַל־נָ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר מֵעַ֥ל עַבְדֶּֽךָ׃” Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Divine Presence. “[{Avraham} lifted his eyes, and he saw — behold, three men were standing above him; he saw, he...

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The Defining Mitzvos of Judaism

Relevant to why megillas Rus is read on Shavuos… Yevamos 47a explains what we must teach a prospective convert: ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות, ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני. ומודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, … וכשם שמודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, כך מודיעין אותו מתן שכרן… לא רוב טובה ולא רוב פורענות. ואין מרבין...

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Purim in the World of Affection

There are four mitzvos one must fulfill on Purim: reading the megillah, matanos le’evyonim (gifts to poor people), mishloach manos (“shalachmones”), and the Purim se’udah. The first, reading the megillah, relates directly to the story of the day – nothing can be more connected than a mitzvah to retell it! But what do the other three mitzvos have to do...

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Calves, Cherubs, and Half Sheqels

Why is it that in last week’s parashah (Ki Sisa) we read all about the sin of the eigel hazahav but this week’s parashah we read about the mitzvah of making two keruvim atop the aron? Why is one a grave sin, and yet the other is mandatory? Skippable, but enhances the question: A while back I posted about the linkage between the...

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Is the Value of Human Life Infinite?

Does Yahadus view the value of a human life to be very large, or actually infinite? There are famously three prohibitions that one must avoid even at the cost of one’s life even outside the context of an active campaign against Yahadus or the Jewish People: gilui arayos (sexual immorality), avodah zara (idolatry) and shefichas damim (bloodshed). (Sanhedrin 64a) The natural first...