Friday, September 22, 2006

I Ain't No Expert

What's up with Hatarat Nedarim (annulment of vows) before Rosh Hashana or Yom Kipur? I understand that technically, it's perfectly fine to make up an impromptu court with three adult male Jews you just yanked off the street. But if everyone knows that that's what generally goes on, why does the text begin by addressing the three "judges" as dayanim mumhhin, 'expert judges'? I may know the basics of what Hatarat Nedarim is for, but i'm sure not an expert in the laws of vows and assumed obligations! And I doubt your average layman-judge-off-the-street is either. So what's the deal?

Have a כתיבה וחתימה טובה,
תזכו לשנים רבות
and gutyontef, gutyaw.

and remember:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joshua's Home Front

At the AishDas shabbaton, R' Micha suggested the following idea to me as a way to read one of the pesuqim in last week's parasha:

Devarim/Deutemaronomy 31:7

וַיִּקְרָ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה לִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו לְעֵינֵ֣י כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ חֲזַ֣ק וֶֽאֱמָץ֒ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבוֹא֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהוָ֛ה לַֽאֲבֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם וְאַתָּ֖ה תַּנְחִילֶ֥נָּה אוֹתָֽם׃

This is usually translated something like:
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel: 'Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt go with this people into the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.

However, it doesn't quite fit the grammar of the trop (cantillation marks). Most verses in the Tanakh are split in half by the sign etnahh(ta),  ֑  (assuming your computer can handle Unicode). And when they're split into three, etnahh(ta) is the second of the pseudo-semicolons — the first being segol,  ֒ . No, not  ֶ ,  ֒  !

So now let's break up the pasuq according to the trop:

וַיִּקְרָ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה לִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו לְעֵינֵ֣י כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ חֲזַ֣ק וֶֽאֱמָץ֒
כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבוֹא֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהוָ֛ה לַֽאֲבֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם
וְאַתָּ֖ה תַּנְחִילֶ֥נָּה אוֹתָֽם׃

And then Moshe called to Yehoshua‘, and said to him:
"In the sight of all Israel, be strong and courageous!

For you will come with this nation to the Land
that God swore to their ancestors to give to them;

And you will distribute it to them."

So, according to this reading, it's possible that Moshe wasn't telling Yehoshua‘ all this in front of the people — instead, he was telling him specificly to be strong in front of the people, i.e. don't let them see your weakness! Moshe had a lot of trouble with the Israelites disrespecting him, and he was giving Yehoshua‘ advice as to how to be a good leader for the whiny, needy and stiff-necked people: keep up a good front of being strong for them, even if you're not really feeling strong inside. And hey, read Yehoshua‘'s book. It seems to work.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Returning" to AishDas
& the Yavneh Minyan

This past Shabbos, AishDas and the Yavneh Minyan had another shabbatón. It was pretty good, even though the catering people in charge of dinner Friday Night again thought that apple strudel is a side-dish ;‑) .

I also met Ari Kinsberg on Friday Night, which was cool. I'll have to go add him with a "stalkage" mark to my "ChEzzicklist".

Thanbo has two 3 great recaps of the shabbaton: part I, part II, part III
R' Micha Berger's notes for his Friday Night speech: here

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Long Live Heterogeneity

In the comments to the post Modern and Charedi, Rabbi Dovid Schwartz positively referenced me and a few others who frequently try to make the point over at Beyond BT that Judaism is not, and never has been, monolithic. Leaving aside the issue of "heterodoxy" and respecting other Jews for the fact that they actively identify as such and try and express Yahadut in their own way, even if I/you/we/they believe that that way is incorrect, within the ranges of Orthodoxy there is such diversity of custom, culture and psaq that people ignore it at their own risk. When you make the first move to write someone out of your world, they may just write you out of theirs in return.

Or as the Knitter of Shiny Things might say,
"Every community is different.
No two communities are not on fire."

...with the fire of Torah!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Modern Orthodox Yeshiva

Is there such a thing? In America, especially?
(In Israel you get into the whole complicated mess of defining and delineating the differences between Dati Le’umi and Modern Orthodox, and I don't know squat about the rest of the world)

I'm not talking about Yeshiva University. As far as I can tell (correct me if I'm wrong), unless you're in semikha, you can only go to The Yeshiva–University concurrently.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is 'just' a rabbinical school.

What about Hebrew Theological College in Chicago? They look like a Midwestern parallel to YU. Maybe Rabbi Maryles knows.

Anyway, assuming that such a thing does not yet exist, we definitely need one. We need a place where people can go to do nothing but learn, intensively and seriously. Just because we hold that it's not a transgression for the average person to not spend 100% of their time Learning, doesn't mean that we don't need some place where people who are interested in that kind of environment can find what they're looking for. Even a kollel for those who honestly believe that that's their best way of contributing to the Jewish people and the world. It could have a Kiruv program too, so that worldly Jews who discover Yahadut in college or later in life don't have to end up going to Chabad, Ohr Somayach or Aish Hatorah to learn and become Hhareidified.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Defend Myself, Therefore I Exist

I defend myself, therefore I exist   — Herbert Pagani

From last week's parsha, Ki-Teitzei’, Devarim/Deuteronomy 22:23-26:
If there be a young woman, a virgin, betrothed to a man — and [some other] man found her in the city, and slept with her — you will bring them both out to the gate of that city, and stone them with rocks and they will die; the young woman due to the fact that she did not scream in the city, and the man due to the fact that he abused his neighbor's wife. And [so] you will destroy the evil from among you.

But if the man finds the betrothed young woman in the field, and the man grabbed her, and slept with her — the man who slept with her dies alone. And to the young woman do nothing, [since] she has [committed] no capital crime; for as when a man gets up over his neighbor and murders his soul, so is this incident — for he found her in the field; the betrothed young woman screamed, but there was no one to be her savior.

Leaving aside the particular issues of how the Torah defines and deals with cases of rape, it looks to me like we are given here a commandment to resist evil. The woman dies because "she did not scream in the city" — she had the ability, assumedly, to protest, to resist, but she didn't. When someone is hurting you, don't sit there and take it. Fight. Struggle. And if you can't fight, protest. Say "no". Non-collaboration makes all the difference.

On a related note, Ůnqelŏs has a habit of translating/interpreting ובערת הרע "and [so] you will destroy the evil" whenever it appears as עָבֵיד דְּבִישׁ "one who does evil" — sort of an anti-Beruriya, eh? Or maybe he's just explaining what is actually happening on a practical level.