Category Archives: halakha

Mamzer

A mamzer (ממזר‎‎) is a person born from certain relationships forbidden by Jewish law. The common English translation is “bastard”, which has some similarities to a mamzer, but it is not the same as “illegitimacy.” Jewish law does not consider a child illegitimate if the mother happens to have been unmarried. As such, to avoid confusion we do not use “bastard” as a translation. We simply use the Hebrew word.

A mamzer is a person born out of adultery by a married Jewish woman and a Jewish man who is not her husband, or a person born out of incest.

Mamzer status is not synonymous with illegitimacy, since it does not include children whose mothers were unmarried.

Biblical origin

A mamzer (ממזר‎‎) shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
— Deuteronomy 23:2

Understanding of this term in rabbinical Judaism

A mamzer is the offspring of a biblically forbidden union (Yevamot 4, Mishnah 13: “כל שחיבין עליו כרת בידי שמים”. – Circa 200 CE

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a mamzer can only be produced by two Jews (Shulchan Aruch, “Even haEzer” 4:19). Circa 1560’s CE

A child born of a married woman’s adultery is a mamzer. The child of a single woman and a man she could lawfully have married is not a mamzer (Shulchan Aruch E. H. 4.) It is irrelevant if the man is married or not.

If one of the parents is not Jewish then the child can’t be a mamzer.

In order to make certain that almost no child would have the status of mamzer, the rabbis canonized legal fictions that prevented the term from being used in many cases, for instance:

A child born within 12 months of a woman’s most recent meeting with her husband is presumed to be legitimate (Shulkhan Arukh 4:14)

Any child born to a married woman, even if she is known to have been unfaithful, is nonetheless halakhically presumed to be her husband’s (Shulchan Aruch, “Even haEzer” 4:15)

In the last century, much of the Orthodox Jewish community has made significant, and some would say harmful, changes to Jewish law on this issue. People being educated in Orthodox yeshivas are no longer even taught the wide array of traditional views on the subject, and students graduating even as rabbis are unaware that halakha has a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy on this subject: It is literally forbidden to ask if someone is a mamzer.

The concept of mamzerim was discussed in the Rabin Mishna Study Group: Daily Mishnah Study in the climate of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism. Rabin Mishnah Study Group, by Rabbi Simchah Roth.

****************************************************

Mamzer: A person who was born of parents who were prohibited from marrying each other by Torah law. For this reason translations such as “bastard” and “illegitimate” are misleading. In western law a bastard is a person whose parents did not happen to be married at the time of his birth. A Mamzer [or Mamzeret] is a person whose parents were prohibited by Torah law from marrying at the time of her conception; the parents could not have married even if they had wanted to. The main cause of mamzerut is adultery by the woman.

The non-adulterous union of a Kohen with a woman otherwise prohibited to him, does not cause mamzerut. (Many Conservative rabbis today consider the restrictions on the marriageability of a Kohen to be obsolete, and they have substantial halakhic reasons to support their opinion. In any case, this has nothing to do with mamzerut.)

Halakhically speaking, the ‘mamzer’ suffers no disabilities except one: a ‘mamzer’ can only marry a ‘mamzeret’ (and vice-versa) and their descendents will be ‘mamzerim’ in perpetuum! This is such a terrible situation for a human being to find himself in that not only Conservative rabbis, but all decent-minded rabbis, make every effort to obviate the situation. This cannot be done, halakhically, by erasing the status as if it did not exist; the best approach has always been to find some valid reason why the person is not, in fact, a ‘mamzer’ as at first thought.

Halakhic solutions which get rid of the problem:

Solution #1

Rabbi Tarfon says that Mamzerim can become rehabilitated. How? If a Mamzer marries a Canaanite servant-woman [shifchah kena’anit] the offspring will be a Canaanite servant [Eved kena’ani]. If he grants the servant manumission his son has become a free man. Rabbi Eliezer says that he is but a Canaanite servant who is also a mamzer! (His suggestion was feasible only in his time.
Rabbi Tarfon says that a mamzer can become rehabilitated. The Hebrew word that I have translated thus is “litaher”, which really means “can become purified” or “purged” – of
the taint of mamzerut. We learned at the end of the previous mishnah that the offspring of both the Canaanite servant and the mamzer take their status from the mother.
[Unlike Jewish servants, under Torah law non-Jews held in service to Jews are partially “Jewish” and can regain their freedom only by manumission. The status of the Eved Kena’ani and the Shifchah Kena’anit was amply discussed on RMSG between 16th November and 5th December.]

Rabbi Tarfon’s idea is that if a free Jewish man who is also a mamzer takes a gentile woman as his Canaanite servant and has a child by her, the child is automatically also a Canaanite servant. The father, who is also the master, has the right to grant his slave-son his freedom at any time. The son, upon being manumitted, becomes a fully-fledged Jew and can marry any Jewish woman he chooses! I suppose that in Rabbi Tarfon’s time this was ‘neat’. I wonder whether anyone noticed that it only solved half the problem: a mamzeret could not ‘pull the same stunt’ by marrying an Eved Kena’ani, since her offspring would take her status. Rabbi Tarfon’s elder contemporary, Rabbi Eliezer, denies the feasibility of the halakhic ‘trick’.

The Gemara [Kiddushin 69a] discusses whether Rabbi Tarfon’s proposal is acceptable ‘a priori’ – as a valid halakhic procedure in all cases. The final conclusion is that this is the case and that the halakhah is according to Rabbi Tarfon (and not according to Rabbi Eliezer).

Something to think about: All lines of descent from antiquity are suspect…Given the long tumultuous history of the Jews, there were many periods when records of personal status were not kept accurately, and certainly not universally from community to community. People of mamzer ancestry definitely married within the general Jewish community without the community realizing it.

In fact, in Temple times no Kohen was permitted to officiate in the Bet Mikdash unless he had a certified pedigree lodged in the Temple secretariat. All others who claimed to be kohanim (let’s say because their father told them so) but could not bring authorized proof of their status, were still considered to be priests, but could not officiate as such. This is the status of ALL kohanim today.

Question: Hmm, might this not this mean that we are all mamzerim?

No! In Western jurisprudence there is a basic ‘presumption’ – that all people are innocent of wrongdoing, and even those accused of a crime benefit from this presumption until it has been conclusively proven to be untenable in a duly constituted court of law. This is what we call the ‘presumption of innocence’.

In halakhah there is a similar presumption as regards personal status: “kol Yehudi be-chezkat kasher” – every Jew is presumed to be of unblemished pedigree unless there are solid and factual reasons for denying him or her the benefit of that presumption.

Cf. Rambam Issurei Biah 19:17; Tur Even ha-Ezer 2, Bet Yossef Even ha-Eezer 2:2:a, Shulchan Aruk ibid.

Solution #2

Another “cure” for mamzerut is “assimilation” – and it is the obvious solution for our own times. This matter is deliberated in the Gemara, Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin 71a, as part of the discussion on the first mishnah of Chapter Four. The Jews of Babylon were of the opinion that the Jews in Eretz-Israel were not as meticulous as they should have been concerning the ‘kashrut’ of families suspected of not having a pure Jewish pedigree. Rabbi Yochanan, probably the most influential and most prestigious of the Amoraim of Eretz-Israel (he died around the end of the third century C.E.) virtually admits the accusation … “but what can I do about such a family, seeing that some of the most illustrious people of our age have assimilated into it?” The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yochanan is of the opinion that “once a family [of impure pedigree] has become assimilated [into the fabric of Jewish society] – it is assimilated [and accepted]”.

This opinion became accepted halakhah! Rambam [Maimonides] codifies as follows:

“If an impure element mixes in the pedigree of a family, and this fact is not generally known, ‘once it has assimilated, it has assimilated. Anyone who knows of this is *forbidden* to publish the information, but must let the family continue in its presumption of unblemished pedigree.”

Solution #3

We must also recall the famous dictum of Rabbi Yehoshu’a ben Levi [Kiddushin 71a, top] that “money purifies mamzerim” [“kessef metaher mamzerim”].

Rashi interprets this extraordinary statement as follows: when mamzerim become affluent, other people cease to be concerned with the blemish on their pedigree! Another interpretation from the Middle Ages links the Hebrew word “kessef” with the same root in Aramaic which also means “to blanch with shame”: if mamzerim are ashamed of their status and ‘keep it quiet’ they will soon assimilate and the status will disappear.

Solution #4

Most rabbis would keep no records of presumed mamzerut, would do their best to prove that the person was not a mamzer (as did Goren), and the mamzer would do well to move to an area where he/she was not known, so that they could eventually assimilate into the general community, as we have previously discussed. If the matter is not known it will not be a problem.

The possibilities that exist for modern mamzerim who are _aware_ of their halakhic status are:

(1) to refrain from procreation altogether so as to prevent this “curse” falling upon a new generation;

(2) to brazenly ignore the halakhah altogether;

(3) to procreate with a life-partner “without benefit of clergy” (i.e. without Chuppah and Kiddushin);

(4) to reside in an area where their relative anonymity can be maintained and their halakhic status is unknown, to choose a life-partner and to procreate with that life-partner after Chuppah and Kiddushin have been performed.

I do not believe that as Conservative rabbis we have the power to demand option #(1), so I do not see the point in discussing its ethical aspects. We cannot condone option #(2). So we have to choose between options (3) and (4). I know which option I would prefer. [ #4 ]

Related articles

Morality, Halakha and the Jewish Tradition

Does kosher food really need a hechsher

Two sources:

The first is from Elie Avitan:

Food can be kosher according to Halacha, even without rabbinic certification. And so can converts. All Jews before 1911 ate food without a hechsher, and until a few years ago there was never even a concept of a conversion counsel that “vetted” converts. Rather, our ancestors made sure that food was kosher according to Halachic standards by looking into the ingredients and preparation methods, and Halachically observant rabbis trusted other Halachically observant rabbis when it came to conversions they sanctioned.

Now, many people will argue “What could be wrong with more supervision, wouldn’t we rather be safe than sorry?” I think true Halacha would argue back: Being unnecessarily stringent on kosher supervision leads to serious financial and communal strains, and being unnecessarily stringent on conversions leads to serious emotional suffering – issues the Torah seems to be particularly concerned with. So indeed, it is better to be safe than sorry, by avoiding supervision where Halacha doesn’t demand it.

No one is fully trustworthy, ever. However, Halacha says: eid echad ne’eman. Therefore, I have to treat anyone who would be a kosher eid. Whether you are accepting this fact or not, you are making an assumption that everything is a “safeik Kashrus problem” unless it has supervision. But such an assumption is not based in Halacha. Like it says in the Mishna in Yadayim, 4:3, the person who wants to be strict above the law needs to bring a proof.

אמר רבי ישמעאל: אלעזר בן
עזריה, עליך ראיה ללמד, שאתה
מחמיר–שכל המחמיר, עליו הראיה
ללמד

See the Tiferes Yisroel on that Mishna who says: “Everything that doesn’t have a known reason to prohibit it, “mutar hu bli ta’am”, because the Torah didn’t come to tell us what is permitted, but rather to tell us the things that are prohibited.”

As I know how things “work” in the frum world, I keep mainstream Orthodox customs at home (like having two sets of all utensils, dishes and pots and only buying food with a hechsher) but when it comes to speaking the truth about these issues I am not bound by communal norms, but rather by truth. And I haven’t yet found a universally accepted Halachic reason to justify needing supervision on commercial food products besides for meat, wine and hard cheese. (For things which are debatable like gelatin or beetle juice (lol), people who want to be strict can know to beware, but there is no reason to ‘protect’ the average kosher consumer from something which was permitted by great chachamim like R Chaim Ozer Grozinsky, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank and R Ovadia Yosef).

Again, if people only want to eat food with a hechsher and are willing to pay for it than fine, but the problem is that people who don’t want to limit themselves to the strictest, most limiting opinions get trapped being labeled “conservadox” or “not really frum” if they follow normative Halachic standards and not contemporary “Orthodox” standards.

Elie Avitan studied at Yeshivat Reishit/Yeshivat Bais Yisroel/Yeshivat Mir. He served as educational program director at Midwest NCSY, and as the Asst. campus director at the Jewish Experience of Madison.

————————————-

The following was written by Rabbi Marc Shapiro for the website Kashrut.org, a website run by Rabbi A. Abadi. Explanatory notes have been added in brackets.

Rav Henkin, who together with R. Moshe Feinstein was the leading halakhic authority in the U.S. in the 1950’s and 1960’s, is quoted as saying that the entire basis for the existence of the kashrut organizations is the view of [Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, 1235–1310, known as the Rashba, רשב״א . What did he mean by this?

There is a machloket rishonim [dispute among the Rishonim, ראשונים, leading rabbis during the 11th to 15th centuries] and the Rashba holds that if a non-Jew, in the normal process of making a food product, adds some non-kosher element, even a very small percentage, then it is not batel [nullified, by being mixed in a much larger volume of permitted food.] Bittul [nullification] only works when it falls in by accident. This view is known by those who study Yoreh Deah since it is quoted in the Beit Yosef.

If you look at any of the standard Yoreh Deah [a section of the Shulkhan Arukh] books you will find, however, that the halakhah is not in accordance with this Rashba. Rather, any time the goy puts a small amount of treif [non-kosher food] into the food it is batel [annulled by the larger volume], even if it is intentional on his part.

[The next section references the Noda Biyehudah, נודע ביהודה, “Known in Judah”. This is a book of responsa, answers to questions on Jewish law, by Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau (1713 – 1793).]

There is a famous Noda Biyehudah that discusses this at length. See Mahadura Tinyana, Yoreh Deah no. 56 where he permits a drink that was produced using treif meat in the production but the amount of meat was very small and could not be tasted. He states that it is permissible. There is a Rama who has a teshuvah and states similarly. (I am sure if you describe the Noda Biyehudah’s case to people, even learned ones, and say that there is a contemporary rabbi who permits this, they will mockingly refer to him as a Conservative or Reform rabbi since in their mind no “real” rabbi who knows halakhah could ever permit something that has non-kosher meat in it!)

So now we can understand R. Henkin’s comment. If you go to the kashrut organizations’ websites and speak to them they will tell you that you need the hashgachah because sometimes the runs are not properly cleaned between kosher and non-kosher or milk and meat and some slight amounts of the objectionable ingredient might remain (yet here even rashba will agree that it’s not a problem!), or they tell you about release agents or that small amounts of ingredients are not listed on the label, etc. etc.

The Rashba indeed holds that these last cases are problematic, but the halakhah is not in accordance with the Rashba. The hashgachot have raised the bar and are now operating at a chumra level here as well as in other areas. But the average person has no idea about any of this and has never even heard about the concept of bittul. Even if you explain the concept of bittul to him, his response will be: “OK maybe this is the strict halakhah, but I’m not starving so why should I eat something that we had to rely on bittul for. A person who cares about kashrut won’t eat something that has even the smallest amount of treif.” Since people haven’t been educated about the halakhot, they assume that bittul is a kula to be used in emergency situations, and it is not their fault that they believe this, since this is the view that the kashrut organization hold and publicize.

There is a good article waiting to be written about how in the last thirty years we went from halakhah to chumra when it comes to food issues.

Rabbi Marc Shapiro, 11/11/2003

http://www.kashrut.org/forum/viewpost.asp?mid=4915&highlight=rashba

Marc Shapiro holds the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and is the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology. He received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last PhD student of Professor Isadore Twersky. He received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt. Shapiro’s father is Edward S. Shapiro who has published books on American history and American Jewish history. Shapiro’s writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. His books Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy (a biography of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg) and The Limits of Orthodox Theology (a study of the disputes over Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith) were both National Jewish Book Award finalists. In 2015 he published Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History, which documents the phenomenon of internal censorship in Orthodoxy.
Marc B. Shapiro. (2016, December 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Mechitza

A mechitzah (מחיצה‎, partition, pl.: מחיצות‎, mechitzot) is a partition used in Orthodox synagogues to separate men and women during formal prayer services.

For the last 2 centuries it has been erroneously taught that a mandatory mechitzah is an ancient law, followed since the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, 2,000 years ago, and enshrined in the Talmud itself,

Here is an unfortunate example of such a belief, popular among the ultra-Orthodox:

“It is my job as a Rabbi to teach and educate people. In the times of the second Temple (Beis HaMikdash) in Tractate Sukkos it was written that a special platform was made for the women so that they could view the men dancing and the Lulav and Esrog ceremony. WOMEN AND MEN HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SEPARATED from the time of Avraham until about 1800 in Germany. After the Sabbatai Ẓevi and Jacob Frank  false moshiachs [messiahs], the Reform Movement started.”

No historians would agree with this. The entire paragraph is an urban myth. There is no relationship between Zevi & Frank, and classical German Reform Judaism. Sabbatai Zevi was a kabbalist, and historians say that some of teachings actually influenced Orthodox Hasidic Judaism; in contrast classical German Reform was rationalist and rejected all kabbalah, both Zevi’s and Hasidic.

It is true that over the centuries, women and men didn’t sit together in modern-day style. Few historical sources exist, but those that do imply that perhaps men prayed more often in synagogue, and women less often. There were local customs for women and men to sit separately, but there is no evidence that this was ever a widespread law, indeed, perhaps no evidence that it was even considered a local law.

The idea that a mechitzah is mandatory didn’t develop until after the Enlightenment, and the emergence of classical Reform Judaism. In response to these changes, the Orthodox community created new rules on tefila (prayer) and gender.

Two rationales were developed by the Orthodox, in an effort to claim that this rule had always existed.

I. The Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 51b, 52a) describes a divider in the form of a balcony, in the Temple in Jerusalem. However, it was only set up only during the festive, raucous, Simchat Beit Hasho’evah (Water Drawing Ceremony) on Sukkot. Otherwise it was not used.

II. The Talmud cites a teaching that we may not daven in the presence of an ‘erva, an immodestly dressed woman. Berachot 24a states “tefach b’isha erva”, “an area of uncovered skin of a woman is ‘erva.” What an area (tefach) actually is, is not defined. Thus one may not daven in the presence of women where this much skin is exposed.

Noah Gradofsky writes:

In absence of evidence the claim that mechitzah started in an effort to avoid davening in the presence of ervah is conjecture. Somewhat reasonable, but you would have to argue that women going in to shul with ervah uncovered was commonplace enough to necessitate this enactment. This strikes me as unlikely, since if women were commonly enough going into synagogues with certain body parts uncovered, those body parts would be, by definition, not ervah. perhaps the conservative mores of a synagogue led people to label what offended them as ervah even though the cultural reality around them was different. One of the interesting points of the phrase במקום שדרקן לכסות – “where they normally cover” is whether the word מקום (place) refers to a geographic location, an anatomical location, or both.

During the same time period, Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews developed prohibitions on women from singing with men, the prohibition against Kol Isha. The result of this gender segregation (mechitzahs and Kol Isha) was to effectively render women not part of the Jewish congregation: Many Orthodox siddurim have a prayer asking God to “bless the congregation – and their wives”, clearly implying that women are full members.

The upshot: There is no mention of any mechitzah in the Temple in Jerusalem, not during the First or Second Temple, nor are there are mentions of it in the Talmud. Rabbi David Golinkin writes:

Towards the end of the Second Temple period the Sages directed that a women’s gallery be constructed in the Women’s Court to keep the sexes separated ONLY during the somewhat light-headed celebration of the water festival during Succot.

During the balance of the year men and women mingled freely in the Women’s Court. (It appears that this was so named because it marked the limit of approach by women who were not bringing sacrifices, to the inner courts of the Temple). There is no literary or archaeological basis for assuming the existence of a synagogue separation during the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud.

The first mention is towards the end of the period of the Geonim (around the eleventh century). From then on, such separation is occasionally mentioned in passing. Not until the end of the nineteenth century do we have a halakhic source *requiring* separation in the synagogue.

At this point one is reminded of the classic joke retold by the ThinkJudaism blog:

Conservative Jew: Why doesn’t Rav Yosef Karo’s law book, the Shulḥan Aruch, have a section for the laws of meḥitza?
Orthodox Jew: Why?
Conservative Jew: We learn from this that a synagogue really doesn’t need a meḥitza.
Orthodox Jew: No, we learn from this that a synagogue really doesn’t need women.

Jews in front of Western Wall Kotel

Image: Jews in front of Western Wall, Jerusalem, from a negative taken approximately 1900 to 1920. Library of Congress LC-DIG-matpc-12192

Laws about mechitzahs were never said to be a part of halakhah until the 1800’s.  Examples include

Chatam Sofer, Orech Chaim 5:190
Moses Schreiber (1762–1839), Germany

It is right according to our Torah law to listen to the voice of a woman in shul, in a place that men congregate, and the women’s voice goes from the women’s section to the men’s section?  The reason for this, is that we believe that all prayer and praise and thanksgiving should not be mixed with improper thoughts. And because of this we separate the women from the men in shul, to make sure they do not come to think improper thoughts during the time of prayer. And we learn this from the water libation ceremony that is spoken about in Tractate Sukka where they made sure the women were above and the men below so they would not come to kalut rosh. . And it is said there on 52a, as it says: “And the land shall mourn, every family apart: The family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart.” (Zecharia 12:12). And it is a kal v’chomer- here where they are talking about a eulogy where there is no evil inclination the Torah tells us that the men were separate, and here that we are talking about happiness, where there is an evil inclination, all the more so there should be a separation.
– Translation from Sefaria.Org

Maharam Shik מהר”ם שיק, Orech Chaim 77
Rabbi Moshe Schick משה שיק‎‎, (1807 – 1879), Hungary

Igrat Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:39
Rav Moses Feinstein משה פיינשטײַן‎‎  (1895–1986), New York

Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 7:8
Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg (1915–2006), Jerusalem

Joseph B. Soloveitchik יוסף דב הלוי סולובייצ׳יק  (1903-1993) Community, Covenant and Commitment: Selected Letters and Communications. Ktav Publishing House, 2005. p. 129-130. During the 1950’s, Soloveitchik ruled that it was forbidden to pray in a synagogue without a separation between the sexes, and that this law was actually mi-d’orayta, an actual law in the Torah. At the time, during the political-social fighting between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, many Orthodox Jews accepted this claim as correct. Today however no person takes this claim seriously; there is not mitzvah in the Torah on this subject. He further stated that the use of a mechitza as we know it today was mi-derabbenan, a rabbinical prohibition from the Talmud (discussed above, which we now know is mistaken. He misread the Talmudic text about the temporary partition erected during raucously celebrated Simchat Beit Hasho’evah (Water Drawing Ceremony) on Sukkot.

Further reading

Is the Entire Kotel Plaza Really a Synagogue? Rabbi David Golinkin, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies

The Mehitzah in the Synagogue, Rabbi David Golinkin

Meḥitza: Do Orthodox prayers count in a Conservative Synagogue? from ThinkJudaism

The Mehitzah in the synagogue, by Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg (PDF file)

The Trichitza Phenomenon, by Jordan Namerow

Trichitza. A strange word, no? Until I was in Israel two weeks ago and prayed in a trichitza setting for the first time, I’d never heard the word before. Shortly thereafter, I came across a trichitza-related article in the November/December 2006 edition of New Voices. I’ve since learned that over the past few years, a growing number of communities have experimented with a trichitza, defining religious space in new, pluralizing ways. Adapted from the word mechitza (which literally means “separation” and refers to the physical divider traditionally used to separate men and women during prayer services), a trichitza divides the prayer space into three sections: one exclusively for women, one exclusively for men, and one not classified by gender. This provides options for nearly everyone: those whose Jewish practice is built upon gender-egalitarianism, those who wish to pray in a gender-specific space… , and those whose own gender-identity lies outside of the male/female binary. The author of Mah Rabu, a blog about Jewish politics, culture, and religious issues writes of the trichitza: “It’s an elegant idea that didn’t exist and then someone came up with it, and everyone said: ‘why didn’t I think of that before?’”

Hilchot Pluralism, Part III: Macroscopic prayer issues – Includes a discussion about trichitzahs

Levels of Jewish law

There are several levels of law in halakha.

A1. The מצוות דאורייתא, mitzvot d’oraita, 613 Mitzvot (commandments) – These are all found directly in the Torah.

A2. Laws given to Moses at Sinai, Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai, הלכה למשה מסיני.

These are laws not stated in the Torah, nor derived from it by logical principles (hermeneutics.)

These laws have been known to us from antiquity: they were accepted by the sages of the Mishnah as being as ancient and authoritative as the laws in the written Torah. They were transmitted, some perhaps from the time of Moses, through Judaism’s oral tradition, until written down in the Mishnah. In a way, they constitute additional mitzvot, which one can add to the 613.  But not because we are changing the Torah or adding to it. Rather, according to our history, these rules were always part and parcel of Torah, even if they were not written within the admittedly small text of the Torah.

As in all cultures, not all beliefs and practices are written down at once. Maimonides lists 31 of these mitzvot in his Mishnah commentary introduction:  31 Halachos L’Moshe MiSinai according to the Rambam

Usuallt, extensions of Torah laws are not Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai. If a primary rule is given in the Torah (abstain from labor on Shabbat) the elaboration doesn’t count as a Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai. In the Mishnah and Talmud, the rabbis elaborate 39 categories of labors prohibited on Shabbat; these are merely elaborations of the Torah mitzvah and not additional mitzvot.  See the piece by Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, 31 Halachos L’Moshe MiSinai according to the Rambam.

However, in some cases, details for how to observe a mitzvah are included in this category.  There seems to be no firm rule for which statements count in this category, but over time the list made by Maimonides has been seen as authoritative. Some examples are

1. That the loaves of a thanksgiving offering need a half-log of oil;
2. That the offering upon completion of a nazir period requires a quarter-log of oil;
7. Minimum sizes, such as of food for blessings;
10. The parchment to be used for tefillin;
11. The parchment to be used for mezuzos;
20. The ink to use for writing a sefer Torah;
25. That a field with ten or more saplings may be plowed right up until Shemittah;

It is often taught that we must believe that the Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai literally came from Moses. But even a cursory reading of the Talmud and Midrash show that the rabbis didn’t believe this. Jewish tradition actually teaches that the term means a rule accepted as if it was given to Moses. Rabbi Shalom Berger (Orthodox) writes

“In the brief chapter on “Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai” in Menachem Elon’s HaMishpat HaIvri, Elon points to the well-known Midrash (TB Menahot 29b) – that describes Moshe Rebbenu sitting in Rabbi Akiva’s Talmud class and not understanding the discussion – and ends with Rabbi Akiva quoting the source for his teaching as “Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai” – as a proof that the term can be used to mean that a given teaching is known and accepted *as if* it had been given to Moshe on Mount Sinai.”

B. The seven rabbinic mitzvot – שבע מצוות דרבנן, Mitzvot d’rabanan.  The Talmud notes occasions when rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud actually created new mitzvot (commandments.)  They are:

1. Saying blessings over pleasurable things (מצוות הנאה, e.g. fruits), over the fulfillment of a mitzvah (e.g. brit milah), and over various natural phenomenon (e.g. seeing the Great Ocean, i.e. Mediterranean Sea, or lightning) or significant (e.g. meeting a king) events. These additional brachot are together counted as one, for the purposes of the mitzvot d’rabanan.

2. Washing one’s hands before eating bread.

3. Eruvim: 3 kinds of “mixings” to allow: (a) carrying on Shabbat in a courtyard, which can be extended (eruv xatzeirot, the usual referent of ‘eruv’), (b) walking more than a mile on Shabbat outside a city (eruv t’xumim), (c) preparation of food on a Yom Tov (holiday) for consumption on the Shabbat that immediately follows it (eruv tavshilim)

4. Recitation of Hallel (Psalms 114-118) on most holidays and on Rosh Chodesh

5. Lighting of Shabbat candles

6. Public reading Megillat Esther on Purim, both evening and day.

7. Lighting candles on the 8 nights of Chanukah.

The 7 are not grouped as such in the Talmud: the list is first compiled by R. David Vital in his book כתר תורה ((1536, listing the mitzvoth, according to the choices of the Rambam. The numeric equivalent of the Hebrew title, ‘Keter’ adds up to 620 [613 + 7] in gematria (numerical mysticism.)

C1. Gezeira d’rabanan. A rabbinic fence law, aimed at deterring one from doing something that is prohibited.

For example, one may not place food directly on a fire before Shabbat in order to keep it heated during Shabbat. This is a fence around the law against cooking on Shabbat. To prevent the gezeira from being violated, a metal cover, called a blech in Yiddish, is placed on the stove top before Shabbat with the flame (turned to a low setting) under one section and the pot with food placed on the blech. This blech serves as a fence, allowing heating of the food without any danger of violating the law. Note that a “gezeira dirabanan” becomes binding only if it is accepted by the community. From the Soc.Culture.Jewish.Faq

C2. A Takanah is rabbinic legislation. The term often refers to directives aimed at imposing a duty to perform a particular, act. Some are rulings not to engage in particular acts e.g. the 2 famous takkanot of Rabbeinu Gershom (c. 1000 CE – not marrying more than one woman, not opening another’s mail).

D. Minhag, Custom.

Minhag is any act that the masses, on their own, accept. A minhag against actual halachah is called a minhag ta’ut (mistaken minhag.) Any based on a misunderstanding is a minhag shtut, a foolish custom. These two should not be followed. Any nearly universal minhag is called a Minhag Yisroel, and has most of the stringencies of law. (Yarmulka, and Ma’ariv services are two examples of a Minhag Yisroel.)
– SCJ FAQ

E. P’sak. A rabbinic ruling. Any individua can ask their rabbi a question, and since a rabbi is trained in Jewish law, the rabbi’s answer is generally considered authoritative. This does bring up the question of “who is a rabbi”, because the rabbinical semichah (ordination) that Jews have today is not the classical semichah that existed in the Mishnaic and Talmudic era. Rather today’s rabbinic ordination is היתר הוראה – a permission to pasken (decide halachic questions).

Not every question asked to a rabbi results in a p’sak halakhah: The rabbi’s answer is sometimes only considered a p’sak when it involved an original analysis.  If the rabbi finds it sufficient to reply by citing already existing laws and customs, then the response is just a regular answer. (e.g. “May we count seven men as a minyan? ” “No, it needs to be 10 men”.)

Constraints:

A rabbi traditionally may not offer a p’sak when within the presence of his/her own teacher! The exception is that one may override one’s own teacher, if one becomes recognized as a Posek (expert in a particular area of Jewish law.) What is a posek? Posek (article on Wikipedia)

http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10238/am-i-allowed-to-answer-my-friends-halacha-question

Rabbi Yitzchok A. Breitowitz adds an important constraint in making a p’sak.

“Halachic decision-making is not a matter of a Rabbi secluding himself in a room and getting a direct answer from G-d which he then communicates with ex cathedra authority. Indeed, based on the verse, “It [the Torah] is not in Heaven”, the Talmud declares that prophecy and Divine inspiration cannot be taken into account in the resolution of halachic questions. All halachic resolution depends on a solid empirical grounding in the facts coupled with a reasoned application from the primary texts that Jewish law considers to be definitive, e.g. Talmud, Codes. Ad hoc decision-making that is not rooted in these texts is generally illegitimate.”

http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/decide.html

Is Posek shopping permissible? (Asking multiple rabbis the same question, in order to get the answer that you want.) Here is a response from the website of the Union of Orthodox Congregations (Modern Orthodox, USA)

https://www.ou.org/torah/halacha/halacha-lmaaseh/halachic-decisions-psak/

Rabbinic legislation: takkanot and gezeirot

Rabbinic legislation: takkanot and gezeirot

Gezeira d’rabanan. A rabbinic fence law, aimed at deterring one from doing something that is prohibited.

For example, one may not place food directly on a fire before Shabbat in order to keep it heated during Shabbat. This is a fence around the law against cooking on Shabbat. To prevent the gezeira from being violated, a metal cover, called a blech in Yiddish, is placed on the stove top before Shabbat with the flame (turned to a low setting) under one section and the pot with food placed on the blech. This blech serves as a fence, allowing heating of the food without any danger of violating the law. Note that a “gezeira dirabanan” becomes binding only if it is accepted by the community. From the Soc.Culture.Jewish.Faq

A Takanah is rabbinic legislation. The term often refers to directives aimed at imposing a duty to perform a particular, act. Some are rulings not to engage in particular acts e.g. the 2 famous takkanot of Rabbeinu Gershom (c. 1000 CE – not marrying more than one woman, not opening another’s mail).

 

 

Changing halakhah

The Mishnah says that once a law (takknakah or gezeirah) is legislated by the proper authorities and accepted by the Jewish community at large, it can never be rescinded, with the exception that “One Bet Din cannot annul the decree of another Bet Din unless it is greater in both wisdom and numbers.” (Avodah Zarah 36a, and Eduyot 1:4).

Many people assume that all later courts are to be judged inferior to the earlier ones, based on the following Talmudic proverb: “If the earlier scholars were sons of angels, we are sons of men. If the earlier scholars were sons of men, we are like asses.”
– Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 112b; Talmud Yerusahlmi Demai 1:3, 21d; Talmud Yerushalmi Shekalim 5:1, 48c-d.

As Rabbi David Golinkin points out, however, this proverb refers only to self-sacrifice in the observance of mitzvot. In legal matters, our sages had the opposite approach, as expressed by Rabbi Dosa ben Hyrcanus in the Mishnah:

“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy eldars of Israel ascended” (Exodus 24:9) And why were the names of the eldars not listed? To teach that every three [judges] who have served as court of law are equal in authority to the court of Moses. [Rosh HaShanah 2:9]

The Tosefta adds: “The court of Yerubal was as great in the eyes of God as the court of Moses. The court of Yiftah was as great in the eyes of God as the court of Samuel. To teach you that whoever is appointed a leader over the community – even the most worthless – must be considered like the mightiest of the mighty.”

– Rosh HaShanah 1:18, Lieberman edition, p.311-312, and cf. Bavli Rosh HaShanah 25b.

Are Mishnaic and Talmudic laws always binding?

No. Many Mishnaic laws are not accepted by the Talmud; similarly, many Talmudic rulings never were codified in later codes of Jewish law.

Examples of changing halakhah

Modern Orthodox Rabbi Mendell Lewittes writes about the ways that the classical sages modified or changed halakhah.

“the Sages themselves found the key to unlock the gates of burdensome restriction. Thus Rabbi Gamaliel and his Bet Din cancelled the pre-Sabbatical year restriction imposed by Bet Shammai and bet Hillel. When some Amoraim questioned this cancellation…the answer, given after a moment’s hesitation, was that those who made the gezerah originally did so on the condition that if a later authority sees fit to cancel it, they may do so. (Moed Katan 3b).” [Lewittes, p.96]

Here are 2 examples from R. Lewittes

1. “Another method of easing the burden was to limit the scope of its application. Thus Rava excluded a “noble person” from the gezerah against readin by the light of a lamp on Friday night since such a person does not adjust the light by himself even on a weekday. (Shabbat 12b and Rashi ad loc.)” [Lewittes, p.96]

2. This rule was construed as applying to a court only in its exercise of actually legislating the law, however later courts were allowed to interpret this law, and through so doing could thus arrive at a different conclusion through an alternative interpretation of a biblical passage or ancient halakhah. [Lewittes, referencing Mishneh Torah, Mamrim 2:1]

Here are more examples from the Encyclopedia Judaica, articles on Takkanah.  Halakhah can be changed …

(1) If at the time of making its enactment, the court expressly prescribed that it could be annuled by any court wishing to do so. (Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 3b)

(2) When an enactment once believed to have spread among all of Jewry is later found not to have spread among the majority of people. (Mishneh Torah, Mamrim 2:7).

(3) Whenever the original reason and justification for the enactment ceases to be valid. (Bezah 5a, 5b; Hassagot Rabad on Mishneh Torah, Mamrim 2:2, by Abraham ben David of Posquieres).

(4) “If circumstances require that it is seeming for the bet din to uproot even such matters (enactments and decress of other courts) – even though it be of lower standing than the earlier bet din – so that such decrees shall not be of greater stringency than the laws of Torah itself, since even the laws of the Torah may be uprooted by any bet din as an emergency measure”. (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Mamrim 2:4)

Source:
Encyclopedia Judaica, and Mendell Lewittes “Jewish Law: An Introduction”, Jason Aronson Judaica.

Glossary

Judaism (יהדות) – the religious civilization of the Jewish people. Judaism is distinguished from other faiths by reading the Bible through the lens of our oral law – Torah she’be’al peh תורה שבעל פה. This distinguishes Judaism from Biblical fundamentalism. The oral law is recorded in:

* Mishnah, מִשְׁנָה. The first major written redaction of Judaism’s oral law,  edited in final form shortly after 200 CE.

* Tosefta תוספתא, “supplement”. A parallel to the Mishnah, it contains almost the same texts, but with variations, and also containing an extensive commentary. Seen as a supplement to the Mishnah, it contains some early material left out of the Mishnah, yet also later commentary, perhaps written a few decades after the Mishnah was completed, circa 250 CE., although some scholars date some material in it to as late as 400 CE

* classical Midrash מדרש compilations (most edited between 100 CE and 800 CE) Rabbinic commentaries, sermons and homilies on the all parts of the Bible, by several authorships.

* Talmud Yerushalmi (תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשָׁלְמִי, Jerusalem Talmud) (mostly edited by 450 CE) An authoritative summary of 250 years of rabbinic discussion on the Mishnah and other parts of the oral law, from the great rabbinic academies in the Land of Israel.

* Talmud Bavli ( תַּלְמוּד בבל Babylonian Talmud) (redacted by 550 CE, but further editing continued into the 800s) An authoritative summary of at least 350 years of rabbinic discussion on the Mishnah and other parts of the oral law, from the great rabbinic academies in Babylon (modern day Iraq.)

* Halakha, הֲלָכָה: Hebrew word meaning “the way to go”. Jewish laws, and the system of interpreting and applying them.

* Aggadah, אַגָּדָה – Non-legal parts of rabbinic literature, especially in the Talmud and Midrash. Folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and allegories.

* Kabbalah,קַבָּלָה – Esoteric Jewish mysticism. It’s earliest forms are the (non-canonical) apocalypses; later mystism existed during the 2nd Temple period, and Kabbalah entered its modern form with the Zohar. See the following:

Apocalypses of the 2nd Temple period (which are non-canonical) – See Apocalyptic literature (Wikipedia)

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Jewish mysticism further developed in the Hekhalot/Merkabah literature – works about mystical ascents to the heavenly realms. See Hekhalot literature (Wikipedia) and Merkabah mysticism (Wikipedia)

Kabbalah in it’s modern sense developed with the publishing of the Zohar in the 13th century. This book is the basis for all forms of Hasidic Judaism, and is also accepted by many Orthodox groups that are not Hasidic. However, there is also opposition to the Zohar, as historians have shown that the Zohar is a medieval work, and contains some Gnostic beliefs. See  Zohar and Kabbalah, from the Jewish Virtual Library.

* Mitnagdism, מתנגדים – The opposition to Hasidic Judaism, and many beliefs and practices related to Kabbalah, within European Judaism.

Philosophy terms

* Jewish philosophy (פילוסופיה יהודית) is the attempt to fuse the fields of philosophy with the religious teachings of Judaism. This worldview is called philosophical rationalism.

* Theism – belief in a God that is in some ways transcendent, while in other ways immanent. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, although this belief raises questions about God’s responsibility for evil and suffering in the world.

* Deism – belief that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and does not literally answer prayers or cause miracles to occur.

* Pantheism is the belief that god is the universe, and the universe is god. There is no transcendent nature to God, no Mind.

* Panentheism (note spelling difference) God is the universe, and the universe is god – but here nature is just one aspect of divinity. God maintains a transcendent character, and is viewed as creator and the source of morality. This view of God is in Kabbalah, and also in process theology.

In the synagogue

Synagogue –  בית כנסת‎‎ Bet Kenesset, “house of assembly”, or בית תפילה Bet Tefila, “house of prayer”, שול shul, אסנוגה esnoga or קהל kahal). A Jewish house of prayer. Often called a “Temple”.

Bimah, בימה.  elevated platform from where the prayer leader sings.

The Torah Ark, Aron Kodesh ארון קודש, or heikhal—היכל [temple] by Sephardim, is the cabinet in which the Torah scrolls are kept.

ner tamid (נר תמיד), Eternal Light – a light that is always on,  used as a reminder of the original menorah that was in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Jewish holy places

Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל . Also called the Promised Land, Holy Land, and Palestine.  Refers to the ancient land of Israel in the Hebrew Bible. According to the Bible, it’s area changed dramatically in different periods of time; the precise extent in each era is not known. This land includes the ancient united kingdom of Israel, and after the Jewish civil war, the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The State of Israel, Medinat Yisrael, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, is the modern day Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael.

Jerusalem, Yerushaláyim, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם – the ancient and modern capital of Israel.

The Western Wall, HaKotel HaMa’aravi – or just ‘Kotel’,  הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי . This is second holiest site in Judaism. This wall is the last remaining part of a once larger retaining wall; it was built as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. It is the location closest to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that Jewish people traditionally had access to for the past 2,000 years, and has been a site of pilgrimage and prayer ever since.

The Temple in Jerusalem, Beit HaMikdash, בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ. The central point of ancient Jewish worship, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. These successive Jewish temples stood at this location. For 2000 years all siddurim have included prayers asking for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The Temple Mount, Har Habayit, הַר הַבַּיִת‎‎. The place where the Holy Temple in Jerusalem once stood. It’s Hebrew name literally means “Mount of the House [of God].” This is the holiest site in Judaism.

The Cave of the Patriarchs, also Cave of Machpelah, מערת המכפלה. This is located in Hebron,  חֶבְרוֹן , in the West Bank.  This is third holiest site in Judaism. According to tradition, this is where the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are buried: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

Early medieval rabbis

Sa’adiah Gaon. Egypt 882/892, d. Baghdad 942 CE. Rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki ) (1040-1105 CE) – author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, and commentary on the Tanakh (Bible)

Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089–1167) Spanish rabbi. Excelled in philosophy, astronomy/astrology, mathematics, poetry, linguistics, and bible commentary.

Rambam = Maimonides = Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, 1135-1204 CE. Considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of Judaism.

Ramban = Nachmanides = Rabbi Moses ben Nachman . 1194–c. 1270) Spanish Sephardic rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator.

Levi ben Gershon (1288–1344), aka Gersonides or the Ralbag, was a philosopher, Talmudist, mathematician, physician and astronomer.

Moshe de Leon – 13th century Spanish rabbi. Claims to have discovered the Zohar; historians believe that in large part he was actually it’s author.

Later medieval rabbis

Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi (1534- 1572) better known as the Ari (the Lion) . Leader of the Jewish community of Safed (Syrian controlled Israel) The father of contemporary Kabbalah.

Joseph Karo (1488 – 1575) Author of the Beth Yosef (בית יוסף), a massive, authoritative study of halakhah, and it’s condensed, edited version, the Shulchan Aruch (שולחן ערוך), which for many Orthodox communities became seen as a binding code of Jewish law (although this position was not without significant controversy) Even today Conservative and Orthodox Jews often refer back to the Shulchan Aruch as part of their decision making process.

Hasidic Rabbis

Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer, often called Baal Shem Tov, or the Besht (1700-1760) founder of Hasidic Judaism.

Dov Ber of Mezeritch (~1705 to 1772), the Maggid of Mezritch. A disciple of the Besht. Regarded as the first systematic exponent of the philosophy underlying the teachings of the Besht, and the main architect of the movement.

Shnuer Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the Alter Rebbe. Founder of Chabad Lubavitch Judaism.

18th century-mid 20th century rabbis

Abraham Geiger (1810–1874) German rabbi and scholar, founding father of Reform Judaism. Emphasizing its constant development along history and universalist traits, Geiger sought to reformulate received forms and design what he regarded as a religion compliant with modern times. He founded influential German Jewish journals, and began the process of creating a distinctly Reform Jewish liturgy. He advocated what he saw as moderate reforms, which he saw as a a recovery of the Pharisaic halakhic tradition.

Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) Modern Orthodox rabbi, theologian, and educator

Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808 – 1888) German Rabbi, founder of the Torah im Derech Eretz school Orthodox Judaism, aka neo-Orthodoxy, aka Modern Orthodoxy.

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), first chief rabbi of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in British Mandatory Palestine, founder of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook. He was known as a heterdox Orthodox Kabbalistic philosopher, who worked to unite secular and religious Jews in Israel.

Zechariah Frankel (1801-1875) a founder of the historical school of Judaism (studying how Judaism developed within it’s historic context) This school of thought was the intellectual progenitor of Conservative Judaism.

Emanuel Rackman (מנחם עמנואל רקמן‎‎) (1910-2008) American Modern Orthodox Rabbi, serving as president of the New York Board of Rabbis, and later as president of the Rabbinical Council of America. He helped draw attention to the plight of Refuseniks in the then-Soviet Union and attempted to resolve the dilemma of the Agunah, a woman who cannot remarry because her husband will not grant a Get.

Solomon Schechter – Professor, Rabbi, first major leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and founder of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Joseph Soloveitchik (1903 – 1993) One of the most important Orthodox rabbis and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, author of Halakhic Man. He was a scion of the Lithuanian Soloveitchik rabbinic dynasty. As a Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York City, he ordained close to 2,000 rabbis over the course of almost half a century.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907 – 1972) Polish-born American rabbi raised as a Hasidic Orthodox Jew, briefly taught at a Reform Jewish seminary, and soon joined the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative.) He is considered one of the leading Jewish theologians & philosophers of the 20th century.

Isaac Klein – (1905 – 1979) A prominent rabbi and halakhic authority within Conservative Judaism, also Major U.S. Army. Author of “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice”

Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was in line to become the next (Orthodox) Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. His acceptance of the validity of historical study of the Torah led to the Jacobs Affair, which created a schism in Britain’s Orthodox community. Those who held by Jacobs became the British Masorti (Conservative) Movement

Modern day rabbis

Ovadia Yosef (עובדיה יוסף ,1920-2013) was an authority on halakha, and spiritual leader of Israel’s ultra-orthodox Shas party. Born in Iraq, he was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1973 to 1983. His responsa were highly regarded within Haredi and Mizrahi communities. Although generally having a Haredi approach, he also allowed for significant reforms and leniencies.

José Faur (יוסף פאור) is a Sephardi Hakham (rabbi), teacher and scholar. He was a Rabbi in the Syrian-Jewish community in Brooklyn for many years . He was also a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, and Bar Ilan University, and is currently Professor of Law at Netanya Academic College.

Aharon Lichtenstein (1933 – 2015) was a noted Orthodox rabbi and rosh yeshiva. Yeshivat Har Etzion, Israel

Page of Talmud

______________________________________

#glossary

 

 

Whose life was changed by The Jewish Catalog?

We’re a community where Jews  discuss Torah, Mishnah, Midrash, etc. without partisan politics or fundamentalism.  Think Open Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism, Havurah movement, and the friendly-to-tradition wing of Reform.  Click here to see our Facebook group. Join in the conversations!

Whose life was changed by this? “The Jewish Catalog”It expanded to a series of 3 books. I wish that the authors or publisher would re-edit/update this series 🙂

The Jewish Catalog
___________________________________

Andrew Silow-Carroll writes:

For my first sukka, which I built in the early 1990s, I used two-by-fours for the frame and cinder blocks for the “foundation.” The “walls” were billowing bed sheets, and I bought cornstalks for the roof. … the result had a laid-back charm, it mostly looked like a fixer-upper in Hooverville. I’d gotten the plans out of The First Jewish Catalog, which even then was a bit of an artifact of the hippy-dippy ’70s, when it was published. The Catalog, edited by Michael Strassfeld, Sharon Strassfeld, and Richard Siegel, was subtitled “A Do-It-Yourself Kit.” It was ostensibly a product of the Jewish counterculture, although most of its editors and contributors could boast excellent Jewish and even rabbinic educations.

Its inspiration was The Whole Earth Catalog, a source of “tools and ideas” compiled by writer, activist, tech visionary and eco-warrior Stewart Brand. In Walter Isaacson’s new book, The Innovators, he places Brand at the center of a “loose alliance of community organizers, communal-minded hippies, do-it-yourself hobbyists, and homebrew hackers, most of whom were suspicious of centralized authority.”…

The Jewish Catalog combined Whole Earth’s DIY ethos and antiauthoritarian spirit with a strong dose of Jewish tradition. Its tone was liberal and egalitarian, but it respected the Halacha. … it had instructions on how to make a seder, craft your own tallit, and bake a challah. Its target audience seemed to be young Jews who wanted to return to the traditions of their grandparents, but weren’t exactly sure how.

… I consulted the Catalog when I didn’t know a blessing, was confused about kashrut, or needed a reminder about this thing called “Shemini Atzeret” (which was not, as it turned out, Sholom Aleichem’s less talented brother)….

….The Jewish Catalog empowered an influential generation of Jewish leaders and lay people…. You see its DNA in various projects that aim to provide new “tools” for under-educated or under-“engaged” Jews:

the PJ Library of free Jewish books for young families, environmental organizations like Hazon and Urban Adamah, alternative spiritual communities like Ikar and Hadar, and how-to resources like MyJewishLearning and G-dcast. Even large temples have havurot and alternative minyanim meant to personalize the suburban synagogue experience….