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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘rav’

Rav Meir Shapira’s Daf Yomi Talmud for Sale in Jerusalem

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

This Rosh Hashanah saw the 93rd anniversary of the Daf Yomi cycle. Now, a tangible reminder of those early years is available for enthusiasts to enjoy.

Few imagined what a global phenomenon would result when Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin introduced the idea at the First World Congress of the World Agudas Yisrael in Vienna in 1923. R’ Shapira understood the potential magnitude of his idea. He explained at the Congress:

“A Jew travels by boat and takes Gemara Berachot under his arm. He travels for 15 days from Eretz Yisrael to America, and each day he learns the daf. When he arrives in America, he enters a beis medrash in New York and finds Jews learning the very same daf that he studied on that day. …. Could there be greater unity of hearts than this?”

Today tens of thousands of Jews learn Daf Yomi. Since 1923, the whole cycle has been completed twelve times in communities around the world. There are even apps to make learning easier. Long before the Daf Yomi could be studied online, there were efforts to make studying as user-friendly as possible.

To make it easy for those that wanted to participate, a special edition Gemara was printed for the first cycle of Daf Yomi in 1925. Tractate Rosh Hashana was the first tractate that was published in a special format for the Daf Yomi. It was a small paperback booklet to facilitate carrying while commuting or traveling. Each daf is printed on four pages, with the Maharsha’s commentary. As the publisher explained the format, “For the benefit of the traders who cannot find the time to study a complete daf in one sitting, but want to divide the daf into portions throughout the day.”

In this first edition, as the Daf Yomi was still gaining acceptance, every effort was made by the publishers to explain the process. The opening pages included a chart to track the daily daf. An introduction from the publishers describes that this will enable anyone who missed a day to catch up with ease.

To the delight of Judaica buffs and Daf Yomi advocates, Rabbi Meir Shapira’s personal copy of this tractate is now on sale at Kedem Auction House, based in Jerusalem and specializing in Judaica and Israeli culture and history. Signed with R’Meir Shapira’s signature and stamp, this volume even includes his hand written notes on one page.

It provides a unique window into Jewish history and a reminder that there was a time when even the great Daf Yomi institution had to win over sceptics.

For more information about this unique volume and other items included in the auction at Kedem (or to sell your own antiques) see www.kedem-auctions.com

Raizel Druxman

The Rav On The Holidays

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Title: Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Author: Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick
Publisher: Urim Publications


There is no need to state in these pages that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was one of the greatest Talmudists of the past few hundred years. But for English readers, there has long been a dearth of books in English that captured the depth and breadth of R’ Soloveitchik’s Talmudic genius.

In Moadei HaRav: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick has written a fabulous work, based on his notes from the Rav’s shiurim. Rabbi Pick is a former student of the Rav, who now teaches Talmud and Maimonidean thought at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and brilliantly captures the Rav’s ideas in these lectures.

The book begins with an introduction to Rav Soloveitchik’s methodology of Torah study. Rabbi Pick then writes 17 chapters on various Talmudic issues. For me, the most startling point in the introduction is that while the Rav, who studied in Berlin and was familiar with the methodologies of academic Talmud research, was fundamentally opposed to it. Rabbi Pick writes that the Rav felt that way as he thought academic Talmud both focuses on insignificant matters, and puts too much significance on the consequence of socio-historical or psychological processes.

While the subjects are often dense and abstract, Rabbi Pick is able to provide an extremely clear overview of the topics, to which he does a very good job of explaining the topics in traditional Brisker fashion.

As to the lighting of Chanukah candles, the custom, based on the Talmud, is to light “until there are no people on the street,” which is generally accepted to be about 30 minutes after sunset. In the shiur on Chanukah, the book quotes the Rav who was of the opinion that it is impossible today to say that candles should be lit at that time, since there are indeed still people on the street.

In his novel and original way of thinking, the Rav felt that in the United States the time of “until there are no people on the street” is approximately 6:30 p.m. 7:00 p.m. Since people will go out, there is another time of lighting which would be between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.

The Rav clarified that during the period of Chazal, there was only one period of time “until there are no people on the street,” as opposed to the situation today in the United States where there is a wave of people returning home after a day’s work, and then after dinner a second wave of people going out for the evening.

That is but one of scores of examples where Rabbi Pick is able to share the Rav’s insights and innovative approaches to a countless halachic topics.

This is not an easy book, given the depth of the content. But for those looking to gain a deeper understanding of the Rav’s approach to a number of different topics, Rabbi Pick has done a tremendous service bringing his notes to the English reading public.

Ben Rothke

Rav Shimon Schwab: Values And Views

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Several months ago – in the columns of December, January, February, and March – we dealt with the early life of Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, his studies in Telshe and Mir, his serving as a rabbi in Bavaria, his leaving Germany due to threats on his life by the Nazis, his escape to America, and his serving as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Baltimore from 1936 to 1958.

In 1958 Rabbi Schwab was invited to join Rabbi Dr. Yoseph Breuer, zt”l, as associate rav of the German-Jewish community in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, Khal Adath Jeshurun. This community is widely regarded as the spiritual “continuation” of the pre-war Frankfurt kehilla.

With Rabbi Breuer’s increasing age and infirmity, Rav Schwab took on many leadership roles. After Rav Breuer was nifter in 1980, Rav Schwab led the community until his passing in 1995.

This month we look at Rav Schwab’s values and views.


Well Prepared for His Role as Rav

“Rav Schwab combined the ideals of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, architect of Torah Orthodoxy in the Western world, and the intense commitment to limud ha Torah that is the legacy of the great Lithuanian yeshivas.

“Rav Schwab was not a bridge between two worlds, between East and West –bridges are not for living on. He was rather the embodiment of the Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim Chaim…. He embodied in one person two diverse Torah cultures: the glorious Frankfurt tradition of Rav Hirsch, with its emphasis on adherence to the emes and insistence on putting the stamp of Torah on every area of public and private endeavor…combined with unwavering devotion to intense Torah study, which was the hallmark of the great yeshivas of Lithuania. On the one hand, he absorbed the Chofetz Chaim’s caress; on the other, he observed the admonishment of the alter Gerrer Rebbe who characterized Rav Hirsch as ‘a lebedige mussar sefer.

“His mission was to make this heady blend the reality of authentic Torah life in America. He wished to set an example for the American ben Torah, whether engaged in full-time Torah study or as a working man. Rav Schwab was convinced that Torah im Derech Eretz offers a vision of Judaism ‘in a way that can be accepted…by the five-and-a-half-million uncommitted Jews in the vast spiritual wasteland that is today’s America in a language they can understand.”[i]

The following is from “Rav Schwab on Chumash,” written by his son Rabbi Myer J. Schwab who has kindly permitted me to quote from it.

Master Orator and Teacher

Rav Schwab was a master orator, and many looked forward to his talks at Agudah Conventions. He invariably spoke in English, although I recall being at one talk which he began in Yiddish. Many of the attendees were clearly disappointed and surprised that he was speaking in Yiddish. However, about 5 minutes into his talk, in Yiddish, he said that one must speak in the language people understandand. There was thunderous applause, and he continued the rest of his address in English.

Rav Schwab was at his best when he was lecturing or giving a shiur. As is well known, the Rav offered numerous unique interpretations of Chumash and Tanach, many of which have been recorded in his Ma’ayan Beis Hasho’evah. Posthumously, a series of books – Rav Schwab on Prayer, Rav Schwab on Iyov, Rav on Yeshayahu, Rav Schwab on Ezra and Nechemiah – was published which contain many new insights that were previously unknown to the general public.

“These insights resulted from his da’as Torah, his instinctive feeling for the inner meaning of the words of Torah and Tanach. This sense grew from his thorough knowledge of the language of the Torah and its rules of dikduk, his thorough grounding in Talmud and Midrash, and most of all from his deep piety, all of which were enhanced by his superb and clear mind.”

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Rav Bina’s Shavuot Message

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Video of the Day

8 Women Receive Orthodox Ordination in Largely Political Endeavor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned. Or more simply, because she has a PhD, but no ordination.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become a Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they pasken on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halakha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskening on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else.


Rav Herzog’s ‘Rabbits’ And Other Rabbinic Pesach Correspondence

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Most any historical documents collector can try, but never fully succeed, to explain to non-collectors the electrifying charge one can experience when handling a true paper treasure: “Abraham Lincoln actually held this paper in his hands!” “Can you believe that these are the actual words written by Albert Einstein?”

But there is a whole other transcendental level of delight, enchantment, and reverence that applies to collectors of Judaica documents.

For example, I can never forget the sublime feeling I had when I actually merited to own and hold a letter fully handwritten by the Chofetz Chaim, or when I first added a correspondence by Rav Chaim Brisker to my assemblage of great rabbanim and gaonim. These are far more than important historical artifacts; they are true devarim she-b’kedushah (holy items) that must be treasured and respected as such.

With that in mind, and to mark the final days of Pesach, I thought I’d share some of my rabbinical letters on the subject of Passover. However, I must first note that presenting the very brief biographical summaries that follow proved particularly daunting and is in no way intended to provide any compressive presentation of the holy lives and great deeds of these Torah giants.

* * * * *

Rav Isaac Halevi Herzog (1888-1959) received semicha from the Ridbaz and his doctorate in literature from the University of London. After serving as the rav of Belfast, as chief rabbi of the Irish Free State, and founding the Mizrachi Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, he succeeded Rav Kook as chief rabbi of Eretz Yisrael (1937). He enacted takkanot in matters of personal status and effected significant advances by reconciling the necessities of modern living with halachic demands, but he was perhaps most renowned for his belief in the importance of every Jew, regardless of level of observance, and for his loving outreach to the non-religious elements and kibbutzim, which proved highly controversial in some haredi circles.

In the 28 Adar 1942 correspondence on his Chief Rabbi letterhead reproduced on this page (exhibit 1), Rav Herzog writes:

We are honored to ask you to warn all the owners of the dairies in your place to extinguish all the shefanim and unleavened bread from their homes and properties from the 14th of Nissan and onward. Otherwise, do not give them a Certificate of Kashrut on their milk.

We already provided this notification to the management of the “Tenuva” company.

And we hereby bless you with a kosher and happy Passover.

Though “shefanim” is usually translated as “rabbits,” contemporary scholars agree that this cannot be correct because of the most basic principle of biblical zoology: geographical distribution. That is, all the animals mentioned in the Tanach were familiar to the Jewish people because they either lived in Eretz Yisrael or were brought there (including, for example, monkeys and peacocks which, although not native to the land, were brought in as gifts for King Solomon).

Rabbits, which lived only in southern Africa and Spain, have never lived in Eretz Yisrael and there is no evidence that they were ever imported there. On the other hand, hyraxes – which, interestingly, are called “shafan” in local Arab dialects – may be found in Eretz Yisrael but not in Europe. See Regarding the Identity of the Shafan, by Rabbi Natan Slifkin – the famous “zoo rabbi.”

The word “shefanim” appears only twice in Tanach, Proverbs 30:26 and Psalm 104 – the beautiful Barchi Nafshi, in which King David describes the wonders of all creation from the perspective of Jew living in Eretz Yisrael. At 104:18, he writes: “The high hills are for the ibex, the rocks are a refuge for the shefanim.” In this context, as Rabbi Slifkin argues, King David cannot be describing the rabbits of southern Africa, which, as noted, were not native to Eretz Yisrael. Further, Samuel I 24:2 describes how King David spent time in Ein Gedi among the ibex, and it defies credulity to believe that in Psalms he would neglect to describe the hyrax, which hides in the rocks in the very same area, in favor of the rabbit that lives in South Africa. In fact, both the ibex and hyrax may be seen even today in the mountains of Ein Gedi.

Saul Jay Singer

‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos [“thinking capacity”] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-banner-raised-high/you-murder-the-children-rav-soloveitchik-on-abortion/2013/09/23/

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