Category Archives: Judaism

All things related to Judaism and Jewishness.

Women, Tefillin, and the Rise of the Rav

לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה: וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר לָנוּ אֶל עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה: דברים ל:יב-יג

It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” (Deut. 30:12-13)

My previous post publicized a recent letter (PDF) authored by Rabbi Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University. At the time of posting I did not have time for a thorough analysis, but several people took offense at my initial glib reactions on social media, calling it various forms of “disrespectful” or “not nice.” While I found these responses to be somewhat ironic given that R. Schachter himself used his letter to delegitimize those with whom he disagrees by comparing them to Korach and stating that they violate yehareg ve’al ya’avor, the rebuke is nevertheless well taken. Given his perceived stature in the Orthodox community, R. Schachter’s letter deserves a thorough analysis, as I’ve done before regarding his approach to Jewish law, especially as it pertains to the imposition of select religious authority.

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Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha, Judaism. Tagged with , , , .

Rabbi Hershel Schachter on Women Wearing Tefillin

I recently received the following missive from Rabbi Hershel Schachter regarding the recent controversy regarding women wearing tefillin. I do not have time at present to translate or comment, but the full text is included in the post below with the original PDF available here (errors in the transcription/formatting are mine alone).
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Ep. 138 Kosher Kitchen Crash Course 1 – Theory and Definitions

Rabbi Yuter begins his Kosher Kitchen Crash Course with an overview of the theory of how kashrut works, focusing on examples most relevant for maintaining a kosher kitchen.

Kosher Kitchen Crash Course 1 – Theory and Definitions Sources (PDF)

Kosher Kitchen Crash Course 1 – Theory and Definitions

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Electricity in Jewish Law Class Series

In 2013 I regave a class series on Electricity I had done before I started recording classes. This time around I was elated to have Dr. Alan Mincer deliver an special introductory class on the science of electricity, which ought to be required knowledge for anyone discussing its halakhic ramifications.

Posted in Electricity in Jewish Law, Jewish Law / Halakha. Tagged with .

Ep. 129 Laws of Shabbat 04 – Exigent Circumstances

Rabbi Yuter concludes the second chapter of Maimonides’ Laws of Shabbat, discussing additional exigent circumstances where Shabbat may be violated.

Exigent Circumstances

Posted in Judaism, Laws of Shabbat.

Raiding the Shelves – 2013 Edition

Last night was my first experience at the Jewish Book Council’s “Raid the Shelves” event where a $5 donation entitles you to take whatever books you want. Some people came prepared with multiple bags and several even had the foresight to bring rolling suitcases. Since I’m at a loss for space as it is, I figured a backpack would be good enough and would force me to be more judicious with my selections. While I missed out on a few interesting books, here’s what I took home. Keep in mind, I almost entirely judged books by their cover, and selections do not constitute endorsements or recommendations.

Without further ado, this was my haul…
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Posted in Jewish Culture.

Introduction to the Laws of Eiruvin Series

support-the-eruv-and-carry-on-2In my Current Jewish Questions series we recently completed a three part sub-unit covering a basic introduction to the laws of eiruvin. For those interested in a general overview of the laws of eiruvin, I am collecting the links in this convenient post. Note that since this is an introductory class it does not cover many of the technicalities which affect the practical validity of any communal eiruv. In other words, do not confuse listening to this series as semikhah with which you can now pasken eiruvin for your (or anyone’s) community.

Part 1 – General Overview: Discusses the innovation of the eruv, its origins and the basics of what it accomplishes.

Part 2 – Physical Corrections: Covers the tikkunim or physical corrections one must make to an area as a prerequisite for establishing an eiruv.

Part 3 – Coming Together: Explains the requirement for 100% communal participation, as well as several solutions when that proves impossible.

Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha. Tagged with , , , .

JOFA 2013 Conference Preview

The paradox of JOFA is not “Orthodox Feminist” but “Jewish Alliance”

A few weeks ago I received an email from the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) promoting their upcoming conference. As a selling point for the conference, the email proclaimed:

It’s not just for feminists anymore…

It’s for… Singles, Halachacists, Hopefuls, Parents, Visionaries, Intellectuals, Students, Artists, Questioners, LGBT, Challengers…

The 2013 8th International JOFA Conference is for you.

Ignoring for a moment my initial snark about going to a feminist conference to pick up women, the marketing language employed is actually quite intriguing. After all, since the “F” in JOFA stands for “Feminist” it does seem odd that JOFA would so blatantly be expanding its target demographic to the point of even diminishing the importance of “Feminist.”

I do have a conjecture, which if true, would make this year’s conference particularly fascinating. Specifically, most of the stated goals of JOFA have either been accomplished or have been taken over by other organizations. Women’s participation in the synagogue not only continues to grow, but it is becoming more normalized in the Modern Orthodox world as opposed to an anomalous fringe. Furthermore, with the newly ordained Maharats, Jewish women are now assuming formal religious leadership positions within Orthodox synagogues and communities. With these advancements over the past 10 years, it would be interesting to see how JOFA answers the question “what next?” After all, simply advocating for “more of the same” is hardly a way to energize one’s base, let alone attract the next generation of woman, many of whom cannot appreciate how much needed to be done by others to provide what they take for granted.

My sense is by expanding beyond the limits of “Feminism” JOFA can attract not only this new generation of feminists (men and women) but also those who for various reasons are uncomfortable or disenchanted with “feminism” and its implications or those who think that the feminist movement has done all it can within the confines of “Orthodoxy.”

At any rate, I personally am looking forward to attending the conference – if nothing else than to see for myself where Orthodox Feminism may be heading in light of its successes.

Posted in Jewish Culture. Tagged with , .

Simchat Torah Song Sheet

Anyone who has been in charge of leading Simchat Torah hakafot knows how difficult it is to coordinate songs on the spur of the moment while keeping up the energy. This year I was tasked with creating a song sheet for my synagogue’s Simchat Torah hakafot and while I appreciated the need, I found this particular task somewhat tedious due to word processing and formatting quirks. Since I had some help in terms of song suggestions, I’d like to pay it forward as a public service by sharing my song sheet in Word and Open Document formats.1 This way you’re free to copy, edit, and update as you see fit, though I highly recommend keeping the finished song sheet to at most 2 pages which can be printed as one double-sided sheet.

To explain my song choices, my three main concerns were 1. what has traditionally played best in my congregation 2. helping the coherency by organizing songs into themed hakafot and 3. Picking fewer songs per hakafa in order to have stronger sustained ruach for a shorter time rather than having it peter out towards the end (i.e. leave them wanting more). Your mileage may vary.

Enjoy and Chag Sameach!

Stanton Street Shul Simhat Torah Song Sheet – MS Word

Stanton Street Shul Simhat Torah Song Sheet – Open Document

Stanton Street Shul Simhat Torah Song Sheet – PDF

  1. I actually did most of the work in Libre Office which I found to be far more useful for advanced Hebrew typesetting than Word. Plus I still have geek friends who run Linux :-)
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Daf Yomi Tweets – Masechet Eiruvin

Congratulations to everyone who has just finished learning Masechet Eiruvin in Daf Yomi! Due to the complexity of many discussions, and overall lack of humor, there are some gaps in my Eiruvin Daf Yomi compared to Berachot and Shabbat.

Daf Yomi Tweets – Eiruvin

Posted in Daf Yomi Tweets, Talmud.