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.