New Torah Lectures

Joel Rich writes (my favorites are anything by Marc B. Shapiro):

  • Dr. Ya’akov Elman – Historical Context & Background of the Talmud: link

    Understanding history helps you understand Talmud. There are assumptions that “everyone knows” at the time but later "no one knows" (e.g. door construction). Political history may explain why shmuel was the expositor of dina dmalchuta. Fascinating discussion of a story of R’Yochanan and R’Cahana [my chiddush – perhaps the story that R’Cahana was “resurrected” by R’Yochanan explains why the gemara elsewhere can give the answer to a seeming contradiction as “there were 2 R’Cahana’s” and the differing versions in the Bavli and Yerushalmi. Historical struggle for dominance?

  • Dr. Ya’akov Elman – Sources & Typology of Sugyot: link

    Note – the Talmud contains different genres and the rules of storytelling may change over time. 55% of the Bavli is anonymous and provides the framework for the other 45%.

    The gemara doesn’t seem primarily interested in final halacha, it does use sophisticated logic but can’t reconcile all sugyot (there really are differing viewpoints). Rishonim are aware of many sugyot added by gaonim (was this by mesora or logic?).

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks – Inyanei Haseder: link

    There’s a dynamic tension between Avdut (slavery) and cheirut (freedom) throughout the Haggada. Discussion of the difference between Sippur (telling) and Zichira (remembering). Requirement of hodaah (giving thanks) for both the ups and downs – Halacha and Hashkafa of Pesach.

  • Rosh HaYeshiva Norman Lamm – Sefirat HaOmer-Ideological Background, Halachic Consequences: link

    Hashkafik insights from sfirat (counting) of the omer – is it viewed as bitulit (counting down) or kiyumit (positive build up) – Open vs. closed world views!

  • Rabbi Sitorsky – Shmot: link (go to this website – Shmot 5769)

    Parshat Shmot as the story of both galut (exile) and geula (redemption). Focus on the period and purpose of shovavim. A somewhat nistar (hidden) kabbalistic approach.

  • Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg – Lessons and Inspiration from the Life and Teachings of the Rav zt’l: link

    What made the Rav special – stories

  • Rabbi Jeremy Wieder – More Shades of Gray: link

    (A lighter shade of pale?)Daily Talmud shiur dealing with general approach to Aggadita (a’la Rambam) and Sheidim (little devils?). General rule sheidim can’t act if their actions would be recognizable (perhaps related to miracles only occurring if samui min haayin (out of sight) and general rule of not assuming HKB”H will intervene).

  • Dr. David Berger, Rabbi Michael Broyde – The Seal of G-d is Truth: link

    Coincidence? He starts early with the same gemara in Pesachim. He then gives a nice summary of a number of approaches to how to deal with (me – perceived – I’m still hoping to get an artscroll biography written about me ) contradictions between science and chazal (reason and revelation).

    1. Pachad Yitzchak (18th century) – science hasn’t changed, it is correct & halacha should change (killing lice on Shabbat example).

    2. R’Dessler – All halacha of chazal is correct & “sort of” halacha moshe misinai – chazal may have given reasons based on then current science, but that was their addition (or as I learned in my brief visit to Gush – descriptive not prescriptive).

    3. Chazon Ish says in order to save scientific and chazal truth, R’Dessler sacrificed "learning" (i.e. what’s the point if its all really chok) thus we must answer nature changed but we have no authority to change halacha.

    4. R’Moshe Feinstein – by case of Ptzuah Daka – reality changes and so does halacha.
    5. R’Menashe Klein – current science is wrong (or scientists are….)

    Interesting dicta at end re: how one chooses an approach (me – IMHO it’s a symbiotic relationship between the individual (personality, experience) & Torah and even if you’re a 1. or 4. how to decide where to change without too much disruption to “make the world a better place” (did I hear someone say meta halacha?)

    It would be nice if R’Broyde could post the exact Mareh Mkomot for each approach.

  • Rabbi Daniel Stein – Hilchos Hechsher Keilim Review: link

    Everything you ever wanted to know about the rules of koshering utensils.

  • Chief Rabbi J Sacks – Unity Lecture: link

    Chief Rabbi Sacks on behalf of Lubavitch on the occasion of Hakhel. There are 3 mitzvot – Hakhel, Birchat Hachama and Pesach which reflect creation, revelation and redemption as well as the individual, the family and the nation. Bottom line – unity of the Jewish people is important! [me – seems like we all agree on this – just many want the unity on their terms].

  • Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber – Can Halacha Allow Change? Women’s Spiritual Expression and Community Traditions: link

    Halacha generally conservative get society changes and halacha evolves (e.g. heter iska (interest), prozbol) and some change becomes so accepted we don’t think about it. Obviously evolution in society of women’s roles, evolution in women learning (large scale) started with chafetz chaim. Now we have Toanot and poskot. Within halachik world we see evolution of bat mitzvah from forbidden to accepted [me – meta discussions].

    Bottom line – when societal changes create religiously dangerous tension, halacha must react. Women aliyot also discussed (maybe ok for new communities).

  • OU Kosher Pre-Pesach Webcast 5769: link
  • Dr Marc Shapiro – Facts and Faith: Is Truth the Ultimate Value in Orthodoxy?: link

    R’M Shapiro discusses the rewriting of history and censoring of books.
    Examples included retouching – pictures of gedolim (putting on kipot in German University), their wives (so they can meet R’Falk’s rules), title pages (to take out some “art” {think Dan Akroyd as E. Buzz Miller}, haskamot (who wants R’Kook’s these days)…

    MO do as well (but should know better) Israeli Charedim do it the most (view that the elite must control what the masses see).

    It’s no surprise – the charedi, world view truth more as an instrument than as a value and there’s ample precedent [me – but even then, will it work?]

  • 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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