3/23/17

Ten Tips for a Better Seder - with Trump Tips Added

It's a great performance. A dramatic Off-Broadway revue.

I have always had fun directing the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder. I learned this dramatic art as a child by watching my father (Rabbi Zev Zahavy) masterfully conduct the performance of the communal synagogue Seders as the rabbi of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan. He did it right and authentic and dramatic.

So in the spirit of the season of rebirth and freedom, let me offer you ten tips for your seder extravaganza - this year we must add Trump Tips.

3/22/17

YouTube: Unboxing my new CreateSpace book, The Polychrome Historical Haggadah

Enjoy!
                                             
Way to go, Tzvee!
Your video is now on YouTube.
Unboxing my new CreateSpace book, The Polychrome Historical Haggadah




"Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen" - Rav Soloveitchik's Dissertation at the University of Berlin 1930

In honor of the upcoming yahrzeit of the Rav's passing (on Hol HaMoed Pesach, the 18th of Nisan, in 1993) and of the anniversary of his recent birthday (Feb. 27, 1903) we offer to our readers a link to a scan of my teacher Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's doctoral dissertation in the field of philosophy written at the University of Berlin, 1930.

The thesis is in German and the scan is a PDF file: "Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen" by Josef Solowiejczyk. ("Pure Thought as the Constitution of Being in Hermann Cohen's Philosophy")

Manfred Lehmann wrote briefly about this dissertation and the Rav's biography:
...It is reported that the Rav would have liked to write his dissertation on Maimonides and Plato, but since no experts in these subjects were available in Berlin, he chose a field of pure philosophy, tempered with mathematics.

Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Lichtenstein, Prof. Weidhorn, Prof. Flatto, Prof. Levy: My Five Greatest Teachers at Yeshiva University

I realized over the years since I graduated from Yeshiva College that so many of my teachers there imprinted upon me indelible lessons for life and learning. I have chosen here to recall five special teachers. I apologize to the many other wonderful teachers that I have omitted. I especially beg the forgiveness of those that I have chosen to so briefly and inadequately remember. Nothing that I say can do them justice.
[Periodic re-post -- to celebrate these great teachers.]

3/15/17

In 2016 I gave away a record 662,568 free downloaded files of the Babylonian Talmud in English

I am proud to provide for you as a gift, a download of the complete Babylonian Talmud English translation..

The Talmud in English is online and free at Halakhah.com, http://www.halakhah.com/
- serving up 60,000+ downloads each month.

In 2016 I gave away a record 662,568 free downloaded files of the Babylonian Talmud in English.

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WITH NOTES, GLOSSARY AND INDICES UNDER THE EDITORSHIP OF RABBI DR. I. EPSTEIN B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit. FOREWORD BY THE VERY REV. THE LATE CHIEF RABBI DR. J. H. HERTZ. INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR.

Contains the Sedarim (orders, or major divisions) and tractates (books) of the Babylonian Talmud, as translated and organized for publication by the Soncino Press in 1935 - 1948.

My site has the entire Talmud edition in PDF format and  about 8050 pages in HTML format, comprising 1460 files — of the Talmud.

I recommend that on your web site or blog you add a link to this site http://www.halakhah.com.

Highlights include: A formatted 2-column PDF version of the Talmud at Halakhah.com.

3/12/17

My father's most valuable autographs - the signatures on his ordination parchment

I am republishing this post in honor of the Yeshiva University Chag HaSemikhah Convocation that will take place on Sunday, March 19, 2017 and in honor of the 75th anniversary of my father receiving his ordination.

I received my rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva in 1973. My father received his semichah on March 19, 1942 = א׳ בְּנִיסָן תש״ב

Here is my original post:

In May 2012, during the shiva for my dad, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, I showed many people an important part of our inheritance from him - five valuable autographs.

Now these are not autographs of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or of U.S. presidents or anything like that. 

These are the five signatures on my dad's klaf - on his diploma of ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which he received in 1942.

The priceless autographs are by five great Torah scholars, Rabbi Binyamin Aronowitz, Rabbi Bernard L. Levinthal of Philadelphia, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, Rabbi Moses Shatzkes (the Lomza Rav) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston (the Rav).

Rabbi Yossi Adler looked at the klaf during the shiva in Teaneck and confirmed what I had been told, that it was rare to have five signatures on such a document. My own ordination has two (Rabbis Belkin and Soloveitchik).

I once asked my dad what it was like to go before these five great rabbis and be examined before receiving semichah - ordination. He told me, "They were tough. They asked difficult questions. They made me sweat."

I greatly treasure this meaningful part of the legacy of my dad.


My essay explaining what made Rav Soloveitchik a great Talmud teacher

When I published this short essay in 2005 in the Commentator, the YU undergraduate newspaper, I was proud to extol my rebbe in the most glowing terms I could imagine. After further review, as they say in the NFL, I still feel that way. I am republishing this in honor of the Yeshiva University Chag HaSemikhah Convocation that will take place on Sunday, March 19, 2017. I received my rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva in 1973. My father received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva March 19, 1942.

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Indelible Beginner

In the fall of 1969, as a college senior, I started four years of learning in Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik's Talmud shiur.  In my family we venerated the Rav above all other rabbis. We spoke of him with the utmost reverence that one would bestow only upon a truly saintly man.

I received in those four years so much from the Rav: a methodology of learning, a theology of Judaism and, above all, a secret of pedagogy.

Let me explain briefly this last point. The Rav would sometimes in an occasional moment of surprising self-reflection refer to himself as a "poshutte melamed," just a teacher of beginners. That statement puzzled me. Surely the Rav was the greatest sage of our generation. How could he represent himself in this ordinary way?

One day I accidentally discovered what he meant. We convened on the fourth floor classroom for our shiur - about to begin studying a famous sugya in Massechet Shabbat. That day I was using a Talmud volume from a small shas that my uncle had used when he studied in the Rav's shiur many years earlier, in the fifties. I found interleaved in this book a page of my uncle's notes (i.e., Rabbi Noah Goldstein, my dad's brother) from the Rav's discourse on this sugya fifteen or twenty years earlier.

As we started reading the text, the Rav began to perform the magic that he was so good at. He made it seem to us all as if he was looking at the text for the very first time. He made every question he raised appear as if he was discovering a problem afresh. He made every answer and explanation that he examined in Rashi or the Tosafot appear to us as if it was new to him - a complete surprise.

The Rav dramatically unfolded a complex and intricate exposition of the sugya - and each stage of the discourse seemed so new and alive. Yet as I followed along and I read in my uncle's notes, I saw that the Rav was repeating each and every element of the shiur exactly as he had given it years before, insight by insight, question by question and answer by answer. He had me convinced that he had just discovered every element of his learning. Yet I had proof in front of me to the contrary.

I saw that day how the Rav had the ability to make every act of learning a new, exciting and living revelation. I have striven to emulate him ever since to replicate this ability and to achieve as a learner and as a teacher some small element of this revelation.

Hanging over my desk as I write this I have a quotation from the great German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke, "If the angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning: to be a beginner."

I believe the Rav would agree.

//repost from 8/2009//

3/10/17

RCBC Designates Next Saturday "Shabbat Shmoozer" in Teaneck

The RCBC (Rabbinical Council of Befuddled Clergy) has declared next Saturday to be "Shabbat Shmoozer" in all Teaneck synagogues.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Rabbi S. A. Rudemanski explained that scholars had pointed out a mistake the rabbis previously made in reading of halakhic texts governing synagogue conduct.

Rudemanski said the rabbis had thought that "talking in synagogue" was the cause of everything from natural disasters and political crises to scraped knees and stubbed toes.

Megillat Esther Lesson: A Woman can Save all of the Jews from extinction (but not become an Orthodox rabbi)

Purim is a happy holiday and the book of Esther is great entertainment. But this short biblical book also teaches us some profound lessons about politics, bureaucrats and life. We ought to pay close attention to all its nuances and messages.

This year we point out that according to the book of Esther a woman can save the Jewish people (but she cannot become an Orthodox rabbi - make any sense to you?).

3/6/17

Awesome: I published two paperback books yesterday on Amazon!

Awesome: I published two paperback books yesterday on Amazon!

   

My unboxing video:



My first Talmudic Advice podcast:



My Haggadah Unboxing Video: