Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Bar Ilan Responsa Project and Poskim Part 2

Several months ago I discussed several Halachic issues that were affected by the abundance of sefarim, search engines of Halachic texts, articles, and other resources that make it easier to accumulate a vast amount of information very quickly (here).  Specifically, I noted the suggestion that originated with the Ri that the Halacha of moreh halacha bifnei rabo was mitigated when our primary teachers are sefarim.  I realize I did not mention the flip side.  The Shevus Yaakov and Peri Megadim, both cited in Pischei Teshuva, argue that as our teachers are sefarim, it is irresponsible to poskan without first checking in books, even if one knows the answer.  This a helpful corrective to that position, not mentioning the opposing view of the Aruch Hashulchan that I mentioned then.  Continue reading The Bar Ilan Responsa Project and Poskim Part 2

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Schisms and Lo Tisgodedu (Halachic Methodology 14)

Last week we dealt with the topic of minhag.  We discussed the different types of minhagim, the parameters of when they are binding, and the rationale behind their prominent place in the Halachic system.  This shiur dealt with the other side of that coin – the prohibition of lo tisgodedu (לא תתגודדו).  Chazal derive from the possuk prohibiting cutting oneself in mourning another issur – לא תעשו אגודות אגודות- don’t splinter into different groups.  This prohibition in some circumstances binds people to the practices of the community to prevent them from splitting into factions.  We will not get into the technical issues of how this is derived from the possuk and what its relationship is to the prohibition concerning mourning.  I tried to give a framework to understand the legal and philosophical issues involved in this prohibition. Continue reading Schisms and Lo Tisgodedu (Halachic Methodology 14)

Minhag (Halachic Methodology 13)

Minhag is one of the most complicated issues in Halacha and I did by no stretch of the imagination cover every issue that comes up.  I tried to outline some basic issues, but for the details, you’ll have to look at the sources inside.  Shiur and source available here.

For the other side of the coin, the next shiur was on לא תתגודדו – which binds people to minhag so as not to create divisions within klal yisrael.  I will try to summarize soon.

  1. Types of Minhagim
    1. Source:

i.      Minhag HaMakom

  1. This is the one binding from the perspective of the Gemara (Pesachim Perek Makom Shenahagu)

ii.      Minhag Avot

  1. While the Gemara phrases some minhagim as minhag avot, they seem to really be minhag hamakom.  Continue reading Minhag (Halachic Methodology 13)

Kedushas Yericho?

This week I came across an astonishing position in the Perush HaMeyuchas L’Raavad on Tamid.  For anyone who has been learning Daf Yomi, the Gemara notes that the Kohen Gadol could be heard in Yericho and that the ketoret floated to Yericho.  He cites his Rebbe as saying that this was not just incidental.  Yericho was unique because it has a special kedusha, a quasi-Yerushalayim status.  He suggests that just like terumah must be given from produce, terumah had to be given from Eretz Yisrael.  Yericho, which was the first city defeated, was the Terumah of the land.  The Tzitz Eliezer suggests that this was why Yericho was conquered along with Yerushalayim during the Six Day War. Continue reading Kedushas Yericho?

God is Concerned about the Jews’ Money (Halachic Methodology 11, Shaat HaDechak 3)

Another classic factor in psak that causes poskim to rely on positions they wouldn’t normally rely on is hefsed  – monetary loss.  Shiur and sources (including many summaries from Encyclopedia Talmudit) are available: here.

That the Torah cares about the economic stability of the Jewish people is clear.  There are two formulations of this that are explicitly connected by the Yerushalmi (and many Rishonim and Achronim).  Specifically, the notion of HaTorah Chasah al Mamonam shel Yisrael, the Torah had pity on the money of the Jews, and the dispensation found throughout Shas in cases of hefsed merubeh, great economic loss.

The former concept explicitly appears in Shas to explain why certain mitzvoth are patterned the way they are.  For example, the Gemara explains that while the Kohen Gadol uses a golden shovel for the ketoret on Yom Kippur, during the rest of the year he uses a silver one, so as not to incur extra expenses for the Jewish people.  The exact parameters of this principle are unclear. Continue reading God is Concerned about the Jews’ Money (Halachic Methodology 11, Shaat HaDechak 3)

Homiletics or Halacha: Another Radical Example from Niddah

Before I begin, what I am about to write has absolutely no relevance to Halacha.  None.

I recently gave one example (here)of a Rishon who took R. Meir’s explanation for Hilchot Niddah as normative rather than homiletic.  I was reminded by a friend (h/t Shaya) of a radical position in the Achronim that takes this farther.  Again, R. Meir argues that the laws of Niddah and the distance created are supposed to increase the desire a husband has for his wife.  On the basis of this, the Toras HaShelamim toys with the possibility that the laws of Niddah would not apply Continue reading Homiletics or Halacha: Another Radical Example from Niddah

Kavod HaBriyot (Halachic Methodology 10, Shaat HaDechak Part 2)

Perhaps one of the most controversial issues in psak today is the nature of Kavod Habriyot and its function in psak.  Shiur and sources (which are important to see inside are available: here).

Before beginning, I offered the following framing for the issue.  It is well known that there are three cardinal sins for which a Jew must forfeit his life; all other sins are pushed aside for the sake of human life.  At first glance, Tosafot and the Chinuch argue about the nature of these laws.  Tosafot argue that intuitively one would know that all mitzvoth can be pushed aside for human life.  The only reason the Torah provides a possuk to allow one to violate a law is so people will not extrapolate from the cardinal sins to all other sins.  In other words – the given is that life is more important than mitzvoth, and one needs to prove otherwise. The Chinuch, on the other hand, when explaining the cardinal sins, writes that a good servant will give up his life for his master, and if we were not willing to do this for God, we would be derelict in our commitments.  In other words, given is that all mitzvoth are cardinal.  By God’s good grace, he does not require us to actually die for mitzvoth.  I have suggested that there is not dispute.  From God’s perspective, he values human life and therefore does not want us to give up our lives for most mitzvoth.  From our perspective, we must be willing to.  In practice, therefore, we rarely are asked to give up our lives, but when we are, we should recognize this is the exception and not the rule from God’s perspective.  [This is fleshed out in my article in Beit Yitzchak 41.]

With regard to Kavod HaBriyot, I suggest a similar model.  Continue reading Kavod HaBriyot (Halachic Methodology 10, Shaat HaDechak Part 2)