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Parashat Hashavua in Israel

Below is a news segment (Hebrew) from Israel Channel 2 News on Parashat Hashavua in Israeli society. It reports on the numerous study groups from different sectors of Israeli society and now the uses of SMS and Twitter. HT to Amihai Bannett who is featured at 1:48 for his #פרשה on Twitter.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef on the Peace with Egypt

One of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s most discussed responsum is his one on withdrawing from territories captured in war in the framework of a peace accord. I have discussed this responsum here, and now a new document has been published that further sheds light on Rav Ovadiah’s opinion on the issue. Itzik Sudri, whose sister is Rabbanit Yehudit Yosef, has posted notes of Rav Ovadiah that he had written before he spoke on the radio on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, 1982.

Directly preceding the following excerpt, Rav Ovadiah spoke about the importance of settling the land:

אמנם לצערנו בשבוע האחרון היינו נאלצים בהתאם להסכם השלום עם מצרים, לעקור ישובים ובפרט עיר ״ימית,״ על כל תושביהם, ולהחזירם לידי מצרים, היינו עדים למחזות נוראים של צער וכאב גדול. אך הכל כדאי למען השלום, ולמנוע מלחמות ושפיכות דמים מעמנו…וכבר אמרו חז״ל כל המקיים נפש אחת מישראל כאילו קיים עולם מלא. ולכן החזרת שטחים למצרים עדיפא ממלחמה ושפיכות דמים, שכול ויתמות ח״ו…״

Nevertheless, in the past week we have unfortunately been forced, in accord with the peace agreement with Egypt, to uproot settlements, specifically, the city of Yamit, including all of their citizens and to return them to Egypt. We have been witness to horrific scenes of suffering and much pain. But all of this is for the sake of peace and to prevent wars and bloodshed from our people…Our sages of blessed memory have already said that “anyone who saves a single life from Israel it is as if he has saved an entire world.” Therefore, the return of territories to Egypt is preferable to war and blood shed, bereavement and orphanhood.


RavOvadiah Yom Haatzmaut 1982

Interviews with Two Scholars of Ancient Judaism and Talmud

Below is a short video from the Jewish Channel of interviews with Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, author of Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud, and Alexei Sivertsev, author of Judaism and Imperial Ideology in Late Antiquity.

The Israel Prize 2014

At yesterday’s Israel Prize ceremony many outstanding individuals were honored. Three of the honorees were Prof. Shamma Friedman, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, and Rabbinit Adina Bar Shalom. To learn about Prof. Friedman and his contribution to the study of Talmud, read this interview with Yitz Landes. See these articles about Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein by Yair Rosenberg and Elli Fischer. To get an introduction to Adina Bar Shalom’s contribution to opening up of higher education to ultra-Orthodox Jews read this profile of her work. Adina Bar Shalom also lit one of the torches at the official ceremony marking the beginning of Yom Ha-Atzmaut, and a video of that can also be found below.

Below are some pictures from the ceremony that I took from the broadcast. The entire ceremony can be viewed here, and below is also a video of Prof. Friedman receiving his award.







Today’s Historic Rabbanut Exams


After a legal battle, today four women are taking (H) the Israeli Chief Rabbinate semikhah exam in the laws of kashrut. Last year the religious women’s organization Emunah petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the Rabbinate to allow women to take the exam and become mashgihot kashrut (kashrut supervisors). In December, before the High Court of Justice decided in the case, the Chief Rabbinate gave the OK and today four women are taking the exam.

I am not sure how this will affect the other appeal for women to be allowed to take other semikhah exams offered by the Chief Rabbinate.

(Photo from Ynet)

TV Program with Rabbi Shlomo Goren

Below is a video of the Israeli TV program חיים שכאלה that featured Rabbi Shlomo Goren. I am not sure what year it is from. The video is in Hebrew.

Audio Recording of 1968 Talk by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Below is an audio recording of Abraham Joshua Heschel speaking at UCLA on May 29, 1968. HT to Rabbi Mordechai Levin.

More Tefillin from Late Antiquity

Yonatan Adler, who is an expert in tefillin from Late Antiquity (see this article of his), has announced another important discovery. Just a few weeks ago there were numerous news reports about his discovery of previously overlooked tefillin parchments from Qumran, and now he has apparently found other tefillin from Late Antiquity. This very small set of tefillin are from Naḥal Tze’eilim in the Judean Desert. According to an article (Hebrew) in NRG, these tefillin are maybe the best preserved tefillin from Late Antiquity.


They are also very small, two centimeters wide. The challenge faced by Adler and other scholars is how to actually read the parchments within these tefillin. They have yet to find a way to open the parchments that will not damage them. Adler dates them to the period of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt.

Below is a lecture from a number of years ago that Adler gave on tefillin from Qumram.

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.
Also see this recent interview with Lawrence Schiffman about the tefillin found at Qumran.

Great Resource for British Newsreels on History of Israel

The British Pathé has posted to Youtube all of their old newsreels. There are endless newsreels to view, many related to the history of Israel. Some of them don’t have sound, so don’t think that there is something wrong with your computer. (HT to Prof. Holly Tucker on Twitter)

Shulamit Aloni and the Maror

In the Talmud (Pesaḥim 120a) there is a disagreement over the status today of both matzah and maror:

Rava said: [The eating of] matza nowadays is a biblical obligation, whereas [that of] maror is rabbinic. Why is maror different? Because it is written, “They shall eat it [the Pesach-offering] with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Bamidbar 9:11) – at a time when there is a Pesach offering, there is maror, but at a time when there is no Pesach offering, there is no maror! Then in the case of matza, too, surely it is written, “They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs”? Scripture indeed repeated [the precept] in the case of matza: “At evening you shall eat unleavened bread” (Shemot 12:18). But R. Acha bar Ya’akov said: Both the one and the other are [only] rabbinic. (trans. from here)

For a discussion of this question see this transcription of lesson given by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.

So what does this Talmudic disagreement have to do with the late Israeli MK and civil rights activist Shulamit Aloni? Soon after her recent death, the Israel State Archives published a number of documents related to Aloni’s public activism. One of them was a newspaper article from Davar that was published on April 14, 1966, 48 years ago today, whose headline was “מרור בזמן הזה מדרבנן” ["At this time maror (the bitter herb) is rabbinically obligated"]. The article began with the following statement:


The author of Tiferet Shlomo said: “This Maror that we eat”: At this time maror is rabbinic, a big part of the maror, of our bitter lives, at this time its source is the rabbis. From different rabbis who aren’t appropriate for their positions and don’t bring us any honor in their conduct.” If in the time of the author of the Tiferet Shlomo the bitterness was from rabbis, in our days, [it is from] rabbis and the leaders, the ministers and the laws that support them and through which they are given a strong hand and an outstretched arm to feed us their bitterness. The more that they embitter us, the more they will increase and their power will increase.

So who is this Tiferet Shlomo that Shulamit Aloni is quoting? My guess is that this Tiferet Shlomo is Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen Rabinowitz (died 1866). He was the author of numerous books such as Tiferet Shlomo on the Torah and Tiferet Shlomo on the Haggadah. After doing some searching with the help of numerous online resources, I was unable to locate the original source of this quote. Did Shulamit Aloni make this up? Not at all. What I did find was the exact same quote in B. Yaushzon’s popular work on the Torah and holidays Mei Otzrainu Hayashan.


After her death many people were surprised that as per her wish, Aloni was buried in a very traditional Jewish ceremony that included modern readings and songs. I think that this is the message that Shulamit Aloni wanted to convey, not that Jewish tradition is something to be rejected, rather, it is something that we should be free to accept upon ourselves in whichever manner that we would like, free from the coercive acts by the state and its rabbinic messengers.




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