Jewish Veganism With Dr. Richard Schwartz and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

November 29, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348With Victoria Moran of Unity.fm

Among Newsweek‘s “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” Shmuly Yanklowitz joins Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., of JewishVeg for an inspiring hour on why veganism is a Jewish value and a human value.

Listen to the full interview here.

 


Review of Moadei HaRav

June 19, 2016

MoadeiHaRav web1By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s “Moadei Harav” is a welcome and refreshing window into the thought, style, and rulings of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. This may very well be the clearest and most readable book on the Rav that offers readers of all levels a glimpse into the world of Rav Soloveitchik’s halachic teachings. Most other books on Rav Soloveitchik empathize his philosophy, and they are not always the most reader-friendly volumes.

I found almost all the essays to be practical and of great interest. Except for the entry on the status of Eretz Yisrael (“shem eretz yisrael” vs. “kedushat eretz yisrael”) all essays revolve around the holidays (hence the name of the book). Some of the essays I enjoyed most are the status of Kriat Shema on Yom Kippur (a davar shebekedusha?), Pirsumei Nissa of Chanuka (the difference between “revealing” and “demonstrating” the miracles of Chanuka) , the Status of  “Simcha” of the two days of Purim, the status of Purim eve (a detailed discussion on ata kadosh, kaddish titkabel, and shehecheyanu), the Mitzva of Charoset (Rav Soloveitchik’s interpretation of the Rambam), and the setting of the date of Shavuot (a look at several rishonim).

There is an extensive introduction of essays on the Rav and his style of Torah study and Talmudic analysis. This is a quality publication suitable for all.

This review originally appeared on Torah Book Reviews.


On How to Lean toward Leniency: Halakhic Methodology for the Posek

November 17, 2015

One of the very serious questions that faces every posek is what degree of flexibility does he have in determining his decisions, whether in the direction of stringency or that of leniency. Is he inexorably bound by the rulings of the Shulhan Arukh, for example? Or may he take a position which is more stringent than that of the Mehaber ? (It is generally agreed that he may add stringencies to his own private practices.) Conversely, can he take a position of leniency, which would seem to contradict the standard rulings?

We know that there are certain well-defined areas of halakha where the posek is given considerable leeway and personal freedom, and may even be encouraged in the direction of koah de-heteira adif (favoring the position of leniency). For example, the Talmud declared that mi-shum igun akilu Rabbanan, i.e., in the case of agunot one should lean toward a permissive path. So too, bi-khdei hayyav, mi-pnei kevod ha-beriyot, hefsed merubbeh, shaat ha-dehak, mi-shum tzaara, etc. On the other hand, in certain cases one may rule more stringently, in accordance with the principle of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din. Read the rest of this entry »


After the Hoolocaust the Bells Still Ring on NY Journal of Books

November 1, 2015

By Charles S. Weinblatt AftertheHolocustWeb1

Joseph Polak is from the same nation as Anne Frank, The Netherlands. As Jewish children, they are taken captive by Nazi Germany, deported to Westerbork and then to Bergen-Belsen, where Anne dies from typhus. Joseph has the rest of his life to make sense of the Holocaust, to find a way to re-connect with a God painfully absent from the destruction of his people.

Joseph is an infant when he and his parents are forced onto Nazi train transports and sent to Westerbork. Joseph’s father dies shortly after their next train transport. He and his mother face years of starvation, brutality, and deplorable conditions. They, along with other Jews, await final transport to a Nazi death camp. Read the rest of this entry »


Tisha B’Av and Vegetarianism

July 22, 2015

By Richard H. Schwartz

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av:

1. Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Today the entire world is threatened by climate change, and modern intensive livestock agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

2. In Megilat Eichah (Lamentations), which is read on Tisha B’Av, the prophet Jeremiah warned the Jewish people of the need to change their unjust ways in order to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. Today, climate scientists are warning that the world may be very close to a climate tipping point when climate change will spin out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes are soon made. Vegetarians join in this warning, and add that a switch toward vegetarianism is an essential part of the major changes that are required.

3. On Tisha B’Av, Jews fast to express their sadness over the destruction of the two Temples. Fasting also awakens us to how hungry people feel. So severe are the effects of starvation that the Book of Lamentations (4:10) states that “More fortunate were the victims of the sword than the victims of famine, for they pine away stricken, lacking the fruits of the field.” Yet, today over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as an estimated 20 million people worldwide die annually because of hunger and its effects and almost a billion of the world’s people are chronically malnourished..

4. During the period from Rosh Chodesh Av to Tisha B’Av known as the “nine days”, Jews do not eat meat or fowl, except on the Sabbath day. After the destruction of the second Temple, some sages argued that Jews should no longer eat meat, as a sign of sorrow. However, it was felt that the Jewish people would not be able to obey such a decree. It was then also believed then that meat was necessary for proper nutrition. Hence, a compromise was reached in terms of Jews not eating meat in the period immediately before Tisha B’Av.

5. Jewish sages connected the word eichah (alas! what has befallen us?) that begins Lamentations and a word that has the same root ayekah (“Where art thou?”), the question addressed to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Vegetarians are also respectfully asking, “Where art thou?” What are we doing re widespread world hunger, the destruction of the environment, the cruel treatment of farm animals, etc.? Perhaps failure to properly hear and respond to ayekah in terms of stating “Hineni” – here I am, ready to carry out God’s commandments so that the world will be better – causes us to eventually have to say and hear eichah. Read the rest of this entry »


Dallas Rabbi in Kosher Movies

July 12, 2015

By Harriet G.kosher movies web2

Join me in welcoming back an old friend! Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Ph.D., hasn’t come here in person, but his newest book is an appropriate and worthy stand-in.

Kosher Movies has recently been published by Urim in English, and is already available here in the United States through Amazon and other booksellers.

You might remember Rabbi Herb as an educator in Dallas, working with the Community Kollel and teaching at Yavneh Academy. He arrived here in 2006, then left in 2010 when he and wife Meryl made aliyah. Now he teaches English language and literature at two schools in Beit Shemesh, Israel.

The book’s subtitle explains much: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema.

In addition to his prime vocation, Rabbi Herb’s been a regular movie reviewer for a Canadian newspaper and a contributor to the religion section of the Huffington Post.

The big question now is, What makes a movie kosher? The author answers, “To me, a ‘kosher movie’ is a film that has something meaningful to say about life.” He’s found such meanings in some 120 movies reviewed in his new book. Read the rest of this entry »


Statement of Solidarity by the Jewish Community

July 2, 2015

By Rabbi Stuart WeinblattLivingInTheShadowOfDeath9789655241709

In an extraordinary display of unity, a broad cross-section of American Jewish organizations joined to declare this coming Shabbat to be a “Shabbat of solidarity with the African-American community.” In light of the horrific act of violence in Charleston, South Carolina, leaders of the Jewish community are asking their members to participate in this Sabbath of solidarity.

Among the suggested actions for rabbis, congregations and organizations are to speak out in synagogues this coming Shabbat on the issue of racism in society and to express rejection of hateful extremism.  All rabbis and congregations are encouraged to reach out to AME churches in their communities with expressions and demonstrations of support. Read the rest of this entry »