Sunday, March 27, 2022
Friday, March 25, 2022
Rischa D'Araisa Season 4 Episode 25: "MeInyan LaInyan" Forty Fun Minutes of Gedolim, Ketanjiim, Kinyanim, and a call for Michtavim
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Ask Rabbi Jack
REVIEWED BY RABBI YOSEF GAVRIEL BECHHOFER
By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
New York, 2020
“The yeshivah curriculum . . . focuses mainly on textual skills and select topics. For good pedagogical and sociological reasons, much of the Torah remains outside the standard curriculum, waiting for the motivated student to find and study it. Too many people never take that initiative.”
—From Rabbi Gil Student’s Foreword to Ask Rabbi Jack
We could devote this entire essay (and more) to the few words from Rabbi Gil Student’s Foreword to Ask Rabbi Jack. I believe they are true and insightful. But for our purposes here, they serve more importantly to contextualize the importance of Ask Rabbi Jack for the readership of Jewish Action. Such books are often classified as part of the kiruv genre, presenting the profundity of Torah-true Judaism to outsiders while addressing their misconceptions of Orthodoxy. That endorsements on the book’s back cover are from Rabbi Steven Burg of Aish HaTorah and Allison Josephs of Jew in the City, two organizations known for their outstanding kiruv, just serves to reinforce that classification.
But such a classification would only be partially true. As Rabbi Student notes, even those of us (perhaps especially those of us) who have had a decent and comprehensive Orthodox Jewish education have often come away with little understanding of the actual breadth and depth of Torah thought.1 Kiruv is of paramount importance to us, and the precept of da mah shetashiv—know how to respond [to a disbeliever]—2 is one of utmost importance. But as many sources note, a primary purpose of this precept is that we should know how to respond to the disbeliever within every one of us.
Of course, there is a rich literature of books dealing with such issues that falls beyond the scope of the standard yeshivah curriculum. One might, for example, read through the six volumes of Strive for Truth, the translation of Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler zt”l’s Michtav Me’Eliyahu, and acquire vast knowledge of such areas of Jewish thought. Inevitably, however, some contemporary readers will have a hard time relating to the material and style of that and similar works. From this standpoint, Rabbi Jack’s book speaks to this generation in a very effective fashion.3
A salient example is his treatment of the issue of secular music. Rabbi Jack displays a sensitivity to his audience—who he assumes grew up, like himself, with this music in its ears—and a perspective grounded in that sensitivity that is much more nuanced and accepting than one would find in works intended for other audiences. Similarly, you won’t find many other sefarim that would use Princess Diana and Nancy Reagan as examples of how to combine modesty with attractiveness. Yet these are figures whose mode of dress would be immediately recognized by many (if not most) of this magazine’s reading audience.
Rabbi Jack’s analyses are as comprehensive as one could wish or expect, allowing for the necessary brevity in a work that covers such a broad array of topics. Nevertheless, it would have been useful and conducive to further exploration if more comprehensive sources and references were included. For example, in a succinct review of Orthodox attitudes toward Zionism, there is not a single reference, even when the author quotes the gemara in Ketubot (111a), about the Three Oaths—a core point of contention in any such analysis. Such sources and references are not always lacking. In a discussion of when one should be stringent and when one may be lenient in matters of halachah, Rabbi Jack provides ample sources. Perhaps in the next edition the author can add references and sources to the articles in which they are lacking.
There is but one more critique of this fine work worth mentioning. The cover selected by the publisher does not adequately convey the high quality of the book’s contents; one does not associate a cover with a caricature of the author with high-caliber analysis of profound issues. This is truly a case of “Do not judge a book by its cover!”
I found many of the articles full of information and insight. The essay on anti-Semitism offers a comprehensive overview of the four manners in which the controversial statement of Rabbi Shimon, “Halachah b’yadua she’Esav sonei l’Yaakov” (“It is a well-known law that Esav hates Yaakov”) is interpreted. Rabbi Jack’s assessment of the authenticity of the Zohar is another masterful analysis. (Full disclosure: Rabbi Jack bases much of what he writes on what he learned from my esteemed brother, Rabbi Yochanan Meir Bechhofer, “who is far more well versed in the Zohar than you, I or the person who compiled that list of proofs [that the Zohar couldn’t have been written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai].”)
In the article on tzeniut (modesty), Rabbi Jack notes that the oft-cited assertion that “What Torah does for men, tznius (sic) does for women,” lacks any known support in Tanach or Chazal, or in the Iggeret HaGra (the letter that the Vilna Gaon sent to his wife when he was on his way to attempt to reach Eretz Yisrael). As recently as this past Tishah B’Av, I myself heard a well-known and admired talmid chacham cite the assertion and attribute it to the Vilna Gaon’s letter. Since the time my daughter came home from school and related this assertion and the alleged source (the Gaon’s letter), I have gone through the Iggeret several times. It does not say anything of the kind there (although Rabbi Jack tries to be melamed zechut—find some merit in the assertion—through a very dubious inference). He does go on to note that tzeniut is a very important trait, one of the “Big Three” in Michah 6:8, “. . . what G-d asks of you, only that you act justly, love mercy and walk humbly (hatznei’a lechet) with your G-d.” In its source in Michah, however, “tzeniyus is not just a ‘women’s mitzvah’ and it’s not just about what we wear. Tzeniyus is for everyone, and it’s ultimately about how we act.”
There are a few issues in which I find myself quibbling with Rabbi Jack. A relatively minor one is the question of whether the tribe of Shimon was one of the Ten Tribes who comprised the Northern Kingdom of Israel that broke off from the Southern Kingdom of Judea during the reign of Shlomo Hamelech’s son Rechavam. Rabbi Jack contends that the tribe of Shimon did break away. I doubt that was the case, as the portion of the tribe of Shimon was not a distinct area—it was part and parcel of the portion of the tribe of Yehudah. I believe that the Ten Tribes include Levi,4 as there were Levi’im in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
A more significant point is that of organ donation. Rabbi Jack writes that he is “a big fan of the Halachic Organ Donor Society” (HODS). Yet in the same paragraph, he notes that his “HODS card has the box checked for irreversible cessation of heartbeat (which is the more stringent position) [in terms of defining the donor as dead for the purpose of harvesting organs].” The position taken by the author is not HODS’ preferred position (which is to use “brain stem death” as the definition of death), yet someone reading that Rabbi Jack is a big fan of HODS might assume that its standard is just fine and that Rabbi Jack’s stringency is just a personal one. This is actually a very complex and delicate halachic issue with much controversy surrounding the lenient position. More elaboration and detail would have been helpful.
By and large, this work is extraordinary in its scope, impressive in its depth and, perhaps most importantly, a pleasure to read. As they say—“highly recommended.”
1. For a more elaborate discussion of this issue, I refer the reader to my review of Facing Current Challenges by Rabbi Dr. Yehudah (Leo) Levi, zt”l, which appeared in the fall 2003 issue of Jewish Action (https://jewishaction.com/books/reviews/facing-current-challenges-essays-judaism/).
2. Avot 2:14.
3. This should not come as a surprise, considering his long-term association with the OU and with its youth movement, NCSY, the premier organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering Jewish teens.
4. Reuven, Levi, Naftali, Yissaschar, Asher, Dan, Zevulun, Gad, Ephraim and Menashe.
Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer is a rav and dayan in Monsey, New York. He recently published the fourth edition of The Contemporary Eruv: Eruvin in Modern Metropolitan Areas (New York, 2020). He is a frequent contributor to these pages.
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Monday, March 21, 2022
Friday, March 18, 2022
Rischa D'Araisa Season 4 Episode 24: Rav Chaim Kanievsky ZTVK"L: The Challal left with the Histalkus of the Gadol HaDor
Rav Chaim Kanievsky ZTVK"L
The Challal left with the Histalkus of the Gadol HaDor
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
Rischa D'Araisa Season 4 Episode 23:
Monday, March 14, 2022
We mentioned that Eliezer uses the same language as is used to describe what Amalek did.
But the Targum is different for these two instances of mikreh.
In the case of Eliezer it is:
זמין כען קדמי יומא
But in the case of Amalek it is:
די ערעך בארחא
Eliezer ask Hashem to destine a wife for Yitzchak. That mikreh is an hazmanah - because to Eliezer there are no coincidences, only Yad Hashem.
Amalek, on the other hand, is out to exploit random occurrence - to usurp the place of Am Yisroel. Which is, of course, the idea of Haman's lottery, a random destiny.
However, in the Megillah both Mordechai's and Haman's mikrim are described:
ית כל די ערעיה
The difference there, as I noted in the name of the Rebbitzen, is between ויגד (by Mordechai, rendered as וחוי) and ויספר (by Haman, rendered as ואשתעי).
מלבי"ם <באור הענין> על תהילים פרק יט פסוק ב
ויש הבדל בין ספור להגדה - שהמגיד יגיד דבר חדש הנוגע לחברו, וזה מגיד הרקיע - שמודיע בכל עת מעשי ידי ה' המתחדש בבריאה לצורך ישוב בני אדם, אבל ספורי השמים הם מדבר עבר שה' ברא הכל בששת ימי המעשה, שזה כמספר דבר שכבר היה לעולמים שאינו נוגע לנו בהוה
A slight variation. The targum of משכו is נגידו. A Naggid is a leader. Haggadah implies purposeful, directed, active telling. Sippur is a neutral, undirected recounting of events. Thus, the term Maggid is given to an orator who with his story is exhorting and directing his audience.
If something happens to Haman, it happened. That is all. No lesson to be learned, no direction to take. If something happens to Mordechai, it is instructive, it provides direction and demands action.
Hence, the ultimate haggadah in Tanach (Micha 6:8)
הגיד לך אדם מה טוב ומה ה' דורש ממך כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם אלקיך
Sunday, March 13, 2022
See our previous post at
The first Mikdash was the bechinah of Torah she'b'Ksav, and therefore it was destroyed on account of revealed sins. The second Mikdash was the bechinah of Torah she'b'al Peh, and therefore it was destroyed on account of a concealed sin. He adds a remarkable chiddush, that Torah she'b'al Peh is comprised of the middos tovos of Am Yisroel, which themselves are a product of the achdus that Haman denied (as Amalek exploited at Refidim), and which were firmly established by ההתאחדות כמ"ש נקהלו כו'. ועל ידי הקיבוץ שכתיב כנוס כו' כל היהודים.
Rav Hutner (Pachad Yitzchak to Purim, Kovetz Reshimos 22) suggests that the episode of Purim was a transfer point between the persecutions of Bayis Rishon, which were the "normal" wars of nation vs. nation, and the persecutions of Bayis Sheni, which were attempts to eradicate Judaism, Haman was interested in undermining both, of course. We may add that the Bayis Rishon persecutions were also on the revealed - the Jewish nation, while the Bayis Sheni persecutions were on the concealed - Judaism.
A book is public. A letter is private. But, on the other hand, the minhag is פושטה כאגרת - to "spread" the Meggilah like a letter. (see the elaboration at https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/303030?lang=bi)?!
It must be that throughout the year, the bechinah of penimiyus of Torah she'b'al Peh, with its correlated achdus and middos tovos are בהצנע לכת. But on Purim, just as the penimiyus is supposed to be revealed by ad d'lo yada (see just about every sefer written by Reb Tzadok for explanations at length!), it is also revealed as an "open letter."
The name itself - Megillas Esther - is both revealing (Megillah from gilui) and concealing (Esther from hester). Even Chazal wanted to keep the Megillah an Iggeres. Esther had to demand from them kisvuni l'doros. And they still had to find a source in Tanach to fulfill her demand. The chiddush is not the hester, the nes nistar, the Iggeres and the element of Torah she'b'al Peh. The chiddush is the gillui, the pirsuma nissa, the Sefer and the element of Torah she'b'Ksav.
We will come back to Iggeres. Later. Remember, it is 604. The 604th pasuk in the Torah is:
ספר בראשית פרק כד פסוק י"ב
וַיֹּאמַר ה' אֱלֹקי אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם הַקְרֵה נָא לְפָנַי הַיּוֹם וַעֲשֵׂה חֶסֶד עִם אֲדֹנִי אַבְרָהָם
Note the word that appears for the first time in the Torah in this pasuk that is echoed in a different form, but in what is apparently the same meaning (which is very problematic!), in its last appearance in the Torah, in Parashas Zachor...
ספר דברים פרק כ"ה פסוקים י"ז-י"ח
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ
And, אם נשכיל נבין, how to deal with its appearance (which is also very problematic!), in its two appearances in the Megillah:
In Perek 4, Pasuk 7:
וַיַּגֶּד לוֹ מָרְדֳּכַי אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר קָרָהוּ וְאֵת פָּרָשַׁת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר אָמַר הָמָן לִשְׁקוֹל עַל גִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּיְּהוּדִיים לְאַבְּדָם
and in Perek 6, Pasuk 13:
וַיְסַפֵּר הָמָן לְזֶרֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ וּלְכָל אֹהֲבָיו אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר קָרָהוּ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ חֲכָמָיו וְזֶרֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ אִם מִזֶּרַע הַיְּהוּדִים מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר הַחִלּוֹתָ לִנְפֹּל לְפָנָיו לֹא תוּכַל לוֹ כִּי נָפוֹל תִּפּוֹל לְפָנָיו
Especially problematic according to the Gra there!
Friday, March 11, 2022
שקל in gimatriya is 430. The 430th pasuk in the Torah is:
ספר בראשית פרק יח
(ה) וְאֶקְחָה פַת לֶחֶם וְסַעֲדוּ לִבְּכֶם אַחַר תַּעֲבֹרוּ כִּי עַל כֵּן עֲבַרְתֶּם עַל עַבְדְּכֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֵּן תַּעֲשֶׂה כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ
from which Chazal learn:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף פז/א
כתיב ואקחה פת לחם וכתיב ואל הבקר רץ אברהם אמר רבי אלעזר מכאן שצדיקים אומרים מעט ועושים הרבה
Half of שקל is 215. The 215th pasuk is:
ספר בראשית פרק ט
(ט) וַאֲנִי הִנְנִי מֵקִים אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם וְאֶת זַרְעֲכֶם אַחֲרֵיכֶם
אגרת הפורים in gimatriya is 945. I haven't yet checked the 945th pasuk in the Torah. But...
it is, in gimatriya:*
הטוב שמך ולך נאה להודות
and אגרת itself is 604. I haven't checked the 604th pasuk yet either, But...
the 604th mitzvah in the Sefer HaChinuch is:
מצוה להכרית זרעו של עמלק
*However, in the Megillah it is written חסר...
939. If you are a Zionist you will be happy to know that this is,
ה אייר התש"ח
but that's not the only gimatriya. It is also:
כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה
ידעו אותי למקטנם ועד גדולם
(ירמיהו ל"א ל"ג)
Rischa D'Araisa Season 4 Episode 22: Packing a Dirshu Siyum Suitcase: A Report from the Ground Floor of the Towering Torah Program
Rischa D'Araisa Season 4 Episode 22: