An Introduction To Jewish Law

Here’s a lecture by Rabbi Ari Kahn. His Facebook.

He says: "Today halacah is out of control."

"You have lots of books on Jewish law and the books are increasingly detailed. I don’t know if our great great grandmother could imagine having a book on kaddish or asher yatza (prayer you say after going to the bathroom)."

"You can know what people were obsessed about by looking at what kind of books were published in that century. You won’t find books about how to make brachot (blessings) in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Why? Because everyone learned how to make brachot from their parents."

"Why do you need books that are so specified? Why do you need books like this? You don’t. But you have a lot of people sitting and learning and it is better for them to write a book rather than just sit and learn."

"In this generation, there seems to be an attitude against creativity. In the black hat, certainly in the Hasidish communities, there is an attitude you can’t say anything new. You can’t say anything creative. That’s why I had to write my first book. When I would say things, people would ask me where did you get it from. If you say you made them up, that’s not OK. If you can say they came from a book, then you’re OK. Rabbi Soloveitchik, when he was asked where do you get that from, would answer, ‘From a clear logical mind.’"

"A lack of creativity almost always follows catastrophe. After catastrophe, there’s a feeling we just lost something and we need to gather what we have. Books like the mishna, gemara, and the shulchan aruch, all of them followed catastrophes. The Talmud Yerushalmi was published rushed. There’s a theory that an earthquake destroyed northern Israel and they rushed together what they had."

"The Holocaust is obviously another catastrophe."

"Creativity comes when you are comfortable. When you can sit and feel good about yourself."

"When you look at books published today, you don’t find the same creativity that you find at other points in time."

"The amount of information we have is obscene. Most of it is irrelevant, but if you have the mindset of conserving, you can drown."

"If you want to publish the definitive history of kaddish, there are a lot of things you can read. The problem is knowing which are important."

"Books about halacah [in English] can’t help themselves but be machmir (strict). The more accessible, the more machmir. Once you write something in English, you are scared about your kids getting married one day. Books in Hebrew are not so bad."

"We are in the midst of an information explosion, that is, the internet. Rabbis can write what they want in their books, there are enough people who do know how to learn who have computers and are willing to write things on computers. The problem is, most of these people are writing anonymously, which doesn’t have much power."

"Rabbi Google is going to become the Gadol Hador. If you find something anonymous written by somebody but you like it, or are you going to take the book [which is machmir].

"The rabbis…don’t realize that you can not suppress information. If people were sophisticated, they would put up their own website and state the real halach, because ultimately that is where people will be looking to find halacah."

"Pulpit rabbis live in reality. Rosh Yeshivos live in theory."

"As far as we know, the Rambam never saw any of Rashi’s writings."

"A hundred years ago, a rabbi could say something and not worry about it going to the next town. [Now a rabbi can say something in Australia and it can be talked about in Israel the same day.] You have to be very careful."

From Rabbi Ari Kahn received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary where he studied with Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. He graduated from Yeshiva University with a BA in psychology and an MS degree in Talmud. He is Director of Foreign Student Programs at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where he also is a senior lecturer in Jewish studies, he is also a senior educator at the Aish HaTorah College for Jewish Studies. Rabbi Kahn has recently been appointed Vice President of Migdal Ohr Institutions in Israel where he is working closely with Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr. He is a renowned speaker, and has lectured worldwide. Rabbi Kahn recently published two books, Explorations on the weekly Parsha and Emanations on the Jewish Holidays. Drawing upon the vast reservoir of rabbinic literature — from Talmud to Midrash, from Zohar to the chassidic masters — Rabbi Kahn combines the mystical explorations of kabbala and chassidism with a highly-intellectual and broad-minded approach to Torah study. He applies psychology, literature and Jewish history to the understanding of esoteric midrashim and the Zohar. Four volumes of "Explorations" have been published in French. He has lived in Israel for the past 22 years with his wife Naomi and 5 children.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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