Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rav Moshe Isserles

There's another yahrtzeit on Lag b'Omer that seems to get overshadowed in all the festivities surrounding Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai: that of Rav Moshe Isserles, known as the Rema.

The Rema lived in Krakow, and initially wrote a sefer called Darchei Moshe, a commentary on the Tur as well as the Beit Yosef on the Tur. His intention was to take this commentary and restructure it to be a definitive work on contemporary halacha by codifying the Tur's rulings and taking into consideration other notable arbiters of halacha.

In the meantime, the author of the Beit Yosef  commentary on the Tur, Rabbi Yosef Karo, was doing the same thing, distilling the halacha so to speak by codifying the law in a process that drew from three major medieval poskim - the RaMBaM,  Rav Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif, whose commentary to the Talmud is printed in the back of nearly every edition of the Talmud), and Rabbeinu Asher (the Rosh, father of Rabbi Ya'akov ben Asher the author of the Tur). When the Rema found out that the Beit Yosef was engaged in a similar project, he decided to adapt his own work into a gloss on what would come to be known as the Shulchan Aruch (the "Prepared Table"), commenting in places where Ashkenazic (Germanic and Western Jews) and Sephardic (Eastern and oriental Jews) practice and customs differed.

The Rema's Mapah ("tablecloth" - get it?) to the Shulchan Aruch is not only an essential element of contemporary halacha. It is also an astounding lesson in humility and unity.

By putting his personal needs aside, the Rema gave us an amazing gift: a single contemporary source that is accepted universally by Jewry, no matter the background. This is truly inspiring.

Z'chuso yagein aleinu!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letter to the Editor

I rarely do this, but I couldn't hold back.

Maybe it's because we're during the time of sefirah, when so many died because they didn't conduct themselves with enough respect and honor...
To the Editor: 
I was dismayed to read Avrohom Birnbaum's polemical attack against Rabbis Gil Student and Harry Maryles in an April 17 editorial. 
First of all, Rabbi (?) Birnbaum's description of the Hirhurim blog is a gross mischaracterization of the objective and goals of the site; not only is it a forum for respectful discourse on all matters pertaining to Judaism, it also serves as an aggregate site for Jewish news around the world. 
In addition, the attempt to bait Rabbi Student into making a comment concerning the mistake of a friend and colleague is quite underhanded; this to me seems like a concession of whatever "moral high ground" the Yated thought it had.  
Regarding Rabbi Maryles' blog: while the content of his blog sometimes leaves me with not a small amount of discomfort, especially after reading comments (which he tries to moderate) on certain posts - in this case, he is beyond reproach. In an April 15 column, Rabbi Maryles not only acknowledges what happened, but levels his own criticism at Rabbi Broyde - a difficult task, given his admiration and respect for Rabbi Broyde. 
A final point regarding Rabbi Maryles: as a student who received ordination from Rav Aharon Soloveitchik ztl, Rabbi Maryles should be treated with "at least" a modicum of respect by addressing him by his deserved honorific. 
I failed to see the point that this column was trying to make, except to gleefully point out a scandal happening elsewhere. The author mentions schadenfreude in connection with the "MO" bloggers' responses to Hareidi scandal; this is the pot calling the kettle black. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Last(-ish) chance!

At the time of posting, the Argan of the Negev campaign has just a little more than 24 hours to go, and can still use a lot of help. Although our intrepid pioneers assure us that they're a lot closer to the goal than their Indiegogo page indicates, there is much to be done and I'm sure that every little bit makes a big difference.

I was happy to see the Rappeports highlighted in a recent issue of Mishpacha magazine, and I really hope that this project works out well - for them, and for us in partaking in some way in the cultivation of the Holy Land.

I just saw that a popular TV show that had a cult following before its cancellation raised 5 million dollars during its campaign to raise funds for a movie budget on Kickstarter - its intended goal was a measly $2 million, which was contributed in an insanely short time (the first 15 hours or so). While we may not be as numerous as the fans of that silly show, we can dig deep into our pockets for a worthy cause.

Again, to donate visit their page on Indiegogo; for more info on the Argan tree, the Negev, and the Rappeports, visit their site here.

Tizku l'mitzvot!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Humble Pie

If you're ever looking for a truly humbling experience, try applying to a dozen competitive Doctoral programs in and around the metro area as well as out of town.

Then, wait as one by one the rejection letters stream in.

Eleven down, one to go.