Amira l’eino yeshudi – parameter of b’makom mitzvah

September 28, 2010

In this shiur we analyzed the nature of the prohibition of playing musical instruments on shabbat (here is a link to those mekorot) in order to better understand a surprising leniency of the Raavya (quoted in the Tur) permitting people to arrange for non-Jew to play music at a seudat nissuin on Friday night.  This opened up an important discussion on the nature of the heter of b’makm mitzvah. (here is a link to those mekorot)

We then addressed the issue of having a non-Jew fix an eruv on shabbat.  This introduced the category of mitzvah-d’rabim which becomes a way in which we revive the position of the ittur. (here is a link to the eruv mekorot)

There were some internet problems, so the shiur was divided on the audio into three parts:

Amira – Musical Instruments – Fixing the Eruv 1

Amira – Musical Instruments – Fixing the Eruv 2

Amira – Musical Instruments – Fixing the Eruv 3


Alei Shur – Mussar Shiur #4 Kivnei Maron

September 28, 2010

This shiur functions as the background for the next Alei Shur shiur.  It also stands by itself as a foundational set of texts and ideas relating to Rosh ha-Shanna.  The gemara contains a basic contradiction regarding the nature of the judgment that takes place at this time of the year.  On the one hand we pass before hashem as sheep before the shepherd – one at a time.  On the other hand, God looks at all of us with a single gaze.  In certain respects we stand in judgment alone as individuals and in certain respects we stand with a community behind us.  This fundamental paradox describes, for me, some of the anxiety of these days.  To what extent do we feel like we can withstand such an intimate type of encounter with hashem?  Do we feel that our community will protect us along the way?

Another, deeper question is to what extent do we put ourselves out in front of the community in an attempt to lead people in a direction that we think they ought to take.  And, perhaps the hardest question – what is our community?  How broadly do we want to draw the boundaries around the people whom we think of as part of “our community?”  Do we mean only those who observe mitzvot like us?  What about those who daven in non-Orthodox shuls and are shomer shabbat?  What about the rest of world Jewry for whom the intricacies of Halakha are nothing more than foolish folk ways – are they part of my community?  What about non-Jews?

Here are the classic sources.

Here is the audio:

Alei Shur – Kivnei Maron – Individual & collective


Shabbat 22a – Tos vs. Rambam on when to light Hannukah candles

September 28, 2010

In this shiur we unpacked the classic machloket between Tosafot and Rambam as to when Hannukah candles must be lit.  The Rambam reads the gemara as requiring one to light within half an hour of sunset.  Tosafot understands that, because we light inside, one may light later.  This change in the practice of lighting had an enourmous impact in the halakhot relating to Hannukah candles. We will continue to encounter this as a reason for shifting some specific practice.

You can find the mekorot for this shiur at this link.

Here is the audio of the shiur:

Zmanim for Nerot Hannukah – Tos v Rambam


Amira l’eino yehudi #3 – Bottom line – heter of b’makom mitzvah

September 28, 2010

In this shiur we went through the bottom line regarding when, if at all, one is permitted to rely on the lenient position of the Ittur – permitting amira even on an issur d’orayta.  You can see the mekorot at this link – we began with the Tur and went through the relevant passages in the Shulchan Aruch.

The discussion of the Ittur’s lenient position lead to an important distinction regarding two different types of minority opinions.  There are occasions when an opinion is not the accepted law, but it can be relied upon in certain circumstances.  However, the unique approach of the Or Zarua (that writing in a language other than Ashurit and Greek is not an issur d’orayta on Shabbat) seems to be a shita that has been rejected from the History of Halakha.  This is a concept that I call “Halakhik Darwinism.”

Amira – Relying on the Ittur


Yoma 86a-b – The Greatness of Teshuva

September 28, 2010

In this shiur we analyzed the “gedola teshuva” section of the last chapter of Yoma.  In order to make clear how the derashot were working we began with an analysis of the Pesukim from Hoshea 14 an Jeremaiah 3.  The word plays that Hazal make are slight, yet very sharp.

We also spent time on the version of the Gemara as quoted from Rashi.  It is interesting to note that the Dikdukei Soferim (page 148 note 90)  has an extended foot-note on different versions of the Gemara.  My sense is that Rashi’s version has something very different to offer in the way that it presents the relationship between hashem and the sinner / penitent.  (See also the tosefet yom ha-kippurim for an analysis of Rashi’s girsa).

For Rashi, the relationship between hashem and human beings is in place even prior to the act teshuva.

The conclusion of the sugya, the berayta from Rebbi Meir, brings teshuva into the realm of the individual.  What we may have thought to be a national event, has now become the provenance of each and every human being.  May we all merit the experience of true inner teshuva that brings about a real change in our lives for the better.

You can see the mekorot that we studied at this link.

Here is the audio from the shiur:

Yoma 86 a b – Gedola Teshuva


A message for the New Year…

September 17, 2010

Extremely cheesy, but an important contribution to the world of Jewish (frumish) Pop music.


Shabbat 21a – Hannukah Candles – Kavta Zakuk La

September 15, 2010

In this shiur we analyzed the opening sugya of the Hannukah material as it appears in the second chapter of Masechet Shabbat.  The first issue that the gemara addresses is the permissability of oils and wicks on Hannukah that may not be used on Shabbat.  The gemara gives us three positions:

1) Rav Huna – those oils that may not be used on Shabbat may never be used on Hannukah

2)Rav Hisda – those oils that may not be used on Shabbat can be used on Hannukah only during the week and not during the shabbat(ot) of Hannukah.

3) Rav – those oils that may not be used on Shabbat can be used through out all of Hannnukah.

Rava then proceeds to provide the conceptual framework for these three approaches.  We began by noting that there is no fourth shitta recorded which permits lighting with the sub-par oils and wicks on Shabbat and forbids during the week.  One of the goals of the shiur was to provide an explanation as to why that fourth approach is simply illogical or untenable.

The shittot were analyzed through the lens of Tosafot’s question – if Rav Huna holds that one is required to relight an extinguished flame (kavta zakuk la) isn’t that sufficient to prohibit usage on weekdays and Shabbat.  How, asked Tosafot, does Rava know that Rav Huna also holds that we are permitted to benefit from their light (mutar lihishtamesh l’orah).  This same question was asked by Ramban (and Rashba).  As is their way – Tosafot gives a structural answer and Ramban a conceptual answer.

The mekorot (Gemara and Rishonim) can be found at this link.

Kavta Zakuk La – Tosfot Ramban