Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Academic Look at Oral Transmission

In response to L's suggestion that I seek out the opinion of Profesor Yaakov Elman on the topic of trimming nails I decided to find out who he is. In the process I found, and read, one of his articles Orality and the Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud.

While I am not that familiar with the either the classic nor the popular understanding of the "cannonization" of the Gemara, the article argues for a much more active and late oral component than I would have assumed.

It is a descent size article (by my standards, not speaking comparitively)and the terminology was a little tough for me. For example, I think that often time redaction was used to describe an oral process while I have a hard time not thinking of a written one automaticlly. Nevertheless his arguments seemed to have merit, and he was modest enough to admit when they might not be as conclusive as it might otherwise sound.

For me, this article was actually a bit of chizuk. Oral transmission is not an issue I struggle with philosophically, but one that I can't relate to practically. Looking at it a bit more historically may carry the risk of loosing sight of concepts such as emunas chachamim and siyata d'shamaya, which I believe are fundamental to our hashkafa on Oral Torah, but personally it helped bring things down to Earth a little and make grasping those concepts a little more managable.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Machzikei HaDas more popular than Hirhurim?

ClustrMaps are great!

From Iran I've received as many hits as "On the Main Line" and "Hirhurim" combined!

I have also beat out Hirhurim in number of hits from the United Arab Emirates which isn't supprising since I felt the whole port-deal backlash was a little reactionary and counter productive.

In India, one of the largest countries on earth, I trail Hirhurim by one hit (but my count reflects a smaller time period).

And while On the Main Line has me beat in India, both Hirhurim and On the Main Line only have 3/4 of the hits which I do in Pakistan.

As a matter of fact I would say that outside of Israel, Europe, and North America, I'm down right competitive, except for the whole "Hirhurim's had more hits while you've read this than I have in the entire existence of my blog" thing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l on Davening with a Nusach S'fard Minyan

In response to our post Rav Chaim Berlin zt'l on Chassidim one of our most prolific commentors, L, suggested that davening with chassidim might present the additional problem of different nusachos and minhagim being utilized.

I'm only familiar with the small piece which I cited in the post, but I suspect that Rav Chaim Berlin zt'l was primarily speaking about joining in such a minyan incidentally. I suspect most authorities would be inclined to suggest regularly attending a minyan which follows one's own mesorah, all things being equal.

But things aren't always equal, either. So when one has the alternative to either daven in a place which follows one's own nusach, or one which doesn't but has a more ruchnius atmosphere, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l says that it is preferable, a mitzvah even, to daven where the nusach is different but one's avodas Hashem will be enhanced:

Igros Moshe O.C. Vol. 4, 33

Those accustomed to pray in Nusach Ashkenaz joining a Beis HaK’nesses which Prays in Nusach S’fard

Regarding the matter of a Beis HaK’nesses which prays Nusach S’frad and four families which pray Nusach Ashkenaz to themself in this Beis HaK’nesses because in this Beis HaK’nesses are those who are Torah observant and also there is a ruach shel Torah therefore they do not wish to go to another place which isn’t as good. And they wish to become permanent chaveirim (members) as all the other worshipers and also desire the benefits of all permanent chaveirim (members) and also to be gabbaim and the like, it is clear and simple that they are permitted and changing nusach isn’t an obstacle in this. And in any case it appears that this is also necessary to do because it is a great mitzvah to attach oneself to the Torah observant like the statement we read in T’hillim “I am a friend to all who fear You.” And behold there is an obligation derived from the words of tradition to attach oneself to the Torah observant, and see in the Rambam at the beginning of chapter 6 in Hilchos De’os where he writes that a persons nature is to be drawn, in his opinions and actions, after his fellows and friends, therefore a person must attach himself to the righteous and separate himself from the wicked. And it is not necessary to say that this refers specifically to exceedingly righteous and great sages since it is written to attach to the righteous and be distant from the wicked two extremes are established: the obligation to attach oneself to the righteous and sages, and the prohibition to attach oneself to the wicked. And it is obvious that people who are intermediate also must attach to those who are more “good”, to learn from them good things, and to separate from those from whom it is possible, chas v’shalom to learn bad things, even if they are not literally wicked people. Therefore even if there isn’t a great distance between two Batei K’nessios which it is also possible for them to affiliate with, it is appropriate to affiliate to the one which is superior even if they are not literally “Tzadikim.” Therefore connecting with the Torah observant is a mitzvah and it is certainly preferable to become an actual member and not only like a stranger and a visitor since this is essentially like separating oneself. Therefore if it is the truth that this Beis K’nesses is preferable to pray at and to learn at the lectures which they teach there it is because of the greatness of the Torah and fear of heaven there and the Torah observance and ruach shel Torah, there is reason for them to become equal members in all accounts. And the issue of Nusachos is not a reason to separate since all Nusachos are equal to fulfill the mitzvah of prayer and in holiness. And every Nusach has a source for every word, whether according to the revealed meanings or according to hidden reasons. And because of this reason it is [said] in the Yerushalmi, “even though we have sent you an order for the prayers, do not change from the custom of your fathers.” Therefore on words which are not required to be said aloud and is not usual to say aloud, do as your custom, and on words which we say in a loud voice whether by law or by the way of the world, one must pray according to the Nusach of the congregation. And if on is the Sheliach Tzibur one must say according to the Nusach of the congregation even in his silent prayer since he is to order his prayers.

Behold, originally it was for Klal Yisrael in those years every congregation was in its own place and it was known in every place its custom, and if someone left his place to dwell in another place it acted in accord with the customs of the other place, and so be it even with respect to the Nusach of prayer. However now after the congregations have been uprooted due to our many sins, and we are gathered together in one place in New York or other large cities it is not relevant for an individual from any community to change his practice to the Beis K’nesses which he prays at, therefore he is required to accustom himself as I have written.

(I apologize for any inaccuracies, and the overall choppiness, in this "translation")

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Ba'al HaBayis

Each day a person is obligated to study written Torah, which is the Tanakh, Mishnah, Gemara, and Poskim. And a Ba'al HaBayis, who only studies three or four hours a day, should not study only Gemara, since by doing so he hasn't fulfilled his obligation. Rather it is necessary that he studies specifically the works of the Poskim as well, each according to his ability. (Chayei Adam, Hilchos B'rachos u'Tefillos 10:3)

B"H Maybe one day, with work, I could be a ba'al habayis.