Category Archives: Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

Episode 7 – Politics of Exclusion: Rambam and Rebellion

By popular request I started recording my classes. While I hope to organize and post them on the shul’s website, for now I’ll add it as one of my podcasts. I’m currently in the middle of a series called The Politics of Exclusion in Judaism where we define Who is a Jew by who doesn’t make the cut. We started months ago with Biblical Sources, followed up by Rabbinic sources, and we’re currently in the middle of going through Rambam’s Hilkhot Teshuva. Today’s class covered Hilkhot Teshuva 3:9, copied below for reference.

רמב”ם הלכות תשובה פרק ג הלכה ט
שנים הם המומרים מישראל: המומר לעבירה אחת והמומר לכל התורה כולה, מומר לעבירה אחת זה שהחזיק עצמו לעשות אותה עבירה בזדון והורגל ונתפרסם בה אפילו היתה מן הקלות כגון שהוחזק תמיד ללבוש שעטנז או להקיף פאה ונמצא כאלו בטלה מצוה זו מן העולם אצלו הרי זה מומר לאותו דבר והוא שיעשה להכעיס, מומר לכל התורה כולה כגון החוזרים לדתי העובדי כוכבים בשעה שגוזרין גזרה וידבק בהם ויאמר מה בצע לי להדבק בישראל שהם שפלים ונרדפים טוב לי שאדבק באלו שידם תקיפה, הרי זה מומר לכל התורה כולה. +/השגת הראב”ד/ לכל התורה כולה כגון החוזר לדת העובדי כוכבים. א”א ומי שחוזר לדת העובדי כוכבים הנה הוא מודה באלהיהם והרי הוא מין.+

Episode 7 – Politics of Exclusion Rambam and Rebellion

Posted in Jewish History, Jewish Law / Halakha, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Judaism, Podcasts, Politics of Exclusion in Judaism, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah. Tagged with , , , , , , .

A Pre-Purim Poem

The following is a sermon I gave at The Stanton St. Shul 02/27/2010 for Erev Purim. If memory serves, I believe I heard the main derash from R. Mordechai Friedman at Yeshivat Har Etzion but the poem is fully original.

I’m also proud to say this was the first sermon I gave which elicited applause. Most of my sermons typically evoke a standing ovation, though that’s probably due to kaddish.

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Posted in Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah, Shtick.

The Power of Finding Freedom

The following is based on my more extemporaneous derasha on 1/16/2010 Parashat Va’eira at The Stanton St. Shul, posted in response to multiple requests. I’ve added annotations and links, though some jokes and cultural references in the original derasha may have been omitted. I’ll try to reconstruct my delivered thoughts as best as I can, but I was on a roll today and for some things you just have to be there.

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Posted in Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.

YUTOPIA’s Introduction to Eiruvin: Source Sheets

Since I moved down to the Lower East Side I have received more questions on Eiruvin than anything else. From conversations with many Jewish residents in the area – both members and non-members of my congregation – there is a great deal of interest and desire to have an eiruv erected on the Lower East Side. Setting aside the economic and political obstacles of putting up and eiruv down here, I decided that the best thing to do is simply to teach the basics of eiruvin in terms of how they work in halakha.
The intent of these shiurim is not to get people to the level of pesak and as such we did not explore the vast teshuva literature on the subject. Rather the goal was to provide working definitions and explain the laws and principles underlying the various halakhic disputes. Most sources are from the Talmud, Rambam, and Shulhan Aruch.
I decided to split this shiur into three parts:

  1. Part 1 introduces the reshuyot and the basic definitions of eiruvin, and demonstrates that halakha views eiruvin positively and that putting one up is considered to be a Good Thing.
  2. Part 2 covers the physical construction of the eiruv – the lehi, korah, and mostly the tzurat hapetach, explaining their halakhic function.
  3. Part 3 discusses the conceptual requirement of getting all residents in an area to join an eiruv, as well as several solutions to the problem of getting Jews to agree on anything.

All three shiurim have been added to YUTOPIA’s Source Sheet Archive.
As always, comments and corrections/suggestions are welcome!

Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah. Tagged with , , , .

Rabbinic Responses to Greek Culture and Christian Thought

Taking advantage of the recent national holidays I gave a two-part shiur series at The Stanton St. Shul. Part 1 was given on December 25th (fourth day of Hanukah) on Rabbinic Responses to Greek Culture and Part 2 was delivered this morning on Rabbinic Responses to Christian Thought. (The initial plan was to combine both into one shiur, but that was unrealistic).
I’m not writing them up because to be perfectly honest most of what I did was done before, and much better than I could ever hope to do. In particular I borrowed heavily from Saul Lieberman’s Greek in Jewish Palestine / Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, Ephraim Urbach’s The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs, and Haham Jose’ Faur’s new book The Horizontal Society which I hope to review shortly.
Still there are those who may be interested in the source sheets, which may be downloaded in PDF:
Rabbinic Reactions to Greek Culture
Rabbinic Responses to Christian Thought.
Also, I’m going to be posting future source sheets – and slowly migrating old ones – to a new section of YUTOPIA:

Posted in Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Random Acts of Scholarship, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.

A Fair And Balanced Approach To Jewish Social Justice

A few months ago I wrote a short article for the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals’ new journal Conversations. The purpose of this journal is to promote communal dialogue on various issues facing the Jewish community. Unlike the Edah/Meorot journals, the journal is supposed to be more accessible than academic and so I was given two editorial conditions:1. keep it short and 2. no footnotes.

As longtime blog readers know, that last condition was a tough one to overcome.

At any rate, I’m posting my article “A Fair And Balanced Approach To Jewish Social Justice” and I plan on revisiting the motivations for the article at some later point.

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Posted in Culture, Economics, Jewish Culture, Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava, Random Acts of Scholarship, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah, Society. Tagged with , .

Happy Hannukah!

I can hardly believe how long it’s been since I’ve last written anything. I’ve barely had time to get basic derashot out, let alone formulate for intelligible posting (maybe next year :-). Consider that for the months of September and October I was commuting from Springfield to the LES for every Shabbat and Chag, packing, unpacking, and writing derashot. Then for some reason things just keep popping up that I haven’t had the time to think let alone research and write.
So I’m sticking my head out to say that yes I am alive and well, just too distracted with many life and shul details to write more – though I must say I’ve been feeling the absence of not writing.
Right now I’m prepping a shiur for Dec 25 on Talmudic Responses to Greek and Christian Culture. Of course it’s not going to be close to comprehensive but it serves a double inyanei deyoma.
God willing I’ll try to make more time to write. I’ve really missed this place.

Posted in Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.

Parashat Vayakhel – Building a Divine Relationship

It’s been a while since I was asked to write Mt. Sinai’s “Parsha Perspectives,” and honestly I wasn’t sure if being asked to do Vayakhel of all parshiyot was a compliment. At any rate it was a moot point since I just missed the deadline (one which I hadn’t been told of beforehand). Still, here’s what would have been printed in the short space allotted.

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Posted in Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.

Passing Judgement, Bypassing The Judge

Delivered with some variations between Minha/Maariv on 1 Tishrei 5768 at Mt. Sinai Congregation
First let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Shana Tova, a good new year.
I’m sure that by now most of us are familiar with our traditional formula of Rosh Hashana. We stand before God in judgment. We reaffirm his kingship over us, ask him to remember us favorably, and sound the shofar in anticipation of redemption. We may also be familiar with our tradition’s dramatic narrative of the day. We pass before God like sheep to be judged individually. We have our spiritual accusers and defenders, though according to the Talmud we can confound our accuser by varying the shofar blasts (B. Rosh Hashana 16b). Based on our merits or shortcomings, on Rosh Hashana our fates for the year are written, and on Yom Kippur they are sealed (B. RH 16a).

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Posted in Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah. Tagged with .

Speaking on the UWS

This Shabbat I will be speaking once again at Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim on the Upper West Side. The topic will be “The Seven Stages of Consolation” – the first of which I covered regarding Nachamu but will be expanding the theme through more of the shiva dinehemta. True, it’s not quite as irreverent as “Existential Teshuva And The Incredible Hulk,” but it should be no less interesting.
Davening times permitting, it’s called for 11:15 AM at 241 West 72nd Street, 2nd Floor.

Posted in Personal, Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.