Review of Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality Vol.2

May 18, 2016

RabbinicAuthorityVolume2 web1By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Once again, Rabbi Yehuda Warburg gives us an insiders look into  a number of actual cases that transpired in his Beit Din. There are both Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat related cases. There is much reference and comparison to precedents and principles in secular law.

Here is the table of contents:

Part I: Rabbinic Authority: The Vision

Chapter 1: The Multifaceted Halakhic Identity of a Jewish Investment Broker

Chapter 2: The Propriety of a Civil Will

Chapter 3: Harnessing the Authority of Beit Din to Deal with Cases of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Chapter 4: An Employer’s Vicarious Liability for an Employee’s Sexual Misconduct

Chapter 5: The Status and Role of a To’ein Rabbani in the Beit Din Process Read the rest of this entry »


Review of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values

December 8, 2015

By Linda F. Burghardt

EncyclopediaofJewishValues9789655241631How do we figure out how to live a good and just life? How do we set our moral compass so that it points us in the right direction? How do we develop an ethical code that helps us make our day-to-day decisions?

Nachum Amsel, a rabbi and educator, is convinced that people are searching for answers to these questions now more than ever before. His response is this book, a volume that contains a thorough explanation of Jewish values—moral principles which he says are God-given and not subject to change even though each generation may see the world through new eyes.

Rabbi Amsel sees Judaism not only as a religion, but also as a way of life, and thus his book goes far beyond traditional rituals to encompass every action of our lives. He believes that all our decisions and the behavior that results from them, even eating and sleeping, can be done in a Jewish way—that is, with a moral purpose that conforms to the timeless ethical precepts of Judaism.

He makes the point that he is not concerned with Jewish law, over which there have always been many disputes, nor Jewish thought, in which there are multiple viewpoints and divergent customs, but rather with values, the deeper, underlying set of moral principles that guide our overall lives and keep them clean and correct. Read the rest of this entry »


For Jewish Students, Field Trip Is Window on Death and Dying

November 22, 2015

This article is excerpted from the NY Times. A link to the full article can be found below.dignity6hiRes

By Samuel G. Freedman

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Two yellow buses pulled away from Yeshiva High School here with a couple of class periods still left and the 77 seniors aboard giddy with the words “field trip.” They texted. They posed for selfies. They sent up clouds of chatter about weekend plans.

Then, less than a half-hour later, they walked into a cool, tiled room at the Gutterman Warheit Memorial Chapel and stared at the pine coffins and the inclined metal table used for cleaning a corpse.

“I thought I was cool about death,” one girl whispered to a classmate. “But this ——”

“This” meant more than the contents of the room, which is used at the Jewish funeral home for the body-washing ritual called tahara. It connoted the entire mini-course that she, along with the rest of Yeshiva High School’s graduating class, is taking about the Judaic practices and traditions surrounding death, dying and grief. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Two Excellent Reference Books on Talmud

December 7, 2014

Judovits titles

by Dov Peretz Elkins

Sages of the Talmud is a collection of biographical information about the authors of the Talmud. Itcontains about four hundred entries and hundreds of anecdotes about the sages, all as recorded in the Talmud itself. An indispensable book for the student of the Talmud, it is not only an excellent practical reference guide, but also a text of general interest that may be read for enjoyment. This reference work cites the source of each quotation in the Talmud. The fascinating anecdotes and stories give readers an idea of the kind of social environment in which the sage lived. The work also includes an appendix with the corresponding general history of the time so that the reader can understand the contemporary political climate.

In the Talmud, several sages share the same name. This can be confusing to students, who wonder which rabbi made a particular statement. The author removes this confusion by linking each story and citation to the correct talmudic sage. Although the names of the sages sometimes appear close to one another in the Talmud, they did not necessarily live in the same time period – some lived hundreds of years apart. The book clarifies important questions, including the period of time in which the sages lived, who their teachers or significant colleagues were, and the house of study or city associated with them.

Find It in the Talmud is a reference book and all-encompassing encyclopedia on the Babylonian Talmud. With over 6,000 entries, Find It in the Talmud is a pathfinder for students and a useful tool for scholars searching for subjects discussed in the Talmud.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Admor who Stands in Bavel and Sees a Carcass in Eretz Yisrael

July 7, 2014

by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

In the wake of our tremendous pain over the murder of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this has happened. The Admor of Satmar, who dwells in the Exile, claims that it is a punishment for the teens learning in the “Settlements” and blames the parents for sending them to learn there.

We fear that assigning such blame may violate the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is suffering affliction or illness, or whose children have died, the way Iyov’s friends spoke to him: “Surely your fear was your foolishness, your hope and the sincerity of your ways” (Iyov 4:6). And we can add that the Rishonim on this Gemara write that the problem is not only causing distress to another person but also arrogance in thinking that we can know the ways of Hashem.

This recalls the reciprocal placing of blame that occurred following the horrors of the Holocaust: Some said that it happened on account of Zionism, others said it was because there was not Zionism. Still others blamed it on the Enlightenment. Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).

As is known, the uncle of the Admor of Satmar, Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, wrote a book “Va-Yoel Moshe” which is based on the idea that the murder of the holy ones during the Holocaust was because of Zionism and the Return to Tzion. But the great Rabbis of Israel have already answered that if the main transgression was Jews making Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in an organized fashion, then the first Jews to make Aliyah should have been murdered. Yet those who came to Eretz Yisrael and “violated” the Three Oaths (according to the Satmar Rebbe’s opinion) were saved, and those who did not make Aliyah were the ones who were murdered! (See the book “Alo Naale” – Response to Va-Yoel Moshe #43). The number of Jews murdered during one day in Auschwitz alone was, in fact, higher than that of all of the Jews murdered in all of the wars and terror attacks since the beginning of the Return to Tzion. Today – with the kindnesses of Hashem upon us – there are almost half a million Jews who live in Yesha. Therefore the Admor of Satmar’s claim is not valid.

Regarding the question itself, whether learning in Yesha is permissible: this was already asked of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of “Ramat Elchanan” (neighborhood in Bnei Brak). A student was learning in a Yeshiva in Yesha and his parents were opposed on account of the danger. Ha-Rav Zilberstein proves that “a frequent damage” (Pesachim 8b.  See Mesilat Yesharim, end of Chapter 9), into which a person should not place himself, is five percent. Baruch Hashem, 5% of the residents in Yesha are not murdered! And Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak proved based on Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger (#60) that a frequent danger is not five percent, but one in a thousand (Shut Ha-Rav Herzog Vol. 1, p. 269). Baruch Hashem, one in a thousand Jews is not murdered in Yesha. The basic halachah is therefore that there is nothing to fear. Obviously, nothing is 100% certain, but nowhere in this world is 100% safe, not Yerushalayim and not Tel Aviv, and it is all based on the definition of “a frequent damage”. We agree with the Admor of Satmar that there are many Arab murderers in Eretz Yisrael, but we must see things in proportion. We have already been living in Yesha for 40 years and the number of murders that occur there is extremely low. The same is true in all of Eretz Yisrael. We must remember that according to a report of the WHO, World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. That’s compared with 15 out of 100,000 citizens in France, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. Therefore, it is more dangerous for the Admor of Satmar, may he live a long and good life, Amen!, to live in America than to live in the “Settlements”!

We must thank Hashem, and his loyal agents – Tzahal, the police, the Mossad, the Shabak and the rest of the security establishment – day and night for the peace and quiet we merit in our Land.

In the Gemara in Chullin (63b), Rabbi Abayu asks: Why is there a bird called “Ra’ah” (the one who saw)?  He answers: Because he stands in Bavel and sees a carcass in Eretz Yisrael. The great Rabbis explain that this is a parable to someone who dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael and see the deficiencies in Eretz Yisrael and speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against it…

This obviously in no way detracts from the incredible merits of the Admor of Satmar in strengthening Torah and fear of Hashem in America, and we pray regarding them: “May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion”.

This article appeared in Torat HaRav Aviner.


Jewish Media Review on Journey Together

June 15, 2014

by Rabbi Dov Peretz ElkinsJourney Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family

As Rabbi David Aaron, well-known author and educator in Jerusalem (Isralight), writes: “Journey Together shares inspirational secrets to the ultimate meaning of Sefirat HaOmer showing how to plug into the passion and power it provides.”

And another Jerusalem author, and well-known teacher, Sara Rigler, says about this book: “Sarah Hermelin calls the 49-day process of counting the Omer, ‘a gift.’ Unfortunately, for most Jews that gift has sat on the dining room table for years and decades, wrapped, unused, and unappreciated. Even those Jews who have attempted to unwrap the gift have found a confusing jumble of disparate parts with baffling, abstract instructions. In her ground-breaking book, Journey Together, Sarah Hermelin has not only unwrapped the gift, but she has also has provided clear, practical instructions for how to use it.”

Offering a model of self-improvement rooted in Jewish thought, Journey Together: 49 Steps to Transforming a Family explains the mystical system of counting the Omer “the Jewish practice of counting the days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot” focusing on a different attribute on each of the 49 days. Following the Sefirat HaOmer calendar, the author presents daily readings of inspirational stories from the Torah, Tanakh, Talmud and Midrash, as well as uplifting narratives from modern-day life. Each chapter concludes with exercises for both adults and children, in order to bring relevance to the attribute of the day and show how it can serve to improve one’s character traits and family bonds.
Read the rest of this entry »