Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Back from Cambridge

We spent the weekend in Cambridge for Cambridge Day Limmud. My first Limmud experience, and it was amazing. Besides Jennie's speech, which was a great success, I heard Seth Schwartz and Harvey Hames (who spoke about "football"). At the end, Clive Lawton said Cambridge was the smallest Jewish community to ever run its own Limmud.

A new issue of Masekhet is about to appear, with at least two articles of medieval halakhic interest:
Simcha Emanuel, Blindness as Grounds for Divorce (including his reconstruction of the progress of R. Simcha of Speyer's eye problems)
Liora Elias z"l, Halakhic Decisions based on Women in the Middle Ages

I just noticed a reference to a report that Rav Kook performed an exorcism in Jaffa, but his son preferred to keep the story under wraps (Hed Harim, p. 109).

Rav Kook's teacher in kabbalah was apparently Rav Shlomoh Elyashuv. His grandson, Rav Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, continues to make a mockery of Modern Orthodoxy. The stakes are growing higher. There are many outstanding candidates for positions in the rabbinic court system graduating from Eretz Hemda, but they continue to be marginalized and locked out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pop culture

Aviad found a website which offers the valuable service of taking your site offline for the duration of Shabbat. There are several discussions of this issue in the fifth volume of Be-Mareh ha-Bazak (Jerusalem 2003), which seem to say that a) unless the website is taking money for a single transaction, there is no problem with leaving it up over Shabbat. b) even if it is, if most of the users are not Jewish, there is no need to take it down because of the possibility of Jews using it.
Avakesh has a video about preparing for Pesach.
And Shmuel Ben-Artzi (father of Hagai and Sara) has published a novel about Novardok.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Assimilated to the blogosphere

Just in time to qualify as a YCT blogger, Yonah has started a blog called Thinking Outside the OrthoBox. He promises to write about lemmings. I look forward to edification and inspiration.

Beit Morasha has published a volume in honour of Professor Shalom Rosenberg. Besides being a respected authority on Jewish philosophy (his doctorate was on logic in 14th century Jewish philosophy), he was also one of the disciples of the mysterious Shushani. In fact, according to a story I heard, he devoted himself to philosophy at the urging of Shushani. The volume includes several articles devoted to Shushani - I suspect this may be the first such publication.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Taanit Esther

There is a discussion in Mahzor Vitry of a calendrical situation like this year, when Purim is observed (outside of Jerusalem) on Sunday. The question is when to observe the fast that usually precedes Purim, known as Taanit Esther. Fasting on Shabbat was an issue in the ninth century (as reflected in Megillat Ahima'atz), but by the eleventh it was probably agreed that you don't fast on Shabbat. Rashi (presumably he is the person referred to in Mahzor Vitry as R) dealt with two responses to this situation. The discussion was reproduced in Elfenbein's collection of Rashi's responsa, number 128.

First, a woman asked him whether she could postpone the fast to the following day, Friday. She She needed to ride to a meeting with a noble on Thursday, and fasting that day would be extremely difficult. Rashi responded that, though it is not a normal public fast day, it is nevertheless a communal custom, and therefore one should not break away from the community and observe a different date. Unclear what the woman should do - perhaps it was better that she not fast at all than that she observe the fast on her own date.

Second, he turned his guns on the "prushim", zealots, who would fast on both Thursday and Friday. About them, Rashi would invoke the verse "And the fool shall walk in darkness". They did not retain the proper distinction between biblically ordained commandments and customs. Most people observe the fast on Thursday, and that's good enough.