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Future Publications from Writings of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef

The ultra-Orthodox news website Kol Hazeman has an article (Hebrew) about the work that is being done on publishing the writings of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef that were not published in his lifetime.




The article describes describes a very large amount of not only different types of writings, e.g. letters, responsa, his own description of halakhic controversies with which he was involved, but also many historical documents from Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s life. It looks like we will be getting many more responsa and other writings from Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in the years in the come.

Moadim Lesimha.

The Gemara Card

Many people who study Talmud are familiar with Rabbi Yitzhak Frank’s books Grammar for Gemara & Targum Onkelos: An Introduction To Aramaic and The Practical Talmud Dictionary. In addition to these books of Rabbi Frank we now have The Gemara Card, a laminated large-format pamphlet that includes some highlights from Rabbi Frank’s books: translations of important Talmudic terminology, explanations of acronyms, Aramaic verbal conjugation tables, etc. Samples of the Gemara Card’s pages can be viewed here.

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The Gemara Card was developed by Dave Sachs in cooperation with Rabbi Frank. Many of my students have found that the Gemara Card has helped them in their study of Gemara. The Jewish Link of NJ has an article that describes the genesis of the Gemara Card.

Sach’s religious momentum took him afterward to Israel, where he joined a post-graduate Torah-learning program in Yeshivat Hamivtar. His background immediately caused him some difficulties in studying Gemara, as Talmudic Aramaic was not one of the subjects that was stressed in his Hebrew-school education. He would sit hours on end in the Beit Midrash, with a Gemara open on one side and a dictionary on the other, eventually deciding to start writing a “cheat sheet” of the most common terms. As this reference sheet, and his Gemara skills, continued to grow, many of Dave’s friends asked for copies as well, and he realized that this project, started as a crutch to compensate for missing Aramaic language skills, could be a useful aid to even the most practiced Gemara learner. Looking back on his years in Maryland, where most of the analysis-oriented engineering classes encouraged condensing reference information into one sheet to bring to an exam, Sachs realized that this same principle could be applied to the equally analytic study of Talmud; and, thus, the creation of the professional Gemara “cheat sheet” began.

I highly recommend this for anyone who studies Gemara. Gemar Hatimah Tovah.

New Documentary About Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef

The most recent TV documentary on Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. (H)

Watch video here.

More on the Afghan Genizah

The National Library of Israel has announced more acquisitions of material from the “Afghan Genizah.” A description in English of some material from their first acquisition can be found here while a more recent description in Hebrew of the more recent acquisitions can be found here. Among the more recent acquisitions are a few pages from Mishnah Avodah Zarah, liturgical texts, and haftarot with an interlinear Aramaic translation.

The Beginning of the Study of Kabbalah in Jerusalem

The JTS-Schocken Institute for Jewish Research recently held a series of lectures devoted to the Beginning of the Academic Study of Kabbalah in Jerusalem. Videos of the presentations can be viewed below. (Hebrew)




Ben-Yehudah Historical Dictionary Online

One of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda’s accomplishments was his Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language. While to some extent Ben-Yehuda’s dictionary has been superseded by the newer Historical Dictionary compiled by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, it is still an invaluable resource. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Ben-Yehuda’s dictionary to purchase a number of years ago and it gets a lot of use. The dictionary is now partially available online as part of the very important Ben-Yehuda Project. The dictionary is being entered by a group of volunteers and information about volunteering to help can be found here.

Rabbi David Shlush z”l

Rabbi David Shlush z”l, the Chief Rabbi of Netanya, passed away yesterday. Rabbi Shlush studied at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem along with Rabbis Ovadiah Yosef, Hayyim David Halevi, and Ben-Zion Abba Shaul. He was known for his independent halakhic thinking in numerous areas, sometimes disagreeing with the majority of his colleagues, including Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. See e.g. this responsum on when to recite the blessing on Shabbat candles and this responsum on violating Shabbat to save the life of a non-Jew (against). He also wrote extensively on personal status, include that of Jews from Ethiopia (see here n. 7).

One of his opinions that is very relevant for the upcoming Shavuot holiday is the permission to use electricity on Yom Tov. This responsum can be found here. He concludes this responsum with the following words:

ולמעשה כבר התירו את הבערת החשמל ביו״ט הרה״ג אהרן בן שמעון בספרו ומצור דבש ערוך השלחן ועוד רבנים גדולים אחרים, ומרן הגריב״ץ עזיאל בספרו משפטי עזיאל אם כי לא מהטעמים שהזכרתי, והנלע”ד כתבתי.

Rabbi Shlush grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem and as part of an attempt to gather the testimony of those who lived in the Old City in pre-state Palestine, the Moscovitz Foundation filmed an extensive interview (Hebrew) with him about growing up in the Old City.

May his memory be for a blessing.

Many of Them Were Really Weeping

There are hundred of postcards from the past hundred years that feature pictures or illustrations of the Western Wall (Kotel). Last week I attended the World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and purchased one postcard that had a picture of the Western Wall and was sent in 1924. I purchased it not because it was so rare, but because of what was written on it.




Visited this place among many others today. Many more men than women there and many of them were really weeping. All reading from Jeremiah I suppose. Had no idea they were really so in earnest.

See this post at the Seforim Blog by Elliot Horowitz about descriptions of Jewish behavior at the Western Wall from the 19th and early 20th centuries. (HT Menachem Butler). Here is a good place to read about customs that are unique to Jerusalem. Happy Yom Yerushalayim.

A Possible “Feminist” Reading in a Genizah Fragment

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The Fragment of the Month from the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Project:

In this fragment the anonymous commentator explains to his (most probably male) readers: ‘There is nothing that satisfies her more than that you will listen to her’. The commentator supports his argument with reference to the Jewish sources of Late Antiquity, the Mishna, and the Talmud, but adds a new and interesting creative interpretation. The Mishna (Qiddushin 1:1) states: ‘A woman is acquired in three ways’, and the sages of the Talmud ask two simple questions: (1) why does the Mishna use the word ‘acquired’ as if a woman is ‘bought’ or ‘acquired’, instead of saying ‘a woman becomes betrothed in three possible ways’; (2) Why use the passive voice and not simply say ‘a man betroths a woman in three possible ways’? Unfortunately – as is often the case with Genizah fragments – we don’t have the commentary on the Talmud’s explanation of the first question as to the use of ‘acquired’, but we do have what remains of the commentary on the second question.

The Talmud states that the Mishna chose to put the focus on the woman in order to emphasise that the marriage cannot take place without her will. Our commentator takes this one step further and offers an interpretation that can be seen as a ‘feminist reading’ of the Talmud. According to this interpretation, the Jewish sages taught that in the marriage contract the groom is seemingly active and the bride is passive, while in fact the opposite is the case. The groom’s role in the ceremony is to satisfy the bride’s will and to act accordingly. This is why the groom gives his bride a ring (or equivalent). Perhaps our anonymous commentator sought to advise young couples in how they should interact and respect each other throughout their married life.

International Bible Quiz Final-5776

These kids are incredible.

יום העצמאות שמח




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