Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lag BaOmer, Shavuos and Music

Something I noticed the past few years is the increasing stringency in playing 'Acapella music only' until Shavuos.

It was only a few short years ago when most new music recordings were scheduled for release on Lag BaOmer. Lag BaOmer was a great day for going to the park, playing baseball and listening to the latest and greatest tracks.

Yet now that Acapella is in vogue, this "Heter" causes a "Chumrah" because these same stores delay the playing of real music until the 2nd wave of Sefirah participants have completed their tour of duty.

Whether Acapella should be considered music or not, I'll leave that to the Halacha blogs. In any event, the real focus should be on Kabbalos HaTorah and committing one's self to it's study.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Agudah and the Internet II

Almost a year ago, I posted on the Agudah and the Internet. Although in theory one should perhaps oppose the internet, in practice this is becoming less feasible.

I have stumbled upon a new blog which is promoting the Agudah agenda. In the past, Agudath Israel has had their news releases posted on websites such as Matzav and YWN. Cross-Currents also carries their press releases.

Following the ban on VIN, there has been a stronger effort on behalf of the other news blogs to police their websites/comments more efficiently. The creation of the Agudah blog may be a precursor to a possible future ban on all news blogs. Or, it is more probable just an outgrowth of the old dictum "If you can't fight them, join them".

The recent publication of Dialogue shows that there is a market for intellectual literature produced by Yeshiva graduates. Like it or not, more and more Yeshiva people are joining the online blogvolution. Just this past week, I have added several more blogs to my blogroll that are authored by "Youngerlight".

While it may be worthwhile for those who can learn to spend their time in the BM, perhaps we can look at Jblogging as an exercise in Kiruv, permitting those on the "right" to express their thougts to combat the misinformation of the internet. So to my dear blogging pal Hamavdil, I say, keep up the good work. Even if you are just a voice, in the wilderness, your message is being heard.

Update: Agudah has shut down the blog pending further notice.

Monday, May 23, 2011

HebrewBooks.org Continues to Amaze

I am in awe of the good folks at hebrewbooks.org. They recently added 683 more books bringing the grand total to close to 47,000 Seforim, all freely available online for learning and/or download.

What is most gratifying, is that recently there has been a major shift by HB, in that they are adding many of the contemporary Seforim to their database. This is a huge money saver, as entire sets of Seforim, entire sets of the variety that are used seldomly, no longer need to be purchased.

The most recent update includes: Ohr Gedaliahu by Rav Gedalia Shorr. Dibros Moshe by Rav Moshe Feinstein. Minchas Shlomo by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Peirush Chai on various Masechtos, Chazon Yechezkel (including Tosefta) by Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and many of the Emes L'Yaakov series by Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky.

I envy the share of the World to Come earned by Rabbi Chaim Rosenberg.

See also this earlier post.

Update May 25:

I didn't notice this at first, but also included in this list are two volumes on Yevamos entitled Nesivos Mordechai by Rav Mordechai Gifter. This is especially relevant, as these are new brand new Seforim and yet are already being posted on HB. I hope this trend continues that authors immediately post their works - upon, or shortly after publication.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dialogue: Review

See this post first.

Having read the new Dialogue journal, these are my impressions:

Rabbi Eytan Kobre's article was written in classic JO style. Upshot of the essay is that one who engages in unorthodox practice should not label themselves Orthodox.

Rabbi Meiselman states that we will not change our views despite evidence shown by science. Science got it wrong regarding the origins of the universe, originally claiming that it was always here, now claiming the "Big Bang". Furthermore, RMM claims there IS Psak when it comes to Hashkofo, and we need to follow the majority. Finally, he rejects the famous Shitta popularized by Rav Aryeh Kaplan at the Feb 18, 1979 AOJS convention that R' Yitzchok M'Acco supports a 15 billion year old universe. He notes that the Big Three Kabbalists of the 16th century, the Ari, Rav Chaim Vital and the RaMaK rejected this opinion.

Rav Jeremy Kagan's article deals with repercussions of mass media on today's generation. He claims that the constant electronic bombardment, in addition to being an intrusion, keeps us so busy that we have no time to examine ourselves and grow spiritually. Showing youth the sweet side of Torah, the Ahava as opposed to Yirah will hopefully combat this problem.

Rav Wiener and Rav Ifrah's well researched article refuting Rabbi M. Broyde's recent Limud Zechut is convincing. These 2 Kollel fellows of the Ner Yisroel Yeshiva did a thorough job.

The issue is rounded out by the article on which gentiles are deserving of Olam Haboh and, to quote the editor, an enriching, lyrical elucidation of various dicta of the Sages regarding the study of Torah at night.

My only criticism is that the journal is thinner than I would prefer. I am assuming that with more exposure many others will vie to submit their articles for future issues.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jewish Observer Rebirth? Dialogue!

I was pleasantly surprised to see a new brick and mortar journal born despite the fact that we are in the electronic era of publishing. It seems that the Jewish market for printed matter still thrives, primarily because of Shabbos. Considering that academic literature is not always Torah friendly, it is refreshing to find a journal with a mission statement that will only consider publishing articles by authors who "...consider the truths of the Torah and the interpretations given by its teachers throughout the ages until our day to be immutable and fully binding."

The rabbinical board is comprised of: Rabbi Shlomo Miller (Toronto/Lakewood), Rabbi Aharon Feldman (Baltimore) and Rabbi Moshe Meiselman (Toras Moshe).

Editorial Board: Rabbi Moshe Einstadter, Rabbi Yisroel Mayer Kirzner and Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman.

Executive Editor is Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun.

The articles seem to be timely and thorough. Rabbi Eytan Kobre writes on Orthodox Feminism. Rabbi Moshe Meiselman on Science and Torah. Rabbi Jeremy Kagan on The Media. Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines on Who are the Chasidey Umos HaOlam, Rabbi Moshe Einstadter on The Nocturnal Sound of Torah Study, and Rabbis Yosef Wiener and Yosef Ifrah on The attempted justification for uncovered married women's hair (in response to the recent articles by Rabbi M. Broyde).

Anyone interested can contact them for subscription information at editor@dialoguemagazine.org, or:
Dialogue Inc.
5906 Park Heights Avenue, Suite 10
Baltimore, MD 21215

New Age of Psak

One of the casualties of the electronic age is the disappearance of the written Teshuva. Back in the old country, and even until recently here in America, when one had a difficult question it was sent via horse, and later horseless carriage, to a Posek. Tricky questions were sent to the Posek of the generation. There are countless SHU”T Seforim published with the questions of old, that many a Posek and thesis has mined for the treasure trove of information contained therein.

Yet in our day and age, the telephone has curtailed much of this activity. Very few Rabbonim still write up their Teshuvos, with Maareh Mekomos etc. I’ve heard of people who even TXT their Rav when they have a Shaaleh. Unfortunately, most TXTS and most phone calls do not get saved for prosperity. There will be no “precedents” for future generations of Poskim to rely on.

Additionally, we have photoshop and other tools that can be used by disreputable individuals to further their own agenda and say that Rav Ploni signed this or Rav Almoni signed that. But as always, even in this age of information, Hashem has sent the Refuah before the Maakah. Perhaps Youtube was created so that we can video record Psak, and then retrieve it when necessary.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Of Circuses and Kosher Food

Just a few short decades ago, travel was difficult for the Kosher keeping Jew. It was hard to find a Kosher restaurant, even in some of the large Jewish cities.

Aside from the dearth of dining establishments, there was very little choice of Kosher packaged food, even in the supermarkets.

Yet the saving grace, before saying grace, was the abundance of life's simple staples: bread, water, milk, vegetables, fruit and fish.

Yet in one of the ironies of life, the once taken-for-granted kosher products have all been questioned in recent years. The water has crustaceans embedded within. The fruits and vegetables harbor worms and bugs. The milk isn't kosher because Traif cows are the majority in the herds. The flour with which bread is made is wormy. And finally, in the last few months we have rediscovered that fish also contain worms.

Although we have made great strides in rebuilding Yiddishkeit in America, I long for the days of yore when fewer things were Kosher, but Kashrus was more simple.

As mentioned on this blog before, and paraphrased from an essay in the Jewish Observer:

"I remember the day when the CIRCUS was Kosher, and the COTTON CANDY was Treif."

Chadesh Yameinu KiKedem!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Mishpacha - or Two?

The Israeli Yated last week carried a proclamation that the weekly Jewish Magazines should not be brought into a Jewish home. This was accompanied by some prestigious signatures.

letter 1
letter 2

Some say that this ban has been rescinded, although I have not seen any concrete evidence of such.

This is a somewhat surprising development, considering that Rav Nissim Karelitz, one of the prime signatores, has been the subject of a recent cover story by Mishpacha.

In any event, what is mystifying, is that the primary target of these English speaking weeklies, the Jews of the diaspora, who in the U.S. look to the Agudah/Moetzes for direction, have not been issued any direction on this matter.

Yet there seems to be an underlying difference between the Rabbonim from Eretz Yisrael and those outside. Primarily, the leaders of EY follow Rav Shimon Bar Yochai, where total devotion to learning is praised and working is frowned upon. Whereas the Rabbonim in the diaspora follow Rav Yishmael:

Talmud Berachos 35B

ת"ר ואספת דגנך מה ת"ל לפי שנא' לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך יכול דברים ככתבן ת"ל ואספת דגנך הנהג בהן מנהג דרך ארץ דברי ר' ישמעאל ר"ש בן יוחי אומר אפשר אדם חורש בשעת חרישה וזורע בשעת זריעה וקוצר בשעת קצירה ודש בשעת דישה וזורה בשעת הרוח תורה מה תהא עליה אלא בזמן שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום מלאכתן נעשית ע"י אחרים שנא' ועמדו זרים ורעו צאנכם וגו' ובזמן שאין ישראל עושין רצונו של מקום מלאכתן נעשית ע"י עצמן שנא' ואספת דגנך ולא עוד אלא שמלאכת אחרים נעשית על ידן שנא' ועבדת את אויביך וגו' אמר אביי הרבה עשו כרבי ישמעאל ועלתה בידן כר' שמעון בן יוחי ולא עלתה בידן

While searching for reasons as to what is Hashkafically problematic with Mishpacha etc. all I was able to find is the claim that they promote Avreichim leaving Yeshiva and getting a job.

I once mentioned that Rav Gifter ZTL was chastised by Rabbonim from EY when they saw that his Yeshiva promoted ball playing. Yet Rav Gifter politely explained that America is different, what works in one part of the world might be detrimental in another. On the other hand, since the Petirah of Rav Moshe ZTL and Rav Yaakov ZTL, it seems that the Rabbonim outside EY have been looking to EY for guidance. כי מציון תצא תורה

So if this is true, then a ban is EY makes sense, contrary to the U.S. Yet if there are other Hashkafic discrepancies, we can then expect a ban also on our shores.

In event that the ban does reach our shores, I suppose some good that will come out of it may be the resurrection of the Jewish Observer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reb Sefer and the Internet

Elsewhere in the Jblogosphere I came across a statement in the name of the Steipler Gaon that {paraphrased} nowadays, due to the fact that we learn from Seforim and not necessarily from a Rebbe, there is no obligation to visit and welcome a Rebbe on YomTov, as the concept of a Rebbe Muvhak no longer exists.

In addition to the fact that today we get much of our learning from the written (as opposed to oral) word, the current Yeshiva system which graduates students every year to a new Rebbe, further distances us from the concept of a Rebbe Muvhak.

Furthermore, many Yeshiva graduates find themselves mentor-less even after leaving the hallowed halls of Yeshiva. I recall an article some years ago in the now defunct Jewish Observer bemoaning the fact that people Daven in one Shul during the week, another for Friday night and a 3rd for Shabbos day. This leaves the family without a Moreh Horaah.

There was a time when acquiring a Rebbe was primarily the only way to learn. But now with the proliferation of Seforim via the online databases, selfhelp tutorials via the world wide web, and thousands of audio and video Shiurim available at the click of a mouse, the Rebbe of yesteryear is well on his way to extinction.

Perhaps the current tuition crisis will eventually take it's toll on the brick and mortar Yeshivos, and replace them with the Virtual Beis HaMedrash. There is also the possibility that terrorism will one day force the Yeshivos underground. But the Almighty, in his infinite wisdom and kindness who always sends the cure before the disease, will see to it .שלא תמוש התורה מפי ומפי זרעי וזרע זרעי עד עולם

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