21 December 2009

Day #1 of AJS Conference 2009

Yesterday (Sunday), I attended the first day of the 41st annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies which happened to be conveniently located nearby, in LA. Instead of attending the first session, I skipped it to have coffee with the same friends’ of whose wedding I attended last year instead of going the first day of the conference.Marzena Zawanowska speaking For the second session, I attended one on Issues in Genesis and Its Interpretation. The first presenter, Marzena Bogna Zawanowska, spoke on the same author as she had last year, albeit on a different topic: “Between the Holy Text and Its Unholy Context: Polemical Overtones in Yefet ben ‘Eli’s Commentary on the Book of Genesis”. In her paper, she pointed out where he writes polemically: he writes against the Rabbanites (namely, Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon), other Karaite scholars, only twice mentioning Christian thought, and barely mentioning Islam (he even mentions the Badriyyah and the Sadducees, but doesn’t write against them, since they no longer existed). Dr. Zawanowska pointed out that he seemed to not bother with, for the most part, Islam and Christianity since they did not have the same beliefs in God or the Bible as did the Jews, so he mostly wrote against fellow Karaites as well as Rabbanites (and, obviously the Badriyyah and the Sadducees were not around, so they were irrelevant). Tzemah Yoreh speaking
The next paper, “The Death of Isaac,” was presented by Tzemah Yoreh, wherein he discussed the binding of Isaac and his seeming death that occurred. He pointed out that “fear” is a common occurrence regarding Abraham…. He said that the juxtaposition at the end of Genesis 20 of closing up the wombs in the house of Avimelekh with Sarah becoming pregnant at the beginning of chapter 21 may seem to give the sense that she became pregnant through him and not Avraham and that, due to the "doth protesteth too much" principle about the text saying that Isaac is the son of Avraham multiple times, maybe that isn't the case (he didn't say that that was necessarily the case, just that the text might hint at that). Yoreh also mentioned that, after the binding of Isaac in the E texts, Isaac is no longer mentioned, and that, in the E text, it stands as a faith model (Bilaam, as well). Whether or not I found what he said convincing, Yoreh hewed closely to the texts, which was good.
The next presente
r was Charlotte Katzoff, who spoke on “Abraham: A God-fearing Man or a Knight of Faith”, which dealt with the problem with promise to Abraham and God’s command, which explored a person’s evidence and belief and she tried to show a convincing picture of Abraham's cogniti
ve state. She was saying this was a larger story about his faith and that, in this story, justice is not at stake – God not presenting this as tit-for-tat. Following the paper, there was a meta-discussion on morality of the akedah and so forth with regard to reading into the text, etc.
Session 2: The Dead Sea Scrolls in Context
Lawrence Schiffman was unable to be there, but his paper, “Purity as Separation: Comparing the Dead Sea
Scrolls, Rabbinic Literature, and the New Testament” was read by Alex Jassen
Mentioned in Mark and Matthew and then in Acts and Apostles (later texts), set aside are purity issues
Rabbis – food purity discontinued due to lack of the Temple
Paula Fredrickson responded by saying that this issue is more complicated with NT texts, since there’s also the issue of sexual stuff.

Ron H. Feldman “Taming the Wild and Wilding the Tame: The Shifting Relationships between Humans, God, and Nature in the Qumran and Rabbinic Calendars”He was presenting on how different ways time is understood – studying the different calendars as texts for understanding the ways in which is understood. The lunisolar calendar is something we know from rabbinic texts and the 364-day calendar is known from Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are similarities and differences between the two: both of them evolve from the Babylonian calendar. The rabbinic calendar favored ר"ח over שבת, while the 364-day calendar favored the opposite.
It seems that they reflect wild and tame notions of time: wild notion of time is reflected in the lunar calendar, since the moon was created before man and since it needs to be recognized by men to be announced; while the tame notion of time is reflected in the 364-day calendar, since it is שבת-based, which was created after man and is very regular.Interesting that שבת is the only time that is referred to as קדש in the Bible, whereas ר"ח is not
Jubilees is not just polemical against the lunisolar calendar, but also against the other 364-day calendars, as well.
The lunisolar calendar in the mishnah is observational
The key divine marker temporal marker is ר"ח and, therefore, one can break שבת to testify.
Wild time – uncertainty at center
Response to dysfunctionality of 364-day calendar
Second stage – observation began to wane and movement to control it but subtle – effort to assert control over wild time
Two ways of relating to time and cosmos

Alex P. Jassen “Connecting the Dots in the History of Halakhah: The Restriction on Thinking about Labor on the Sabbath in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jubilees, and Rabbinic Literature”Presented various texts from the DSS and rabbinic literature (nothing in Jubilees) on the topic of the problem of going out to one’s field on the Sabbath.

Robert R. Cargill “The Current State of the Archaeological Debate at Qumran”
I had previously seen him on a show on the History Channel, where he spoke on the same topic, which was interesting. He opened up by saying just as there is a State of the Union address, he was going to give a State of the Archaeological Debate at Qumran, basically considering why is this topic so contentious? For me, this was incredibly helpful, since I have been to the ** at the Israel Museum and had seen some stuff, but never knew what was so contentious about the study of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Cargill said that Qumran was well-documented in the mid-19th century, before the discovery of the DSS located nearby and that the discovery of the DSS radically changed the understanding of archaeology of Qumran in 1949. Initially, it was considered to have been either a Roman or a Hasmonean fort, but after the discovery of the DSS, a Qumran-Essene Hypothesis was advanced, perhaps that Qumran was established by sectarian Jews.
The discovery of the DSS then influenced scholars looking at the archaeological site (which warranted a comment that good archaeologists should examine the site first and then afterward consider other data).
The site appears to have been established as a highly defensive site with an excellent view of the crossroads, but had been expanded into less of a defensive building.
Cargill said he believes it to have initially been built in 140-130 bce as a Hasmonean fortress, which was abandoned, but then reoccupied and settled by sectarian Jews, who then expanded the building.
He said the debate will go on and his nice four-minute conclusion may be seen here.

Session 3: Narrative Voice in the Redaction of Rabbinic Texts
Aaron Amit speakingFirst up was Aaron Neale Amit “’This Mishnah was taught in the days of Rabbi’: On the Development of the Terms Mishnah and Talmud in the Bavli and Yerushalmi”, who discussed a particular beraita in the Babylonian Talmud and showed how it was originally found elsewhere in the Yerushalmi. Yonatan Feintuch speaking
Yonatan Feintuch spoke on “The Role of the ‘One Hasid’ Stories in Halakhic Contexts in the Babylonian Talmud” - The term חסיד אחד appears seven times in the Bavli, four of which appear in closed literary halakhic סוגיות and three of which are mentioned merely in passing; it was on the former upon which Feintuch focused.
The first instance is found on Berakhot 32a-b (mentioned previously on my blog), which appears to possibly be a reworking of a Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai story on Berakhot 26a, here seemingly replacing a named character for an unnamed character. The second instance is on Bava Kamma 80a, which is very similar to a story found in Tosefta Bava Kamma 8.13 involving Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava.
The third instance is found on Shabbat 150b. The fourth instance is found on Bava Kamma 50b.
While Bavli wanted greater leniency, redactors showed a way to be stringent using anonymity of a sage to demonstrate.Binyamin Katzoff speaking
Binyamin Katzoff “A Story in Three Contexts: On the Relation of Halakhic and Non-Halakhic Material in the Redaction of Rabbinic Works” - His main point was that, when reading the Tosefta, it should be done as a text on its own and not as a text dependent upon the Mishnah. This was a simple yet important point for anyone studying the Tosefta.
Kris Lindbeck was not there, but Natalie Polzer read her “Humor, Violence, and Resignation: Elijah Tries to Bring the Messiah”Natalie Polzen speaking
Story from Bava Metzia 85b and tried to promote the need for utilizing oral formulaic studies in understanding rabbinic stories since it helps identify stories by similar formulae, also for discovering motifs which were widely distributed and how they were meant to be used/understood, and it increases sensitivity to linguistic similarities and also how stories fit with a formula but then can be overturned. Elijah is often in disguise to do good, while other supernatural visitors appear in disguise to do bad.

20 December 2009

Association of Jewish Studies Conference #41: I'm There

Just as I attended last year's Association of Jewish Studies conference (albeit only the second day and the third day), I am at this year's AJS conference. Granted, it's a lot easier to get to, since I'm about a half-hour's drive or so from where we are living.
I hope to be able to type up what's been going on, because it's good stuff. In the meantime, you can enjoy this four-minute video of the conclusion to Richard Cargill's very informative paper on "The Current State of the Archaeological Debate at Qumran", wherein he sums up the importance of the DSS and Qumran studies:

16 December 2009

Orthodox American Rabbis Visit Desecrated Mosque in Kfar Yasuf (Press Release)

Rabbi Avi Weiss with Mahmoud Abu Salah, former head of the west bank village Yusuf, condemning the attack on the vilage's mosque
Orthodox American Rabbis Visit Desecrated Mosque in Kfar Yasuf

Kfar Yasuf, Israel - December 15, 2009 On Tuesday, rabbis representing Open Orthodox communities in the United States and Israel visited the community of Yasuf, expressing shared pain and condemnation for the desecration of the Yasuf Community mosque, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists.

Wearing their kippot, Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and Rabbi Yair Silverman, formerly of Beth Israel of Berkley CA and now rabbi of Moed in the Zichron Yaakov community in Israel, told a crowd outside the mosque: "We come in peace to express deep pain for what occurred. We condemn it with all our hearts and souls. As a people that has experienced such desecration, we come to reach out to you in the spirit of brotherhood."

The visit was conducted without press or military escort. "Just this morning, I looked in the papers and said, 'Wow, [the vandalism] was unacceptable,' and I felt it was very critical to reach out, human to human" said Rabbi Weiss. "There needs to be a strong voice of Torah protest against this."

At first, the visit created tension. "When we first arrived, people were confused why we were there. They were also angry. The pain of the community was palatable," said Rabbi Silverman. "But we needed to bear witness to the pain acknowledge that any desecration of one's religious worship is unacceptable."

When the rabbis initially extended their hands the community did not return the gesture. After some sign language and the help of an Arab interpreter, the mood changed. Eyad, a driver for the rabbis, said "I told the people that these rabbis have put their lives in danger to come and be by your side, to help as Jews. Listen to what they have to say."

The rabbis offered support to the rebuilding efforts and met with Munnir Abushi, local governor. "We joined them as brothers to share in their effort to rebuild, as we celebrate the hanukah message together that a bit of light can chase away the deepest darkness."
" said Rabbi Silverman. By the end of the visit, the two groups reached an air of respect and understanding and the rabbis departed to handshakes and warm wishes.

When asked about the outcome of the encounter, Rabbi Weiss said "In spiritual activism, I measure the success of an action by its purity- is it right or is it wrong. To come here today was the right thing to do. It's what the Torah is all about."

Ari Hart

24 November 2009

International Rabbinical Fellowship Press Release: "New Orthodox Rabbinical Group Established"

International Rabbinic Fellowship
347 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001
Press Release

Contact: Rabbi Jason Herman, Executive Director
Phone: 917.751.5265
Email: jlherman@jlherman.net
9 A.M. EDT, November 20, 2009
new orthodox rabbinical Group established

Rabbis from across the United States, Canada, South America, Israel and Hong Kong came together last week to officially establish a new and long awaited organization of Orthodox Rabbis. The International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), several years in the making, is the brainchild of Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in Riverdale, the Bronx, New York, and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Rabbi Emeritus of New York’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel, and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
A board and officers was elected consisting of the next generation of Orthodox Rabbis who have shown themselves to be at the forefront of modern Orthodox leadership. The organization’s 120 or so founding members elected Rabbi Barry Gelman, Rabbi of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, Houston, Texas, as the IRF’s first President, Rabbi Hyim Shafner, Rabbi of Bais Abraham Congregation, St. Louis, Missouri, as Vice President of Education and Communication, Rabbi Nissan Antine, Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah, Potomac, Maryland, as Vice President for Membership and Conferences, Rabbi Joel Tessler, Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah, Potomac, Maryland, as Vice President, Rabbi Saul Strosberg, Rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel, Nashville, Tennessee, as Treasurer, and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Rabbi of Congregation B’nai David-Judea, Los Angeles, California, as Secretary. A code of ethics that will bind the new group was provisionally adopted.
This first conference of the International Rabbinic Fellowship included the voting into reality of several new initiatives that promise to transform the Orthodox community and perhaps the Jewish world. A committee to formulate new procedures for Orthodox conversions, so much in the news in Israel and the United states as of late, was appointed. The committee is tasked with presenting to the IRF a final outline of requirements and processes for Orthodox conversions to be adopted by the membership in June at its annual meeting. The committee’s chairs are Rabbi Dov Linzer, Head of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in New York City and Rabbi Joel Tessler, Senior Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah, Potomac, Maryland.
Though Orthodox Judaism does not ordain women as rabbis, several Orthodox women who serve in a handful of Orthodox congregations in rabbinic capacities were present. A long discussion was held at the conference on the question of admitting women acting in a rabbinic capacity as full voting members among the Rabbis. The group voted to task the membership committee with creating criteria for the potential consideration of admission of women. If the IRF votes to admit women, criteria for membership will also be voted on in June. The IRF recognizes that there are highly capable women serving in rabbinic roles and as such the group might benefit from their presence, ideas and guidance. This heralds the first time that an Orthodox rabbinical group has entertained the possibility of admitting women as full members into its ranks.
For more information about the International Rabbinic Fellowship and the proceedings of its seminal inaugural conference held this past Tuesday and Wednesday November 17-18, please contact any of the following members:
Rabbi Barry Gelman, tel. 713.723.3850, email
Rabbi Hyim Shafner, tel. 314.583.4397, email
Rabbi Nissan Antine, tel. 301.279.7010 x 209, email
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, tel. 310.276.9269, email
Rabbi Marc D. Angel, tel. 212.724.4145, email
Rabbi Jason Herman, IRF Executive Director, tel. 917.751.5265, email

05 November 2009

More on Meiri

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I attended an AJWS event where Professor Moshe Halbertal spoke to past attendees of their Rabbinical Student Delegation trips (of which I was one, having gone to El Salvador), wherein, although he spoke about Rabbi Menachem Meiri,* he nicely framed the larger discussion. Professor Halbertal wrote an article on the aforementioned Meiri several years back that is pretty well-regarded on the topic.
What isn't as well-known is that Rabbi Aryeh Klapper gave a lecture (“Paskening Like the Meiri: Reflections on Jewish Attitudes Toward Gentiles and Halakhic Integrity”) which I attended a few years ago (although I re-listened to here and here). Although I found many ideas interesting in the lecture, I'm going to transcribe several interesting excerpts.
The first is on the interest in the Meiri:
In the draft of an article I am trying to write about this,** I think the fun paragraph I wrote about this was:
The mere existence of the Meiri has been a source of comfort for Orthodox Jews with universalistic tendencies. The reason that one wants to pasken like the Meiri is because of his unique position about Jewish-Gentile relations that appeal to those of us who have discomfort with laws that make sharp distinctions as to the obligations one has toward Gentiles as opposed to Jews and particularly those laws that seem to imply that basic standards of ethics are limited within the Jewish community.
A very fascinating section was where he discussed the importance of Meiri's writings and how they were attempted to be suppressed:
One is I want to preserve the uniqueness of Judaism, so if I say that all that you need to be a good person is x, then what’s special about Judaism? Secondly, one has the sense that somehow that being part of a community means that you relate to members of the community differently than you relate to non-members of the community. So then there should be some way that family members see themselves as obligated differently to each other, they’re should be some difference.
Now the Meiri offering a way possibly to level all of those distinctions, therefore, was seen as, both because he is seen as diminishing the uniqueness of Judaism and diminishing the unique bonds of Jews to each other was seen as very threatening. And because of this, a whole series of objections were raised. A stark way of framing this – and I’m going to quote this article again where I said
Meiri’s evident willingness to subject halakhah to moral critique and Meiri’s position to say not just "I think this is the halakhah", but I think if you don’t think this is the halakhah, then you’re doing something very wrong. And not just technically wrong, but morally wrong, because there is no justification for treating people like this. So Meiri’s evident willingness to subject halakhah to moral critique raised alarm among traditionalists. As a result, various legends and methodological positions have grown up with the purpose of limiting Meiri’s halakhic and hashkafic impact. These include the claim that Meiri’s works were unknown in halakhic tradition before the 20th century, that his work was published by the memorized transmission of unique manuscripts in the Vatican library, and, therefore, the Jesuits had infiltrated pro-Gentile glosses into the text.
When I was in yeshivah, there was, in fact, a very elaborate story about this: that Meiri was unknown to many for many years. One man who had a photographic memory was allowed into the Vatican library one day a year; he would read the Meiri and come back and write it down very quickly. That’s how the Meiri was published and the Meiri was unknown before this. Now one has to be suspicious because isn’t it funny that a work which exists only in the Vatican library happens to have these pro-Gentile glosses.
All very nice but regrettably not true. Not true at all. If you look at the Harvard Library catalog, you’ll see that the Meiri is published as early as 1830….
Another interesting quote:
The fundamental claim that Halbertal makes is that Meiri thinks that there is no avodah zarah in Christianity and, therefore, you can be engaged with their worship – all those prohibitions are moot. And Rabbi Henkin claims no, you can’t do that. Halbertal makes this claim based on this terminological precision. Here, I have to make a reference to quote Rabbi Saul Berman, who taught me the notion of Predictive Principles in Halakhah. If I want to set up the claim that A always goes with B, I have to know in advance whether a certain object is going to be B or not. So Professor Halbertal has these three categories, which are Civil Discrimination, Indirect Contact with Idolatry, and Social Contact. And there are 60-70 cases. So I had my students – what I did was, instead of giving them Professor Halbertal’s neat categorizations, I gave them all these cases in the order in the Talmud, and I said “Take every case and put it in either category A, B, or C.” And it turns out that the categories are not good predictive principles. On the whole, except for a few cases, the students distributed randomly as to whether these laws fell into category A, B, or C. So, it’s difficult to test Professor’s Halbertal’s thesis on a broad level.
Whenever Meiri makes these radical claims, he only makes them by implication. For example, he says here עובדי אלילים, one is not obligated to save them because they have no דת. This is the law regarding paternity of people who have no דת. When he makes the non-radical claims, he says "but, with regard to those who have דת...,". When he makes the radical claims, he leaves out the "but". He just does the implication. Pretty consistent. So you have to wonder: does this mean that Meiri really believes these things but can't get away with it or he's just seeding the tradition and hoping someone will come along and pasken like it? Is he cluing you in that this is really just apologetic and don't believe any of the other places he said it, either? I don't know. It's tough to imagine that he says it in so many times and yet, at the same time, there is a pattern - to me, and I have to show you all of the cases - that the more radical he gets halakhically, the less likely it is for him to spell out the implication.
One last one:
...Rabbi Henkin's really compelling argument is there's some silence - there's so many places that Meiri has the opportunity to just tell us "Christians are not עובדי עבודה זרה." He says the Sefardic rabbis write that Muslims are not עובדי עבודה זרה. He never says it about Christians. He has so many opportunities, it's suspicious.
* Meiri had previously been discussed on my blog here.
** The paper on which he was working was presented as "The Meiri’s Halakhah about Christians and Christianity: A Response to Halbertal" at the Association for Jewish Studies 39th Annual Conference in December 2007.

03 November 2009

Is There a Jewish View on Same-Gender Marriage In the Public Sphere?

With the votes in Maine and Washington today, I saw some stuff on Twitter that made me think about it, especially Alan's tweet that says "Doesn't understand these anti-marriage-equality folks in DC: why do they think their (dumb) religion has say over CIVIL marriage? Jews don't."
This got me to thinking: is this so? Does Judaism believe that a same-gendered marriage may occur?
What makes this a not simple discussion begins with the following midrash, commenting on Lev. 18.3 (even though verses 2-5 are part of the introduction to verses 6-23, with verses 24-30 being the conclusion to the middle section), the rabbis treat verse 3 as referring to something not [necessarily] in verses 6-23 (Sifra 9.8):
כמעשה ארץ מצרים וכמעשה ארץ כנען לא תעשו, יכול לא יבנו בניינות ולא יטעו נטיעות כמותם תלמוד לומר ובחקותיהם לא תלכו, לא אמרתי אלא בחוקים החקוקים להם ולאבותיהם ולאבות אבותיהם ומה היו עושים האיש נושא לאיש והאשה לאשה, האיש נושא אשה ובתה והאשה ניסת לשנים לכך נאמר ובחקותיהם לא תלכו
"Like the actions of the land of Egypt or like the actions of the land of Canaan you shall not do" - Is it possible that [this means that] there shall not be built buildings nor shall there be planted plantings like them? What can be learned out from this passage is that "In their particular ways you shall not walk" - I would have only said 'in their particular ways which they have distinguished as being particular to them and to their fathers and to the fathers of their fathers.'
So what did they do [that was problematic that this verse is prohibiting]? A man would marry a man and a woman would marry a woman; a man would marry a woman and her daughter and a woman would be married to to men. Therefore, it is said, "In their particular ways you shall not walk."
If that were the end of the story, it could just be that these are things Jews, alone, are to avoid, while whether or not gentiles are to avoid them is unclear. However, what further complicates the matter is the notion of the 7 Noahide commandments, which, according to Jewish tradition, are to be followed by gentiles. One of these seven is widely known as Sexual Morality - included in this commandment are a number of sexual prohibitions, including incest, bestiality, and adultery, but also includes homosexual sex between two men (but not between two women).
However, if this sexual morality aspect were to include the prohibition on marriages mentioned in the midrash, then, according to Jewish tradition, not only for Jews is same-sex/gender marriage prohibited, but also for non-Jews. And, if Jews are supposed to be the light to the nations, then we shouldn't be helping the rest of the world in a direction that is not in their best interests. On the other hand, this discussion could only arise when Jews could be able to contribute to the conversation....

01 November 2009

My Visit to the Hospital Today

Today, I went to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for the first time ever (which is interesting since this is the main hospital in the area (and I ran past it many times when I used to be able to jog) and I have lived here for five years and my last week here).
My pain started earlier this week. On Tuesday, when I was riding the subway, because of how another rider was sitting, I sat next to my wife, albeit on a ridge between seats. Although I experienced some uncomfortability in my tailbone, I thought nothing of it. The next day, I woke up with a little soreness there; the following day, a little bit more. I had merely thought I had bruised my tailbone and was hoping it would get better on its own. By Friday evening, the pain was certainly not a little bruise, but I couldn't just go to the doctor's office. On Saturday, I began to have trouble walking and, by Saturday night, my walking was very limited. So, today, we headed over to the hospital to get my pain checked out.
The doctor who saw me identified the issue as a pilonidal cyst, which is an abcess of pus near my tailbone. When I told him what I thought had caused it (the pressure from the subway seat, he dismissed that idea (although, it's unclear, precisely, what causes pilonidal cysts).
The procedure consisted of various local numbing shots and then a cut to open up the pocket of pus (none of which was comfortable). I then waited about 15 minutes for it to air out (for the [bad] bacteria to die. I thought I was past all of the pain, but the next part where there was string put in the area where the pus had been and it was surprisingly painful. And with a bandage put on top, that was it.
We then headed out of the hospital (thank you, honey, for waiting for me the entire time with our daughter), had a friend graciously give us a ride back to our apartment, and now it's time to recover.

26 October 2009

Criticism and Acceptance of the Shulhan Arukh

On Thursday, while waiting at the doctor's office, I came across the following quotation from Asher Siev's 1943 PhD dissertation "The Period, Life and Work of Rabbi Moses Isserles" (Yeshiva University) on page 73 concerning criticism of the Shulhan Arukh:
R. Moses Yafeh, a pupil of R. Isserles, felt that the Shulchan Aruch, both of R. Caro and R. Isserles, is inadequate because it fails to give the sources of each law. This caused him to compose his Levushim in which he elaborates, gives the origin and reason of the law, and often disregards Rabbis Caro and Isserles together. R. Meir of Lublin (MaHaram of Lublin) opposed the Shulchan Aruch and also the Levushim on the ground that many stumble and misinterpret the law as a result of consulting such abbreviated works.
There were others who objected to the Shulchan Aruch. These objections resulted from a belief that the simplification and codification of the Law will do more harm than good, for it will discourage intensive study and also will serve as a tool in the hands of ignorant people who, with the aid of such a digest, will pose as Rabbis and scholars.
However, Siev continues on pp. 73-74 concerning the acceptance of said work:
Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch was accepted by the greatest majority of the Rabbis of the day. The Sefaradim accepted the authority of the Bet Yoseph, while the Ashkenazim reserved the right to follow R. Isserles whenever the two disagreed. The pupils of R. Isserles helped in spreading his works as well as influence amonth the Rabbis of all lands. The more prominent of these are R. Joshua Falk (סמ"ע) and R. Benjamin Ashkenazi (בעל שו"ת משאת בנימין). The former, being the first to place a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, endeavored to side with its authors and to explain every difficulty and objection that was raised against them. He took special pains to justify R. Isserles and was even accused of inserting in the writings of his teacher interpretations of which the latter never dreamt. R. Salnik wrote: “In all the lands of the Ashkenazim, the opinions of R. Isserles were accepted and we follow him in everything.” Also, “since this decision came from my teacher, R. Moses Isserles of blessed memory, far be it from me to be lenient and lift my head against him.”
After these eminent authorities, there followed a host of others who strengthened the influence and authority of the Shulchan Aruch. Of them, we may mention R. Isaiah Segal Hurwitz (השלה), who testified that, already in his day, the decisions of R. Isserles spread in all lands, R. Joel Sirkish (ב"ח), R. YomTov Heller (תוס' יו"ט), R. Jacob Joshua b. R. Zvi (בעל שו"ת פני יהושע), R. Samuel Zeinvil, R. Menachem Mendil of Nikelshpurg (צמח צדק) and his son-in-law, R. Gershon Ashkenazi (עבודת הגרשוני) etc.
The authority of the Shulchan Aruch was even more strengthened after the two valuable emendations of R. David Segal (ט"ז) and R. Shabtai Katz (ש"ך). These eminent scholars added invaluable lucidity to the texts and put the seal of final approval to the great work of the Bet Yoseph and R. Isserles.

25 October 2009

On Our Cultural Epistemic

I found the following quote to be tremendously interesting (from here):
we denizens of the third millennium CE make constant recourse to specialists whose art has no basis in empirical discovery or other Enlightenment values. We shape our moral and aesthetic imaginations through reading Lord of the Rings or watching The Matrix series. We sate our appetites for stylized violence by watching Pulp Fiction and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. We depend on an acupuncturist for healing and we practice yoga. We are pulled in by Yom Kippur or the Old Rugged Cross.

23 October 2009

On the Rabbinic Concept of Exegesis: A Quote from Faur

A somewhat interesting rabbinic statement that is not easy of which to make heads or tails is found on page 5a in the Babylonian Talmud in the tractate of Berakhot:
א"ר לוי בר חמא אמר ר' שמעון בן לקיש מאי דכתיב (שמות כד) ואתנה לך את לוחות האבן והתורה והמצוה אשר כתבתי להורותם לוחות אלו עשרת הדברות תורה זה מקרא והמצוה זו משנה אשר כתבתי אלו נביאים וכתובים להורותם זה <גמרא> {תלמוד} מלמד שכולם נתנו למשה מסיני
Rabbi Levi, son of Hama said Rabbi Simeon, son of Lakish: "What is it that is written And I will give you the tablets of stone and the direction and the commandment which I have written to guide them? 'tablets' - these are the ten statements; 'direction' - this is Scripture; 'and the commandment' - this is Mishnah; 'which I have written' - these are the Prophetic writings and Hagiographa; 'to guide them' - this is Talmudic learning; to teach that all of these were given to Moses from Sinai."
As mentioned earlier this week, I have discovered the treasure trove of articles written by José Faur online and one such article that I read was his "Law and Hermeneutics in Rabbinic Jurisprudence: A Maimonidean Perspective," Cardozo Law Review 14 (1993): 1657-1679, which included the following explanation of the above rabbinic quotation (p1658):
The idea of writing as creation reflects the rabbinic concept of exegesis. It generates rather than discovers, meaning. Commenting on the verse, "and I shall give you the tablets of stone, and the law and the commandment which I wrote to instruct them," the rabbis taught as follows: "'the tablets of stone' - this is the Miqra [(Scripture)]; 'the law' - this is the Mishnah." If the text is like stone, then exegesis is the "a blow of a hammer," giving forth various sparks. Like the stone, the text itself remains inviolable and absolute, whereas the explanations and commentaries flee like sparks. In explaining the polysemic character of the Scripture, the rabbis stated, "Just as each blow of a hammer strikes forth many sparks, a single verse unfolds into many senses." Exegesis serves to reinforce and supplement the oral tradition; it can never be the explanation of a text. In contemporary terms, this means that the rabbis viewed the text as a semiological composition whose unit, the word, is a sign which is not subject to definition; it is either recognized or not. As Émile Benveniste shows, "[i]n semiology there is no need to define what a sign signifies. For a sign to exist, it is necessary and sufficient that it should be received and that it should be related somehow to other signs." At the semiological level, whether or not a sign signifies is a matter of recognition, not interpretation. "Does the entity in question signify?" The answer must be an unequivocal yes or no. "If it is yes, everything was said, and it is registered; if it is no, it is rejected, and also everything was said." Exegesis pertains to the semantic aspect of the word, where meaning is generated by establishing new connections.
This is in contrast to the general way of seeing it (pp1657-1658):
Rabbinic texts are ordinarily examined through hierarchical distinctions and categories peculiar to Western classical studies. The basic assumption underlying this methodology is that the rabbinic truth is essentially platonic. As such the purpose of rabbinic exegesis is to "uncover" the text and reveal its "true meaning." This method reflects the scholastic view that the "literal sense" of the Scripture is what the author intended. Once the "intention" of the author has been determined, the text itself becomes insignificant - a "metaphor" marginal to its "true meaning." The object of interpretation thus becomes displacement of the text. This view is intrinsic to Western tradition, in general, and Christianity, in particular, where writing is displaced on behalf of logocentrism. The classic example of this type of hermeneutics is the Christian Scripture interpreting, and thereby displacing, the Hebrew Scripture. It is worth noting that John's logos (word) is "unwritable," and therefore anti-book and anti-text. By way of contrast, the logos of Philo and the memra (word) of the rabbis do not exclude writing; writing is creation itself.
I find the above to pretty interesting when considering rabbinic statements and their generation.
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דבי ר' ישמעאל תנא (ירמיהו כג) וכפטיש יפוצץ סלע מה פטיש זה מתחלק לכמה ניצוצות אף מקרא אחד יוצא לכמה טעמים

21 October 2009

Moving to California: Heading to the Other Coast For an Exciting Job

After living in New York City for over five years, my wife, my daughter, and I are moving out to Long Beach, California! And even though we just moved into a new apartment less than two months ago, we are packing right back up again.
On 9 November, we will be heading out to Long Beach, California to begin our new jobs. Rachel will be the new Executive Director at the Long Beach Hillel and I will be providing rabbinic support to colleges and high schools in the Long Beach area and in Orange County (my predecessor called the position the Alevy Family Campus Rabbi as part of Alevy Jewish Student Services).
Oh, and here's where you can get jealous: the average temperature year-round is in the 70s ;)

20 October 2009

A Medieval Changing of Judaism

This past shabbas, I read an interesting article, José Faur, "One-Dimensional Jew, Zero-Dimensional Judaism," Annual of Rabbinic Judaism 2 (1999): 31-50 after finding a bunch of articles of his and have started liking them a lot. In the aforementioned article, the following excerpt (pp. 43-45) was wildly fascinating:
Underneath the noise produced by the anti-Maimonideans rested a single issue: is Judaism a one-dimensional or a multi-dimensional system. If Judaism is one-dimensional, then any differing view ought to be repressed at all cost. The anti-Maimonideans embraced Christian ideology. They also adopted the ways of the Church. First and foremost, Judaism was to be conceived as a "religion" - a term for which classical Hebrew has no terminology-in the precise one-dimensional sense designated by the Catholic Church.49 Their triumph led to the erosion of the multi-dimensional values of Israel, converting Judaism into a religious system mirroring Christianity. Systematically, the building blocks of Judaism were vacated from their original semantic connotations and imbued with a sense originating in Christendom. A good example is Kabbalah, originally standing for "the authoritative tradition" stemming from the Talmudic Court of Justice, the geonic academies, and the Rabbinic masters of Old Sepharad. The anti-Maimonideans transformed this term to indicate the mystical and the folklore, "even in the hands of the old men and women of our people" - to the exclusion of the legal traditions of the Talmudic Court of Justice, the geonim, and the Rabbinic masters of Old Sepharad.50 Another such term is semikha. As noted by Abarbanel, it came to denote Christian "ordination" with no connection to the institution bearing this name in Rabbinic tradition.51 Similarly, "Talmud learning" - the rallying cry of the anti-Maimonideans - was nothing more than a blunt adaptation of the scholastic methodology of auctoritas (authority). In compliance with scholastic intellectual tradition, certain auctores (authors) were invested with authority; in turn, these auctores were divided into majores (= rishonim) and minores (= aharonim). Consequently, the Talmud was not to be approached directly but through a prism of interpretations and opinions expressed by a hierarchy of auctores. "Proof' consisted in citing one or more of these auctores, without having to have recourse to the subject matter itself.52 The purpose of the de-authorization of the Mishneh Torah was to convert halakhah into "canon law," in the precise Christian sense, whereby jurisprudence could be conditioned (from a legal perspective: "manipulated") to "theological" considerations.53 The ultimate roots for the model of the "ideal" Jewish ghetto are to be found Augustin's Civita Dei, not in the Talmud. Political leadership and the cultivation of mundane sciences were to be regarded as pernicious and obtrusive to spiritual life and faith.54 Faith meant, simply and plainly, obedience to the "superior." The most fundamental duty of the Jew became faith in the infallibility of the clergy (emunas hakhomim), especially in their transmission of lore professed to have been received through esoteric means. As in Christendom, it is the act of subordination that renders the individual a fidelis (faithful), "because the subject has faith in the superior's institutions."55 The source of this doctrine, continuing to shape the very soul of Judaism, was first formulated by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, who declared that, "the verdict of the superior-no matter whether just or unjust-had to be obeyed by the inferior subject."56 Accordingly, "rationalism," i.e., the application of critical knowledge by the fidelis, is an act of insubordination. Church policy developed along these lines. As noted by a prominent historian, "What was demanded was not criticism but credulity."57 Contrary to biblical and Rabbinic law postulating that even the Supreme Court of Israel at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is subject to error,58 the anti-Maimonideans regarded their own rabbis as inerrant, like the head of the Catholic Church. In recent times, they were endowed with the power to penetrate the "mind of the Torah" (daas torah) and issue decisions based not on the classical texts of halakhah but on a special insight to which only they have right of entry. This doctrine was first formulated by Paul as the "Spirit of the Law," with the express purpose of abrogating the Law.59
Lots of very interesting changes happened, apparently....
Notes from the excerpt above:
49 The present Hebrew dat denoting "religion" is a neologism. In the Scripture and Rabbinic literature, dat means "law."
51 See "Texte et Société," n. 130, pp. 698-699.
52 See José Faur, "Sanchez's Critique of Authoritas, in Peter Ochs, ed., The Return to Scripture in Judaism and Christianity (Mahwah, 1993), pp. 259-260; "Texte et Société," pp. 98-99.
53 Cf., "Monolingualism and Judaism," pp. 1719-1724.
54 See In the Shadow of History, pp. 204-207.
55 Quoted ibid., p. 33.
56 Quoted ibid., p. 36. For a survey of the subject, see ibid., pp. 28-29, 32-34.
58 See "Law and Hermeneutics," 1666-1669.
59 See "Monolingualism and Judaism," pp. 1719, 1721-1724, 1732-1736. For an in depth analysis of the psychological background, see "De-authorization of the Law: Paul and the Oedipal Model," pp. 222-243. The power to penetrate the mind of God was first claimed by Balaam the pagan prophet bent on cursing Israel, see Num. 24:16.

19 October 2009

Please Don't Call This Month "Tober" Nor "Heshvan"

Yesterday and today are the first days of the month of מרחשון (Marheshvan) on the Jewish calendar. As to what it means, Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky wrote that
is probably derived from its location in the calendar. In Akkadian (Babylonian/Assyrian), “w” (ו) and “m” (מ) sounds can interchange. As a result, Marcheshvan which is from the two words מרח and שון, would have been ורח and שמן, in Akkadian, corresponding to the Hebrew ירח שמיני, thus “eighth month.” In the Yemenite tradition, the name of the month is pronounced Marachsha’wan, not Mar-cheshvan as in the Ashkenazic tradition, and this would seem to preserve a greater fidelity to the original.
However, it is very common that people call it cheshvan instead of marcheshvan, which is unfortunate, because that's not reflective of what it means. It would be akin to calling the Gregorian calendar month of October, in which we are now, as 'Tober. My plea is that people get their facts right :)

18 October 2009

The Two Washington Heights Eruvin Connect!

This past shabbas was our first shabbas in Washington Heights in a month and was the first time we got to take advantage of the connecting of the two eruvim in Washington Heights. What made this connecting possible was that the Yeshiva University eruv had recently expanded (which I had videod) (its previous expansion had been several years ago) and the Hudson Heights eruv (the opposition to which I had blogged about a few years ago) has now come up to meet it on Wadsworth Avenue and, the Mt. Sinai website even says so "This eruv borders the YU eruv, and thus you can carry between the two eruvin. Please visit www.yueruv.org for the details and status of that eruv."
This is certainly going to be a huge boon to the community and we're certainly glad that we can now go down to Bennett Avenue for shabbas meals and for us to bring our daughter down to Mt. Sinai for shul.

15 October 2009

Considering Basic Human Rights in Competition with Associational Rights: An Evening Conversation with Professor Moshe Halbertal

The other night I went down to the Upper West Side where the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) was holding its first ever Rabbinical Student Delegation (RSD) alumni gathering. After having a trip of rabbinical students go on winter trips to locations in the developing world for each of the past six years as well as this past summer (I went on the second such RSD trip), there is a growing cohort of alumni from this program.
For the evening in question, about two dozen RSD alumni had gathered to have
Professor Moshe Halbertal speak to us, followed by some further discussion on the topic of universalistic versus particularistic conceptions of rights (which was, to some degree, the topic of his article on Rabbi Menachem Meiri (to which I will return later)).
Halbertal started off with the assertion that there are two types of rights: (1) a basic type (law of humanity) and (2) a "whole set of association of rights", that is to say, "associational" rights, like citizens or members.
He framed the discussion as a matter of three questions:
(1) What is the breadth and depth of human rights? (How many rights do we grant people qua humans?)
(2) What is the morally relevant way in which we carve membership?
(3) What do you do when there is a clash between associational rights and human rights?

Some random smattering of various tidbits (it's late and I'm tired):
- "It's not a zero sum game."
- "not necessarily a shared metaphysical sense, but a shared normativity."
- Meiri - whoever adheres to a normative system is considered עמיתך - "to do that in the thirteenth century is a very bold move."
- Meiri did not imagine a world in which there are law-abiding atheists (not even Spinoza could imagine it).
- בית הבחירה (The Choice House) is the largest Talmudic commentary - unfortunately why it was not copied so much
- although the humash starts out with אדם and talking in a universalistic language, it then goes into a "heavy, strong associational language" later on in the Humash
- אומות גדורות בדת - says in Talmud abiding by by normative system between Jews and uncivilized
- he said you can play a "war of verses" to justify any atrocity.
- Meiri wanted to include them in normative community - all those who are under a normative structure

In our discussion at the end, a big topic was in regards to helping others and how helpful or not it is to use different elements of discourse in relating to it. An interesting comment in the discussion part was that of Rachel Kahn-Troster, who said that "Using associative language versus universal language is more powerful" for helping out others. It seems that universal language can sound more abstract in motivating people to help others out while associative language in helping others can prove to be more helpful.

09 October 2009

"In the Name of"?: A Brief Clarification of Citation in the Babylonian Talmud

I am going to start off by dropping some knowledge: when the term משום pops up before a tanna's name after another rabbi's (usually a tanna, but sometime early amoraim), that is "in the name of", as opposed to a direct citation of him. The difference is that direct citations are when one rabbi heard another say it versus indirect citations when the rabbi did not hear it directly from the other one, but rather in his name.
A similar phenomenon is found with the term משמיה ד׳ which means the same thing and has the same connotation: an indirect quote of a rabbi who is usually two generations later than the one with whom the quote was to have originated. This is in apposition to a rabbi directly quoting one of his teachers (e.g. Rav Yehudah quoting Rav).*
My little rant is that people who translate Talmudic passages are not usually attuned to such differences and I get frustrated when direct citations are turned into indirect citations. Not everything is "in the name of" a rabbi, sometimes that rabbi heard it, himself, from the first rabbi.
-end rant-

* I had a conversation with Professor Yaakov Elman on 14 June 2007, where he confirmed my suspicion regarding the matter and pointed me to look to Yevamos 18b for a stammaitic conversation regarding this issue.

07 October 2009

A Musing About Sukkah: Taking Sukkot Seriously

This week is the annual Jewish festival of Sukkot ("booths"). God commanded the Jews that "בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים" ("in booths you shall sit for seven days") (Lev.23.42). Our rabbinic sages have explained this to mean "תשבו כעין תדורו" ("you shall reside in a manner similar to which you dwell") (Sukkah 28b). Basically, most activities one does in their homes, they should do in these huts (with certain exceptions, such as urinating and washing dishes). (On a related note, a brief, yet good recent post on which things require the blessing in the sukkah).
My musing on this is that, ever since I was a child, dining was generally done while watching tv and, unless you have your own sukkah (we are using our apartment building's sukkah), it's hard to bring one's television to the sukkah. Also, if one had their own sukkah near their home, it wouldn't be difficult to do their web browsing in their sukkah, however, in communal sukkot, there may not be wifi available. In both of these instances, the Sages' prescription of settling in a similar manner in which one dwells may be not completely tenable. Of course, on the other hand, if one has wifi which extends unto one's sukkah, there should be no good reason not to do one's web browsing in one's sukkah. As to television, that might take some skill in figuring how to get cable tv in their sukkah (or just watch it in one's home, as most people do).
Just putting this stuff out there so sukkah-dwelling can be taken more seriously, along the lines of what our Sages laid out for us.
{Related: last year's vlog post where I discuss "Sukkah in the City" (warning: I didn't realize how long-winded I was)}

23 September 2009


Three weeks ago, we moved to a new apartment. And although we moved only two blocks away, it was still quite a lot of work to first get things packed and then to get them over to the new place (take the stuff out of the apartment, down the hall to the elevator, and then from the elevator to outside of the building, then two blocks away to the new building, where we had to get it inside, then up the steps to the elevator, and then finally down the hall to our new apartment from the elevator). Fortunately, we had two movers with a big van to assist us [without whom I don't know how we could've moved] as well as a couple of friends who helped.
It has been 47 months since I moved into that apartment: initially as a single guy living in the bedroom with my two guinea pigs, having three sets of two roommates, each, living in the living room before my wife moved in 24.5 months ago after we got married (we lived in the bedroom and no one in the living room).
But now that our daughter has come into the world and has been growing, we figured it was time for her to have her own room (and for me to have a books & office space), so we found a two-bedroom apartment that was suitable for us that happened to be a couple of blocks away.
By this point, we're about 98% unpacked and am working on getting the rest of it unpacked.

21 September 2009

Yeshiva University Officially Opens the New Glueck Center

Richard Joel speakingLast Sunday, I attended Yeshiva University's opening of the new Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Study, which opened three years after they broke ground. It started off with speeches from various people, including a student and Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm. From Richard Joel's introduction to Rabbi Lamm speaking, he stated
I've had privilege to view this process of constructing the Glueck Center as the first great collaborative effort between my administration and that of Rabbi Lamm. I believe that it turned out how both of us dreamed and how neither of us expected, but it cements the kind of continuity and partnership that I've come to treasure in Dr. Lamm and the ongoing guidance and involvement in the destiny of Yeshiva University.
Joel spoke of the history of the need for the building in his speech:
In 1928, under the administration of our first president, Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel, Yeshiva College opened the doors of its first building down the street, now called Zysman Hall. This structure was to serve as the high school for the college, whose grand campus would stand opposite of it on the east side of Amsterdam Avenue. This campus was to contain a robust library and a stately beis medrash connected by an arcaded walkway. This connection between the celestial and the terrestrial hubs of Yeshiva, perfectly symbolized the ideology of that fledgling institution, that of harmonizing academia and traditional Torah study, what we now call Torah uMadda. Unfortunately, difficult financial realities torpedoed that campus plan, placing the burden of the entire institution on the one completed building originally intended to solely house the high school 81 years ago when it was established. This required some innovative ideas to make the transition work. The Harry Fischel Beis Medrash, where our students have studied Torah for over seven decades with some of the greatest Torah luminaries of our time was initially intended to be the school's lunchroom. We are honored to continue the legacy of the Harry Fischel Beis Midrash - it will remain filled with students and a proud center of Torah learning but what a profound honor it is to dedicate the first beis medrash that was actually built to be a beis medrash on the Wilf Campus. Today, we dedicate this magnificent Glueck Center to complete the vision of my predecessors for our yeshiva that began over 80 years ago.....
Nagel Commons Joel continued
Dr. Revel foresaw a splendid beis medrash for this campus - the Glueck Center would no doubt exceed all of his expectations. It was for his successor, Dr. Norman Lamm, together with our visionary namesake, Jacob Glueck, to see the possibilities of a timeless project in technological times, for their vision was a high-tech beis medrash where technology would serve as the servant of Torah study. Indeed, this center is completely wifi with video technology that allows presentations to be shared from this place to anywhere in the world. This building adds an additional 550-seat beis medrash, a magnificent shul for davening daily and on shabbas and yomtov, cutting-edge technology-laden classrooms and lecture theaters - 11 of them for our shiurim and for Yeshiva College and Sy Syms classes - 50 new faculty offices for proper space for our unbelievable roshei yeshiva, a faculty lounge with coffee complimentary for our roshei yeshiva, and space for the Beis Din of America to hold its proceedings under our roof even as our rabbinical students pursue the yadin yadin degree and learn from the proceedings of the beis medrash.
Joel further said
We now have our academic and traditional centers conjoined through the Nagel Family Atrium and Student Commons, symbolizing our continued devotion to the vision of our founder. The Heights Lounge - it's called the Heights Lounge because - it's not Mr. and Mrs. Heights - it's for Washington Heights - we're very ready to change the name. The Heights Lounge, the new grand entrance to the Gottesman Library and the closure of 185th street [between Amsterdam Avenue and Audubon Avenue], please God, within a year or two, to be a community pedestrian mall for the campus and our neighbors have provided a new center for our campus. But clearly, the Glueck Center represents so much more than the sum of its glass, stone, mortal and steel - it's the tangible symbol of our absolute optimism for the future of our yeshiva and our university. At a time when others are are scaling back, Yeshiva builds because we must. This building disarms the cynics, granting people the permission to feel the pride, the joy about Yeshiva University and the sacred values we represent. it redefines the campus center with learning at its hub. This is a space where we will grow. It shows how our future lies before us and symbolizes our dedication to Torah uMadda.
The Heights Lounge
Following the speeches, there was a hanging of mezuzah followed by a little bit more speaking, then some saying of Psalms, and then a reception followed in the Heights Lounge. There was also a parade for Torahs.
Interestingly, as the press release states is the environmental aspect of the building:
Careful attention was paid to the conservation of energy by incorporating efficient design features, including large windows on both the north and south facades to create an abundance of light. An insulated glass curtain wall along the exterior of the beit midrash both creates privacy from the street and reduces the heat load, while two columns of frosted glass at either end of the building allow light to stream in to the stairwells inside. The center was also built with a LEED-certified air-conditioning system.
The press release continues on to say that the new Glueck Center
will also house the administrative offices of Rabbi Yona Reiss, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS. Moreover, for the first time, all of the administrative offices from each of the University’s four men’s undergraduate Jewish Studies program will call the Glueck Center home, fostering an enhanced degree of coordination and communication among them.
The Glueck Center creates new places for study and socializing at the Gottesman Library. From inside the Nagel Family Atrium, visitors can enter the Glueck Center and access the library’s first floor via an elegant new stairway or continue on to the library’s ground floor, where the Nagel Family Student Commons offers students a bright, modern space to unwind, eat a snack from the “Nagel’s Bagels” food kiosk, or access the Internet using Wi-Fi. The Yad Norman Lamm, a permanent exhibit recognizing Chancellor Lamm’s lasting contributions to the University with a display of pictures, documents and memorabilia will be located off the Nagel Commons.
The schedule had called for guided tours, but I saw no signs for it, so I went wandering around the building by myself and the building's offices and lecture halls are much needed upgrades from what has heretofore been at the school.

30 August 2009

Eprhyme's Album Release Party

Darshan performingOn Wednesday night, I attended Eprhyme's Album Release Party down at Drom in the East Village. I went as I had met Eprhyme (Eden Pearlstein) a few weeks ago at a friend's wedding in Indiana and I figured it'd be a good cultural event to attend (for having lived in NYC for five years, I seldom attend music events, etc.). I arrived at some p
oint during the first act's performance and hung out until Eprhyme took the stage. Actually, it was with Shir Ya'akov, his Darshan groupmate (as well as with Diwon). They
Darshan performing
performed about five songs, generally with a Jewish flavor. I really enjoyed their stuff: it was a good balance with Shir's singing and Eprhyme's rapping. Their first song was about the holidays (I think entitled "Why Wait"), which was neat. Their third song was a little bit more dancey, bassey, more uptempo
and involved the phrase "יוצר אור ובורא חושך", which was neat. I also liked their fourth song, which involved a celloist and was offbeat.
One problem that I had with the entire evening's performances was that the music was playing so loudly that I had to strain to understand what the performers' lyrics were. Oddly enough, once I put earplugs in my ears, I was able to better understand the lyrics and I didn't feel like I was contributing to my eventual deafness, but, at the same time, also could hear the music just fine.
After Darshan performed, KoshaDillz did his thing.
KoshaDillz performing
KoshaDillz, notable for his recent Summer Jams battle win, performed also about five songs, of which I enjoyed his "Bubblegum" track. He definitely had a lot of energy - that's for sure, and tried to rally the crowd to this cause.
After KoshaDillz departed from the stage, up came Eprhyme
Eprhyme and Shir Ya'akov on stage
returned to do his own songs. Again, I struggled to discern the lyrics on account of the loudness of the music, but he definitely was vibing. The second of his songs was "Punklezmerap", the music video promoting his new album. The third song was an interesting one on the way to getting to peace is accomplished through love and not through the military complex - clever. The fourth song was one with which he prefaced by stating that he doesn't just not rap about nothing. The fifth song was a nice offbeat track. His sixth song was "Bohemian Rhapsody", a song about Olympia, Washington. He had several others to finish off, including a freestyle (one song involved the line "When you raise a fist, make sure you blow a little kiss" - clever).
Homeboy Sandman performing
At this point, this was all the music for which I had come down to hear and expected. However, up came a guy of whom I had never heard - Homeboy Sandman. His first two tracks made me stay (I wasn't the only one). He then broke into an interesting freestyle on the need for better nutrition, as bad nutrition is a serious danger (trudat). As an aside, I was amused by the demographics shifting from a larger Jewy crowd for Darshan's and Eprhyme's performances to less so of one for Sandm
an's performance (when I left, after everything had finished, very few of the yidden I had seen earlier had remained).
Homeboy Sandman and the AOK Collective
Anyways, Sandman definitely was quite talented and eventually brought up his crew, AOK Collective (including Fresh Daily), to join him up on the stage. I enjoyed the rest of the performance and, in particular, I enjoyed 8thW1's MC'ing (so much so that I bought his new CD, lovemoneyandmusic).
On the train back, I saw Shir Ya'akov who, among other things, informed me that Darshan is planning on releasing their upcoming album in October and may be having a release party. If there stuff is as good as it was on Wednesday night, It'd be worth my time to attend.