Author Archives: Josh

Ep. 147 Laws of Shabbat 14

This class covers Chapter 10 of Maimonides Laws of Shabbat.

Laws of Shabbat 14

Posted in Laws of Shabbat.

Segulot Simmanim and Superstition Unit

As part of my Current Jewish Questions podcast series I recently dedicated a four part segment to the subject of Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions in an attempt to define the boundaries and limits for various forms of folk religion in Rabbinic Judaism. While I was unable to come to a definitive conclusion, these classes should nevertheless be of interest for those interested in the subject and its underlying theological questions.

Posted in Current Jewish Questions. Tagged with , , .

Ep. 146 Current Jewish Questions 45 – Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 4

In the final installment of the Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstition series, Rabbi Yuter addresses the difficulties in distinguishing between permitted and forbidden folk rituals in Rabbinic law.

Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 4 Sources (PDF)

Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 4

Posted in Current Jewish Questions, Rabbinic Thought and Theology.

Ep. 145 Laws of Shabbat 13

This class covers Chapter 9 of Maimonides’ Laws of Shabbat.

Laws of Shabbat 13

Posted in Laws of Shabbat.

Ep. 144 Current Jewish Questions 44 – Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 3

This installment of Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions discusses approaches to dreams in Rabbinic thought.

Current Jewish Questions – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 3 Sources (PDF)

Current Jewish Questions – Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 3

Posted in Current Jewish Questions, Rabbinic Thought and Theology.

On Tone and Traditions – A Followup to Fallout

My recent post Women, Tefillin, and the Rise of the Rav seems to have struck a nerve in the Orthodox community. By far, it has elicited the greatest response, and divisiveness, than anything else I have written to this point. For those who have not been following, a quick recap is in order. In response to R. Tully Harcsztark recent decision permitting two female students to wear tefillin during school services, R. Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University wrote a scathing critique not only of the decision itself, but of how it was made, equating intellectual independence with Korach’s rebellion. My own response to R. Schachter linked above elicited extreme contrasting reactions. As to be expected with any controversy, there is bound to be some degree of partisanship with people being predisposed towards one side or another.

The astute reader noticed that while the subject of women wearing tefillin was the impetus, my main point dealt with the broader question of rabbinic authority, and it was this issue which prompted the most passionate responses. In particular, many readers took specific exception to my tone, which was characterized in various forms of “flippant,” “disrespectful,” or simply not deferential enough in that I treated R. Schachter as a peer rather than a superior. Many others had no such objections to my tone and found well within the bounds of propriety. 1 In truth, the question of “respect” and how a Torah scholar ought to communicate was, in my opinion, a distraction from the more central question of authentic Rabbinic authority. After all, if one’s status as a Torah scholar is measured by the tone of one’s discourse, then it would seem that R. Schachter would have crossed that line in his initial letter. 2 My critics contended that my post and R. Schachter’s letter are not valid subjects for equal comparison because the authors of these respective writings are not of the same “stature.” The argument may be summarized that as a more prominent rabbinic authority, R. Schachter is not only unconstrained by the rules or halakhot of proper discourse, but he is beyond reproach and not subject to any form of criticism by lesser rabbis. According to this perception of Jewish law, there are different rules for different roles. 3 Furthermore, some argued that by not giving proper deference to R. Schachter, I was essentially challenging the entire chain of Jewish halakhot tradition, very similar to the argument of R. Schachter himself.

But herein lies the point of contention; I have received a very different tradition than what is currently disseminated in the Orthodox world. While I attended and received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University, but I do not count R. Schachter among my primary teachers nor would most of my teachers consider themselves followers of his tradition. In fact, the three Rabbis from whom I have learned the most, my father, his teacher Haham Yosef Faur, and R. Moshe Tendler, have all been vocal critics of R. Schachter at one point or another. The latter two I even cited in my earlier post since both differentiated between the positions of Rav and Rosh Yeshiva. While I have previously addressed the logical flaws in appealing to a “gadol’s” authority, today I wish to demonstrate how, despite any assumptions to the contrary, I have been following the tradition of my own teachers.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. One Rabbi (not my father) actually thought I was too respectful.
  2. Assuming he had not done so long ago.
  3. I resisted the temptation to respond to certain individuals by arguing that according to this logic, no non-rabbi would have any right to argue with me on the grounds that my having rabbinic ordination would make me superior to all those who do not. While this argument is logically sound, it would have been impossible for me to make without giving the pretense of pretentiousness. There are limits to the extent that I argue with others on their terms.
Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Judaism. Tagged with , , .

Ep. 143 Laws of Shabbat 12 – Rambam Chapter 8

This class, replete with random references, covers Chapter 8 of Maimonides’ Laws of Shabbat.

Laws of Shabbat 12 – Rambam Chapter 8

BONUS: The Calvin and Hobbes reference.

Posted in Judaism.

Ep. 142 Current Jewish Questions 43 – Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions 2

This second installment of Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions covers potentially improper appeals to God, and Rabbinic uses of finding “Signs” in everyday life.

Current Jewish Questions 43 – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 2 Sources (PDF)

Current Jewish Questions 43 – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 2

Posted in Current Jewish Questions, Rabbinic Thought and Theology.

Ep. 141 Laws of Shabbat 11 – Av / Toladot, Primary / Derivative Categories

This class covers Chapter 7 of Maimonides’ Laws of Shabbat and discusses the 39 primary categories of labor as well as the concept of their derivatives.

Laws of Shabbat 11 – Av / Toladot, Primary / Derivative Categories

Posted in Laws of Shabbat.

Ep. 140 Current Jewish Questions 41 – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 1

Rabbi Yuter’s Current Jewish Questions starts a new series discussing the roles of Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstitions in Jewish folk religion as compared to prohibitions of idolatry.

Current Jewish Questions – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 1 Sources (PDF)

Current Jewish Questions – Segulot Simmanim and Superstitions 1

Posted in Current Jewish Questions, Rabbinic Thought and Theology.