Monthly Archives: April 2014

If the World is Round, Which Way is Heaven?

We have dealt before with how poskim deal with changing scientific knowledge in Halacha (here).  Just a quick example of how changing scientific knowledge affects how we understand every day halachic practices theologically/religiously which I found to be fun.

There is a discussion in poskim whether one can live above a shul, do non-kadosh or even base things above a shul, etc.  This question starts in a Mordechai (Shabbos 228) and revolves around the relationship between the kedusha of shuls and that of the Beit HaMikdash.  For a summary of the positions, see Yabia Omer Orach Chaim 6:26.  The Taz (Orach Chaim 151:4) is machmir that one should not do things that are disgraceful (such as have a bathroom) above a shul.  One of the reasons he suggests is that this will block the tefillot from going up to heaven (he has others – see below).  In Shut Eretz Tzvi 31 (here) he criticizes the position of the Taz for many reasons.  The most interesting critique is based on a very simple scientific fact – the world is round.  He notes that the view of Taz seems to be predicated on the notion that heaven is up, and therefore a bathroom in between the shul and heaven will “block” the tefillot.  However, barring all other problems, if the world is round, who says the tefillot needs to go up?  Maybe in Australia the way to heaven is through the ground?  While there are many other pure legal arguments made on both sides of this discussion, I found this to be the most fun, and it raises the question of how changing scientific knowledge affects how we imagine the way spirituality works.  For the record, I don’t think either of them actually thought that tefillot need to fly up and can’t be blocked for God to hear them.  I assume the question more revolved around how we are supposed to imagine it, as imagination can help make tefillot real.  However, the role of imagination vs. realism in spirituality is a discussion for another time.


ט”ז אורח חיים סימן קנא

ד) אבל בית שיחדו כו’. – נראה דכ”ש אם בשעה שבנה בה”כ בנה בית דירה למעלה ממנה דשרי דהא לא הוקדש כלל למעלה אבל תשמיש של בזיון מאוד נראה דבכל גווני אסור כגון עכו”ם או טינוף דהא בסי’ נ”ה אמרינן דאלו מפסיקין לענין צירוף לענות אמן אף על גב דאין מחיצה של ברזל מפסקת בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים כ”ש כאן דדבר המאוס יפסיק את התפלה של ביה”כ לעלות למעלה לשמים ע”כ אין לעשות כלל בה”כ אם יש למעלה ממנו דבר מאוס וכ”כ ב”י סימן קנ”ד בשם מהרי”ח במלכות תוגר יש להם בית דירה על בה”כ ובלבד שינהגו בנקיות בבתים של מעלה וער”ס קנ”ד: אני בילדותי הייתי דר בק”ק קראקא עם ב”ב בבית מדרשי שהיה למעלה מבה”כ ונענשתי הרבה במיתת בני ותליתי בזה:

An Enigmatic Understanding of the Prohibition to Break the Bones of the Korban Pesach

I know it’s after Pesach, but as we are still learning the kodshim perakim of Pesachim in the Kollel Gavoah, sources on korban Pesach are still fair game.  On that note, I found a comment by a Rishon I never heard of before, ר ‘ יעקב דילישקייאש מוינאin Sefer אמרי נועם(apparently a late Medieval collection of French and German commentaries on Chumash), in the new volume of תורת ראשנים by Mossad HaRav Kook (Pesachim Volume 4) that I don’t understand.  Any help would be appreciated.  Continue reading An Enigmatic Understanding of the Prohibition to Break the Bones of the Korban Pesach

Learning Torah on the Battlefield? From the Netziv

Learning Torah on the Battlefield?  From the Netziv

Recently, Rabbi Jay Kelman alerted me to the following passage in Netziv (I found the exact reference in החיל והחסן, a book on the Netziv’s perspective on war). The Netziv claims that the tribe of Yissochor, who represented the Talmidei Chachamim, would learn and daven ON THE BATTLEFIELD, for the success of the war effort. Don’t really know what to do with it. `This piece was brought up in context of this interesting suggestion by R. Nathan Lopes Cordozo:

The Nature of Sin in Philosophy and Law: Doctors/Soldiers Switching Shabbos Shifts and Yichud

I was always intrigued by the quasi-legal discussions in the Gemara that reflect highly sophisticated philosophical issues.  Even more fascinating is when those same discussions are translated into law.  Perhaps the most striking example emerges from a passage about the nature of sin that appears in several places in Shas (Kiddushin  81b and Nazir 23a).  By coincidence, I was reminded of R. Shlomo Zalman Aurbach’s approach to this Gemara from a legal perspective when giving a shiur on soldiers/doctors switching shifts on Shabbos (here) and another shiur on Yichud (here). Continue reading The Nature of Sin in Philosophy and Law: Doctors/Soldiers Switching Shabbos Shifts and Yichud

Chazara on Methodology of Psak

As the Zman comes to a close – a review was in order.  As Chazal say:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף צט עמוד א

 רבי יהושע בן קרחה אומר: כל הלומד תורה ואינו חוזר עליה – דומה לאדם שזורע ואינו קוצר. רבי יהושע אומר: כל הלומד תורה ומשכחה – דומה לאשה שיולדת וקוברת…

In the shiur, available here, I also discuss how some of these issues have played out in recent discussions.

Background:  What does it mean for something to be true Halachically?

  • Are there multiple truths (within limits) and psak limits what possibilities are legitimate?  (Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli in Ritva)
  • Is there one truth but we are not necessarily expected to reach it? (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein)  Is it okay to knowingly not reach it? (Rabbi Yehuda Amital)

Continue reading Chazara on Methodology of Psak