The Eighteen Minute Matzah Myth

Compared to Judaism's regular dietary laws, the rules for being Kosher for Passover are decidedly stricter. Not only is the punishment for consuming chametz the more severe karet (Ex. 12:15, 12:19), but the chametz is prohibited even in trace amounts (B. Pesachim 30a). Considering how strict the Jewish community is regarding keeping a kosher kitchen, it should not be surprising to find even more stringencies when it comes to the laws of Passover.

One problem we find with stringencies in Jewish Law is the tendency to confuse the additions with the actual to the point where being confronted with halakhic sources can be jarring to people who might not know any better. I wrote about one such example several years ago, and I recently came across another misconception common enough to be worthy of discussion.
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Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha. Tagged with , , , , , .

Ep 169 This Week in Daf Yomi Ketuvot 16-22 - Life Lessons From Jewish Weddings

This week in Daf Yomi, Rabbi Yuter discusses some life lessons learned from the Jewish wedding.

Ep 169 This Week in Daf Yomi Ketuvot 16-22 - Life Lessons From Jewish Weddings

Posted in This Week In Daf Yomi (TWIDY).

Ep. 168 This Week in Daf Yomi Ketuvot 9-15 - Confronting Insensitive Sugyot

The Talmud was clearly not written with modern day sensibilities in mind, which may lead to disturbing reactions from those who study it. Rabbi Yuter gives some examples from the previous week's Daf Yomi and discusses some approaches to handling these passages.

Consider this more of a beginning of a discussion than a definitive solution, and hopefully, guests can come on to share different perspectives (schedules permitting).

Posted in This Week In Daf Yomi (TWIDY).

Ep. 167 - Half-Year Aliyahversary!

In a rare personal podcast, Rabbi Yuter shares experiences from his first six months as an Oleh Hadash (new immigrant to Israel).

Posted in Podcasts.

Ep. 166 This Week in Daf Yomi Ketuvot 2-8 - Kol Demekadesh Ada'ata Derabbanan Mekadesh

Rabbi Yuter begins a brand new Podcast series called This Week in Daf Yomi discussing topics covered in the previous week's schedule of daily Talmud study. Today's edition discusses the ramifications of principle in Jewish law that all Jewish marriages are performed with the approval of the Rabbinic sages.

References are made to two previous podcasts: Understanding the Agunah Problem and Solutions to the Agunah Problem.

Comments welcome!

Posted in This Week In Daf Yomi (TWIDY).

Reviewing Rabbinic Oversight: A Response to Rabbi Jeffrey Fox

Rabbi Jeffrey Fox recently published a teshuvah regarding the presence of the male Beit Din at the mikvah immersion of a female convert. My response came out to over 20 pages with footnotes and formatting, which I feel would be as annoying to read as a blog post as it would be for me to transcribe it. As such I am posting my response in PDF format here and on Scribd. I strongly encourage readers to first consult R. Fox's teshuvah (PDF) in the original. I also reference and recommend reading Immersion, Dignity, Power, Presence and Gender by Rabbi Ethan Tucker.

Rabbi Josh Yuter - Reviewing Rabbinic Oversight a Response to Rabbi Jeffrey Fox (PDF)

Rabbi Josh Yuter - Reviewing Rabbinic Oversight a Response to Rabbi Jeffrey Fox

Posted in Jewish Law / Halakha. Tagged with , , , , .

Ep. 165 The Tradition of "Tradition" - Discussing the Archives with Rabbi Avraham Bronstein

"The world in which we live no longer permits us to reply to every doubt, 'This is the law,' or 'The Torah says so.' Indeed, very seldom in Jewish history were such answers sufficient. Nor were they considered desirable in a faith where proper answers always depend upon the right questions and where even Moses is depicted as constantly seeking, but never obtaining, complete understanding." 1

The Rabbinical Council of America recently released the archives of its journal "Tradition" to the public. For those interested in Modern Orthodox Judaism and the development, Tradition is an invaluable resource as a window into its intellectual history. With all the great articles to choose from, Rabbi Yuter welcomes special guest Rabbi Avraham Bronstein to discuss some of their favorites.

Here is the list of articles discussed, all links are in PDF format.

Josh's Picks Avraham's Picks
Lamm, Norman. "The Religious Implications of Extraterrestrial Life." 2 Tradition 7-8 (1965-1966): 5-56. Lebowitz, Yeshayahu. "In Defense of "Separation" in Israel." Tradition 2.2 (1960): 203-217.

Gan-Zvi, Israel. "Against "Separation" in Israel." Tradition 2.2 (1960): 218-236.

Soloveitchik, Joseph B. "Confrontation / Addendum." Tradition 6.2 (1964). 3 Geller, Victor. "How Jewish Is Jewish Suburbia?." Tradition 2.2 (1960): 318-330.
Leibowitz, Isiah. "The Spiritual and Religious Meaning of Victory and Might." Trans. Isaac Gottlieb. Tradition 10.3 (1969): 5-11. Rackman, Emanuel. "The Future of Jewish Law." Tradition 6.2 (1964): 121-131.
Tendler, Moshe David. "The Anatomy of a Responsum: The Kashruth of Vinegar Produced From Wine Alcohol." Tradition 22.4 (1987): 47-55. Wyschogrod, Michael. "The Jewish Interest in Vietnam." Tradition 8.4 (1966): 5-18.
Lichtenstein, Aaron. "The Israeli Chief Rabbinate: A Current Halakhic Perspective." Tradition 26.4 (1992): 26-38. Lichtenstein, Aharon, et al. "A Rabbinic Exchange on Baruch Goldstein's Funeral." Tradition 28.4 (1994): 59-63.

Shapira, Avraham, and Aharon Lichtenstein. "A Rabbinic Exchange on the Gaza Disengagement." Tradition 40.1 (2007): 17-44.

Lichtenstein, Aharon, and Avraham Yisrael Sylvestky. "A Rabbinic Exchange on the Gaza Disengagement, Part Two." Tradition 40.2 (2007): 49-70.

Other Referenced articles:
Frimer, Aryeh A. and Dov Frimer. "Women's Prayer Services - Theory and Practice." Tradition 30.2 (1998): 5-118.

Soloveitchik, Haym. "Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy." Tradition 28.4 (1994): 64-130.

Notable Theme Issues:

An Excel file (.xls) with a spreadsheet of every article in the Tradition archive is available here.

The Tradition of "Tradition" Audio

Notes:

  1. Sharfman, Solomon, J. "Forward." Tradition 1.1 (1958): 5-6. p. 5. R. Sharfman was a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
  2. Mistakenly filed in the archive as "Terrestrial Life"
  3. The original essay "Confrontation" was published in the cited volume pages 5-29. The Addendum was published in the compilation book A Treasury of Tradition.
Posted in Podcasts. Tagged with , , .

Processing Happiness - 7 Minute Sermon for Chayei Sarah 2014/5775 (Hebrew)

This past Shabbat I gave the Devar Torah in my parent's synagogue. Not only was this my first time since leaving my pulpit, but it was also the first time I had to speak in Hebrew. Although I've been in Ulpan for a few months, I'm still a long way off from being able to speak like a native, let alone infuse my usual sense of personality into my sermons. Thankfully, I did have help not only from Morfix but from friends who could not only correct grammar mistakes, but also assist with idioms and figures of speech. I take full responsibility for all errors.

The following text is from my working draft, though annotated with footnotes. Given my 7 minute time limit, 1 I had to use more "meivin yavin" textual references rather than provide actual citations.

Enjoy!

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Notes:

  1. I actually went 8 minutes.
Posted in Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah.

How the RCA Squandered its Own Credibility, and How it Can Earn it Back

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"דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד - זו היא כל התורה כולה, ואידך - פירושה הוא, זיל גמור"

"What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it." (B. Shabbat 31a)

In the aftermath of the R. Freundel voyeurism scandal, the Orthodox Jewish community has been relentless in its criticism of its current religious establishments. Some have focused their attention on the vulnerability of converts, many of which received a reprieve when the Israeli rabbinate ultimately decided to uphold R. Freundel's conversions. Others advocated for changes in how a mikvah is operated with Rabbanit Henkin arguing for giving women keys to the mikvah and R. Seth Farber insisting on modifying Jewish conversion law to prohibit men from witnessing a female convert's immersion. 1 Still others targeting the Rabbinic establishment, epitomized in this case by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). 2 Rabbi Marc Angel pointed to the moral deficiencies of Judaism's gatekeepers and Dr. Erica Brown criticized the lack of rabbinic accountability. 3

Naturally, certain members in the very same Rabbinic establishment aggressively defended the status-quo in the face of media "misrepresentations" and activists "hijacking" the scandal to further their own agendas. I have no doubt others perceive the defamation of their institutions to be the result of an unfair generalization, where the entire system is disparaged due to criminal acts of one lone individual.

My concern today is not the propriety of these critical generalizations, but rather the predictability of them occuring after a major scandal. Not only have Jews long engaged in generalized delegitimizations, but this traditional rhetorical stratagem has been repeatedly employed by the current Rabbinic establishment, including, ironically enough, the RCA's own approach to conversion.

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Notes:

  1. In Farber's words, "The facts are that while we must meet halachic requirements, we also cannot allow a situation to continue where men are in the mikveh when women are immersing." The problem however is that Jewish not only does not prohibit men from witnessing this immersion, it most likely requires it. B. Yevamot 47b describes the procedure for converting women as having women assist the convert in the water while the male witnesses stand at a safe distance outside of the mikvah waters. Rambam in Hilkhot Issurei Biah 14:6 adds that the men should turn their faces away so as not to see the naked woman exiting the water, which not only is an affirmation of modesty, but reinforces the obligation for the act of immersion to be witnessed by the men. Even if argues that men need not personally observe the dunking, claiming that men must not be present requires a demonstrating that Biblical or Rabbinic Law is being violated, which necessitates citing chapter and verse of the specific violation. It is only through Rabbinic legislation that specific interpretations be mandated on the entire Jewish population or new prohibitions be innovated. See my series on The Halakhic Process for a more detailed exposition on the system of Jewish Law.
  2. Disclosure: I am currently a member of the RCA, though I hold no position on its board or any of its committees. All opinions expressed here are my own and are not intended to reflect the views of the RCA or any of its members.
  3. This is only a small sample of quotes, articles, and op-eds published in public venues. My Facebook wall was inundated with countless more comments regarding these positions and many more.
Posted in Judaism. Tagged with , , , .

Ep. 164 Current Jewish Questions 52 - Flawed and Fallen Rabbis

כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא
For there is no one on earth who is righteous, who does only good does not sin - Ecclesiastes 7:20

In the wake of Yet Another Rabbinic Scandal, Rabbi Yuter examines the effect of a Rabbi's actions on his ability to be a source for teaching Torah.

Current Jewish Questions - Flawed and Fallen Rabbis Sources (PDF)

Current Jewish Questions 52 - Flawed and Fallen Rabbis

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