30 January 2006

Serving and Becoming Like Hashem (Avodat Hashem & Imitatio Dei)

In Modern Orthodoxy class, I realized I have been living in a way that I am trying to follow halakhah. So, what's the problem with that? I realized that a HUGE idea in the prophetic works (including the five books of Moshe) and, to some degree, in rabbinic literature is following in the ways of the Divine. Such that following halakhah should optimally be done in a fashion where one seeks to emulate the Divine and one seeks to not limit oneself to merely doing what the halakhah requires, but rather fully fulfill their being made in the Lord's צלם (image/shadow/(etc.)).
However, it seems a bit difficult only being half of that image (yeah, I'm single). While this may seem like a cute and easy copout, I really believe that it's much more difficult to realize one's full Godliness when one is only half of the Lord's image.
In any event, I suspect this will be somewhat of a struggle on my behalf between living merely according to halakhah without a sense of its purpose and trying to emulate haShem through haShem's Torah, commandments, and, of course, through halakhah.

29 January 2006

The Arukh haShulhan on Women & Tefillin

The Arukh haShulhan, composed by the scholar, Rabbi Yechiel Michel ben Rabbi Aaron HaLevi Epstein (1829-1908) has further to contribute to the conversation about women wearing tefillin.
In section 38.6 of Orah Hayyim, he wrote the following:
נשים ועבדים פטורים מתפילין מפני שהיא מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא דשבת ויו"ט פטור מתפילין ואם רוצין להחמיר על עצמן מוחין בידן ולא דמי לסוכה ולולב שפטורות ועכ"ז מברכות עליהן דכיון דתפילין צריך זהירות יתירה מגוף נקי כדאמרינן בשבת [מ"ט.] תפילין צריכין גוף נקי כאלישע בעל כנפים ובירושלמי ברכות שם אמרו תמן אמרין כל שאינו כאלישע בעל כנפים אל יניח תפילין אך אנשים שמחויבים בהכרח שיזהרו בהם בשעת ק"ש ותפלה ולכן אין מניחין כל היום כמ"ש בסי' הקודם וא"כ נשים שפטורות למה יכניסו עצמן בחשש גדול כזה ואצלן בשעת ק"ש ותפלה כלאנשים כל היום לפיכך אין מניחין אותן להניח תפילין ואע"ג דתניא בעירובין [צ"ו.] דמיכל בת שאול היתה מנחת תפילין ולא מיחו בה חכמים אין למידין מזה דמסתמא ידעו שהיא צדקת גמורה וידעה להזהר וכן עבדים כה"ג [עמג"א סק"ג וב"י ולפמ"ש א"ש]:
"Women and servants are exempt from tefillin since it is a positive time-bound commandment "(quoting from the Shulhan Arukh), that shabbasos and holidays one is exempt from tefillin. "And if they want to be stringent upon themselves, they should be reprimanded" (quoting from the Mapah on the Shulhan Arukh), and it is similar to neither sukkah nor lulav that they are exempt. And even so, they bless on them since tefillin require an extra carefulness of a clean body, as we say [that Rabbi Yannai said] in Shabbas (49a): "Tefillin require a clean body like Elisha, master of wings." And in the Yerushalmi Berakhos (2.3) there, they say “they said, ‘All who is not like Elisha’, master of wings, should not lay tefillin.’” Only men who are obligated, per se, that they should be careful in them at the time of the reading out of the Shema’ and prayer. Therefore, they don’t place them on all day, like it is written in the previous section. And if so, women, who are exempt, why should they bring themselves into a great concern like this? And by them at the time of the reading out of the Shema’ and prayer, like for men all day; therefore, we shouldn’t allow them to lay them on. Even though it was taught [in a beraisa] in Eruvin (96a) that “Mikhal, daughter of Sha’ul, wore tefillin and the sages did not admonish her,” we do not learn from this, because we already know that she was a totally righteous woman and she knew to be careful. And, so, too, with servants.

As I had mentioned in my previous posting, I still think that women not only maintain (at least in our Western society) as clean of a body, but perhaps even cleaner bodies, and would most likely not be in any ספק (doubt) of cleanliness.
Not totally relevant to this, is in the following section (OC 38.7) where he wrote that one is to be careful from thinking sexual thoughts about women while wearing tefillin - I think this is not widely relevant to this discussion (nevertheless, women can still be distracted by others, whether if they are bisexual or lesbian; see, for instance, BlackHerring's comments elsewhere).

27 January 2006

Women & Tefillin

Not mentioned in one of my earlier posts while in New Orleans, was that after שחרית (morning prayer service) that day, the Chabad rabbi went around asking if anybody wanted to put on תפילין (tefillin), as there were some college students around, some of whom had just arrived for breakfast and who hadn't davened (prayed) yet. While going around, my sister said she would, but that's not for what the rabbi was asking. She further noted that he had been asking if "anybody" wanted to put on tefillin, though she pointed out that he ought to be saying "any men", since he probably wasn't going to give it to any women (for more on Chabad's perspective and discourse on women not wearing tefillin, see askmoses.com). I then offered my sister mine, which was met by her response that she's not going to put on tefillin until she knows more about the subject. Thus this posting (I am not here dealing with the issue of girls putting on tefillin in school, but rather women in general.).
The discussion largely begins with a mishnah in the third chapter of Berakhot:
נשים ועבדים וקטנים--פטורין מקרית שמע ומן התפילין, וחייבין בתפילה ובמזוזה ובברכת המזון.
Women, servants, and children are exempt from the reading out of the Shema and from [wearing of] tefillin, but are obligated with prayer, mezuza, and with the grace after meals.
The reason that they are exempt is due to their exemption from all positive time-bound commandments (as they are worn neither on shabbas nor on holidays, there is a time element to them), which would mean that it's not that they are forbidden to perform such מצות (commandments), but that they don't have to [and can perform them if they so choose].
The main argument that was put forth against women putting on תפילין (tefillin) is that put forth by the sixteenth century sage Rabbi Yosef Karo (in his Beit Yosef) (and the Tosafist(s) that he quotes):
בית יוסף אורח חיים סימן לח
ונשים ועבדים פטורים. משנה בפרק מי שמתו (ברכות כ.) ויהיב טעמא בגמרא משום דהוי מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא וכל מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא נשים פטורות. וכתב הרא"ש בהלכות תפילין (סי' כט) ואע"ג דקיי"ל כרבי עקיבא דאמר (עירובין צו.) לילה זמן תפילין מכל מקום שבת ויום טוב לאו זמן תפילין: כתב הכל בו (סי' כא) בשם הר"ם שאם רצו הנשים להניח תפילין אין שומעין להן מפני שאינן יודעות לשמור עצמן בנקיות עכ"ל ובספר ארחות חיים (הל' תפילין סי' ג) הקשה עליו מדאמרינן בריש פרק המוצא תפילין (שם) דמיכל בת כושי (פירוש בת שאול) היתה מנחת תפילין ולא מיחו בה חכמים. ולי נראה שטעם הר"ם כמו שכתבו התוספות (ד"ה מיכל) דאיתא בפסיקתא (רבתי פרק כב) שמיחו בה חכמים ופירשו הם דטעמא משום דתפילין צריכין גוף נקי ונשים אינן זריזות ליזהר והר"מ רצה לחוש לדברי הפסיקתא:
A mishneh in chapter "Who's dead..." (ch. 3 in Berakhot), the [stam] gemarra (Berakhot 20a) gives the reason that it's because it's a positive time-bound commandment, and women are exempt from all positive time-bound commandments. And Rabbi Asher, son of Yehiel wrote in the laws of tefillin (section 29): "Even though we have established like Rabbi Akiva, who said, 'Night is a time of tefillin' (Eruvin 96a), shabbasos and holidays are not times of tefillin. [The author of the] Kol Bo wrote (in section 21) in the name of the Ram (?), 'that if women want to put on tefillin, we don't listen to them because they don't know how to guard themselves in cleanliness.'" And in the book Orhot Hayyim (laws of tefillin, section 3), asks on what is said in the beginning of the chapter "The one who takes out tefillin..." (also on Eruvin 96a) that 'Mikhal, daughter of Kushi, wore tefillin and the sages did not reprimand her.' And to me it seems that the reason of the Ram is like the Tosafot have written (Eruvin 96a, s.v. "Mikhal") that in the Pesikta [Rabbati] (chapter 23) that the sages did reprimand her. And they (the Tosafists) explain that the reason is that [wearing] tefillin requires [one to have] a clean body, but women are not zealous to be careful. And the Ram wanted to suspect [to be careful] to the words of the Pesikta.
Where the idea comes that is mentioned in the Tosafot that women are not careful about having a clean body is quite strange. In our times, women are cleaner than men; if anything, it should be that men are not careful enough to keep clean bodies (!). Thus, how can one say that women cannot wear tefillin due to lack of bodily cleanliness?
Nevertheless, in his Shulhan Arukh, he didn't try to prevent women from wearing them (OC 38.3: "Women and servants are exempt from [wearing] tefillin, because they it is a positive time-bound commandment."), only saying that they were exempt from wearing them. However, his contemporary, Rabbi Moses Isserles, glossed there that "but if women want to be stringent upon themselves, we reprimand them."
As to why Rabbi Isserles opined in such a fashion, it seems that it was due to the cleanliness concern (see the ט"ז, מ"א, & מ"ב who all opine that that was his reasoning). However, the wording of stringency pointed to as being the reason that women ought to be reprimanded seems like the crux of the issue for Rabbi Isserles. It may be due to the concern that if women think that the wearing of it is a stringency, that it is an erroneous line of thinking.
Alternatively, it seems that there is a cultural concern here. Such that, halakhically, it's fine to do a מצוה (commandment), however, it strikes men in such a way that it just doesn't jive with their sense of society (this was briefly brought up in On the Main Line). This is largely similar to the idea that tefillin and tzitzis are distinctly men's garments, which is an interesting argument (keep in mind the famous aphorism that "Clothes make the man," thus indicating that clothing is a social marker, and that it is something that is culturally-contingent), though according to the Bible, that is not so - it is only through rabbinic midrash that one learns of women's exemption from these commandments, but neither their inability to perform them, nor of their sense of being garments singled out for men only (if one even sees tefillin as being a garment in the Torah, but that's not important for this discussion).
Nevertheless, I think it's important to be sensitive to one's environment (yes, this concept arose in my mind through the conversations we had about women and tefillin in yeshiva). If one is in a place where it makes people (not just men, maybe also women) uncomfortable or is against the customs or comfortability of a place, it may be an issue to the extant that it is not something to which people are accustomed and be a statement of some sort with which those people or places are not okay.
So, I think I would say that it would be okay for her to wear tefillin if she wanted to, though she ought to be careful at Chabad, as it may go against their understanding of gender distinctions.
(A couple of blog postings are worth a read on this topic: On The Fringe and Barefoot Jewess.)

Why Having a Bummed Knee Is Bad For One's Health

You may be wondering why I am blogging on a Friday afternoon (if you're not, that's okay, too). It's only natural to as I (and so many other Jews) are rather busy, especially in the winter with shabbas being early. Especially since I usually like to lift weights, but more significantly, I jog. Shabbas just doesn't have the same קדושה (holiness) to it when I don't jog.
Since my left knee has gone bad on me, my running/jogging has stopped (for good reason), as well as any thoughts of playing basketball on Saturday nights or any other time. However, I am able to walk (ברוך השם thank God), and now, I can do it without a knee brace, for the most part.
Nevertheless, I am not jogging, which is bad for not only my cardiovascular health, nor just the physiological positive feeling which comes along with jogging, but also for weight purposes and being in shape. Whenever this knee thing finally really heals, I will have a lot of work cut out for me in trying to get back into shape or some sense of health.
Okay, now it's back to getting ready for shabbas - שבת שלום, Shabbat shalom.

25 January 2006

So....How's School Going?

While I often am queried, "How's school going?" I offer that it's going well. It was a little tough for me to do that a couple of days ago. I had given a presentation for my Modern Orthodoxy class, which, while not absolutely terrible, was not exactly "A" material. It was so not that great that I'm not even bothering to describe the topic of my presentation (however, my roommate, Ben, tells me it sparked some thought which went into his most recent post). While my teacher for the course (I'm not naming him, it's not that important, or maybe it is, but just let it go) had offered criticisms before my presentation about it (which was good, as I knew it wasn't going to be great already before the presentation), he really critiqued it quite well at the end of my presentation. I will say that he was rather civil about the critique, which was somewhat heartening. After the presentation, some of the guys in the class came up to me and offered some condolences on my presentation, as well as sharing that they were concerned about their presentations, but at least I went first as somewhat of a "guinea pig" (it's so weird to use that term when one has real guinea pigs as pets), so they could see what it would be like.
I was happy that I was done with my presentation and also that maybe I could start out with having somewhat low expectations expected of me by this rabbi and could improve upon them in the future, wowing him. While I think this may be a nice idea, it's probably wishful thinking - he'll still probably expect more anyways.
The following day, while I had stepped out in the hallway on my way to use the restroom during one of the speakers at our mikveh visit, he came up to me and checked in with me to see how I was doing and that he realized he came down kind of hard on me, that it was my first presentation (I guess for him on my behalf), that I didn't have much sociological background, and suggested that he was willing to work with me in the future. So that was nice of him.
Speaking about it with Ben (see above), one of the concerns voiced by this rabbi was that he sensed I was not engaging that much with the readings or the class if I wasn't really quite getting this presentation thing. After reflecting upon it, I suggested that maybe it was due to my feeling very much as a student rather than as a future rabbi (just think "rabbinical STUDENT"), but I suppose that's due to a couple reasons right off the bat: 1) I'm three and a half years away from being a rabbi - my mind is just not there yet and 2) Last year in the mechina program, we were pretty much just yeshiva students merely learning Torah, as opposed to learning Torah as well as taking rabbinic classes, so I'm used to that year's worth of orientation to the yeshiva, as well as this half year's worth of still trying to be fairly learning (the biggest example is that our Talmud class is being taught in a manner about learning Talmud: last year a focus on the actual text of the Talmud and this year a focus on the ראשונים (medieval commentators) on the Talmud, but not for practical purposes (think of it as lomdishe)), whereas in the next three years, we will be focusing on הלכה (Jewish law), which is very practical and not merely "academic" (no, we don't resort to much in the way of academic approaches...unfortunately). Whereas I may at some point be more interested in the issues of the community and be aware of what's going on, I am more interested in the texts, etc. - yes, I've got a little ivory tower action going on, but that's where I'm at. So, I think that as the year's go by, I will start stepping out of the ivory tower, but slowly, I like it in my ivory towers (yes, plural, I spend some of my free time (like tonight, for instance) in the YU library (fifth floor, mainly) and, of course, school), primarily for the safety, but I realize that life will get more complicated and busy with being more involved with the real world, than in developing as a scholar.
Also on Monday, BTW, I had a quiz in my Rishonim/Talmud class, and today I had a final test in my History of Rishonim class, both of which I did well on (okay, the latter of which, I have yet to receive my results, but I thought I did well). And, in general, classes are going well, etc. So, yes, school is going well.

20 January 2006

When Knees Go Bad

Nearly three years ago, in February 2003, I had injured the meniscus in my left knee playing basketball. For a week or so, I wasn't sure exactly what was up and waited for my knee/leg to feel better. After a few weeks, it did. I went back home for spring break, shot some hoops - my knee was recovering. When I got back to school, I jogged once or twice, then went to play basketball, and, before I really did much, my knee/leg was hurting once more. So I went to a doctor, got it looked at, an realized I had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on my knee. That surgery took place in early April of that year. I was extremely immobile for a couple of weeks, I think - I don't remember for how long. However, I do remember that I wasn't permitted - and so, I did not - do any exercise on it. So, there was no jogging or basketball for me (insert very sad face here) [and I gained twenty or so pounds in that time].
Fast forward to the other day, sitting in class, where, for the last three years, I really haven't had any significant problem with my knee. So imagine my surprise when my knee gradually began to hurt over the course of an hour or so (just sitting in class!). I was concerned about it, so I left an hour and a half early and went back to my apartment (though I took a car service instead of the train, as I was hobbling around). I was hoping that yesterday would heal my knee somewhat. While I've been taking Advil since Wednesday, and propping up my leg and icing it since yesterday, I'm not sure what all to do. I only made it out of my apartment for an excursion to acquire food on the YU side of the Heights, slowly limping the whole way. To make matters worse, for the first time, I was kind of scared as I could not run away if someone attacked me, and plus, I was nearly a sitting duck due to my newfound handicap.
I'm going back to school today as I feel guilty about missing yesterday, but I hope that my leg heals, though I am worried that it may seem like it's healed and then really go out on me. A doctor visit may be very much in my near future. I'm thinking that I may not be going to shul this shabbas and just resting my leg up in my apartment and reading, eating, and sleeping.

18 January 2006

In Search of a Roommate(s)

So, while I knew that one of my roommates was moving out of the apartment in March (he even posted about it)- as he got engaged, though I just found out Monday morning that my other roommate was not coming back this year, so it looks like I need a new roommate (or two). Yeah, so Ben and I were not happy that there was no forewarning about this departure and are left with trying to figure out what to do about the February rent - hopefully either Meir will pay for his share, as he only gave us two weeks to figure out what to do about February rent, or maybe someone will move in soon.
The thing is that our set-up is that I have a bedroom, while the other two had been sharing the living room. Yes, I paid more than they did, but I'm not sure how many people are willing to share a living room with someone else. So, I think I may need to get just one roommate, but then we'll have to probably split the rent. We shall see.

12 January 2006

Writin' Papers

In the course of my searching out topics of interest in Jewish texts, I have come across some interesting topics, which has been good. I realized that some of my interests have yet to be written about. Thus, I realized I could not only altruistically contribute to the scholarship of these Jewish texts, but also garner some recognition for my ideas in understanding these things. In any event, I felt I would post about my article ideas. Most of them are not quite close to being written, though there are a couple that are.

Article Topic Status
Biblical Sleep Ethic(s) Published
Rabbinical/Talmudic Sleep Ethics Submitted & undergoing editing
Ben-Sira's View On SleepWaiting to be written
Philo's View on SleepStill collecting data
Tannaitic Views on SleepWaiting to be written
Maimonides View on SleepStill collecting data
Early Jewish Exegetical Perspectives on Er's and Onan's Deaths (Gen. 38:7-10)Written; undergoing editing
The Jewish Prohibition on Masturbation: From the Talmud to the Shulhan ArukhMostly finished with data

collection, though I'm still looking into some secondary literature
Ben-Sira Quotes in the Babylonian Talmud (I just came up with this one today)Mostly done with data collection, but I

need to do a lot of organizing
The Vilna Gaon and Pentecost Trees: The Nullification of a MinhagShould have been written about, like, a year ago -

so, it's all but written
And It Was A Hok For Israel: Investigating the Custom Initiated By Jepthah's DaughterLast summer, I

tried to begin writing it, but then came along an interesting article relevant to it, so, I need to get away from being lazy about

The Doubts Harbored By the Amoraim/Stam(?) About the Origin of the Fourth Grace Blessing (I need to work on this title) I came up with the idea for this article in the summer, made some headway, then came upon a long Hebrew article, which was a huge speed bump
Tannaitic Views on the World To Come Still collecting data

11 January 2006

Experiencing Some Frustration With The Stam(maim)

Today, while going over the רשב"ם (Rashbam) and the תוספות (Tosafot) on Pesahim 101b & 102a, I began to not only get a better sense of the סוגיא (pericope) in the Talmud, but I also saw how those Rishonim saw what was going on in the Talmud. Both of the aforementioned were trying to deal with not only different גרסאות (manuscript versions of the text), but also what an important term meant (in this case it was דברים שטעונים ברכה לאחריהם במקומן), both of which affect the understanding of determining Jewish practice - in this case, how we deal with saying blessings over food when changing places (oh, yeah, and another thing - the gemarra interchanges freely the ideas of changing one's place of eating with leaving one's place of eating and returning, which is ever so frustrating, as it seems that these are two separate concepts (from the Tannaim, and perhaps early Amoraim), which the בעלי התלמוד (editors of the Talmud) conflate(!)).
When looking at the two aforementioned rishonim, I became increasingly frustrated with the specific way that the gemarra dealt with the earlier texts by retrojecting concepts that appeared after the texts with which they were dealing.
However, after expressing my frustration with my rebbe, Rabbi Katz, he then said to me that, yes, indeed, it can be quite frustrating, but it can also be quite exciting. At this point in the day/night, I have forgotten exactly how that can be exciting/frustrating with how the stam(maim) with the earlier texts, and how the rishonim deal with all of that.
Okay, I need to go to bed now - I'm tired. לילה טוב.
(Oh yeah, BTW, the stam(maim) is(/are) represented in the pictures by the purple and 'peach' highlighting, while the blue-green highlighting represents the tannaitic texts (although on top of 101b, the way it scanned, it mixes some of my blue highlighting (amoraic) with that of my green highlighting (tannaitic), which comes out weird in these scannings).)

10 January 2006

Finishing Up An Article

Although, as mentioned previously, I composed my Talmudic Sleep Ethics article already, this evening, I spent/am spending some further time on adjusting a part or two of the paper. Although I really ought to comb it over a few more times, I really should resubmit it (I had submitted it previously, but I was allowed to work it over a little further), as the initial deadline has passed. (If you would like to submit an article for consideration for Milin Havivin, you can e-mail it to milinhavivin@gmail.com.) Anyways, I thought I would post my first footnote (a note on the title, FYI), as it is semi-introductory, as well as a little bit of a critique of my (now published!) Biblical Sleep Ethic paper, albeit a restrained critique of my earlier work.

As to titling this paper with the word “ethics,” rather than “ethic,” I am pointing to the multiple perspectives among the sages regarding the approach for one to sleep, as there is a span of several centuries among the sages and somewhat of a lack of uniformity among them about how to sleep, as “we should not expect to find in the literature of Rabbinic Judaism one single all-encompassing, comprehensive, systematic scheme in these matters. After all, ‘the Rabbis’ consisted of very many individual personages whose lives spanned hundreds of years and who lived in two greatly disparate geographical areas, Israel and Babylon” (Chaim Milikowsky, “Trajectories of Return, Restoration and Redemption in Rabbinic Judaism: Elijah, the Messiah, the War of Gog and the World To Come,” in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives, ed. James M. Scott [Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001], p. 265). Nevertheless, there is somewhat of a historical canonization of earlier statements which get adopted over time in terms of developing a common sleep ethic.

For a look at Biblical sleep ethics, the reader may refer to my “In Your Lying Down and In Your Rising Up: A Biblical Sleep Ethic,” Jewish Bible Quarterly 34:1 (January–March 2006), pp. 47-50. While it is not a critical approach towards the subject, nor does it distinguish between the various works and their authors as to their individual views upon the matter, it does serve to give one a basic understanding of Biblical sleep ethics. However, inasmuch as the rabbis look toward the Bible for their approach to living a Jewish life, they really only draw from a few verses (Deut. 6:7 and 11:19, and Ps. 4:5 and 149:6) about how to go about sleep.

08 January 2006

An Aspect of תורה לא בשמים היא I had not previously considered

The [rabbinic] concept of תורה לא בשמים היא (the Torah is not in Heaven - it's now wrested from God into the hands of the rabbis) I had previously considered to be stating that we don't have to consider what God would say to a given הלכה (Jewish law) - which helps understand why God doesn't come up much in the שלחן ערוך (a code of Jewish law) - but rather figure out for ourselves within the system that exists.
However, I realized over שבת (shabbas) that this concept extends to places where the rabbis read a Biblical text not according to its פשט (contextual understanding), as well. Whereas as one might think that one could say, "Well, the rabbis read the verse outside of its context, thus their hermeneutical program was flawed, and thus whichever הלכה they derived therefrom is duly flawed, as that was not the intent of the author/Author." However, regardless of that, the Author/author is no longer important to what the Rabbis have done with that text to figure out how to lead a good, Jewish life.
It's a double-sided sword.

06 January 2006

Apikorsim in Shulhan Arukh

Yesterday, while in Halakhah (Jewish law) seder (time set aside for learning texts), learning the Shulhan Arukh, chapter 53, when I came across the following that Rabbi Karo wrote in section 18:
האומר: 'איני יורד לפני התיבה מפני שהגדי צבועין או מפני שברגלי סנדל,' לא ירד באותה תפלה כלל, מפני שדרך האפיקורסין להקפיד בכך, וחיישינן שמא אפיקורסות נזרקת בו
What was interesting was that there was an interesting description of apikorsim (Hebraicization of Epicurus/Epicurean) here. However, I was struck by an apikorus being mentioned in a Jewish legal code as peculiar(!). I then ran a Bar-Ilan search on this term and found that this is the only time it pops up in the Shulhan Arukh. Moreover, this הלכה comes up from מגילה כד, עמוד ב, where the language there is מינים. This latter term is different from the term above, as the latter refers to some sort of Judeo-Christians, or Christians, per se (though I am rather on the naive side as to this term, however), while the former is not.
I wonder if maybe there were manuscript variations, but, more likely, Rabbi Karo probably wasn't concerned with the distinction between these two different groups, and accidently inserted this term in lieu of the terminology of חז"ל.
(I apologize for the use of Hebrew in this posting without translating, and I know people request that I translate, but I'm not sure how interested people will be in this posting who are not tremendously involved in these matters, and it's kind of abstruse.)

05 January 2006

My Interest In Sleep In Judaism

My interest in sleep in Judaism (although I would like to say "Jewish tradition" instead of "Judaism", Jewish tradition not only sounds kind of fluffy, but I'm also not sure about certain things being transmitted so fluidly (as Biblical things may be left by the side of the road in favor of rabbinic ways)) arose out of my trying to figure out the tension in my life between trying to stay up and accomplishing more things within my waking hours and between not being sleepy/tired, thereby resulting in a decreased ability to function, especially in a mental compacity. So, I turned to the oldest, and most foundational, of our Jewish texts - the Bible (תנ"ך).
So, the summer prior to my senior semester, I searched through the Bible for statements on sleep, but more specifically, on ethics on sleep. So, during that semester, I put together a paper on sleep, which just got published last week in the Jewish Bible Quarterly (volume 34, issue 1, Jan.-March 2006), entitled "In Your Lying Down and In Your Rising Up: A Biblical Sleep Ethic" (pp. 47-50). Unfortunately, the paper hearkens back to a more unsophisticated perspective, so it kind of sucks. Nevertheless, it's good to pick up to get a basic sense of the topic on Biblical sleep ethics.
Anyways, so I then began, last year, to look at rabbinic attitudes on sleep. Now, I have a paper that I have to rework a bit, but it will be published in my school's journal in the summer on Talmudic sleep ethics. I have a paper that is all but typed on Ben Sira's view on sleep (if you think it goes against Rabbi Akiva's dictum in the beginning of the mishna in the tenth chapter of Sanhedrin, see the gemarra ad. loc. for Abayye's strong defense of reading the work by quoting it; additionally, the Yerushalmi also ponders not reading Ben Sira, but then it says not to seriously (להגיון ניתנו, ליגיעה לא ניתנו)), another that is mostly researched on Tannaitic views on sleep, and a paper in the works on Philo's view on sleep, though I haven't finished flipping through his works yet (I'm about half way through it, but just flipping - though it'd be really cool to say that I've read through all of his works). I may additionally write on Rambam and sleep, though I don't know how much material is out there for a paper on it.
So, I hope that explains my interest in sleep in the "Jewish tradition". :)

Rambam and Sleep (Part 1)

As mentioned a couple of days ago, I did, indeed, read through Rambam's Hilkhos De'os, searching for statements on sleep. This is part of a larger project on my behalf to look into perspectives on sleep in Judaism (I have posted earlier on sleep statements in the Yerushalmi.) After having done so, I ran a Bar-Ilan search and found some more מקורות (sources) for Rambam's view(s) on sleep. However, I have yet to look more into those results and will do so later.
Most of his statements concerning sleep are to be found in chapter four, but there a couple elsewhere, too. His statements on sleep fall into three categories: 1) Statements directly from the Talmudic sages, 2) Statements expanding upon Talmudic statements, and 3) Original statements of his. An instance of each of these is 4.5, where a direct one is לא יישן אדם לא על פניו, ולא על עורפו, אלא על צידו from Berakhos 13b and Niddah 14a, an expansion on that is that which follows: בתחילת הלילה על צד שמאל, ובסוף הלילה על צד ימין, and the latter part of that statement is original material: ולא יישן סמוך לאכילה, אלא ימתין אחר אכילה כמו שלוש או ארבע שעות. ולא יישן ביום. Also known in this last category is the previous line, which is rather famous: דיי לו לאדם לישן שלישן, שהוא שמונה שעות; ויהיו בסוף הלילה, כדי שיהא מתחילת שינתו עד שתעלה השמש שמונה שעות, ונמצא עומד ממיטתו, קודם שתעלה ,השמש found in 4.4.
Although I still have to look throughout for sources in the Mishneh Torah, I was wondering if he has any sleep statements in the Guide to the Perplexed. Of course, I am aware of his famous letter where he states he is so busy throughout the day and needs help getting into bed he is so tired at the end of the day.
(Translations of the above: A man (I think this is specific to men (see Rashi on Berakhos 13b and Niddah 14a), unless this is not due to fears of erections, in which case I am open to hearing other suggestions.) should neither sleep on his front, nor on his back, but rather on his side. In the beginning of the night on his left side, and in the end of the night on his right side. He should sleep close to eating, but he should wait until after eating, like three or four hours. And he shouldn't sleep during the day. It is sufficient for a man (okay, this one ought to be more properly translated as 'person') to sleep a third [of a day], which is eight hours, and it should be at the end of the night, so that from the beginning of his sleep until the sun rises would be eight hours, and it would be found that he is standing from his bed before the rising of the sun.)

03 January 2006

Returning To Yeshiva & Realizations

I returned to school today, after a couple of weeks of not having school, and it was good as I came to some realizations.
First of all, it started out bad the night before as I was having trouble getting to sleep as my eyes were so tired, yet my body/mind was not, but rather my body was requesting to exercise. I really ought to have lifted weights and jogged last night, but felt kind of tired as well as wanted to get to bed at a decent hour and decided, instead to forego the exercise. As that failed miserably and I was stuck between being slightly unable to fall asleep and slightly unable to really function mentally, I decided at 5 AM to go lift weights and jog, which, ברוך השם (thank God), I was able to do, got back, shaved, showered, and got dressed, and made it to yeshiva (I survived today on one of God's specially-blessed creations, caffeine.
Both of my major realizations came in the afternoon. My first one was that, even though I am in yeshiva and am surrounded by rabbis all day, I do not have a rav, per se. When I was in Israel after college, I would put all my queries to Berel Wein, who taught at my yeshiva, and I found him highly knowledgeable, which was great. However, I didn't feel right making him being a rav with some personal connection to me, as I'm sure he was really busy and knew so many people, that I would be unimportant to him. Last year, while at yeshiva, I went to asking halakhic queries to a particular rabbi at yeshiva, a halakhic talmid hakham (someone highly knowledgeable in Jewish law), but I was (and still am) unsure as to getting a total all-encompassing hashkafa (philsophical outlook) from him. So, I was thinking it would be great to get a rebbe. However, the problem with being in a rabbinical school is that it is assumed that you are able to look up sources yourself. Thus, in the past year, whenever I had a query concerning some particular ענין (subject), I would do some עיון (looking) into it. While I am a huge fan of checking out things for oneself, I'm now wondering about some guidance to go along with it. On the other hand, I should shoulder a lot of blame as I am bashful on these matters and we all know that bashful people don't learn much. I came to the possibility of seeking out Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Yehuda (who I had referenced in my Hanukkah posting, and who resides in my favorite state) (what makes him so great is that he is tremendously humble, smiley and crazy knowledgeable), though that might not work as he is retired, in another state, barely knows me, and is old (okay, I don't know if that is actually significant). I should probably overcome my bashfulness and e-mail him. As Rabbi Wein said (he was referencing Rav Moshe), you should try to take as much advantage of the knowledge of sages.
My other realization was when we had a representative from Spark come in and asked us to close our eyes, visualize how we are now -today - in five years from now, five years from that, and twenty years beyond that. I was stuck with today - I saw myself as a confused and muddled young man. See, my world outlook (Weltanschauung) is largely colored and stems from a Jewish/Halakhic perspective (though that is also tempered by the book of Koheles (Ecclesiastes) as to how I perceive living one's life). The shifts, and thus the gradual uncertainty crept in, while I was in yeshiva at Ohr Somayach after college. This not only continued, but also got a catalyzed while at YCT, especially that first semester as I was trying to synthesize a lot of new information. Over the past year, I have come to the realization that my life is a continual synthesis, but then again, as a student, that's a good thing for growth - all the more so for a rabbinical student. Fortunately for my continued intellectual growth, but unfortunately for figuring out where to metaphorically place my feet, I see a lot of things not in black-and-white, but rather varying shades of gray. While this makes very much sense in this post-modern world, it can be difficult to navigate in a moral framework - which is something which Judaism is (I'm not claiming that it is not a religion, etc. - I don't know exactly what Judaism is - I just try to live it.). So that will be a continuing struggle for me.
Aside from that, I started looking into the Rambam's view(s) and/or conception(s) of sleep - I started looking at his Hilkhot De'ot. I plan to finish scanning through it tomorrow, though if anybody has any other mekorot (locations) they think that the Rambam discusses sleep, please let me know.
Oh, and also, I'm still human, people, so please take that into consideration when you are considering lashon hara about me, whether true or false.

Mike's Hard Lemonade...

I recently inquired to Mike's Hard Lemonade as to whether they are kosher or not. And the vague response...

Hey there Drew,

Thank you for taking the time to contact mike's hard lemonade with your question.

Although mike's hard lemonade products do not contain any inherently non-kosher ingredients such as animal derivatives or grape juice, we have not applied for kosher certification. Our products are produced at multiple sites throughout North America that are co-manufacturers for our products and are unable to make any claims as to what ingredients are or are not used in other products run on the same equiptment.

Have a great day and Make it Mike's!
So I don't know what's up with Mike's....

02 January 2006

What the Dillyo with Hanukkah?

With this question, the Babylonian Talmud ponders the holiday of Hanukkah, to which we will be saying goodbye in a matter of minutes.
Up until last year, I had believed that the holiday was about some oil lasting eight times as long as it was supposed to last. When one ponders that, it seems silly. However, the problem is that the Sages weren't stupid! How do we answer this, then?
Last year, our yeshiva was blessed, for a few months, with the presence of the talmid hakham and humble Rabbi Dr. Zvi A. Yehuda. I got my hands on a little four-page article (I don't know where or if it was published.) entitled "What is the Miracle of Hanukkah? The Sybolism of the Jar of Oil Legend". Therein, he brilliantly and beautifully explains the language of נס (commonly translated as miracle, but that's not the precise translation). He says (on p. 3) that
Judaism does not celebrate an event just because it appears to be a "miracle" of the jar of oil, is utterly erroneous and blatantly blasphemous - distorting the very essence of Judaism.
... the term nes in rabbinic parlance does not exactly mean miracle. More precisely, in the context of sacred liturgy and worship, "nes" refers to an extraordinary event, entailing of a profound redemptive quality, causing deliverance of people from oppression and death to freedom and life.
Taken literally, the jar of oil episode does not qualify as "nes" (miracle) in its profound sense. What was its redemptive purpose or outcome? We applaud divine intervention when it saves human lives, but not when it just comes to provide more light in the Temple. ...
The jar of oil fable is indeed a captivating aggada, suggestive of innumerous and fascinating symbolisms which transcend its plain literal surface. It must not be approached lightly or crudely, but rather earnestly and respectfully. This aggada does not aim to replace the traditional, historical meaning of Hanukkah so eloquently expressed in liturgy.

He goes on, but I've shown here the highlights of his paper. It tremendously altered my perception of Hanukkah forever, and in a beautiful way, too!
I would have left things at that, were it not for a presentation by Rabbi Ysoscher Katz on Thursday 15 December, a few weeks ago.
Before I go into his <i>shiur (lecture), I think it's important now to point out a problem with Rabbi Dr. Yehuda's article. The wording of the locus classicus (found on bShab 21b) is "בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים " - "They checked and they only found one jar of oil that had the high priest's seal on it, except to light it for only one day. A nes was made with it and they lit from it eight days." The problem is that the language of nes is clearly located within the context of the jar of oil(!).
Now I can return to Rabbi Katz' understanding.
He went through certain of the various מחלוקות (disagreements) throughout the Hanukkah pericope to show us some parameters of the philosphical dialectic occurring. He went through them, without anything particularly new. But then, he got to the conclusion and had a phat hiddush (novellum) to show to us.
The main source, from bShab 21b, goes as follows:
תנו רבנן בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון דלא למספד בהון ודלא להתענות בהון שכשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה

While I'm not bothering to translate this passage, it's rather unimportant to the present point I am making. What is important is that the language used for the first half of this beraisa is in Aramaic, and not middle Hebrew! How could this be? At first, I thought maybe there was an editorial interpolation threaded into this Tannaitic text, but then realized that may happen sometimes, but not when it's part of the main body of the text!
Rabbi Katz revealed to us that this is a quote from מגילת תענית (Megillat Ta'anit), an early Tannaitic work, where there were Aramaic headings for certain days of the year, and a later person came and described those days in Hebrew in the work. (Okay, that's a start, but it'll now get exciting...)
Although the holiday of Hanukkah was instituted due to the military victories, re-establishing of Jewish political autonomy, and re-dedication of the Temple, the Rabbis were concerned about seeming too strong to the Romans, who would have suspected them of possibly rising up against them. Such is it that the military victories were on the DL and the "religious" sense was imported to this holiday in the form of the oil in order to contribute to a sense of benign-ness of this holiday.
Although the latter explanation, provided by Rabbi Katz is informative to our understanding of the text, I still appreciate Rabbi Dr. Yehuda's approach to the holiday, as well.