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New Article: Military Conquest and Private Ownership in Jewish and Islamic Law

This looks like a very interesting article, “The Effect of Military Conquest on Private Ownership in Jewish and Islamic Law.”

This article presents the legal outlooks of two fundamental religious judicial systems—the halakha of Judaism and the shari’a of Islam—on the effect of war on private ownership. Specifically, we address the situation in which the conquered inhabitants are Jews or Muslims and halakha or shari’a are the legal systems of their religions, respectively, but the conqueror is a nonbeliever or secular sovereign. Such situations evoke the following questions: To what extent the transfer of ownership by the conquering sovereign is recognized by the religious laws of the conquered population? May a member of the conquered religion acquire property that was seized by the nonbeliever sovereign from a member of the conquered religion? Is transfer of ownership by virtue of conquest permanent or reversible, so once the conquest ends, ownership reverts to the pre-conquest owner? Various approaches to those questions within each of two religious legal systems are presented. Some of the similarities and the differences between halakha and shari’a are pointed out.

Leonard Cohen on the Akeidah

Much has been written about Leonard Cohen, but I just wanted to post two things. One is his beautiful midrash on the Akeidah for this week’s parashah, and the another is a recording of a concert of his from Tel Aviv in 1980. Shabbat Shalom.

New Book: Learning to Read Talmud

There’s a new book about learning Talmud that may be of interest.


Here’s a description of Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens from the publisher’s web site:

Learning to Read Talmud is the first book-length study of how teachers teach and how students learn to read Talmud. Through a series of studies conducted by scholars of Talmud in classrooms that range from seminaries to secular universities and with students from novice to advanced, this book elucidates a broad range of ideas about what it means to learn to read Talmud and tools for how to achieve that goal. Bridging the study of Talmud and the study of pedagogy, this book is an essential resource for scholars, curriculum writers, and classroom teachers of Talmud.

And the table of contents:

Introduction. Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens
Jane L. Kanarek and Marjorie Lehman

Chapter 1. Stop Making Sense: Using Text Guides to Help Students Learn to Read Talmud
Beth A. Berkowitz

Chapter 2. Looking for Problems: A Pedagogic Quest for Difficulties
Ethan M. Tucker

Chapter 3. What Others Have to Say: Secondary Readings in Learning to Read Talmud
Jane L. Kanarek

Chapter 4. And No One Gave the Torah to the Priests: Reading the Mishnah’s References to the Priests and the Temple
Marjorie Lehman

Chapter 5. Talmud for Non-Rabbis: Teaching Graduate Students in the Academy
Gregg E. Gardner

Chapter 6. When Cultural Assumptions about Texts and Reading Fail: Teaching Talmud as Liberal Arts
Elizabeth Shanks Alexander

Chapter 7. Talmud in the Mouth: Oral Recitation and Repetition through the Ages and in Today’s Classroom
Jonathan S. Milgram

Chapter 8. Talmud that Works Your Heart: New Approaches to Reading
Sarra Lev

Postscript. What We Have Learned About Learning to Read Talmud
Jon A. Levisohn

If you order from the publisher’s website and add the discount code READTALMUD30 you can get a thirty percent discount.

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.

Screen Shot 2016 10 07 at 10 40 37 AM

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.




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