31 December 2006

Israel Trip Day One: Arrival in Israel

On Tuesday 26 December (around 1 PMish), I arrived in Israel. This is my fourth trip to Israel (the first being a Birthright Israel trip six years ago and two separate stays of four-months each at Ohr Somayach). Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures, so I have nothing to share here in that regards.
Although I had been put on stand-by in New York, I made it onto the plane and it was great - there were mostly university students - and some people I knew from various previous other places and stuff - it was great. The only unfortunate part about it was that there was a lot of turbulence, causing the in-flight schmoozing to be cut down to a minimum.
Upon arriving, I caught a sherut taxi with a frum guy to Jerusalem, where I dropped some stuff off for my sister. We then went to get dinner with her boyfriend (and for me to me meet him), which was nice, though it was raining, driving away a lot of the crowds.
I ended up going to Efrat with him back to his trailer room at Hamivtar, staying the night.

29 November 2006

My Article for This [Upcoming] Year's Milin Havivin

As mentioned nearly two weeks ago, I've been spending a lot of time trying to research that topic in order to try to submit it to my school's journal on time in about two weeks' time. However, I realized today that it would not have been as good of a quality as I would have liked it to be - it would have been too rushed, especially as I need to do a lot more research into four main topic areas: 1) medieval and other Talmudic commentators, 2) menstruation, Jewish menstrual taboos, and other perceptions of menstruation, 3) understandings of women's communities, speaking practices, and their relationships to their counterpart [men's] communities, and 4) attitudes about women during Talmudic times.
Anyways, I decided I'd go with another article on sleep, which is good, as it's something into which I've already done a significant amount of research, so I won't be having to do ridiculous hours of research, although there still is much to be done on it. This one, however, in contradistinction to many of my other sleep article interests which are usually on sleep views within a given body of literature, this one will be focusing on Jewish blessings immediately prior to, and after, sleep.
This isn't to say that I am giving up on the article [research] that I have been doing as of late, it's just that I will continue to work on it in earnest in January.

19 November 2006

On Why I Wanted To Become A Rabbi/Rabbinical Student

It is not uncommon for people to turn to me, on hearing that I am a rabbinical student, and inquire, "How did you decide to do that?"
It was in the summer preceding my last semester in college that I was working at BBYO summer International leadership programs that, after seeing some of the rabbinical/Judaic staff, that I decided that I wanted to become a rabbi myself. That semester I began to look into this possibility. As I had been at YU for a couple of semesters of undergraduate study, I had been aware of RIETS and started thinking about it. However, a chance encounter with Rabbi Mordechai Weiss, who suggested that I look into Chovevei, in that October ('03) would change that. I began to look into YCT, found it to my liking, got accepted, and am here.
It was through my interactions and experiences in BBYO in high school that I came to like conventions/conferences, parliamentary procedure and other bureaucratic staples, leadership, and Jewish activities. Thus, it should come as no surprise, then, that the two biggest motivations for me were leadership and doing something Jewish to go into the rabbinate. In addition to those, or rather, similarly, I had bought into the message somewhere along the line that the Jewish people needs some good leaders - and I thought I could help. There were some additional reasons such as learning Torah/Judaism while in the process of training for the profession (which is a big plus, as I was not raised tremendously observant and/or connected to tradition), the ability to go to conferences, and also not have to sit behind a desk all day, but rather do something that not only is important and impacts upon peoples' lives, but also has a variety of various things, which makes for a minimum of monotony. There may be other reasons, but I hope this suffices for now. (Oh, yeah, also going out to help guide people in doing Jewishly - I find that to be very powerful. Just seeing people at Chabad houses, or many Jews who know so little about their tradition makes me want to help teach them, etc. (I'm talking about those who are interested already - not trying to go out there and ramming it down peoples' throats who don't want it.).)

16 November 2006

Spending My Time Researching Instead of Blogging

As could be gleaned from my posting from two weeks ago, I have been endeavoring to write an article for the third volume of Milin Havivin on a topic brought up there (keep reading to find out specifically on what). Although with any article, research is utterly necessary. And there is much research to be done. However, I don't mind all that much, because I have found that researching is half the fun of any article (the other half is taken up largely by thinking about the topics involved and trying to think about things in a variety of ways, with only a little bit being the actual writing of the article). So, I have been spending a lot of time researching the topic, in addition to thinking about it. It first started when we dealt with the subject in a fairly straightforward halakhic (by halakhic, I mean a survey of the halakhic sources) look at it in September, and then became utterly compelled to write about it after having giving it considerable thought during the rabbinical student retreat (which unfortunately meant that I was largely preoccupied with my thoughts about this topic (and another matter, as well) rather than being so thoughtfully engaged with the programming (but don't get it twisted, I was learning quite a bit from the lectures, etc. taking place there - I just wasn't my usual talkative, questioning, and engaged self)). So, what is this topic, per se? {drumroll...} I'm working on trying to figure out what it was that compelled the Jewish women to exercise a stringency upon themselves to wait a full week of no menstrual blood after they had finished menstruating in contradistinction to what the book of Leviticus (ch. 15) laid out and as interpreted by the rabbis. Although I need to figure out how to more concisely and articulately spell that out when trying to discuss this, hopefully enough googling and wikipediaing will help you understand it more if you are interested. Anyways, that's my new found interest. Hopefully, I will have my article done in time for the deadline in less than a month.

12 November 2006

New Glasses

Two Mondays ago, I got my first new pair of glasses in about two and a half years (the last time I got a new pair was January 2004, directly prior to the last time that I was in Israel). This picture doesn't have a lot of light, but hopefully you can see the glasses.

Re-Imagining the Synagogue Rabbinical Student Retreat

the 3 YCT guys with Rabbi LopatinTwo weekends ago, immediately following YCT's hike, I took part in a Panim's Re-Imagining the American Synagogue rabbinical student retreat at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in CT. There, I, along with two other students from YCT, came together with students from several other rabbinical seminaries (such as AJR, Aleph, JTS, UJ, HUC-NY, HUC-LA, RRC, and Hebrew College) and a couple of rabbis and an educator. I enjoyed it, as I got to spend time working on trying to create some sort of vision towards my rabbinate and future shul(s), which was goothe yurtd. What was tough about it was trying to figure out precisely how difficult things are as well as to understanding what the status quo was in the way shuls function and how to be aware of these things and to be on my guard lest the usual pitfalls befall me, as well.
Also, as happens to me in any pluralistic setting (for instance, the El Salvador trip), I derived from the experience a greater energy and excitement about my position to go out and help American Jewry and glad where I am. (I also felt that, as Orthodox rabbinical students, we were more textually dexetrous. No, that was not meant as a shot at any of the other schools or movements, just a sense I got.)
For more pictures, see some of the other participants' albums: One album. And another: set one, set two.

02 November 2006

My First Attempt at a Critical Text

My first attempt at a critical text: a small סוגיא (section) of Niddah 67b. Since I did not provide a translation there in that MS Word file, I will translate the section into English (as opposed to Slotski's Vilna printed edition-based translation) here.
Rav Idi, son of Avin, established in Narash to immerse on the eighth day, because of lions [being around at night].
Rav Aha, son of Ya'akov, [established the same] in Fafunia, because of robbers/thieves [at night time].
Rav Yehudah [established the same] in Pumbedisa, because of the cold [nights].
Rava [established the same] in Mehoza, because of the closing of the gates [at nighttime].
Rav Papa said to Rava: Since, nowadays, all of them are considered to be possible zavos, let them immerse themselves in the day.
He said to him: Because of Rabbi Shime'on, as it is taught....

18 October 2006

Simhas Torah in Baltimore

Whereas last year I spent Simhas Torah in Washington Heights, this year, I spent it at Beth Tefiloh in Batlimore. It was an interesting shul, to be sure. Although I davened on Shabbas in "The Minyan" (the kiddush after shaharis and before mussaf was clutch), I davened in the main sanctuary on the following day, especially to help bring some dancing and spirit (ruah) to the shul, along with a fellow YCTer. Interesting was that BT is one of the few shuls that has a kosher microphone system, which makes sense for the size of the sanctuary and number of people that attend shabbas and holiday services. It was a nice time. I should also mention that the head rabbi there, Rabbi Wohlberg (who mentioned that he had read my blog), is tremendously funny - so much so that I think he's the funniest pulpit rabbi I've met so far (although you can find a number of his sermons in pdf format, his humor comes through also through his delivery, so it might be somewhat lost on some). (I also wanted to thank Chaim (whom I had mentioned previously), who, aside from being one of two former Derech guys who were at the shul for a young people's hakafos along with myself, gave me some encouragement with the blog - so thanks.)

Hol haMoed

Last week, after having been back home, I returned to my apartment in the Heights and spent the week mostly looking through various Jewish journals for articles at the YU library as well as working on looking for sleep statements in the Mishneh Torah (in addition to what I have found previously) (and, yes, I have looked through the Guide) for my planned upcoming paper on Maimonides' view(s) on sleep (I think it may be my submission for this year's Milin Havivin volume), as well as looking through secondary literature for sources for my planned article on sleep in the book of Proverbs.

Back in Ohio

As mentioned previously, I did, indeed, go back to Gahanna and spent the first weekend of this year's Sukkos holiday in Columbus.
It was, once again, a bit weird and interesting being back in the town in which I grew up - not least of which due to my position in life and perspectives on things being different than many there - certainly coming from being surrounded by New York City and heading back there. (Sorry for the looong sentence.) Anyways, that characterized the few days I spent taking care of errands, etc. while being at home prior to the holiday.
For the holiday, I davened at Beth Jacob and stayed at the Cantor's house, as we are peers and go back several years. One significant thing which occurred was that I had handed to the new rabbi there, Rabbi Weisz, grandson of Rabbi David Stavsky (the rabbi there for several decades (and was the officiating rabbi at my parents' wedding)), a copy of the second volume of Milin Havivin. After having told him that I had written an article on sleep for that volume (upon which one may find my major critiques of that piece), he asked me to speak upon the topic on Saturday evening between Minhah and Ma'ariv, which I obliged. Although I had expected someone to inquire regarding washing one's hands in the morning, instead someone queried me as to why hasidim often will daven and say krias shema' past the designated times as per halakhah, to which I knew not the answer (though I suppose someone will...). Anyways, I do want to thank Rabbi Weisz and the congregation for the opportunity.

03 October 2006

Going to Ohio

I'll be back home in Ohio from this evening until Monday morning.

Days of Awe (ימים נוראים)

The Days of Awe (ימים נוראים) have just passed, consisting of the ten days beginning with the two days of the Jewish New Year (ראש השנה) and concluding with the one day of the Day of Atonement (יום כיפור). What comes onto my mind every year is a trepidation - one not so much deriving from fear of approaching the Divine Presence, but rather of trying to get down our Jewish practices as far as what to do in this time of year. I think that's part of what being a BT is about - just when I think I'm kind of getting the rhythm down of Jewish life, then bam, the flow gets switched up and some sort of holiday or fast comes up and I must learn all about it (versus FFBs who not only may have a sense of the actions, practices, and/or attitudes of various holidays already down, also have more of a visceral connection, which helps them orient more positively towards the holiday(s) in question). I think, if asked, my favorite time of the Jewish year would have to be the time following Sukkos up through the winter and the spring, as Hanukkah and Purim aren't too intense around which to wrap my head, up until before Pessah and then from then, it gets a little bit more difficult.
Anyways, I spent my Rosh HaShanah in Onset, MA at the only Orthodox shul in Cape Cod, Congregation Beth Israel. It is also known for being the Rav's summer shul. It was a nice, small minyan, but I'm not sure that they got enough for a minyan for Yom Kippur. Anyways, it was a nice, pleasant davenning, part of which was led by my fellow schoolmate, Yonah Berman, and also some of which was led beautifully by Dr. Matthew Zizmor. It was a nice town with coves of water around, which was peaceful and nice. However, I'm sure that in the summer it must be more so, however with warmer weather and more people around, but most people had already departed following Labor Day weekend, and the weather had begun to change to autumn-like weather. The weather change clearly imparting to me that summer had, indeed, come to an end.
We had school the week in between, and for Yom Kippur, I went to HIR up in Riverdale for Sunday night. Upon leaving, Rabbi Weiss insisted that my two walking companions back to the Heights and myself stay the night in Riverdale. In the morning, we walked back and davened there.
Okay, now it's time to get in the mindset for Sukkos.

20 September 2006

UN Rallies and Jewzapalooza

Esther Kustanowitz and Drew Kaplan at rally at UN on 20 September 2006(Yes, it's been a few weeks since I last posted - my longest hiatus!)
I thought I would note my recent attendance at a few gatherings this past week.
Along with some other YCT students, I attended the rally at the UN a little over twelve hours ago. There, after having first initially indicating my desire to meet her a year ago, I finally met Esther Kustanowitz in person! (Also, I want to thank her a lot for linking me on her post about the rally (sure to drive up the viewership!).) While there, I also met the owner of my gym, who I found out is an observant Jew(!) (who knew?), which was really cool. On the way there, I met a reader of my blog, which was neat to find out those who do.
On Sunday, I attended - again, with fellow YCT students - the rally in Central Park for Darfur. It was a fine time, nice weather, though I didn't schmooze as much as I did at the one at the UN. My
Ben Greenberg and Drew Kaplan at rally for Darfur in NYC on 17 September 2006 concern for any action to be done is that there needs to be troops inserted into Sudan to protect the people of Darfur, but the Sudanese government has refused to allow UN troops in. So who's supposed to go in in the stead of the troops of the African Union? Short of an invasion, it seems unpleasant.
Both days, however, there was nice weather (thank God). The clear connection to them was this week's beginning of a new session at the UN.
After the rally on Sunday, I went over to the third annual Jewzapalooza (my first) and heard Pharoah's Daughter, which was a pretty decent performance, before heading back uptown. btw, I saw fellow JBLogger ALG at the latter.

25 August 2006

My Critique on My Rabbinic Sleep Ethics paper

As YCT has recently published the second volume of Milin Havivin, there is much to discuss. In fact, KAAB has already discussed one of Dr. Friedman's articles. Clearly, the biggest, most researched article was written by my classmate, Steven Exler, though I'm still trying to work through it, is on something that is very relevant to this month: it's entitled "Teki’ot Transforming Texts: Elul Shofar Blasts in Medieval Minhag". Also of note is David Kasher's "Defending Derash: The Gur Aryeh’s Approach to Hermeneutics", which is beautifully written and deals with people (mainly MO) being a little unsatisfied with Rashi's commentary to the Humash and with people being also a little unhappy with Artscroll. Very worth checking out.
However, I wanted to deal with my article (Drew Kaplan, "Rabbinic Sleep Ethics: Jewish Sleep Conduct in Late Antiquity," Milin Havivin 2 [June 2006], 83-93) in this posting. I welcome comments on my paper - you may e-mail me at drewkaplanis@yahoo.com, though I request that people try to remain cordial in their comments. Before anybody submits any comments, compliments, or criticisms of my paper, let me offer some of my own first.
Although I was happy with my paper on the whole, I do have what to say regarding it.
Firstly, the title - I probably should've thought about the title a second time as the "Jewish Sleep Conduct..." sounds like a description, whereas I was trying to discuss not what they did so much as what they said to do. Just because someone says something doesn't mean that they do it ("Do as I say, not as I do."). However, in response to this argument, I think it's reasonable to assume that they tried to follow it (although we know what happens when we assume...), so the title doesn't totally not fit.
Regarding the term of "sleep ethics", which, although I didn't coin (see various postings on the Internet for this term (that I Googled): here, here, and here), I refer to it in a certain way. I don't mean how do we treat others or others treat us in times of trying to sleep or when one is sleeping (although it can/could include such understandings), but how one is to conduct or not to conduct oneself when sleeping. True, this is more individually focused, but still good. When one thinks of ethics, one probably thinks about how to treat others, but that's not the understanding, per se, with which I am operating.
Next is the problem with trying to discuss how the Rabbis spoke of sleep ethics without trying to deal with larger issues of how they viewed sleep (a larger philosophy of sleep). Yes, there are a number of footnotes that show that I actually was engaged in this endeavor, but I think a more accurate description would be to say that I actually tried to avoid discussing larger philosophies of sleep operating at the time of our Sages. This is a problem for this article, but I hope to explore it further in future articles.
One gaping hole that not only could I not help but noticing and which I'm sure many others would see and easily scratch their heads is that on the penultimate page (p. 92), I record Rav's proscription against diurnal sleeping more than a horse sleeps and discuss it, but I don't say how long a horse sleeps. Now most people reading that would see that as a glaring error. However, in most of my drafts of this paper, I had included a little discussion of this length of time, citing the same article as I had in n. 45 about horse sleeping habits and tossing in an aharon's citation of two other aharonim's opinions (yes, he actually cites three, but the third is a bit unlikely). However, this is missing. In a later article, I hope to mention it - probably in my Zohar and sleep article.
This mention of
aharonim brings me to me next criticism - that aside from citing Rashi a lot and Tosafos a little, I brought in a couple of aharonim in n. 14. I imagine that in future papers, I will cite more, as my facility with them will increase.
Those are my main criticisms. I am happy about a few other things in the article, but I will leave them for others to notice.

What it do

Drew in front of the Bronx ZooYeah, I haven't posted in nearly two weeks, but I haven't been as close with my computer as I usually am. However, I've been fine with that, as it has been a little like a little vacation (a la Menachem). It's funny, I have found, that there is somewhat a balancing act which occurs: trying to avoid being on the computer, perhaps hurting my eyes, or my time spent doing other things, such as working on actual articles (similar to Menachem (though I haven't totally quit blogging just yet)), etc. as well as trying to read others' blogs and get a more well-rounded perspective on things going on the world, Judaism, ideas, etc. and posting, myself. Yes, I have had a greater reluctance to post as I am afraid to get verbally attacked on the Internet or in person by what I type on the blog, which also has been a damper on my frequency of posting (does that suggest a little lack of backbone?).Drew in front of the New York Aquarium
Anyways, last week, and a little bit of this week, I visited the Bronx Zoo for the first time, the New York Aquarium for the first time, and a brief view of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the first time. I also went to check out the Brooklyn Museum, though it was primarily art stuff, which interests me not. It was nice as it was almost like being a tourist, except that I didn't have to pay to travel to another city, nor stay at a hotel. How often does one check out attractions in their own city? One thing which kept striking me at the zoo and the aquarium was that a lot of the signs were describing the dwindling populations of this or that animal and how their habitats were being destroyed by humans. Now, of course, what should strike one is that these institutions are really trying to push their message that the world is going down the drain and it is our fault, but we need to help out. HoweDrew next to a column at the Italian garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardenver, inasmuch as they were trying to stuff this message down the visitors' throats, they are right and, moreover, this is the place where the message needs to be made. For if it were not being made as strong as that, where else would the message be as understood. I was feeling rather helpless as to what I could do to combat this utter evil that has taken hold over our planet, destroying it, and within our midst. Simply, I saw that they were really pushing the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was working to try helping out fauna on our earth, so I joined up. Granted, I also get free passage to the four zoos in the New York City area and the aquarium, plus discounts, etc.
Anyways, I'm back now to blogging and it was a nice time. School starts up Monday....

13 August 2006

Returning From Boston back to New York City

The Summer Beit Midrash program that began 4 July ended Thursday. It was a different day than usual, as we went to the Boston Beis Din (sorry, I don't know of any web links for this place), which was neat, as we got to see parts of a few גיטין (gets) given (I had never seen it done before). In addition to watching the proceedings, we also finished up looking over some of our תשובות (responsa) on the שאלה (query) that we were given on our topic.
Afterwards, I headed back to my hosts' house, where I packed up and left, heading to the bus terminal, picking up a 10.30 bus and arriving back to the City at 3am. I was around for shabbas, with a great number of inquiries as to my absence and I confirmed that I was back in town from having been away. Also, I got to meet a fellow JBlogger over shabbas, which is always pretty neat.

At some point, I hope to post both the query and my responsum soon.

09 August 2006

Lecture on the Meiri - Last Public Lecture of this Year's SBM

Rabbi Klapper speaking at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah on 9 August 2006 on paskening like the MeiriTonight, Rabbi Klapper spoke on the topic of "Paskening like the Meiri" to round out the public lecture series during this year's Summer Beit Midrash program in the Boston area. I had been thinking of trying to quote this piece or that piece, but it was not only overwhelming of the choices from which I could have chose, but that it also would have been tremendously time consuming. So, I highly encourage you to listen to it as it is tremendously informative about paskening like Rabbi Menahem Meiri. Additionally, he also showed briefly how he disagreed with Dr. Moshe Halbertal's article in the first Edah journal.

News in Drew

- I know I haven't posted in the last two weeks, but, don't worry, my posting frequency will be up a little over the next week or so.

- The Summer Beit Midrash program is coming to an end - ending tomorrow. I hope to post my teshuvah as well as some other stuff when it ends.

- I also hope to post about my recently published sleep article soon.

- Ever since my hard drive crashed, my ipod was working well until I decided to synch it with my new hard drive. Fortunately I had transferred all of my files from my ipod first to my computer when I got to Boston over a month ago, although while synching, my ipod then didn't seem to have anything on it. Recently, I have begun trying again, though with limited success. We'll see how it goes.

- I have had an empty apartment spot (see here for info on the spot) since the beginning of June, which I had thought we were going to fill for July, which fell through, and then someone else for August, which also fell through. So, now I am in search of a new roommate to room with my new roommate who will be moving in this month.

25 July 2006

Moving on to Newton

Rabbi Klapper speaking on Yesterday, the Summer Beit Midrash program (or “Klapper Kollel”) moved from Sharon to Newton, where we will be for the next two and a half weeks.
In addition to our learning, Rabbi Klapper will continue to give his evening שיעורים (lectures), the schedule of which I have updated on the lectures page. Last night, Rabbi Klapper gave his first public lecture at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of the season on Should Poskim be Doctors of the Soul? Maimonides on the relationship between the universal halakhah and the specific spiritual needs of individuals". One quote I wanted to pull out was one that involved fellow blogger Menachem Butler:
What we’re going to see, though, is that the Rambam uses this metaphoric connection between law and medicine in two other places and the other two places, he seems to draw two startlingly different conclusions. And our job is to figure out how we can reconcile these claims. I should point out that we are going to be reading three texts: one from the Guide of the Perplexed, one from the Code, and one from his commentary to the Mishnah. One can always cheat and claim that the contradictions between these are just because they were written for different audiences and really the Rambam doesn’t have to be consistent. I tend not to like that approach. And I think that, in this case, the fact that he uses the medical analogy in each of these cases will tell you that he is presenting a consistent, comprehensive position.
I think Menachem Butler quoted an old – or perhaps a variant of an old - Purim piece of mine in which the contradictions between the Guide and the Code were resolved on the claim that the Code was written by the Rambam and the Guide was written by Maimonides (it was some Judeo-Arabic philosopher who can’t be held responsible). No, I think that they’re the same person and I think you’ll see the analogy will actually convince you that he’s trying to say the same thing, even though at first glance, they sound wildly contradictory.
Index: Summer Beit Midrash & Maimonides
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20 July 2006

More On My Work On Sleep

I've been informed that YCT's second volume of Milin Havivin (the first volume may be viewed here (English section) and here (Hebrew section)) ought to be coming out in the next couple of weeks, so if you're still anticipating it, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I thought I should add that the bibliographical reference for my article in this edition is as follows
Drew Kaplan, "Rabbinic Sleep Ethics: Jewish Sleep Conduct in Late Antiquity," Milin Havivin 2 (2006), 83-93.
I realize that the two parts to the title may be somewhat contradictory, so I'll try to briefly deal with that here as the first part is what the paper is really about, while the latter part of it is more of a description versus the prescriptive and proscriptive nature of the first part. Anyways, I thought I would put that out for now and I hope that anybody who has any comments on it will feel free to e-mail with their thoughts and comments on it. (Previous postings in which I've mentioned working on this paper will be listed below.)

At the Summer Beit Midrash program, we have an afternoon סדר (time for learning (not lit.)) where we can be learning or working on various things. Although during this time, I should probably be working on Bava Mezia (of which I've gotten behind), and I have done some, I've been actually looking at quite a bit on sleep - last week, I went through the Mishnah for sleep statements, which was interesting (though I found a few statements that I could have used for my sleep ethics paper...), and this week, I went through the Zohar. The latter of which was interesting through which to go, having seen the relevant Talmudic statements off of which the author was building for constructing, what I would like to call, a theology of sleep. In my paper for the latter, on which I would like to start working soon, I hope to build off of the recently [being] published article.
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18 July 2006

SBM Audio Shiurim

Rabbi Klapper speaking on Israeli and American rabbinatesSince my announcement towards the end of last week, I have been reconsidering, to a degree, my totally stepping back out of blogging altogether. We shall see.... In the meantime, I have uploaded a page where one can see a listing of שיעורים (lectures) available for downloading to listen from the Summer Beit Midrash program going on, of which I am taking a part this summer - you may view it by clicking here.
I will not be posting every time a new lecture has gone up online, though if something is too good to pass up, I might post regarding it. Until then, peep the page.
I just couldn't pass up informing people of this Torah. No matter what anybody says about technology, it is certainly good for Torah.

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13 July 2006

Stepping Back

The other day it occurred to me while trying to read - not only do I spend a lot of time on the computer, but it may also be hurting my eyes and the way I read. Now, I know that may sound rather strange, but I know that by cutting back (and I have in mind cutting waaaaay back) my time spent blogging and reading others' blogs, I will hopefully be of better spirit and mind. So, I guess it's somewhat of a spiritual epiphany, in addition to an intellectual, and perhaps existential one. So, I don't want to totally rule out any future blogging, but this is the equivalent to my retiring from blogging. I know I only made it two weeks short of my blogiversary (July 27), but I will be tossing in the towel. I may be putting up some of my posts up in some sort of archive on my website somewhere, but I will be leaving my blog up for now.
While I do plan to continuing to browse some blogs, etc., I am really being מפריש מן הציבור (separating from the community), for which I am kind of sad, but, on the other hand, realize its benefits. One of the odd things about this change is that I was neither pondering it for days and being troubled by the prospect, but rather relieved when I came up with the idea. I must say that it was as I described above - an internal decision, not one influenced by friends, family, rabbis, fellow students, or anybody else, but myself.
As far as my voice no longer being around on the JBlogosphere, or certainly not as loudly, I am kind of sad, as I thought I brought a fresh approach to some topics, or at least my own take on some things, as well as simply informing people of my life who might be interested.
So, that's all for now. Take care and God bless.

11 July 2006

Blogging, Summer, and SBM

I realized that a lot of my blogging for the remainder of the SBM program will be largely on stuff that comes up during the program. The first reason for this is the amount of waking hours that I spend there takes up a lot of time, but also I don't have many other things about which to blog. Additionally, some of the shiurim are rather interesting and quite post-worthy. Anyways, I thought I'd point that out now.

09 July 2006

Understanding איש ההלכה (Halakhic Man or Man of Halakhah)

On Friday (our first Friday), we learned our sources on ממזרות for a couple of hours and then Rabbi Klapper gave a שיעור (lecture) on Rabbi Soloveitchik's "איש ההלכה" ("Halakhic Man" is the English translation given to the work by Professor Lawrence Kaplan, though Rabbi Klapper preferred to translate it as "Man of Halakhah") (for a couple of other postings on the JBlogosphere about Halakhic Man, see Sarah's At Least I Can Still be a Lonely Woman of Faith! and Shira's Halakhic Man and the Mentor/Apprentice Model of Ancient Greece). This was certainly neat, though I would have been better served to have read it more recently than a few years ago, as I have noted elsewhere. What was particularly interesting was how Rabbi Klapper connected Rabbi Soloveitchik's work to one of Plato's works (the allegory of the cave) through a term used by the Rav (if you're interested in listening to the lecture, I have uploaded it here):
So we have, now, where the Rav got this from: He had Plato and he mapped Plato onto Halakhah into this spectacular intellectual thing.
What I want to argue, though, is Plato's vision is written from the perspective of the philospher. The poet, however, would write a very different book - he would write a very different allegory. Ish haHalakhah, the Rav tells you over and over again, is written from the perspective of the person who sees Halakhah as the central aspect of reality. From the perspective of the person who sees lomdus, specifically, as the central aspect of reality, this is what psak is. It doesn't mean you couldn't write an entirely different book called Ish haPsak. And Ish haPsak would use a totally different metaphor in which poetry would be at the apex. So, the question is "Is the Rav committed to this vision as the only vision? or is the purpose of this book designed to tell you that for the person who is the Ish haHalakhah, this is how they conceive the world - they conceive the world the same way that Plato's philosopher conceived the world. But we don't necessarily have to perceive the world that way.
While this sounds interesting, there is much more to it, in addition to his setting up his points more, so it's worth a listen if you are into this work.
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Rabbi Abbahu and Beraisos

I've started noticing a trend among some of Rabbi Abbahu's statements: that they're often also quoted as beraisos. (I apologize for those not so interested in Talmudical scholarship on this posting. Sorry.) So far I've noticed three instances of this:

1) The statement on Berakhos 51b regarding one who eats and walks is cited as said by either Rabbi Abbahu or taught as a tannaitic teaching.
2) The
six things which are good signs for a sick person which are found in a beraisa on Berakhos 57b can also be found stated by Rabbi Abbahu in Genesis Rabbah 20:10.
3) The understanding of what a ממזר is as being a מום זר is both found at the end of a beraisa on Yevamos 76b and being stated by Rabbi Abbahu in Yerushalmi Kiddushin 3:12.

I was thinking of searching Rabbi Abbahu's name on Bar-Ilan, but a search string such as אבהו yields 517 results in the Bavli, 803 in the Yerushalmi, and 900 in מדרשי אגדה. That's a lot through which to sift. If anybody has anything on this, I would appreciate it.
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08 July 2006

Hevel Havalim

Before last week, I had been wondering why I hadn't been getting onto any of the "Haveil Havalim" lists, which are basically a run-down of the goings-on in the J-Blogosphere. I was thinking initially that perhaps I've been overlooked in the J-Blogosphere. However, once I stumbled upon their listing at Blogcarnival, I realized that it was something for which one needed to send a submission. So, I made it onto HH #76, which, if you've seen it, is the most massive collection on HH, moreso than any of the previous 75.
However, this isn't my main point in this posting. What is my point a common misconception regarding the term הבל (hevel) and, moreover, הבל הבלים (hevel havalim):
The term “Haveil Havalim”, which means "Vanity of Vanities", is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon. Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but “hevel”, or in English, “vanities.”
It is true that הבל is commonly translated as "vanity" and, thus הבל הבלים as "vanity of vanities", however, I was most enlightened as to the term's more proper meaning after having read Ethan Dor-Shav's "Ecclesiastes, Fleeting and Timeless" in Azure (also posted at Hagshama) during the fall of 2004, which was the main catalyst for my more positive outlook on life. I think what really gets me about קהלת (Ecclesiastes) is that ever since I read it for the first time in the spring of 2001, I sensed that it really spoke to me about the human condition. Then, three and a half years later when I had a new conception of it (via Dor-Shav's article), it was all that more impressive of a work.
Although I'm not going to go into the larger issue of the article, I do want to quote his take on the term in question:
A better reading of hevel, then, and one that provides us with an extremely important tool for understanding both Genesis and Ecclesiastes, takes us back to the root meaning of the word: Vapor or mist. What is important about the life of Abel is not its futility, but its transience. It was as fleeting as a puff of air, yet his life’s calling was nonetheless fulfilled.

This, too, is the meaning of hevel in Ecclesiastes: Not the dismissive “vanity,” but the more objective “transience,” referring strictly to mortality and the fleeting nature of human life. “Fleeting transience (hevel havalim),” says Kohelet, “All is fleeting.” Or, read another way: Abel is every man. Without the negative connotations of “vanity,” we discover in Kohelet a man who is tormented not by the meaninglessness of life, but by how swiftly it comes to an end. Life is gone so very quickly, and likewise man’s worldly deeds. We now understand the significance of Kohelet’s opening proclamation that “all is hevel.” He seeks to confront his listeners with man’s own mortality-the underlying premise of any inquiry into the meaning of life in this world.

The reading of hevel as “vanity” is not only misleading, but in some cases it makes the text impossible to read. Perhaps the most striking example can be found in the book’s ninth chapter, where Kohelet discusses the value of love in one’s life. “View life with a woman you have come to love-all the days of your transitory life (kol yemei hayei hevlecha) which he has gifted you under the sun-every fleeting day. For this is your share in life.…” Read the traditional way, the verse is difficult to parse. It would sound something like, “Live joyfully... all the days of your vain life.” Life is vanity, so enjoy love? The verse makes far better sense if hevel is translated as “fleeting,” focusing on life’s brevity: Cherish your time together, for life is fleeting, and therefore precious. Then is your love that much more meaningful.
I've realized also that through this understanding of hevel, one also understands better the penultimate verse in משלי (Proverbs) - not that beauty is vain, but rather that it is fleeting, which is quite true.
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05 July 2006

Second Day of SBM

Rabbi Klapper speakingAfter today, the second day of the , I have a better grasp on the flow of it than I had . Apparently, the schedule I had listed yesterday is not as accurate as what it seems to now be: 7.30 am is morning prayers (שחרית) followed by breakfast, then we have סדר (learning time) בחברותא (in learning pairs) on our topic of ממזרים (for lack of a better translation, products of illicit sexual unions), stopping for lunch at 12.15 pm, then having a שיעור (lecture) on the sources at which we looked in the morning, followed by a brief break, then having open learning from 3.45ish until about 6.00/6.15, then breaking for dinner. Then, from 7.30 until מנחה (the afternoon prayer), we learn sources on an evening lecture to prepare for it, often doing so with community members, then pray the afternoon and evening prayers, then move on to the evening lecture.
One thing I'm finding interesting is the communal element: both 1) that we're learning throughout the day in the shul (reminding me of the בטלנים mentioned early on in the first chapter of Megillah), holding the fort down, so to speak, as well as 2) that members of the community can come in and learn with us as well as listen to public Torah lectures. It sounds neat to me in some way - I think in the increasing Torah kind of way.
As far as putting up the lectures online, I'm not quite sure about that just yet, though I plan on putting up the public lectures. Tonight's lecture was given by Rabbi Klapper (pictured giving the lecture) on the topic of "Is There A Mitzvah To Prevent Genocide?" using the same sources he had prepared for Edah. I thought it was decent, though I didn't quite buy his push to necessitate action halakhically when a genocide is going on. I agree that it should be a moral obligation, though. Also, he did make a couple of interesting comments regarding the uniqueness of America in Jewish history, which was practically ענינא דיומא (topic of the day - or topic relevant to the day), as American Independence Day was the day before.
Anyways, I'm going to end this post here, leaving off with an interesting quote from Rabbi Klapper quoting Rabbi Norman Janis, that he
used to point out to us frequently at pluralistic settings that all the concern about "" and breaking/destroying the community, and people can't marry each other, that some notion of a historical perspective should come into play with this whole perek (chapter four of Kiddushin) about defining the whole Jewish community in terms of various non-intermarriageable groups. And it's not clear that creating the same situation in terms of Reform and Conservative marriages is inevitably going to lead to the collapse of the Jewish people any more than עשרה יוחסין, which seems to be much worse.
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20,000 Hits

I now have had 20,000 hits to my blog. Yay! Thank you to the readers.
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04 July 2006

Summer Beit Midrash Begins

Today, on America's Independence Day, the Summer Beit Midrash program (alternatively nicknamed the "Klapper Kollel" (so-called in this description of the program), due to its head, Rabbi Aryeh Klapper) began. The first half of the program, we are located in Sharon, MA, meeting mostly at the Young Israel of Sharon. After spending three weeks in Sharon, we will be spending three weeks in Newton, MA (and not in Brookline, as I had thought).
The daily schedule seems kind of fuzzy to me right now, though I think I have the grasp of some of the parameters: davening at 7.30, breakfast, learning begins at 9.00 in חברותא (learning pairs), then we go until about 1.00 for lunch, then we have a שיעור (lecture discussion) on the texts we went over in the morning, then afternoon learning, which, I believe is open to the community to come in and learn with us, then we might have dinner, and then we daven מנחה and מעריב (afternoon and evening prayers), followed by a little speech given either by one of us or by Rabbi Klapper, ending around 9.00.
Today, though, was a bit different - following the afternoon lecture, we went over to the Klappers' house for a BBQ, which was chill and we had a lecture there, as well.
At this point, I now describe what we are learning. We are learning about the topic of ממזרים (after today, I'm a bit confused on how to translate it, but the most common translation is the topic of bastards). At some other point in time, I hope to describe a little bit about our learning, though it's quite late right now. Suffice it so say, today gave me a good background on the topic.
As far as uploading audio files of the lectures, I'm not quite sure yet what to do about that, but suffice it to say that I have been recording them. (You may be asking, "Since when have I started recording things?" (And if you're not asking, that's fine also, but I really should have posted about it separately.) The answer is the last day of school this year when I recorded a shiur on havdallah, followed up by my recording of the sessions at the Modern Orthodoxy conference in Scranton.) I hope to continue recording them.
One final point I am going to mention before heading to bed at a much later hour than I had intended: with such a schedule, I'm going to have to be strict with myself in terms of jogging in the evening. With such a long day, it'll be easy to skip it. I'm already not going to be lifting any weights, so I better be good about the jogging - even if it's every other night.
Okay, good night.
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03 July 2006

NYC to Boston

So, now I'm in Boston, Sharon to be specific. But first - how I got here.
By the time shabbas came, I was barely packed and my room was still quite a mess. So, I spent Saturday night cleaning, packing, and a little on the Internet. I even got in a jog. However, the last halr-hour was a frantic rush, but somehow I whichever random papers on my floor into little plastic bins and my room was ready for my July subletter (a fellow I know from Columbus) (albeit without having swept my floor, but I was in a hurry. As far as my packed stuff, it was a tight squeeze with my stuff, but I think I did somewhat well. Once I got to the car in which I was travelling with four others, when the trunk was first being shut, it caught on one of my suits' jacket's sleeve, which was unfortunate and which I will have to get sown.
The ride up to Rochester for one of my classmate's wedding took five and a half hours, which wasn't so bad in itself, but my legs were kind of cramped and it was on the warm side. Anyways, the wedding for Mo & Becs (I'd like to link to OnlySimchas, but they are not yet up there) went well.
My travel today went okay, but I had never waited more than I had actually travelled and such was today, more waiting around than actual travelling, but I made it to my hosts's house in the end.
So, now I am in Sharon, MA, a suburb of Boston at a family's house for three weeks, in a room smaller than my old room at home (and smaller than my room in my apartment) with another guy who has the same name as a peer of mine in BBYO (who I also happened to have seen at the rally in DC), Josh Shrager (yes, the guy with the Jewfro from Pittsburgh).
I saw the Sharon fireworks from down the street of my hosts' house, which was quite a more civil (and legal) display of fireworks than the fireworks I watched last year. Last year, while trying to go to bed, I kept hearing more and more fireworks, so eventually, my then roommate and I went down to the street corner of Audubon and 189th and saw people randomly contributing their own fireworks in the middle of the street - it was quite a sight - somehow more impressive than the staid and civil displays of the more grandiose shows of fireworks that one usually sees from cities, etc.

So, now, here I am in Massachusetts.

30 June 2006

Good Shabbas

As shabbas is coming in forty minutes (and counting), I'd figure I'd get in one posting today.
- I did, indeed, give away my one remaining guinea pig.
- I did laundry last night and have today been packing a lot of the laundry as I start my packing for leaving on Sunday morning (to go to Rochester for a classmate's wedding, following which, I will be flying out to Boston to go spend the next six weeks at the Summer Beit Midrash.
- I haven't yet finished cleaning my room :( but that's what I will be doing (all of) Saturday night.
- I haven't yet done anything with my dead hard drive, figuring I can do something that won't cost me a ridiculous amount of money, so I'm still holding on to it.

Shabbat shalom
שבת שלום

28 June 2006

Rambam and Sleep, Part 2: Sleep in "The Guide for the Perplexed"

Prior to Passover this year, I had looked into Rambam's "Guide of the Perplexed" (using Pines' version (no, I don't know Arabic, so, yes, I used an English translation)) for statements on sleep (although I have posted on my interest in sleep, I'm thinking it might be somewhat incomplete, therefore I hope ot post again on that). As I had mentioned nearly half a year ago, I started to look at Maimonides' conception(s) of sleep, as this is also fertile ground for an article (though I need to work on what I can do for now and return to this later) and have posted on some of my findings earlier.
Here is what I found:
Accordingly, Midrash Qoheleth has the following text: When man sleep, his soul speaks to the angel, and the angel to the cherub (n. 28: Midrash Qoheleth, 10:20). Thereby, they have stated plainly to him who understands and cognizes intellectually that the imaginative faculty {265} is likewise called an angel and that the intellect is called a cherub. (2.6) (pp. 264-265)

In this way will he who wants to understand the prophetic riddles understand them. And he will awaken from the sleep of negligence, be saved from the sea of ignorance, and rise up toward the high ones. (2.10) (p. 273)

It is known that a matter that occupies a man greatly – he being bent upon it and desirous of it – while he is awake and while his senses function, is the one with regard to which the imaginative faculty acts while he is asleep when receiving an overflow of the intellect corresponding to its disposition. (2.36) (p. 370)

Now a men’s bed is not exactly his size, for it is not a garment, which one puts on. The bed is rather always bigger than the individual who sleeps on it. And the usual and well-known thing is for it to be longer than the individual by a third of his length. (2.47) (p. 407)

With regard to what is indispensable, like eating and drinking, he must confine himself to what is most useful and to what corresponds to the need for nourishment, not to pleasure. (3.8) (pp. 433-434)

Also, I think section 2.43 (on p. 391 of the Pines version (vol. 2)) also has something about dreams and awakening.
What's interesting is that all of the statements about sleep are found in the first section of the Guide, but none in the first, and only one sort of related to sleep in the third section. If anybody thinks I have overlooked any, feel free to point them out to me. Also, if you have anything in the Mishneh Torah, feel free to let me know, as well (though, I already indicated that most of them are to be found in the fourth chapter of הלכות דעות (hilkhos de'os)).
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A J-Blogger Icon: Why Not Something Simple

Over at the Jblogosphere blog (yes, it's a J-blog dedicated to J-blogging (against which Michael ranted), a recent post suggests a couple of icons for placement onto blogs. I think why I reject them (at least for myself - I'm not morally opposed to them, though) is that Judaism is important to me, though the land of Israel, while significant to Judaism, is not a significant part of my Judaism (in my living of it - that isn't to say that I don't care about it (speaking of which, tonight I just booked tickets to go to Israel for nearly two weeks during my winter vacation (man, am I "homesick" for Israel...I haven't been in two years, now))). So, when they justify the icons with the following
Those of us, who live in Israel are not isolated from the rest of the Jewish world. We in Diaspora, do care, and do think of Israel, and Israelis, as a nation (not just the Land, but the nation!) all the time. And for those of us, who live in Israel, we should not fall victims to illusion that once you become an Israeli, you forget about being a Jew.
I don't think of the land or those living there all of the time - living a Jewish lifestyle and trying to have a God-consciousness are prime desiderata, not the land.
Anyways, feel free to use the icon in this posting (as long as you link back to this posting), though I would suggest something more jazzy.
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Some Tanakh Study

Mrs. Rivy Poupko-Kletenik speaking on 'The Rape of Tamar'Yesterday, I attended the first day of the Yemei Iyun in Bible and Jewish Thought, run by YCT, in Teaneck, NJ. I went, just as I did last year, as student volunteer, helping people coming in register. Last year, there was a rotation of a few volunteers, so we would miss some classes to help at the registration desk each of the three days of the conference. This year, when I got there, I found out another student and I would be helping out with the main influx of people, and perhaps a little bit afterward, as there would be a staff member at the table the rest of the time. Although this would mean yesterday would be my only day at the conference (unless I wanted to pay for today and tomorrow), (not as I had planned) this would give me more time to finish up cleaning my room, etc.
Although I missed the first session to help at the desk, I ended up going to four other sessions. (If you are looking for links to recorded audio, there are none, though you can purchase cassette tapes of the presentations for $5 at the conference.) I went to Rabbi Hayyim Angel’s “Reward and Punishment in Tehillim”, Mrs. Rivy Poupko-Kletenik’s “The Rape of Tamar”, Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish’s “Structure and Meaning in Parshat Mishpatim”, and Rabbi Shalom Carmy’s “Joshua’s Two Farewell Speeches – Chapters 23-24”.
I had never met Rabbi Angel before, but I’ve found that he’s written quite a few articles on
Rabbi Shalom Carmy speaking on the last two chapters of Joshuaתנ"ך (including one in the same issue of the JBQ as my first published article), so it was a treat to sit in on that class.
I had last sat in on a class from Mrs. Poupko-Kletenik a few years ago when I attended CAJE 28 on women saying קדיש (kaddish). Her class was interesting, though the topic is so rich with material that it was a bit rushed. Nevertheless, it was certainly helpful in gaining an insight on how one might teach the topic (or similar topics, for that matter (most immediately, the Dinah story comes to mind)). One thing that was quite salient to me was that men and women view rape rather differently and that there are certainly gynocentric and androcentric perspectives to the topic.
Rabbi Walfish’s was interesting, as he showed similar lexical usages of terms after the עשרת דברים (lit., ten things or statements, but usually called the Ten Commandments) corresponding with the original set.
Rabbi Carmy’s presentation focused on showing the differences between the last two chapters in the book of Joshua, which was helpful in approaching what might otherwise seem a redundancy with them.
Also, I purchased a few books, myself, before leaving.
Okay, now back to cleaning, etc.
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27 June 2006

Guinea Pig Give-Away

Whereas I will be heading to Boston for the next six weeks; and
Whereas I will not be bringing
my one remaining guinea pig with me to Boston; and
Whereas I will not be leaving the responsibilities of taking care of my guinea pig to my remaining roommates,

I hereby invite anybody who is interested in taking my guinea pig (preferably before shabbas) to please e-mail me (Drewkaplanis@yahoo.com) and we can work out particulars, though I don't plan on charging money for it (they cost about $20-25 per guinea pig at the pet store on 181st Street), and you can even have my guinea pig stuff, too.

I made it ten months with this guinea pig, hopefully it will last its new owner much longer. :)