31 December 2007

Washington Heights Links Page

For what it's worth, I decided I'd put together a little links page for Washington Heights stuff online. It is available by clicking here.

30 December 2007

Back on the Blog?

As I had mentioned previously, my blogging's certainly fallen off as of late. This is neither because of things to say/post nor due to lack of interest, just being busy, lacking time and energy. Oh well, this week, I hope to blog a bit as I have a break this week, but we shall see.

02 December 2007

Blogging? (okay, meta-blogging)

Yeah, my blogging's been falling off as of late. Although really it's been kind of on the lame side since I secondly stepped back (though there was also an initial step back that preceded that), these past few months, since I got married, have been especially low on the posting meter. This past weekend was particularly interesting as I ran into a few people who haven't been blogging so much so recently (eg Josh & Dina), helping me realize it wasn't just me who hadn't been doing so much blogging.
In any event, we'll see how much blogging I'm actually able to do, though there are still many topics about which I'd like to blog.

22 November 2007

Back Home

Last night, my wife and I arrived back to my parents' house Gahanna, Ohio. The significance of this trip is that it is the first time we've been in Ohio as a married couple. In any event, happy Thanksgiving!

14 November 2007

Starting Physical Therapy & Returning to Lifting Weights

Yesterday was my first day of physical therapy for my knee [since the surgery (which was nearly three weeks ago)],which was helpful, as there is a light at the end of this handicapped tunnel in which I am. Along with learning some exercises to be doing to help me recover, I learned that I can return to lifting upper body weights, for which I am glad I can return to physical exercise of some sort.
As such, I just got back this morning from lifting weights for the first time since my surgery, which was three weeks ago today. I must say that my [upper body (it goes without saying my lower body)] strength noticeably diminished in those few weeks. I look forward to regaining my lost strength.

08 November 2007

The Shifting Connotation of the Term "My Bed" in Rabbinic Literature: Another Excised Appendix

One remaining appendix that I had meant to include in my article on ברכת המפיל (the blessing) is on the topic of the shifting connotation of the term "my bed" in rabbinic literature. It would help prove a point I made in my paper. However, an appendix was not deemed to be fitting for Milin Havivin, so it, like my appendix on קריאת שמע (reading out of Shema'), was excised. So, here is the link to this "mini-article" on "my bed".

07 November 2007

Knee Improving - No More Crutches

Now that my recent knee surgery is now two weeks in the past, I am now walking limping around without crutches. Up through last week, I was still on two crutches, but on Friday, I made it down to just one crutch. Then, on Sunday, I was able to get around in short distances crutchlessly. As of yesterday, I am now able to perambulate even further without any walking aids. The next step in my recovery is physical therapy, which begins next week.

02 November 2007

Parshas HaShavua Posting at Canfei Nesharim

This week, Canfei Nesharim posted a devar Torah that I wrote for their Eitz Chayim Hee: A Torah Commentary for Environmental Learning and Action project. I, of course, want to thank them for providing me with the opportunity to contribute to their project. At some point here, I may elaborate about why I find that the environment is important, but especially in a religious sense.
Now, those who know me will notice that some of the material towards the end, such as quoting Rav Nahman of Breslov is not quite my style - it's true - it's editorial addition, though I'm fine with that, as it may be more helpful for some of the readers.
Also, they prepared a source sheet to accompany my devar Torah, which is fine, although, had they asked me, I would have been happy to put together such a source sheet.
Anyways, enjoy & shabbat shalom.

28 October 2007

Recent Health News in Drew: Knee Surgery!

By far, the biggest news in my life recently, has been my recent knee surgery. This past Wednesday, I had an arthroscopic meniscectomy, to remove torn cartilage from my left knee. While I am still on crutches as of my typing this post, I hope to be walking crutchlessly within a week. This latest chapter in the ongoing story of my "bad knee", will hopefully resolve well, with me getting back on my feet and, within time, being able to get back to jogging and playing basketball, though I may need to do some physical therapy.
In other health news, I just found out last week, that I have mild asthma, and now I have an inhaler. I guess that helps explain why I've had some breathing troubles previously when jogging, though I thought it was just me being a little bit out of shape. Hopefully, when my legs get back ready to start jogging, I will be able to start getting back into shape and hopefully be somewhat unheeded by breathing problems.

03 October 2007

מענה Your נפש: The Annual Hegemony of the Mind Over the Body

Yup, another posting I had meant to put up a couple of weeks ago - part of my back-blogging (no, not that back blogging) - is this posting on Yom Kippur. Some of the significant Biblical phrases for our discussion are the following: "וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם" (Lev. 23.27 & Num. 29.7) and "תְּעַנּוּ אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם" (Lev. 16.29).
In the week leading up to Yom Kippur, Rabbi Berman spoke to us students at YCT about this topic, painting a broader picture of the context of Yom Kippur and what these verses are doing. I will neither be summarizing his speech, nor presenting all of his ideas, but rather certain elements. All quotes to follow are from that speech.
Rabbi Saul Berman speaking at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in mid-September 2007 on the topic of innuy nefesh on yom Kippur
Framing the discussion, R' Berman queried "When the Torah says some five separate times תענו את נפשותיכם, what does that mean?" Yes, he said, that "the ספרא says תענו את נפשותיכם is a particular set of forms of withdrawal," however, he, said, "I would like to explore with you, generally, what is the meaning of עינוי? And, in particular, since the Torah keeps using that term over and over again, what's the meaning of עינוי נפש? It's not just תענו - it's תענו את נפשותיכם, כל הנפש אשר תענה, ועניתם את נפשותיכם - what's the sense of עינוי?"
Further, he queried,
If, in fact, these are not wrongful activities, why does the Torah prohibit them? My core suggestion is that whenever the Torah forbids an activity for a limited period of time, the purpose of the prohibition is for us to engage in the evaluation of that activity. That is, these activities are indeed so powerful that if we fail to engage in a periodical evaluation of these activities, they can begin to take over our lives in ways that ultimately will corrupt these good activities.
He then embarked on an exploration of the term עינוי as it is used in the Torah in four different ways: "The term עינוי in the Torah is used in a variety of different contexts. The one that's probably best known is the עינוי of slavery, the עינוי of מצרים (Egypt)." That is, "the עינוי of מצרים was that someone else had gained mastery over our productive energies. The עינוי was the coercive force that someone else was exercising over our productive energies."
The second is "the עינוי of rape, as in the case of Dinah." He then succinctly defined this as "the עינוי of rape is the forceful gaining of mastery over another person in their sexual expression."
"Then there's a third form of עינוי in the Torah which appears a number of different times", that of the "עינוי of the abandonment of one's culture," pointing to the beautiful woman and Sarah's and Hagar's relationship.
The last of these is that "there's a term עינוי used in the Torah in regards to particular kinds of economic oppression."
After surveying these different uses, his concluding definition is that "עינוי is fundamentally an act which compels another to submit." I am convinced!
So, now that we have one part of the equation, that being עינוי, what about the other? Regarding נפש, a term I explored in my last posting, which denotes the physical body, we now have a more complete picture: The point is to compel one's physical body to submit.... But, to what? It may seem, actually, that one is to utilize their לב (mind) to compel their physical body to submit - to submit to not being fulfilled - keeping it down, as it were. I could leave it there, but one wonders if, perhaps, it may serve to help one better enjoy the holiday which shortly follows it.... Just a thought as we are concluding Sukkos this year and entering into Shemini Azeres - חג שמח - Happy Holiday(s)!

02 October 2007

לב & נפש: Their Translations

(Another posting that's been percolating....)
One of the pieces about which I spoke a few weeks ago was on the verse " וּמָל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְאֶת-לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ: לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ--לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ" (Deut. 30.6) - I mentioned an idea that was raw to me and undeveloped, saying that נפש (nefesh) meant body (as opposed to the contemporary understanding of this term to be "soul") and לב/לבב (lev/levav) meant the seat of the intellect (as opposed to the contemporary understanding of this term to be "heart", seat of the emotions). After thinking about it some more, I realize the latter should be the seat of all thought: whether emotional or intellectual, or otherwise. (BTW, one of the neat things about Deuteronomy 6.5 (וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ) ("And you shall love the Lord, your God with all of your mind(s) and with all of your body and with all of your me'od") is that it has this progression from abstract (mind) to physical (body) to material (מאד - not sure precisely how to translate this yet, perhaps we'll leave this for a future posting).
However, I cannot claim to a novellum in this realm, for Maimonides has already written about these terms in his Guide of the Perplexed (in I:39 & I:41).
Also writing about לב is Ethan Dor-Shav in his Hebrew-Wisdom Dictionary in a four-part series ((1) "The Core of a Unified Self", (2) "Mind Your Idioms!", (3) "The PURE MIND of Revelation", (4) "When the Mind Loves"). Part of his introduction (in "The Core of a Unified Self") is stating that there are
...well over 800 cases where lev is figurative: the "seat" of mental capacities. But which kind? Emotions? Sure. Lev feels sadness (Genesis 6:6), dread (Genesis 42:28), joy (Exodus 4:14), hate (Leviticus 19:17), agitation (Deuteronomy 28:65), courage (2-Samuel 17:10), and more. These are, however, a small minority. As any lexicon would state, for the most part lev is the seat of rational "intellect," and other cognitive smarts such as memory and creativity. The lev thinks! Indeed, in dozens of verses it is explicitly the seat of Wisdom....
He goes on to define לב as
the discerning mind: "a mind to know"; a "brilliant mind" to conceive; a "breadth of mind" to grasp the universe (nothing to do with a "heart expanding" in emotional delight...). Figuratively, then, as well as physically, lev means "core" - the mental center of our being. It is the inner screen upon which our cognition plays.
And then he warns against mistranslating our term:
Detrimental is an understatement for translating lev as the figurative "heart," a concept that has an innate emotional connotation, almost anti-rational; the effective opposite of "mind."
In his concluding posting ("When the Mind Loves"), he once again strongly urges the reader care in the translation of לב by saying that "mistranslating lev as “heart” strips its characters of their innate rationality" and that "there is zero “literal” merit to translating lev as “heart”, anywhere, anytime".
Furthermore in his last posting, he sums up the translation of לב:
  • (a) the non-figurative "lev" never meant the anatomical heart;

  • (b) the figurative use of lev is, first and foremost, as the seat of rational thought, awareness, intent and reflection; and

  • (c) by correcting the mistranslation of lev (replacing the excitable “heart” with the perceptive “mind”) the bible’s fundamental teaching about the soul, prophecy and transformation emerges dazzlingly from the text.
What has been fascinating to me to approaching this topic is thinking about when this shift occurred when considering the term לב/לבב and when this shift might've occurred. If I had to make a wild guess, I would suggest sometime several centuries ago, but I'll leave the research for someone else to do.
In a future posting, I hope to do some translations of rabbinic terms involving לב now that I have a better understanding of the term.

01 October 2007

Kol 'Ishah & Women's Krias haTorah

As one of the postings I had wanted to post in my hiatus from blogging, this was one I definitely wanted to do a couple of weeks ago and just didn't - it's the third in my series on women and krias haTorah.
In Rabbi Mendel Shapiro's "Qeri’at ha-Torah by Women: A Halakhic Analysis", he includes a section on kol 'ishah, running pp. 40-41 and pp. 41-43, nn. 228-230 (yes, one of the annoyances of the editing of the article to me was that footnotes to sections in the text were on one or two pages ahead). A big selection of that small section is the following (pp. 40-41):
The question of whether qeri’at ha-Torah by women in accordance with the prescribed musical notations (ta`amei ha-miqra) violates qol ishah has not, to my knowledge, been directly addressed by poseqim. There is, however, ample collateral evidence that normative halakhah does not prohibit the practice on this ground. First, as R. Ovadiah Yosef points out, the Talmud’s declaration that women may not read the Torah because of kevod ha-tsibbur (sic), and for no other reason, is strong evidence that the rabbis did not regard qol ishah as a relevant consideration.
The footnote at the end of this selection refers the reader to two selections from R' Yosef's Yehaveh Da'at, the latter of which is not particularly relevant to kol 'ishah. The first selection is a brief quote from the third section, the 51st chapter (I am trying to access Spertus right now to get the full text of the responsum, but I think Spertus' Bar Ilan feature is down for the time being):
...ומכל מקום, קשה לי מהגמרא "הכל עולים לקריאת התורה למנין שבעה אפילו אשה וקטן, אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד הצבור", הרי שלא חששו לאסור משום קול באשה ערוה, אף על פי שסתם קריאה בתורה עם טעמי המקרא. וצ"ע.
...And in any event, it is difficult for me from the Talmudic statement "Everybody ascends to the reading of the Torah for the counting of seven, even a woman or a minor, but [the] Sages said a woman should not read of the Torah on account of the congregation's honor" - behold, they were not concerned to forbid because of "a woman's voice is a nakedness", even though that a normal reading of the Torah is with cantillation. And [this matter] requires looking into.
(Yes, by the way, he wrote כבוד הצבור and not כבוד צבור.)
I must point out, however, that the reason that the Sages that were quoted in the beraisa (on Megillah 23a) did not mention the woman's voice issue is because it had not yet come about. The kevod zibbur issue was brought up by tannaim, the woman's voice issue came about at the beginning of the amoraic period, derived by Shmuel (Berakhos 24a (and also quoted by one of his students in Kiddushin 70a)) : "
קול באשה ערוה, שנאמר 'כי קולך ערב ומראך נאוה'" ("A woman's voice is a nakedness, as it is said, 'because your voice is sweet and your appearance is pleasing.'")
However, it is possible that the stammaim could have inquired about this issue, but I'll leave that be for now (thus, it could be that even where a congregation waives their honor, there would still be an issue of women singing [publicly] - but I'm not going to get into that).

Why My 20-Day Blogging Break Happened

Although I haven't blogged in 20 days, it wasn't meant to be that way. It happened for mainly two reasons: 1) I dropped off my computer to get fixed as it would not charge (just like a year and a half ago) and 2) the week at school between Rosh haShanah and Yom haKippurim was busy enough to keep me away from blogging (insert sad face here). However, my wife graciously allowed me the use of her computer, and it's past YK. Nevertheless, I just hadn't gotten around to blogging since then.
Well, we got me a new computer, which should be a BIG help. In sad news, I got my "old" computer back today and, although they fixed the charging situation, they also replaced the hard drive. Unlike the previous time I had my hard drive replaced (when I at least knew my hard drive was malfunctioning), I didn't know my hard drive wasn't working. Fortunately, unlike last time, this time it didn't cost any money (just data (thank you warranty about which I didn't know)).
Oh, also, my lovely wife got me a new iPod, since my first one had a smashed screen since this past winter. Yay!

11 September 2007

Kevod Zibbur: A Congregation's Honor

As mentioned in my last post, I've been doing some reading up on the issue of aliyos for women to the reading of the Torah. Something that has caught my eye is the phrase that is employed - so let's go to the text inside, although we shall be looking at various versions:
MS Goettingen 3:

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למנין שבעה אפלו קטן ואפלו אשה אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה משום כבוד צבור

MS London - BL Harl. 5508 (400):

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למינ<..> שבעה ואפי' אשה ואפי' קטן אבל אמרו חכמ' אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד ציבור

MS Munich 95:

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למניין שבעה אפי' אשה אפי' קטן אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד צבור

MS NY - Columbia X 893 T 141:

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למנין שבעה אפלו אשה ואפלו קטן אבל אמרו חכמ' אשה לא תקרא בתורה בצבור מפני כבוד הצבור

MS Oxford Opp. Add. fol. 23:

ת"ר הכל עולין למנין שבעה ואפי' אשה ואפי' קטן אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד צבור

MS Vatican 134:

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למניין שבעה אפי' אשה ואפי קטן אבל אמ' חכמי' אשה לא תקרא בתור' מפני כבוד תור'

Pesaro (1516):

תנו רנן הכל עולין למניין שבעה ואפילו קט ואפילו אשה אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד ציבור

Cambridge - T-S F1 (2) 123:

תנו רבנן הכל עולין למנין שבעה ואפלו אשה ואפלו קטן אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתור<..> מפני כבוד צבור

The phrase more often than not that is employed is that it is due to כבוד צבור - honor of a congregation (or a congregation's honor), rather than כבוד הצבור - honor of the congregation (or the congregation's honor). Henceforth, this is how I will be referring to it.

09 September 2007

Sperber's Article on Women's Aliyos

Back in July, I went to hear Rabbi Saul Berman speak on the topic of women's aliyos (of which he is not in favor) and I wanted to post on it (don't worry, I still plan on it). However, in order to do that, I wanted to read up on the relevant literature. While it has been taking me some time to get through Shapiro's article, I figured I would briefly comment on Prof. Rabbi Sperber's article. Although the amount of Torah and general knowledge that he possesses is something that I would be lucky if I gained even 10% of that, I do not agree with his article, "Congregational Dignity and Human Dignity: Women and Public Torah Reading".
His main point is found on pages 10-11 where he states that
we know that many women have a sincere desire, a yearning, to take an active and spiritual role in the life of the community and its pursuits, and excluding them from the synagogue or from involvement in worship ceremonies is a cause of great distress, as they said, "it is a cause of great sadness to them that all gather in the synagogue and they do not." It thus seems clear that kevod ha-beriyot, individual dignity, must overcome kevod ha-tsibur, particularly when the concept of kevod hatsibur does not really pertain as it might have in ancient and medieval times.
He then concludes his article (on p. 14) by stating that
it seems to me that nowadays, in those communities where it is agreed that change within the normative halakhic framework should take place and that the absence of such change will be a source of pain and suffering to an important segment of the community, the principle of kevod ha-beriyot overcomes the stated principle of kevod ha-tsibur.
One of my concerns with his point is that כבוד הבריות (lit. "honor of the creatures", but can be translated as "human dignity") may often get over-used (I think Rabbi Professor Jeffrey Woolf expressed his concerns about this when he visited our yeshivah in February, though I should probably look into that more closely...). What I think troubles me most about Prof. R' Sperber's approach to this is his prescription that כבוד הבריות necessitates that women read in those communities that opt for such a course of action. It is one thing to say that they can halakhically read and another to say that there is a halakhic imperative. Oh well, I have to keep on reading the Shapiro article on this. More posts in the future.

04 September 2007

Who Were the Boethusians? II

A piece of scholarship on the Boethusians that was published two years after the one I quoted in my posting from last week, is Adiel Schremer's "The Name of the Boethusians: A Reconsideration of Suggested Explanations and Another One", Journal of Jewish Studies 48, number 2 (Autumn 1997): 290-299. After going through most of his article discussing textual variants, trying to refute the idea that the name Boethusians in Hebrew, ביתוסין/ביתסין is a compound of the words בית סין, making the name the Boethusians to be Essenes, he then proposes on the last page of his article the following interesting suggestion:
...perhaps ביתסים might be a pejorative term created by the distortion of a word. That is, originally, this group was connected to a person called בויתס/בייתס, but the sages created a distorted and corrupt form of the plural of the name in order to mock them; instead of בית בויתס (which, according to this conjecture, was apparently the group's own name for itself), they treated בויתס as a noun, and instead of constructing the plural as בויתסים, they distorted the name to ביתסים in order to express disdain for this group.
What is the source of the mockery in the distorted form? The Greek name "Boethos" is derived from an adjective meaning "helpful, supportive, of assistance", which in many places is used to describe God. The distortion of this name may therefore allude to the fact that the ביתסים are not as their name would indicate. We can understand the name of the Sadducees in a similar way: it is a distortion of צדיקים, and expresses disdain towards those who consider themselves righteous men, but are not. As we know, the scholarly literature has suggested that the term פרושים, which is used by the group's opponents, also serves as a pejorative appellation. The conjecture which I have proposed is in line with this train of thought.
As a disclaimer, I have omitted the footnotes, not to mention all of the supporting material and ideas with which he introduces this clever proposal ten years ago. For those who are interested, I have provided the location of his article and you can read this ten-page article.

02 September 2007

Kosher Dining Options in Washington Heights

Just Kosher minimarket, Golan Heights, and Grandma's Pizza all along Amsterdam AvenueNow that today is Labor Day, fall is soon upon us. A new season is here, school is starting once again, and new people have moved into the neighborhood. With these changes come a couple of new kosher restaurants in Washington Heights and a few of the same previous places. Here they are, in alphabetical order:Dougie Doug's
-Dougie Doug's (212.928.2222) 501 West 184th Street {dairy} - replacing Revaya has just opened up within the last month
-Golan Heights (212.795.7842) 2553 Amsterdam {meat} is going strongly.

-Grandma's Pizza (212.927.4895) 2551 Amsterdam {dairy} is also still going strongly.
-Knish Box (212.544.9044) 4413 Broadway {dairy} - this is a new place and the first kosher restaurant near Bennett Avenue since
Knish box Gruenbaum's on 181st closed in spring 2006. It just opened last week.

As far as Ari's deli (212.740.8030) {meat} is concerned, which had opened up two years ago, I haven't seen them open in several months.
Also, Lake Como Pizza (212.740.0110) 2549
Lake Como Pizza looking closed Amsterdam {dairy} (where Time Out Pizza used to be) is another place that hasn't been open for a long time, so I don't know what the story is there.

News in Drew

1 - School's back in session!
2 - I got a bee sting on Thursday at our park clean-up - the first time since the 1980s since such an occurrence has happened to me. I may actually have been stung twice, as there's a huge section of my leg that is still red and itchy.
3 - We will be in Rochester for Rosh HaShanah and here in the Heights for Yom Kippur.
4 - Our apartment is mostly set up, now that we have a tv, bookshelves, couch, etc. We actually have hosted shabbas lunches each of the two past shabbasos.
5 - Next weekend, I will be in West Hartford for the first of ten weekends for my internship.

30 August 2007

Who Were the Boethusians?

Indeed, who were the Boethusians? A year and a half ago at the YU library, I found the May 1995 PhD dissertation of Raymond Harari, entitled Rabbinic Perceptions of the Boethusians. For now, I just wanted to quote an excerpt from the introduction and an excerpt from the conclusion.
From pp. 11-12 in the introduction:

In all, however, it appears that the Baytusim may be authentically traced to twelve different contexts. Some of these contexts include two rabbinic sources that mention the Baytusim, while some have parallel passages that do not refer to the Baytusim at all. In sum, the Baytusim passages include one from the Mishnah, seven from the Tosefta, two from the Palestinian Talmud, four from the Babylonian Talmud, two from the Scholion to Megillat Ta’anit, and one from Avot de-Rabbi Natan.

The traditions assign, often with polemical overtones, views or actions to the Baytusim or to one of the members of the group on a broad array of topics. While most of the traditions present views or actions of the Baytusim on halakhic matters, at least one tradition presents the argument of the Baytusim in what may be regarded as a theological context. The halakhic contexts within which we find the views or actions of the Baytusim expressed include Temple-related items such as the incense-offering of the high priest on the Day of Atonement, judicial issues such as the punishment deserved by the zomemim (refuted) witnesses and ritual issues such as the willow branch ceremony celebrated in the Temple on Sukkot (Tabernacles).

and from pp. 320-322 in the conclusion:

In search of some unifying characteristics, some historians have proposed sociological explanations of the views of the Baytusim. More often, however, the Baytusim have been portrayed as having taken a literalist approach to Biblical verses and as having rejected the general validity of the Oral Law. Virtually every rabbinic passage which refers to the Baytusim has been interpreted in this light. The Baytusi interpretation of three Biblical verses in the Scholion to 4 Tammuz clearly presents the Baytusim as advancing a literalist position. The ARN portrayal of the Seduqim and Baytusim as having departed from the Torah has also been taken as equivalent to a rejection of the Oral Law. Moreover, most of the other traditions – dealing with the status of the Baytusim with respect to ‘eruv haserot, their understanding of the manner of incense offering on Yom Kippur, their rejection of the sages’ Sukkot ceremonies, their alternate dating of the ‘omer ceremony and the festival of Shavuot, and their disagreement with the sages regarding two court procedures – have also been understood as emanating from a general rejection of the Oral Law. This approach has found support amongst medieval commentators as well as modern historians.

In truth, however, while it is clear that the conclusions of the Baytusim are presented as differing from those of the sages or the Perushim, it is not clear that rabbinic sources view the Baytusim as having offered a sweeping rejection of the Oral Law and as having adopted a consistently literalist approach to the reading of the Bible. First, two of the three literalist interpretations attributed to the Baytusim in the Scholion are offered by tannaim elsewhere in rabbinic literature. Secondly, the ARN assertion that the Baytusim “departed form the Torah” appears to mean that they departed form the mainstream of the sages; it does not appear to imply any rejection of a general methodology or direction. Thirdly, in each of the other passages, there is never even an allusion to a rejection of the Oral Law. Rather, the arguments of the Baytusim are presented as independently-formulated opinions with which the sages or the Perushim took issue. Fourthly, in at least one case – T. Kippurim 1:8 and P. Yoma 39a-b – historians have recognized that the opinion of the Baytusim is not more literal than that of the sages. Finally, if the Baytusim were indeed viewed by the rabbis as being literealists, it is somewhat puzzling to understand why they are not presented as citing and explicating more Biblical verses. In point of fact, the Baytusim are perceived as having offered Scriptural proof in only three instances: the Scholion to 4 Tammuz, T. Kippurim 1:8 and P. Yoma 39a-b, and the Scholion to 8 Nisan. Indeed, even the parallel passage to the Scholion to 8 Nisan – B. Menahot 65a-b – does not cite the Biblical verse.

29 August 2007

Follow-Up From Yesterday's Post on the Anti-Semitic Women on YouTube

It seems the story about the anti-semitic women on YouTube I posted yesterday (HT: Columbus Dispatch) has developed a little bit (btw, apparently Matthew Marx and Dean Narciso, who composed that article, got the story off of tv news reporter, Maureen Kocot) (also, it seems that on the Jblogosphere, Life of Rubin picked up the story from VIN, which has run a series of three posts on the topic: 1, 2, 3). Firstly, Kocot did a further piece (last night's big story on WBNS).
Also, as far as my suggestion that someone contact the ADL in yesterday's posting, it seems that the Ohio ADL's regional director responded by saying
We were deeply disturbed by the message of these videos, which is anti-Semitism, racism and hate. It is frightening that such hateful views would be held by a member of the Columbus force.
As it stands, it seems that the police officer has been reassigned as there is an investigation under way. What is one of the interesting things about this (aside from a discussion of the first amendment) is the discussion about a possible bifurcation of on-the-job behavior and personal conduct (as can be seen in the previous link).

28 August 2007

Oy, Anti-Semitism on the Internet

Maybe in part because I have resided in New York City for the past few years, but I don't run into anti-Semitism that much. Anyways, a couple of women have made a few videos ("The Jews", "The Jews Part II", and "The Jews Part III") that are, you guessed it, horribly anti-semitic (HT: CD (see also CU)). I would embed the videos here were it not for how simply distasteful they are. I wonder if the ADL knows about this yet....

Bedtime Shema' Piece

With still trying to get things in order around our new apartment and with the new school year here, I've been a bit busy and, thus, my posting has dropped off. However, I wanted to briefly post something here. YCT's annual Torah journal, Milin Havivin will hopefully be coming out sometime this fall for the third volume. In there, I have an article on the blessing before going to sleep (that I have mentioned initially here and subsequently here) which is in its final stages of being edited for publication. This particular posting is about one of two appendices I had appended to the article but now will not be a part of the paper (hopefully, the other appendix (on the phrase "my bed" in Rabbinic literature) will remain in...). I thought I would post it up for anybody who may be interested in it. It is a brief three-page piece on the bedtime Shema'. Because I did very little with this piece, just copying it into a new file, there are a couple of references that are subsequent to earlier references in the paper, itself, so they are incomplete. (Update: I have now fixed those references.) A lot of it is a rehashing of part of my paper in last year's regarding the bedtime Shema'. There are a couple of neat little points, such as in footnotes 6 & 8, but not much else. Ah well, it's a neat little piece.

20 August 2007

'Ishto Kegufo (His Wife Is Like Himself)

I know that I've been on quite the blogging hiatus on account of my recent wedding last Sunday and I hope to get back into it, especially on the woman's head/hair-covering topic. Anyways, in the meantime, I wanted to blog about the Talmudic phrase אשתו כגופו - his wife is like himself (lit. his wife is like his body). A schoolmate of mine's wife just gave birth this past week (the bris is this Friday) (yes, mazal tov!) and, earlier in the summer, I would inquire when he/they were due, he would respond, "I'm not pregnant - my wife is." Upon this answer, I would respond, "אשתו כגופו", though I'm fairly sure he wasn't convinced. Nevertheless, this was my impetus to look up where the phrase was used in Talmudic literature and how it was used.
The origin of this term is tannaitic and is found in a beraisa that is quoted on both Yevamos 62b-63a and on Sanhedrin 76b (text used here is from MS Munich 95 for the Yevamos text):

האוהב את אשתו כגופו, והמכבדה יותר מגופו, והמדריך בניו ובנותיו בדרך ישר', והמשיאן סמוך לפירקן - עליו הכתו' או' "וידעת כי שלום אהלך."

האוהב את שכיניו, והמקרב את קרוביו, והנושא את בת אחותו, והמלוה סלע לעני בשעת דוחקו - עליו הכתו' או' "אז תקרא ויי יענה תשוע ויאמר הנני."

One who loves his wife like himself, and one who honors her more than himself, and one who guides his sons and daughters on a proper path, and one who marries them off just directly prior to their reaching puberty - upon him Scripture says "And you will know that your tent is peace" (Job 5.24).
One who loves his neighbors, and one who draws close his relatives, and one who marries his sister's daughter, and one who lends a sela to a poor person in the hour of his need - upon him Scripture says "Then you will call and God will answer; you will cry and He will say, 'Here I am'" (Isaiah 58.9).
Both of the two halves of this text each start out with "one who loves", has four actions, and has a Biblical verse speaking to the meritoriousness of the actions. For our purposes here, we will focus on the first half of this text. The first two pieces are about a husband's actions and the second two are about a father's actions. Achieving to love his wife like himself and to honor her more than himself are no easy tasks.
However, from the above text, there is no comparison being made between a husband and a wife, except that, for a man to love his wife like himself, he is reached a special level, so to speak/type.
The other two uses of the phrase "his wife is like himself" are each used by the stammaim (the later, redactorial layer of the Talmud). One use is found on Berakhos 24a and the other on Bekhoros 35b. Both of them are found within discussions, though I've tried to excerpt some of the discussions, so as not to be too lengthy.
Here is the Berakhos text (from MS Munich 95):

בעא מיניה רב יוסף בריה דרב נחמיה מרב יהודה: "שנים שהיו ישנים במטה אחת - מהו שיחזיר פניו ויקרא ק"ש ויחזיר זה פניו ויקרא ק"ש?"

א"ל הכי אמ' שמואל: מותר, אפי' אשתו עמו."

מתקיף לה רב יוסף ולא מיבעיא אחר.

אדרבה: אשתו כגופו, אחר לאו כגופו.

Rav Yosef, son of Rav Nehemiah, inquired of Rav Yehudah: “Two people who are sleeping in one bed – should one turn his face and read out the reading of the Shema’ and the other turn his face and read out the reading of the Shema’?”

He said to him: “Shmuel said: ‘It is permissible – even if his wife is with him.’”

Rav Yosef pointed out a difficulty: And it’s not necessary to say another.

On the contrary: his wife is like himself – another is not like himself!
The Bekhoros text (from MS Vatican 120):

ודוקא בנו ובתו, אבל אשתו – לא.

מאי טעמ'?

אשתו כגופו דמיא.

And specifically his son or his daughter, but his wife – no.

What is the reason?

His wife is compared as himself.

In these two latter texts (yes, I know there are gaps between each of the lines - if someone knows how to fix that, please let me know), the stam borrows the language from the beraisa out of its context into a different context that suits his needs within a given discussion. However, that isn't to suggest that the stam necessarily misunderstood or misread the original term/phrase, but rather creatively appropriated it for his/their uses in an argumentative framework.

I hope you enjoyed. I think the stammaitic usage of the term is, however, a "fun" way to employ the term, even if not everybody appreciates or accepts its employment.

08 August 2007

Head & Hair Covering For Women (Pt. 1)

Last month, R' Sedley (I only found out about his blog through a Google blogsearch on this topic) posted on the topic of head/hair covering for Jewish women, starting off with:
I have been asked by someone about the sources for women's hair covering. Why do they have to cover their hair? Who has to cover her hair? When does the hair need to be covered? How much? and Where does it say so in the Torah?
He then proceeds to not answer the questions.

In the Talmud, there are essentially just two [albeit separate] pericopes which discuss head and hair covering: one at Kesubos 7.6 (both Mishnah & the Tosefta) with the Talmudic commentary thereupon (in both Talmuds) and the other at Berakhos 24a (click here for these Talmudic sources).
Yesterday, I sat down with Rabbi Josh Yuter to read through some of the halakhic sources on head and hair covering for women, focusing on the Talmudic excerpts, though also reading briefly through the relevant passages on the topic in the Mishneh Torah and the Shulhan Arukh. As generally married Jewesses cover their heads/hair, it is pretty relevant for me, as I am getting married in four days to a young lady who has asked me about this particular topic.
While Josh emphasized the distinctness to me between these two pericopes which have been conflated in the halakhic literature (and I agree), I cannot entirely separate these two entirely in a descriptive fashion as they most certainly somehow be related. In other words, what it was that caused Rav Sheshes to read into the verse "your hair is like a flock of goats" (SoS 6.5 & 4.1) in order to make his hermeneutical read of "A woman's hair is a nakedness" (Berakhos 24a)? The book of Song of Songs is filled with a number of statements of the recognition of feminine beauty and yet only a few are selected to depict, in this section of Talmud, "nakednesses". I think there must have been something in the culture that not only was for a woman to contain her hair, but also a covering of it. Nevertheless, maintained Josh, was that, halakhically, these are separate discourses, which is certainly interesting.
Aside from the nakedness discussion is that of not covering it would be one of the things which goes against Jewish custom (one of four things [in the Mishhah] and one of five things [in the Tosefta]). In both Talmuds, the discussion takes on a spatial dimension as to where she must cover her head or not (and how). Thus, there is clearly a social (socio-religious(?)) element to a Jewish woman covering her hair (perhaps indicating that she is married(/taken))?

I see that JOFA has a listing of various articles and such on this topic and I hope to read through them in the future.

07 August 2007

College Papers From My Old Computer

Continuing in a similar vein from my earlier post about files from my college computer, I have now uploaded various papers I wrote for assignments in college (now in pdf format). All of these are from my last three semesters at IU, upon my return back from YU. The only non-Jewish studies one of these is this little sheet. Keep in mind that they are specifically undergrad pieces and not grad work.
Two papers that I composed for my anthropology class in fall 2002 were "Male Initiation to Torah Education" and "Modern-day Jewish Traditional Wedding Ceremonies in America".
In the following spring, I used the Chicago style of citation in my printing press paper. I also took another anthropology course on Jewish women, wherein I wrote a couple of papers on Jewesses
(one - two) and another couple on mikveh use (one - two). For our final assignment, a classmate and I worked on a paper on the two women rabbis in town (also uploaded is a rough draft of a piece of work that was intended by me to be included in the work (but it was not to be so) on rabbinic reasons for women not to be rabbis).
The following semester, I wrote a piece on Spinoza's method of Biblical interpretation. More significantly was my last paper in college, "Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Philosophy of Halakhah’s View of Evil".
While glancing at some of them, I noticed various typos and other errors, so the reader may now consider oneself warned. Interestingly, another thing I noticed is the style of my discourse concerning Judaism and halakhah.

06 August 2007

5 Days Left Until My Wedding

Yup, only 5 days left until my/our wedding. Two things about it that I wanted to discuss. The first of which is our gift registries. We are registered at Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel. We are also registered with two separate knife registries: Warther Knives and Cutco (for Cutco, you will have to search for our names). Although the last two knife registries were added much later, it has been interesting that a lot has been bought off of our BB&B registry and not as much off of our C&B registry - my thinking is that people assume that we are registered at the former, thus they go there and purchase from there, with less people going to our various registries from our registries page. (Oh yeah, if you wanted to get us something off of one of our registries (no pressure), even though you may not have been invited to the wedding, we will not hold you back from doing so.)
The other is that we are finally finished composing our wedding brochure. Whenever I have gone to weddings in the past, I always wanted more information - some footnotes and some in-text citations. I then thought that mine would be different - it would be full of information and sources. But, alas, my fiance wanted no such thing. Okay, I really shouldn't place the blame on her - most of the guests probably care little about such information and just want basics and to follow along with the ceremonies and celebrations.

Random Quotes

While sorting through my old college computer scavenging it for files of various sorts that may be somehow useful, especially including pictures, some of which are featured here, I found three files, each of which had a quote. So, I figured I would post them here - who knows? Maybe someone will find them useful.
The first of the these three quotes is from Erich Fromm, who wrote some excellent books (it was kind of interesting for me to be reading his works in a post-modern era, as he was a modern writer, but he nevertheless has some impressive insights), the following quote from Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics:
The overemphasis on ends leads to a distortion of the harmonious balance between means and ends in various ways: one way is that all emphasis is on ends without sufficient consideration of the role of means. The outcome of this distortion is that the ends become abstract, unreal, and eventually nothing but pipe dreams. This danger has been discussed at length by Dewey. The isolation of ends can have the opposite effect: while the end is ideologically retained, it serves merely as a cover for shifting all the emphasis to those activities which are allegedly means to this end. The motto for this mechanism is “The ends justify the means.” The defenders of this principle fail to see that the use of destructive means has its own consequences which actually transform the end even if it is still retained ideologically.
The latter two quotes both come from http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com, though the original locations of the links are no longer existant.
The first of these two quotes is from Susanne Hauschild, Thomas Licht, and Wolfram Stein in their "Creating a Knowledge Culture":
“[S]uccessful companies build a corporate environment that fosters a desire for knowledge among their employees and that ensures its continual application, distribution, and creation.”
The last quote is from "When reorganization works":
Reorganizations succeed when they build on simple and motivating business ideas, are well-timed, and face social realities. Only when these three conditions have been met should top executives begin drawing up and testing the options for a new organizational design.

04 August 2007

Maimonides and the Incline of the Generations?

A while back on my blog, I remember getting into a discussion in the comments section on a posting about the idea of "the decline of the generations". Anyways, while finishing up cleaning my room in anticipation for my new roommate (a/k/a my fiance), I came across the following:
Maimonides, it thus turns out, could not have affirmed that human nature was in some sort of constant process of entropic decline, and, in fact, did not. He thus refused to affirm that the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud were significantly different in their natures from the rabbis of his day (or, it is fair to add, ours).
Source: Menachem Kellner, Maimonides on the "Decline of the Generations" and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 94. (Original HT to Rabbi Dov Linzer in the Modern Orthodoxy course I took 2005-6 for excerpts from this book.)

02 August 2007

Ohio State Fair

Yesterday, we went to the first day of the Ohio State Fair! I hadn't been in years and was so excited to go back. Indeed, I had a nice time, although for my fiance's first time - not so much - it was just too long for her to be there (I imagine that it was partly due to her not being a native Ohioan).
It was pleasant, though I had never realized before how so much of the fair's midway (see for instance, the picture to the left) was flanked by vendors selling primarily food, though some also had games where people can try to win stuffed animals, etc. I also hadn't realized how there were buildings specifically for given animals (one building for sheep, another for chickens) to be judged. One of my favorite buildings was the marketplace building.
Anyways, something that struck me when planning initially on going to the fair was that it was going to last for only 12 days - a short period of time to me, it seemed. I found out that three years ago, they switched from a 17-day long fair to a 12-day duration.
A couple of facts I learned about Ohio is that it is the USA's #1 Swiss cheese producer and is the second-largest egg-producing state in the country. It also is "home to the world's largest Amish population."
I don't know when the next time I will be able to go back to the fair, but I'm glad I did.

01 August 2007

Trip to the Columbus Zoo

2 pink flamingos and 1 grey oneYesterday, we went to the Columbus Zoo, my hometown zoo, so to speak, which I have not visited in years (between 2-4 years) and really wanted to go back and see it. A couple of the areas of the zoo were new to me, such as the Voyage to Australia & the Islands (which was probably there the last time I was there, but it might not have beenFluffy, the largest snake in captivity open), the African Forest was redone, and Asia Quest, which just opened last summer. One part of the zoo about which I was disappointed was that the Johnson Aquatic Complex was closed. Speaking of further developments - it seems that some animals have already been removed to be a part of future parts of the zoo, such as polar bears which will be a part of the Polar Frontier, which is to open next fall, and giraffes, which will open in three years.
Pictured at the right is "Fluffy", the largest snake in captivity at 24 feet long and over 300 pounds heavy. There were some neat animals that I had not seen before, such as the markhor and some of the animals in the Australia exhibit.
A common thing that I have been noticing in my previous zoo visits (such as the NOLA Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the Boston Zoo (visited after Shavuos this year)) is thee making of the surrounding areas like that of their natural habitat, both flora-wise, but also similar to the human environment. "Rhino Ryan" noted that "The Columbus Zoo has fastly become one of the most popular and most innovative zoos in the country. ... The zoo is home to some of the rarest animals on earth and has been one of the trend setters of biomes. Biomes are areas in zoos built to house animals and plants of the same area whether it be a rainforest style or tundra." Another common thing (though I don't remember having seen it at the Biblical Zoo when I visited over three years ago) is that there is a huge push to save animals and that a very oft-repeated refrain is that humans, often via habitat destruction, are responsible for the demise of many, many species of animals. Anyways, I know I already noted this, but I guess this message needs to be put out somehow and the zoos are the most basic locus at which this message needs to start.
The one object that is noteworthy Jewishly is that there is a quote on the way into Manatee Coast that says, "Deeds of giving are the very foundation of the world." For the source to this quote, it quotes "the Torah". Now this is interesting because this quote is clearly not in the five books of the Torah, but seemingly a Talmudic quote. Thus, they probably got this quote off of the Internet. Indeed, searching for this phrase, yields several re
sults, with most of them giving the same reference as "the Torah." While I am not sure where the true source of this quote is, I believe it is a paraphrasing of Shimon, the Just's words of "Upon three things the world stands: Upon the Torah, Upon the [Temple] service, and upon acts of kindness" (Avot 1.2). Apparently, someone must have originally paraphrased this quote and then other people quoted it without knowing precisely its location. Eventually, when the Columbus Zoo was creating their Manatee Coast exhibit, they found this quote and then printed it up and used it.
(Below is a movie HTR made a few months ago at Manatee Coast.)

30 July 2007


Since I'm back in Gahanna, one thing about which I wanted to post was the development going on over at Creekside. Today, among other things (such as adding to one of our wedding registries (oh, and we now have another addition), figuring out the order of our wedding and picking up stuff left over from my sister's wedding yesterday), my fiance and I went down to Creekside with my parents, my brother's mother and sister and her husband. While there, it was definitely great weather to enjoy walking around Creekside.
However, a visitor to Creekside can't help but notice the construction going on at the already-awarded project in progress. While the new project will certainly be quite nice aesthetically as well as a nice new hangout in Gahanna, it should also provide a nice addition economically to Gahanna, as well.
The one problem that I have with this new addition to Creekside is that along Mill Street, the buildings abut so closely to the street. Perhaps I have gotten so used to growing up with Mill Street being left plenty of space between it and the nearest buildings (especially the old post office (which moved to Lincoln Circle)) is that it seems to be so tight to the street. Yes, the developer may have had in mind to make it more urban-looking, but it still seems so overpowering right up on Mill Street. Anyways, I know I can't change it by any means of pushing it back even just five feet as the construction is well under way (as can be seen in these pictures), but I'm just contributing my "two cents".

25 July 2007

Back in Gahanna

Yay! I'm back in Gahanna.
I'm here in advance of my sister's wedding coming up on Sunday, to help with preparations and celebrations.
It is so nice to get out of New York for a week and be back home in the midwest - so, so refreshing!
That's all for now - it's late.

Out-of-Towning It For Shabbasos

The last two shabbasos have been out of town for me as will this upcoming one.
Two shabbasos ago, I headed up to Boston to visit Rabbi Klapper, of whom I was a student in his Summer Beit Midrash program. Specifically, I was in the Cambridge-Somerville area (my second time for shabbas there (my previous one being last summer during the SBM)) and it was a nice time.
Last shabbas, I went up for my sister's fiance's aufruf in Ithaca, NY, my second there (my first), which was also a nice time and somewhat low-key.
I now set out today to go back home for a week to Gahanna, and will be spending shabbas in Columbus. (The last time I spent shabbas in Columbus, the eruv was down but, fortunately, it is now fixed.)

18 July 2007

Updating My Wedding Website

Aside from spending a good amount of time cleaning up my bedroom and kitchen today (though there is still much to do...), I have updated my wedding website, which is good, so people interested in attending either the wedding and/or sheva berakhos can have the proper information (and also so people can send us gifts :)).
Anyways, back to cleaning....

17 July 2007

My First Time Shooting Rifles

On Sunday 3 June, while my fiance was at her bridal shower, her brother and I went to a shooting range (of which he is a member) and I shot rifles for the first time in my life - video below.

Yemei Iyun

I know it was weeks ago (three, to be precise), but I figured I would post about attending YCT's Yemei Iyun, nevertheless. It was their fifth annual such event, this now being my third consecutively-attended (including having attended it last year).
For me, the best sessions were those presented by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper (with whom I just spent this past shabbas up in Boston). He presented four sessions: "Writing Modern Midrash," "What is the Purpose of Animal Sacrifice?", "So Long, But Thanks For the Fish: A New Reading of the Jonah Story," and "Maimonides and Messianism." Yes, there were others I attended and from which I benefited, such as Rivka Kahan's "Understanding the Enigmatic 'Hatan Damim' Episode of Ch. 4 of Exodus" which has always been a puzzling text to me (and many others, I'm sure).
Whenever the lectures get uploaded [here], they are definitely worth a listen.

13 July 2007

What is "Her Beauty"?

After posting on Eshes Hayyil, I saw that not only did Mrs. Rivy Poupko-Kletenik (whom I've heard speak before) have a blog, but also that she posted on Eshes Hayyil. What caught my eye was this line:
Finally, in the penultimate verse of the entire book we find a strong declaration condemning the physical, Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
While I still haven't quite figured out as to why grace is deceitful, her translation of the next part "beauty is vain" follows the commonly-followed translation. However, last summer, I had posted previously on the identification of "vain" really being "fleeting" (utilizing Ethan Dor-Shav's article (who, btw, is now blogging on his own (as can be found in a comment on my Eshes Hayyil posting)). Thus, we get the translation that beauty is not vain, but fleeting. This is entirely sensical - there still is an appreciation to the woman's beauty, but a recognition that it will not last forever (maybe several decades, for instance). It follows therefrom that this poem is not condemning beauty, but, rather, recognizing its temporal boundaries.
Shabbat shalom.

05 July 2007

BBYO Papers in PDF Format

Thanks to PDF Online, I've now been able to put my papers on BBYO online in PDF format, which has the added benefit of being more easily accessible (previously, they were online in Word format). The first I wrote four summers ago, AZA Begins: Before B'nai B'rith, discussing how AZA was before being absorbed into B'nai B'rith, mainly to refute previously held notions about the beginnings of AZA. The second, Housing BBYO Leadership, was composed later that summer and subsequently added to the following summer (three years ago). Enjoy. (Especially the PDF online converter thing.)

אשת חיל: How To Translate Eshes Hayyil?

A commonly sung poem by Jews, particularly customarily on Friday nights at the shabbas table is that entitled אשת חיל (Eshes Hayyil), which spans verses 10-31 of the last chapter of משלי (the book of Proverbs), chapter 31, in effect, the last section of the book. It is a nice piece devoted to the woman and praising her work.
Since a lot of people are either familiar with this piece already or otherwise don't care, one may inquire, "Drew, Why are you bringing this up?"
The answer is that Suzanne McCarthy has been blogging recently about this piece over at Better Bibles Blog in a multi-part series entitled "Songs of a Valiant Woman" (parts one, two, three, and four). A central question regarding this piece is how to translate אשת חיל into English. A common translation I often hear/read is the Woman of Valor (or, alternatively, the Valorous Woman). The נפקא מינה (significance) to this is how to translate this second word, חיל, (i.e. woman of חיל), which is reflective of how one sees this section of 22 verses.
In a post pre-dating her four-part series, McCarthy composed a posting entitled "A Virtuous Woman", she has the following:
This word is defined in the Koehler-Baumgartner as
* capacity, power, strength
* property, wealth
* qualified, fit for military service
* of good family, valiant, brave
Thus, we see that there are several options in front of us from which to choose, beyond the oft-mentioned valour option (in the above list, it's the fourth option).
Normally, I wouldn't say anything, but a few months ago, I came across Christine Roy Yoder's article "The Woman of Substance (אשת חיל): A Socioeconomic Reading of Proverbs 31:10-31" (in JBL 122:3 (Fall 2003): pp. 427-447), which, as you can tell, is not inclined towards the reading of valor. Her description in the first footnote is noteworthy:
The translation of חיל as “substance” is an effort to capture its range of meaning, many elements of which are evident in Prov 31:10–31. Independently or as part of a phrase, the term חיל refers variously to strength (e.g., 1 Sam 2:4; Qoh 10:10), an army (e.g., Exod 14:4; Deut 11:4; Jer 32:2), wealth, property, or profits from trade (e.g., Prov 3:22; Isa 30:6; Jer 15:13; Job 20:18), ability (e.g., Gen 47:6; Exod 18:21; 1 Chr 26:30, 32), and bravery (e.g., Judg 11:1; 1 Chr 5:24). Men with חיל are typically affluent, landowners, persons of good repute, who serve (often militarily) with loyalty and bravery (e.g., Exod 18:25; 2 Sam 23:20; 2 Kgs 15:20; 24:14; Ruth 2:1). They are, that is, persons of “substance”—strength and capacity, wealth and skill—much like the woman described in Prov 31:10–31. For the same translation of חיל in Ruth 2:1, see E. F. Campbell, Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 7; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975), 90.
I, personally, find it more sensical to the text to describe this text to be describing this woman of substance, of being economically able/skilled.