Thursday, 31 March 2011

P. Shmini - Asher Lo Tsivah 2 - Truth or Consequences

Originally published 3/31/11, 6:54 pm.
Previously, I had written:
3. [Can work either way] N&A were left vulnerable to a form of spiritual "radiation" because their Q'toret with eish zarah was ersatz instead of genuine, leaving them unprotected against "eish Hashem". Not sin so much as a failure to use a bona fide Q'toret allowed them to get burnt. [See Hafatarah of Uzah]. A genuine q'toret was tantamount to a radiation suit. Don't play with the rules lest you risk exposure.
When I was teaching the Parshah at Cong. MT. Sinai in Wash Heights, circa late 1990's, I made a conscious approach to shift away from the idea of punishment and vindictiveness and towards "spiritual consequences" in order to portray that "Elohim-Teva-Middat Haddin" is a function of the natural order and that Elohim is not out to get anyone. I was mostly inspired by Sefer Hachinuch's compassionate approach to Torah, and BE"H I've since discovered a similar Hashqafah in Tomer D'vorah, as well as, to an extent, in other s'farim.
When a child such as myself who once did this - but please do NOT try it at home - sticks his hand into an electric outlet one will receive a shock but not due to a malicious, vindictive G-d.
Similarly,  Nadav & Avihu and Uzzah died - according to my parshanut - because they got overwhelmingly exposed to a kind of radiation. This same radiation of shechinah, for instance, could blind those peeking at birkas kohanim in the. Mikdash. Or could kill the Kohein Gadol on YK if or when his Q'toret or Avodah were somehow flawed. The cloud of a valid Q'tores acts as a Divine shield protecting the Kohein Gadol. Nadav & Avihu lacked that.
Uzzah could never touch the Aron Hakodesh with his bare hands and live. I darshen away any "anger" on behalf of Hashem and see it as merely as manifestation of a typical human perception of Divine Anger
L'mashal: my daughter once banged herself as a toddler against the table. The baby-sitter yelled, "bad table" a very human reaction. But the table was static. So was the "radiation" from the Aron in Uzzah's case or the Shechinah in the case of Nadav &Avihu. Their impulsivity got them in trouble by going to an unsafe precinct without proper protection.
Similarly, when one cheats with weights and measures Hashem ALLOWS Amaleiq C"V to harm us. He does not necessarily send them. Yes this is similar to l'havdil Jerry Falwell's "drashah" regarding 9/11, the removal of a Divine Shield. His reason for HOW/WHY that shield was removed is quite debatable, but I had already bought into that approach myself long before 9/11.

An Adam Harishon who defies Hashem by eating the forbidden fruit may not remain in Gan Eden.
A Bnai Yisroel dor hamidbar that weeps over the spies cannot enter Israel.
A King Shaul who saves Agag may not rule. Even though, as per Midrash, Shaul was no sinner, he suffered for his flaw as did all of the above suffer the consequences of their character flaws.
Thus the onesh in the Torah is, to me, Consequences, as in Truth or consequences.
And yes - Once in a while a neis intervenes, for example, in the case of Yosef in the pit, etc.
I hope this helps.


How Saddam Hussein Vindicated Rabbi Rich

Circa 1983 I heard a d'var Torah from a Recon Talmud Torah Teacher stating that he found Par'oh's stubbornness in the face of the plagues as incomprehensible. And as such he could not and did not take this story as factual.
I bristled a bit until 1991 when Saddam Hussein remained steadfast in the face of a massive coalition during the first Gulf War. And after all - all Saddam needed to do was to withdraw from Kuwait and the ultimatum would have been rescinded and the coalition would have dissolved
But Saddam did NOT acquiesce. I saw this as a reflection of Par'oh's own "hard heart" and a reminder that that story COULD have been quite literally true - and not just literary license. Vindication at last.
[Not to mention the Midrashic connection between Par'oh and melech Ninveh etc. ]
And it's also a lesson to us in the present and future that such arrogant potentates can be more obstinate than reasonable


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

P. Shmini - Asher Lo Tsivah

There is essentially a 2-way split on Pashanut here re: Nadav and Avihu and their introduction of eish zara. These diverse schools may help BE"H to generate a future Nishmablog Poll. The third school is kinda tangential.

Asher Lo Tzivah
1. "They were commanded NOT" - N&A were commanded NOT to bring such an eish zarah. Ergo they sought spirituality via transgressing a commandment [Tur et. Al.]. Hence they got burnt [literaly]. Don't serve Hashem by violating protocol
2. "They were NOT commanded" - N&A added on an unneeded Embellishment. They were excessively "frum" in their approach to spirituality. Their zeal was their sin [popular among Left-wing circles] Don't be mosif "humrot". [Bal tosif. Al t'hee tzaddiq harbei]
3. [Can work either way] N&A were left vulnerable to a form of spiritual "radiation" because their Q'toret with eish zarah was ersatz instead of genuine, leaving them unprotected against "eish Hashem". Not sin so much as a failure to use a bona fide Q'toret which allowed them get burnt. [See Hafatarah of Uzah]. A genuine q'toret was tantamount to a radiation suit. Don't play with the rules lest you risk exposure.

Pick your parshanut preference.

Related [ersatz] Spirituality
Story. A Woman is looking to add a spiritual dimension to her avodah. A Great Gadol "Moshe" says to her to experiment with a 4-cornered garment w/o tzitzit. She finds it exhilarating, and so Moshe exclaims -
"For three months, you have been wearing a garment without any religious or halachic value, it is thus clear
that your feeling comes from a source outside of the Mitzvah", and he [Moshe] did not grant her permission to wear a Talit
To which Avodah's R Micha Berger protested:
We do many things that come from sources outside the mitzvah. "Hinei Keil yeshuasi" before Havdalah, for example. The particular patterns of hand washing most qehillos use for neigl vasr or before hamotzi. Qabbalas Shabbos. Etc, etc, etc... Why is this woman wanting to do something that makes her feel connected to the Borei valueless just because it is non-halachic? Would this Gadol "Moshe" have given the same advice to NCSY and tell them to stop doing kumzitzin or a pre-havdalah "ebbing" for an hour?
This offers us a segue towards a poll on Valid Paths to spirituality in Judaism. What parameters are permitted or desirable?


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

JVO: Celebrating "Saint or Spirit-based" Days

Originally published 3/29/11, 10:35 pm.
Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

* * * * *

Question: What is the Jewish view on celebrating "saint or spirit based" days like Halloween or the upcoming Valentines Day? By now they are more commercial than pagan. Is there a problem in either Jewish law or custom?

Rabbi Wolpoe's answer

Let's start simply with 3 factors

Stage 1 - Origins

In the days when these holidays where celebrated as religious observances - no question that they were outside the Halachic Pale.  This is well-documented in Talmud Avodah Zoro and the corresponding Rambam Hilchot "AKu'M"

Stage 2 - Renouncement

When an idol worshipper renounces his idol, that idol reverts to being profane, secular.  It is permitted for most uses - although it may never be used for any holy ritual purpose

Aspect 3 -  Hashkafah or "Spirit of the Law"

Even when Halachically permitted, a former idol may carry "spiritual baggage" thus - while being technically permitted does not necessarily make it desirable.

No doubt Holidays such as Halloween, Ground Hog Day, Valentine's have morphed into something secular.  The questions remain

A How complete are those renouncements?  IOW are witches still stirring their cauldrons on Halloween?


B. How much Pagan or non-Jewish overtones remain?

It seems to me that a Valentine's Day card or flowers to one's spouse is fairly innocuous.  Maybe passively watching a Mardi Gras parade as entertainment is less offensive to the "spiritual" aspects of the law. OTOH, trick-or-treating dressed as a ghoul or goblin seems to me more sketchy.

At any rate, any participation for the sake of assimilation is questionable and not desirable, even when not outright forbidden.

However, there are some areas where innocent participation may do no harm. It would always be a good idea to Weigh Community Standards and to consult one's Spiritual Leader



Talmud Avodah Zara

Rambam Mishneh Torah Hilchot AKu"M 

Vile Misunderstanding

Originally published 3/29/11, 10:48 am.
At first, I really didn't bother to look at this item in the "Torah in the News" section on the blog. But then, during my web shiur, one of the students asked me about it, wondering how it found a place on the blog. I explained that the content of the blog's "Torah in the News" section is really 'determined by Google'.He told me that nonetheless I should read it -- it upset the student greatly...and rightfully so.

The article may be found here. I have also re-produced at the bottom of this post.

The basic theme of this article -- it was actually a letter to this paper -- is the argument that pedophiles are protected within the ultra-Orthodox community. This is, of course, a major issue within the Orthodox world -- the question being to what extent the secular, criminal authorities should be involved in the policing of the Orthodox world? My point, though, does not revolve around that issue -- although I cannot see, in matters such as these where individuals, children, are being hurt in their very being, that we cannot do do what is necessary to protect them. (Rav Moshe maintained that while in matters of financial harm, there may be a problem with giving over a fellow Jew to the authorities, there can be no doubt that in matters of physical harm, we are commanded to do so.) There was, however, a specific point in this article that was extremely bothersome in a different way.

The author of this letter attempts to argue that the reason Orthodox Judaism is lenient towards pedophilia is because the Talmud defines, as this author puts it, the "legal age of sexual maturity for girls" at 3. Indeed this is a true statement in that the physical sexual act is deemed to be a bi'ah when a girl is 3 (and a boy is 9) but the context is vastly different than implied in this letter. The gemara is presenting a legal, technical definition. When does the physical act assume the legal definition of a bi'ah with the resulting legal consequences that are connected with this definition? It has nothing to do with, as this letter writer insinuates, an acceptance of such conduct. In fact, that Talmud looked very negatively on relations with minors even if the minor was technically married as would be possible for a female minor through her father accepting the kiddushin for her. As a legal system, Halacha renders legal definitions; the rendering of such legal definitions, though, does not, in any way, voice an opinion on the propriety of such act. Defining a physical sexual act with a three year old as a legal bi'ah does not in any way voice an opinion on the propriety of such an act -- and such a conclusion is an incorrect one. The letter writer is thus wrong for insinuating that this definition of bi'ah implies that Orthodoxy, in any way, gives some type of acceptable status to sexual relations with minors. It does not!

The reality is that this is a problem that occurs numerous times when people outside the world of Torah read passages or sections of the gemara. The fact that the gemara spends time on a specific issue to attempt to define its legal, halachic parameters does not necessarily voice an opinion on the ethical nature of an act. For example, the fact that someone who sealed a person in a room without food and water causing this person to eventually die of dehydration or starvation is not technically guilty of murder deserving the death penalty does not mean that this act is any less horrendous that an act of direct murder. In fact, it may be more horrendous. The Halacha is presenting a legal definition. It is not, through its process of definition, voicing an opinion on propriety. This is something that is so often misunderstood -- or perhaps intentionally misunderstood -- leading to the Talmud sadly being used to challenge the Jewish People

Rabbi Ben Hecht


Baltimore City Paper

Ultra Pedophiles

Andrea Appleton’s “Silent No More” (Feature, March 9) was a fine treatment of Phil Jacobs’ “several-year quest to expose sexual abuse within Baltimore’s insular Orthodox community,” an effort that resulted in huge repercussions for him personally.
The pedophilia question is a particularly sensitive matter, especially since, as the article indicates, the tendency of the insular (=ultra) Orthodox is to dismiss it or wish to cover it up, even going so far as to invoke Jewish law (Halacha) to chastise Mr. Jacobs for “embarrassing” the Jewish community by exposing it. As though Jewish law trumps American law in Baltimore!
As New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (who, like Phil Jacobs, is himself Orthodox) observed, “If you’re a pedophile, the best place for you to come to are some of the [ultra-Orthodox] Jewish communities. Why? Because you can be a pedophile and no one’s going to do anything.” (The Jewish Daily Forward, March 13, 2009).
One is prompted to ask : Might there be something in the culture of this community that fosters such outrageous permissiveness? Sadly, there is.
Orthodox Jews strictly follow all the dictates of the Talmud (the non-Orthodox do so critically and selectively). According to the Talmud, “a girl of the age of three years and one day may be betrothed by intercourse.” (Niddah 44b, Yebamoth 57b). For the Talmud, the legal age of sexual maturity for girls is 3 years and one day—and for boys 9 years of age.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is currently holding hearings in Washington because it is his position that the religion of Islam predisposes its followers to engage in terrorist acts against the United States.
Just as the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists, so the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews are not pedophiles.
But fair is fair. If the American Muslim faith community can be faulted as being “soft on extremism” (per Rep. King), then the ultra-Orthodox contingent (per Assemblyman Hikind) can be accused of being “soft on pedophilia.” Certainly, as Rep. King insists, if there are “too many mosques in this country,” then—if Baltimore is any indication—there are also far too many ultra-Orthodox institutions that are pedophilia-friendly.
Therefore, it seems to me that if a Congressional investigation of Islam is valid, then by the same token, should not, perhaps on the local or state level, a similar probe be launched exploring ultra-Orthodox Judaism’s apparent predisposition toward sexual abuse of children? In the words of Rep. King: “It is our responsibility to put aside political correctness and define who our enemy truly is.”
By all means. Especially for the sake of the children. Of Pikesville.
Or is the trump card quashing any such inquiry going to be that, while the American Muslim community is not politically well connected, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community definitely is—especially in Baltimore.
Luke Sanders

Monday, 28 March 2011

New cRc pre-Pesach Liquor list is on cRc website

The current edition of "The Kosher Consumer" can be found on the cRc website by clicking on the link below.


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Talmud Study Now Mandatory in South Korea

This is a fascinating article about Talmud study in South Korea. See
(A Hebrew article from Ynet is available at,7340,L-4046985,00.html)

It seems that the South Koreans are enthralled about Talmud study. It reminds me of the push by Rabbi Yisroel Salanter to have Talmud study be introduced to universities in Europe for thereby its study would be respected for its intellectual challenge. It seems that the South Koreans go beyond this, truly praising the intellectual challenge inherent in Talmud study. The only question I have is where will this take the South Koreans. Could it possibly even result in an increase in South Korean conversions to Judaism?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tanna d'vei Eliyau on Moshe, Castigation and Immortality

Originally published 3/26/11, 8:25 pm.
See Tanna d'vei Eliyahu, Shai Lamora edition, Ch. 4 pp. 36-41

1. While Mosheh Rabbenu did pray to save Israel from the evil of the Molten Calf, nevertheless, he did have 3,000 Israelites executed. So even when having great compassion, some Middat Haddin is exacted in order to appease "Justice." 100% Chessed would have backfired here when a massive deviation was committed
[Bottom of p. 39]
2. Moshe remained "vital" even in death. Lo noss leicho v'lo kahatah eino.
[Top of p. 40]
3. Every Talmid Hacham who occupies himself with Torah from youth through his old age and death, in truth, is not dead, but is rather alive forever.
Thus, it stands to reason that, any life-long Talmid Hacham is really alive all along and is capable of being -  a leader - at any time of Hashem's choosing.


Friday, 25 March 2011

"NaRaN" and Freudian Ego

Originally published 3/25/11, 12:18 pm.
I recently saw in Orchot Tzaddikim that the n'shmanah is described like a kind of super-ego . See Feldheim Hebrew edition p. 294 paragraph "V'atah Odiacha hochmat hannefesh v'ruach unshamah.."

It seems the N'shamah functions as the wise soul that overrides the desires of the nefesh and ruach "Hanshamah hi va'alat hachochmah ... umo'esset b'ta'anugei v'nei Adam.."

Does this model resemble Freud's "id, ego, and superego" ? Do they map out at all with NaRaN - at least as the model described in Orchot Tzadikkim?


My current hypothesis:

Neshammah seems to match super-ego

Nefesh the id

And Ruach the ego EG
«al kein ga'avat haleiv nikrreis "gassut ru'ach

Here is wikipedia on Freud's
id, ego, and super-ego,_ego,_and_super-ego

Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organised, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralising role.[1]

Even though the model is "structural" and makes reference to an "apparatus", the id, ego and super-ego are functions of the mind rather than parts of the brain and do not correspond one-to-one with actual somatic structures of the kind dealt with by neuroscience.

The concepts themselves arose at a late stage in the development of Freud's thought: the 'structural model' (which succeeded his 'economic model' and 'topographical model') was first discussed in his 1920 essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" and was formalised and elaborated upon three years later in his "The Ego and the Id". Freud's proposal was influenced by the ambiguity of the term "unconscious" and its many conflicting uses.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mishnah P'sachim 2:1 - K'Rabban Gamliel

Originally published 3/24/11, 10:59 am.
Kehatti and Bartenura state that Rabban Gamliel is the author of this Mishnah based upon 1:5 meaning so long as a Kohein may eat a Yisroel may feed it to his animal.
It seems simpler to attribute this to R' Meir of 1:4 who sees the time of eating and hana'ah as level.
I then checked the G'mara and sure enough it first says "Stam" that it's R Meir. Then it quotes Rabbah bar Ulah saying it's R Gamliel, but he needs a hachi K'amar to make that work.
I wonder - does Rabbah bar Ulah mean to substitute R Gamliel for R Meir or to add him as another possible Tanna in addition to R Meir?

Mishnah Source

מסכת פסחים פרק א
א,ד רבי מאיר אומר, אוכלין כל חמש, ושורפין בתחילת שש; רבי יהודה אומר, אוכלין כל ארבע, ותולין כל חמש, ושורפין בתחילת שש.
א,ה ועוד אמר רבי יהודה, שתי חלות שבתודה פסולות ומונחות על גב האיצטווה--כל זמן שהן מונחות, כל העם אוכלין; ניטלה אחת מהן, תולין--לא אוכלין ולא שורפין; ניטלו שתיהן, התחילו כל העם שורפין. רבן גמליאל אומר, חולין נאכלין כל ארבע, ותרומה כל חמש, ושורפין בתחילת שש.

מסכת פסחים פרק ב
ב,א כל שעה שהוא מותר לאכול--מאכיל לבהמה לחיה ולעופות, ומוכרו לנוכרי, ומותר בהנאתו; עבר זמנו--אסור בהנאתו, לא יסיק בו תנור וכיריים. רבי יהודה אומר, אין ביעור חמץ אלא שריפה; וחכמים אומרים, מפרר וזורה לרוח, או מטיל לים


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Kitzur SA 197:1 Tachrichin and T'chiyyat Hammeitim

Note this question is more on the Minhag than on the author....
We bury a meit in "fine white linen" to show we believe in T'chiyyat Hammeitim
Yet, we also cut off one of the tzitzit - or tuck one in - ostensibly because the dead are exempt from mitzvot.

But - given t'chiyyat hammeitim - shouldn't we bury them with a kosher tallit?


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mishnah P'sachim 1:5 - Lachmei Todah

Originally published 3/22/11, 10:13 am.
Kehatti and RAV explain that
The Qorban Todah is not brought Erev Pesach due to the limited time to eat Hameitz.  Since 10 of the Lachmei Todah are Hameitz, and they may only be eaten until the 5th hour, therefore one may not offer a Todah Erev Pesach.

If 30 loaves were made from Matzah
If it is prohibited from eating Matzah Erev Pesach from dawn onwards, why do we need the reason of 10 lachmei Hameitz? Even Lachmei Matzah would be prohibited at an even earlier time?
Unless one says that the Lachmei Matzah will become permitted at night during the Seder.

Does anyone speak on this issue?


Monday, 21 March 2011

HHH - Esther 9:14 Hanging b'nei Haman

Originally published 3/21/11, 8:33 pm.
It seems odd [to some] that -
In 9:11, Haman's 10 sons were already dead
Q: if the sons were already dead then why bother to hang them in 14?
A: In reality, the 10 sons had already been executed by the sword. The subsequent hanging was not an execution - rather it was for publicity purposes as a form of "pirsum."
See E.G. Ki Teitzei 21:22 where those executed by Beth Din were subsequently hanged - even though hanging was not one of the 4 mitot Beit Din.


HHH - Mishnah P'sachim 1:1 "v'Lamah"

Originally published 3/21/11, 10:03 am.
"v'Lamah amru sh'tei shurot bamarteif?"
Nireh Li -
The question here is not really a true why question or a "madua" question
The Mishnah here [and in several similar cases] reads better by changing the girsa to "uVAmeh" with a veit instead of lamed. Namely - "And in what case did they say two rows in the wine cellar?"
An actual physical change of girsa is not really needed. Just a mental note that this does now mean "why?" so much as "in what or which case?"


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Given: 30 Days Before Passover That We're Obligated in B'diqah

This is a proverbial Chicken vs. Egg question:

Given: 30 Days Before Passover That We're Obligated in B'diqah for various situations - EG leaving one's home -

Which came first?

A. The Obligation to do b'diqah within 30 days is due to "shoalin v'dorshin b'hilchot Pesach 30 Yom qodem hachag"?

Or Conversely

B The Obligation to do "shoalin v'dorshin b'hilchot Pesach 30 Yom qodem hachag" is due to to the Chov of B'diqah?

The Popular Answer is probably A See EG Kitzur SA 112:13 reflecting the Tur O"Ch 429

But this answer seems hard to understand - how does shoalin v'dorshin trigger a hiyyuv b'diqah?

There IS the B alternative found in the Posqim - Viz. That since there is a hiyyuv B'diqah the obligation is to start teaching these Halachot at this time because it is now "mei'inyana d'yoma"

This is the bei'ur of the Taz O"ch 429:1 at the end starting "yeish tzorech ... Ki im b'mi sheyotzei mibeito"

This approach might address the concerns of the Hoq Yaakov there [1] based upon the Yerushalmi.


Shu"t Purim - Hameitz on Purim

Originally published 3/20/11/7;03 pm.
Q: Rabbi Wolpoe - how do we know that we Jews behave "crazy" on Purim?

A: Because 30 days prior to Pesach - when we're supposed to begin ridding ourselves of excess Hameitz - we send massive amounts of Hameitz to everyone we know (including casual acquaintances) in a March Madness known as Mishloach Manot while engaging in a kol haMarbeh harei zeh Meshubach Manic Mindset
If we really had good humros -we would disallow any newly manufactured Hameitz and either gift no Hameitz before its time or at least rid ourselves of any pre-existing Hameitz instead of multiplying it anew. Not to mention, Haddash assur min hatorah!
Kein Nireh lefi Shikrut Daati

PS. (Mahadura t',inah).B"H. I have discovered that there is a wonderful minhag to consume copious amounts of liquid hameitz in the forms or beer and booze davqa 30 days before Pesach -
So never mind! :)


'Tis the Season Purim Humour

Originally published 3/20/11, 11:26 am.
Here's a cute joke I heard at a Bar Mitzvah
Rashi's wife comes home from shopping....
Rashi: Your new shoes don't match your dress
Mrs. Rashi: Rashi! Do you have to comment on EVERYTHING!?

Frelichen Purim,

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mussar: Tomer D'vorah 5 - Lamul et ho'Orlah an act of Chessed

Tomer D'vorah 5 - Lamul et ho'Orlah [Tomer Publications pp. 52-53] paragraph beginning Sh'niyah..

English Translation:

«One should pursue all those who cause foreskin to be there, and bring them back to repentance .... He must maintain a firm stance in rectifying everything which causes the foreskin to be there. For this reason ... Pinchas became worthy of the priesthood for he did CHESSED with his Creator..»

When is being a Qannai deemed an act of Chessed? Wouldn't we attribute to it a different middah - such as G'vurah?

Yet taking up the cudgels for Hashem's honour - even in a most confrontational way - may be deemed a Chessed. This may dovetail with Moshe's command to the Levites to execute 3,000 @ the time of the Eigel, as an act of removing that Orlah from Israel.

How might this apply today? Are there Orlot hanging on to otherwise good Jews that need to be circumcised?

Are those opposed to Milah in SF clinging to a form of Orlah? In Opposing mutilation are they perpetuating another agenda?


Thursday, 17 March 2011

The 25th Yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Feinstein zt'l

Part of "Ho'ish Moshe Anav M'od" is that [reputedly] he never insisted that his word was the final word. He felt one who could bring the sources etc. was entitled to dissent.
He also transcended labels and was comfortable in All kinds of Orthodox circles. He could attend a Young Israel and be OK with that. He had links to the Torah uMada community via his son-in-law and was very open-minded about getting scientific input to his process.
As we know, his kinship with the Rav ZT"L also made him unique in the yeshivishe velt. With RMF - Anyone who was within the Torah World was OK
E.G. I'm told that he accepted Ashkenazic Rabbenu Tam Tefillin from the Lubavicher Rebbe - specially commissioned for him.
Not since the era of RY Karo and RM Isserles has the Torah world been dominated by two Torah Giants named R Yosef and R Moshe. I don't believe that North America will ever have two twin towers like that again.


Results of Poll on: Responsibility and Behaviour

In our last poll, we inquired:

New Poll: Responsibility and Behaviour

A police officer in Toronto was recently
reprimanded for telling an audience of female
university students that they should avoid
dressing in a provocative manner in order not
to be victimized. “In fact, this is completely
contradictory to what officers are taught,” a
Toronto police spokeswoman said. “They are
taught that nothing a woman does contributes
to a sexual

What do you think?

A. The perpetrator is 100% responsible -
therefore no woman need be concerned about
her mode of dress. Let's never blame the

B. The perpetrator is 100% responsible for
the crime - but why INVITE criminal behaviour?

C. It is true the criminal is responsible for
his crime. Yet the woman can also be responsible
for her dress. While 2 wrongs don't make a right
- dressing in an enticing manner is still "wrong".

D. Perpetrators are attracted to certain vibes.  
Victims often DO invite attack albeit on an
unconscious level. While there are exceptions,
any immodest dress is manifest evidence of an
unconscious desire to stimulate desire.

Which One Do You Favour?

 Your Responses (total 15)
Choice 1 - 13% (2)
Choice 2 - 40% (6)
Choice 3 - 34% (5)
Choice 4 - 13% (2)

Rabbi Wolpoe
Re: Purim, Haman is an unqualified Rasha BUT nevertheless the Jews were held accountable for the evil decree. Similarlly, Par'oh was a Rasha, yet Israel or Avraham was responsible for the decree of slavery. Thus, we see as per Hazal, that the evil of the rapist is no excuse for immodest behaviour. Torah Values are not politically correct values
Rabbi Hecht
The vast majority of respondents would seem to recognize that life is not lived in a vacuum. Our actions are results of the dynamics of living. This, in line with the largest sub-group, does not necessarily mean that one is less culpable but, nonetheless, it is a reality to consider.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

KSA 141:2,8 - Ta'anit Esther

Originally published 3/16/11, 8:57 pm.
We are told by the Kitzur SA in 141:2, as well as by other posqim, to be lenient regarding the fast of Ta'anit Esther.
In 141:8 we are also told to be strict and not to lein the Megillah early before Tzeit. Yet the Kitzur SA is lenient - IIRC al pi Magen Avraham - to allow a t'imah b'alma, for example, a cup of coffee - before the Laining if one is suffering.
What I find odd is that some posqim who are lenient regarding starting the fast at all, are also strict regarding breaking the fast before Laining Megillah. Seems ironic to me.


Tehilim Chapter 46 - Prayers for Japan's Tragedy

My best choice as a recitation in the wake of the awful tsunami
Jewish Bible (JPS 1917) - Tehilim Chapter 46

Psalm 46
For the Leader; a Psalm of the sons of Korah; upon Alamoth. A Song.
G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, and though the mountains be moved into the heart of the seas;
Though the waters thereof roar and foam, though the mountains shake at the swelling thereof. Selah
There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of G-d, the holiest dwelling-place of the Most High.
G-d is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; G-d shall help her, at the approach of morning.
Nations were in tumult, kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
HaShem of hosts is with us; the G-d of Jacob is our high tower. Selah
Come, behold the works of HaShem, who hath made desolations in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariots in the fire.
'Let be, and know that I am G-d; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'
HaShem of hosts is with us; the G-d of Jacob is our high tower. Selah
Psalm 46 (King James Version)
Psalm 46
 1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
 2Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
 3Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
 4There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
 5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
 6The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
 7The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
 8Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
 9He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
 10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
 11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

JVO: Charging Interest

Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

* * * * *

Question: Please explain the prohibition that a Jew should not charge a Jew interest on a loan and the practicality of this prohibition in a modern world.

Rabbi Wolpoe's Answer
Let's divide this into 3 parts

"Please explain the prohibition.."

A:  From an Orthodox perspective this is a command from Divine Torah, and we can never be certain of its definitive reason or reasons.

Nevertheless, we have a rich literature that does offer several rationales - EG see Sources Below esp. Hinuch 66-68

Q: "...a Jew should not charge a Jew interest on a loan.."

A: The Torah says we may charge a Gentile interest - apparently because they charge US interest

We must recall that the Torah presumed a Nation-State of Israel that consisted of mostly Jews and the Quasi-Convert known as a "Ger Toshav". Our exilic experience has called for some modfications from that ideal.

My own personal philosophy is based upon a simple economic principle [pun intended] - namely that the entire people of Israel are construed as family and therefore we act in a co-operative manner. That implies helping out our brothers and sisters with interest free loans.

I'm guessing - at least until the advent of the Messiah - that we do not construe Gentiles as part of this family, though of course they may join us of their own free will.

Note: It remains a gray area. Do we charge Gentiles interest as a form of reciprocity, or because they fail to be have close enough "kinship"?

Q: "...and the practicality of this prohibition in a modern world."

A Rabbinic literature seems to construe the "interst-free loan" as support for family needs.  Therefore, when a business loan is needed, a "workaround" or cicumvention has been formulated, that is a "heter iska" or a permit for business

Usually mortgage loans are included as "business loans"

In order to make modern commerce possible, there is a moderate loophole that would afford a Jew to lend and borrow from a fellow Jew.

Another "loophole" would be to emply a Gentile as a middleman. Thus Abraham would lend to John who then in turn would lend to Isaac.  Don't try this by yourself at home - without rabbinical supervision!   :-)

There is often a natural tension between Torah ideals and pragmatic reality.  In Traditional Torah Judaism, rabbis usually have tried to steer a middle course in avoiding either extreme.


For the Torah Point of View see -

Torah -
Parshat . Mishpatim
Ex. 22:24-26

Parshat. R'eih
Deut. 14:22 - 15:18

See Rashi on Both Sections.

See Sefer HaChinuch
66-68, 475-482

For Practical Laws and Customs -

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Chapters 33 & 34,
Also 179-189 esp. 179 & 180


Monday, 14 March 2011

Dialectic 1 - Mishnah M'gilah 2:8 - Ein M'dalgin baTorah

Originally published 3/14/11, 10:00 am.
The Mishnah explicitly prohibits skipping during the Torah Reading.
Kehatti quoting Bavli finds a contradictory Mishnah in Yoma 7:1 that the Cohein Gadol skipped around when reading on Yom Kippur.
The Bavli's resolution? To limit the prohibition to the case when changing the inyan. We follow this Halachah which allows us to skip a passage in Vaychal during Fast Days

Note, there are other possible resolutions. For example, the Talmud could have stated:
A. The Mishnayot are in conflict due to different Tannaim
B. An exemption was made ONLY for the Cohein Gadol on Yom Kippur.


Gaonim and Rishonim did the same thing to the Talmud, that is to resolve contradictions by means of dialectic or Hilluq, and to not presume that the Talmud resolved all such cases itself
BE"H in part 2 - we shall examine a pertinent case regarding reading M'gilat Esther on Purim.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

KSA 141:1, 122:7 - Mishenichnas Adar, Mishenichnas Av

There are apparently [at least] 2 approaches to going to judgment or "din" during Adar

1. We have a "spiritual" upper hand at work. Thus there are forces pulling strings on our behalf as in "Days of Yore"

2. We are joyous. Thus we are PSYCHED UP by being in a ebullient mood. This mindset is geared to make us successful in a psychological way due to natural forces such as "charisma" and positive attitude.

The Kitzur SA seems to indicate the 2nd derech in his terse summation in 141:1

Note, too, that the converse should be true for Mishenichnas Av. There in KSA 122:7 we apparently see reason #1 "d'rei'a mazleih"

However, this perhaps CAN be understood as a term [bittuy] for our mental melancholia and not something supernatural at all

I'd like to say the following

The moods of Adar and Av seem to be not only descriptive, but also prescriptive.

Therefore going to DIN should reflect those moods. E.G. Were we to go to Din during Av and be in an optimistic mood, there would be something missing from our "avodah.". Similarly, we should dispel any internal pessimism during Adar.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

P. Vayiqra - Two Mussar Maxims from Torah T'mimah

Originally published 3/12/11, 7:59 pm.
Here are two tweets giving us Mussar on the parshah from the Torah Temimah.

"@NishmaTweet: P. Vayiqra 1:1 Mussar 1 TT [1] don't enter pi'tom. Announce yourself first. Good etiquette, good psychology."

"@NishmaTweet: P. Vayiqra 1:1 Mussar 2 TT [2] don't talk or address someone w/o getting their approval first also Good etiquette & good psychology."

Thus, we see some Midrash Halachah offering us practical ethical behaviour:
Don't startle people by entering abruptly.
Don't talk or preach to people w/o asking their permission first.
Be considerate - and use wisdom when doing so.

Shavua Tov,

Friday, 11 March 2011

P. Vayiqra - Lirtzono, Kofin Oto ad she'omer "Rotzeh Ani"

Originally published 3/11/11, 2:10 pm.
See Vayiqra 1:3
Rashi D"H "Yaqriv Oto"
Torah T'mimah #25,26
Quoting -
Arachin 21a
Qiddushin 50a
Rambam MT Hil. Geirushin 2:20

People wonder where the Rambam got the notion of coercing a Get - when Halachah requires that a Get must be given of one's one free will.
One can follow the bouncing ball from Qorbanot that shows that we can coerce an offering which must also be of one's own free will.

The Rambam provides a caveat. One must be an otherwise Observant Jew who resists doing the proper thing. This would not work with a complete rebel or - as the Rambam himself notes - that Judaism does not require this act.
Interestingly, the Moznayim Touger edition cites neither of the 2 Talmudic passages above


P. Vayiqra - Shemen for M'nachot and the Mystery of the Pach Shemen

Originally published 3/11/11, 10:22 am.
See Vayiqra 2:1 and Rashi
Rashi asks -
Q: Why is "Shemen" said twice?
A: Because the 2nd & 3rd drops are kosher for m'nachot unlike the shemen for the m'norah which may come only from the first drop.

Now using this we can understand and answer the Question -
Why would the Kohein Gadol seal a "pach shemen"?
A. Because he needed to set aside M'norah oil away from M'nachot oil.
Mystery solved!  Unless the 2 oils appear differently to the naked eye.


Thursday, 10 March 2011

P. Vayiqra - "Qorbon"

Originally published 3/10/11, 8:58 pm.
Here is some trivia to contemplate...

In which Books of Tanach can the term "Qorbon" [in its many forms] can be found?
Credit for this insight goes to R Sacha Pecaric who has translated the Humash into Polish wherein he discussed this curious phenomenon.
Zhinkuyen Pan Rabbin Sacha.


P. Vayiqra - The Torah on Infallibility

Originally published 3/10/11, 10:14 am.
In Hamishi of Vayiqra we see three cases of sin/error:

A. A Kohein Gadol who sins/errs.
B. The entire congregation -or as per Hazal the Sanhedrin - but perhaps both understandings apply.
C. A Nassi.

In Sh'mini, Moshe apparently renders an incorrect hora'h and is corrected by his brother Aharon.
Who - I.E. what individual - in Judaism is infallible?


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Mishnah M'gilah 2:6 - M'gillah @ Night

Originally published 3/9/11, 10:45 am.
It seems apparent that in chapter 1 the Mishnah was unaware of any nighttime obligation to read the M'gillah because the villagers gathered to read only on Monday or Thursday during the day time - Yom hakknisah, see 1:1. 1:2
Kehatti emphasizes this in 2:10 when pointing out the absence of M'gillah as a nighttime mitzvah. Here. he quotes Rabbenu Tam and the Ra"n that the iqqar reading is in the day.
This pretty much proves the argument that it was R Y'hoshua ben Levi's Meimra that is the earliest source to require reading the M'gillah at night.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

JVO: Siding with One's Spouse vs. Siding with One's Parents

Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. I am proud to serve as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is the first in a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which I responded and the answers that I gave.


Question, number 346 (

When there is a conflict between "siding" with one's spouse vs. one's parent - is there a Jewish view on marriage vows vs. obligation to respect parents? How does one balance these two obligations when they seem to conflict?

My answer:
Apparently at first glance, respect for one's Parents should trump respect for one's spouse, after the "TEN COMMANDMENTS" tells us to Honor our Father and Mother!  What could be more direct than that?

Yet, Scripture is actually a bit more ambiguous as we see in
Genesis 2:24 - "Therefore a man shall leave [abandon] his Mother and Father and cleave to his wife.."

The husband's commitment to his mate apparently supersedes his commitment to his parents.  Note - This may apply all the more so for a wife who is traditionally deemed to have to put her spouse first.

Our Holy Oral Law takes a more nuanced view.

While cursing or striking a parent is a more severe transgression than doing the same to one's spouse, one may disregard one's parent's wishes with regard to several issues including

1.  Choice of Spouse
2. Choice of Place to learn Torah

Also see the narrative re: Jacob, Rachel, and Leah Genesis 31:14-17

It's difficult to quantify the totality but the sources seem to indicate that

When it comes to honor, respect, reverence, etc.  it seems that Parents command more.  EG one mourns a spouse for a month - like a sibling while  Parents are mourned for a full year
When it comes to commands, life-decisions, and actual performance issues, spouses seem to come first.

Yet in all cases Obedience to Torah Trumps [see Rashi on
Leviticus 19:4]

So I would presume based upon my read of the sources that siding  with one's spouse typically trumps.

Hierarchy of Reverence

Hierarchy of "Agreement" or Siding



Genesis 2:24
Genesis 31:14-17
Exodus 20:11
Leviticus 19:4 [and Rashi]
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 143, 195

Answered by: Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Mishnah M'gilah 2:4 - Heireish

Originally published 3/8/11, 11:03 am.
A Heireish, a Shoteh, and a Qatan  may not read Mg'illah for others
Of course the usual p'shat  meaning of Heireish is a deafmute, which makes this impossible!

Here are several approaches:
Pick your Parshanut Preference.
1. The Mishnah is using a formula only. A deaf person may read the m'gillah for others - even though he cannot hear it himself. The Mishnah really means to address ONLY shoteh v'qatan and it used Heireish ONLY due to shigrat halashon.
2. Since the deaf-mute case is not possible, the Mishnah must therefore default to the case of a deaf person only,  and Heireish does apply. albeit not in its usual sense


Monday, 7 March 2011

NYT: The Happiest Man in America - Eats Asian Food?

Originally published 3/7/11, 9:03 pm.
Maybe because he eats Asian Food!

Freilichen Purim

Mishnah M'gilah 2:2 -Kavannah

It seems to me a pashut Hilluq.

When one is reading the M'gillah on Purim no special Kavvanah is required. Why not? Because the default presumption is one is fulfilling the mitzvah via action, therefore a lack of Kavvanah is NOT m'akkeiv.
However, when one is WRITING the M'gillah, the kavvanah is apparently not for the sake of HEARING the M'gillah - ergo a positive "kivvein libbo" is a must.
Same s'vara with mit'aseiq with Shofar.

Any action which is manifestly and obviously fulfilling a Mitzvah -presupposes intention
Any action that appears to be tangential to the Mitzvah would require a positive intention to fulfill one's obligation.

Miitzot tz'richot kavvanah? Yes and no. It depends on the context.


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Parsha: Sh'qalim - Sh'qalim vs. T'rumah

What's the difference between Sh'qalim and the collection in Parshat T'rumah?

In T'rumah, it's "n'div libbo" a free will offering. Sh'qalim is level, "heoshir lo yarbeh..."
L'mah haddavar domeh?
T'rumah is like a building fund - everyone gives according to his/her means
Sh'qalim is like dues, each gives equally.

Please embellish this and use it to spread some good Torah.


Friday, 4 March 2011

The Arba Parshiot

Originally published 3/4/11, 11:19 am. Link no longer works.
As we begin the Arba Parshiot this week with, of course, Parshat Shekalim, we invite to take a look at
Insight 5756-12: From Purim to Pesach

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Blogging Goals

Having just been introduced to Twitter, I've come to realize there are several disparate goals when blogging.

1. To Share INSIGHTS. R Hecht and I have this common goal, to share insights into Torah and Jewish Life in General.

2. To stimulate deeper thinking. We are so conditioned to rote performance that at times we forget the NISHMA, the reflective aspect and the analytic aspect. RBH is focused more on the analytic side, I add the experiential reflective aspect to Nishma. EG How do we feel after sitting in the Sukkah or hearing the Megillah. We've done the naaseh, afterwords can be the NISHMA in wake of the performance.

3. To share our Stream of consciousness.. Hopefully when we "think Out loud" we are sharing our techniques of HOW to think! Otherwise we could wax boring. But sharing a good Shaqla v'tarya can help people to better solve problems.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Jewish Tribune: Freedom? Democracy? Please define

The world was enthralled with the recent developments in Egypt with cries of freedom and democracy being heard throughout...the media. Although the protestors also shouted these words, was 'freedom and democracy' really what they wanted?

In my latest Tribune article, I address this question. See

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Results of Poll on: Rabbinical Parameters

In our last poll, we inquired:

 Rabbi "Yosselle" is very fussy about his Baaeli Teflliah. And so he insists that the shul hire a single Baal Tefillah to lead all weekday services

What Reaction makes the Most Sense to you?

A. The Rabbi has a right to set a standard policy that offends everyone equally. Since it's fair and objective - no big deal [Objectivity is the fairest method of selection.]

B. The Rabbi's policy is intrinsically offensive. The Rabbi should be reprimanded for slighting everyone [Rabbi must bend over backward to avoid offending anyone.]

C The Rabbi should pick and choose acceptable Baalei Tefillah from his congregation and reject only those he deems unfit [Rabbinical Prerogative]

D. The rabbi should presume ALL members are fit Baalei Tefillah - unless a member excludes himself explicitly. [Hezkat Kashrut for all]

Your Responses (total 4)
Choice 1 - 00% (0)
Choice 2 - 00% (0)
Choice 3 - 67% (2)
Choice 4 - 33% (1)

Rabbi Hecht
While there was a very small response to the question, the majority gave the answer that I would also give. In my opinion, a rav's job is to set the halachic parameters for a community but it is the community itself who must implement policy within those parameters. As such, it is the kehilla's responsibility and right to choose the specific person they wish as a ba'al tefilla but it is the rav who is to set the parameters thus identify the pool of people from whom the kehilla can choose.