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What’s Big?

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Shabbat Hagadol-5776


Rabbi Walk

Last we asked, “What’s new?” This week we must ask, “What’s big?” By the way, we also really like big. I’m not sure what we prefer, new or big. I remember when I was growing up the great entertainment impresario Ed Sullivan always began his TV program with the words, “We...

Bitul Chametz: How It Works and What It Does

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Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Pesachim, Week Two


The starting point of RA”L’s discussions of bitul, nullifying, chametz is the Gemara’s certainty that a declaration of one’s disinterest in owning chametz suffices to avoid the prohibition of bal yera’eh and bal yimatze, to neither own or be in possession of chametz on Pesach.

How Bitul Works

Rashi assumes bitul fulfills the requirement of tashbitu, where the verse tells us to be rid of chametz before Pesach. For Rashi, this is a hashbatah ba-lev, a verbal and mental ridding.

Tosafot take it more practically, seeing it as a kind of hefker, of declaring these items ownerless. The simpler way to understand Tosafot’s view is...

Red Cows and Modern Jews

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Parshat Para 5776

Someone dear to me, for whom I have great respect, suggested that I write a book about Jewish laws for emergency situations. You know, like when you’re stuck in traffic as Shabbat begins or come very late to shul and want to know how to catch up. The list could go on and on, as we find ourselves in these types of situations all the time. I immediately loved the idea and even came up with a working title, B’Sha’at Hadchak (Emergency Times). But the more I think about it, the more dangerous the idea seems to me. If I really were to pen such a work, my audience would clearly be that group usually designated as Modern Orthodox. I say this because the charedi...

Varieties of Jewish Experience: Law, Spirituality and Yirat Shamayim (Fear of Heaven)

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Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Varieties of Jewish Experience, Week Two

Two of the essays in “Varieties of Experience” take on such central topics of religiosity that they seemed to me indispensable to any dip into RA”L’s ideas and thought. The first of the two, “Law and Spirituality, Defining the Terms,” starts with RA”L defining the term “spiritual.”

The third meaning he gives is the spirituality of “sensibility and expression,” where the relationship with Hashem is a matter of feeling and emotion, of inwardness and spirit. It is this one that he will focus on as raising some concerns for how well it fits with a commitment to halacha.

Tension Between the...


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Sorry, Sylvester. We know that after playing Rocky Balboa for the umpteenth time you were the sentimental favorite for the statuette at this year’s Oscars, but Mark Rylance is just a superior actor. I’ve become a fan of Mark Rylance. He was terrific as Rudolf Abel in “Bridge of Spies,” and my wife and I saw him in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night on Broadway.” In that traditional (meaning, no women) rendition of the Bard’s comedy, he played Olivia and won a Tony for his considerable effort. But I’m most fascinated by his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) in the BBC’s brilliant television version of the Hilary Mantel novel, “Wolf Hall.” I’ve been...

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