20th Century Responsa
20th Century Responsa: Elections
Since today is election day in Israel, this class will look at a few responsa about voting and elections.
Some of the issues we will try to cover:
What did the rabbis of the 20th century think of democracy?
Did the rabbis believe in telling people which party to vote for?
20th Century Responsa: 02 Women’s Suffrage
In this class we look at the opinions of different 20th century rabbis on whether women should be allowed to vote and/or elected to public office.
We learn about the biographies and halachic views of:
Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann
Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel
Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog
20th Century Responsa: Israel (part 1)
In this class we spend most of the time learning about Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rav. He came from a rabbinic family of Siget Hasidim. He was renowned from a young age for his Torah knowledge, but faced opposition when he wanted to become the town’s Rav. He rejected working with the Zionists to escape the Nazis, then fled Hungary on the Kastner train. He lived in Israel for a short while and made regular visits to Israel, yet he was a strong opponent of Zionism and the state. He moved to New York where he took a handful of Holocaust survivors and created a new Hasidic dynasty which today is the biggest in the world.
We learn a section from the introduction of Vayo’el Moshe.
We also begin to speak about Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, who was born in almost the same year as the Satmar Rav. He came from a Chabad (but not Lubavitch) family, and was known as a Torah genius from a young age. He moved to Israel where he became the editor in chief of Encyclopedia Talmudit, one of the most unique and ambitious projects of Torah scholarship ever attempted.
According to his grandson, he often said he did not know if the State of Israel was the beginning of the redemption or the opposite. But he knew that it provided salvation to Jews, and its founding was miraculous.
20th Century Responsa: Thanksgiving
20th Century Responsa: Temple Mount
20th Century Responsa: Civil Rights
20th Century Responsa: Dina DeMalchuta – -Law of the Land
In this class we look at the lives of several rabbis and their opinions on whether the principle of Dina DeMalchuta Dina (The Law of the Land is Binding) applies when there is no king but an elected parliament, whether it applies in a Jewish country or not, and how far reaching its application is.
The rabbis we study are Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi Herzog, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Rabbi Tzvi Tau and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.
20th Century Responsa: Vegetarianism
This class focuses mainly on the life and some of the teachings of Rabbi David HaCohen, also known as the Nazir.
He spent his entire life striving for perfection and prophecy. And had a vision of the Messianic era.
He dedicated himself to writing down the teachings of his Rav, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook.
And both Rav Kook and the Nazir saw vegetarianism as a goal for the pre-Messianic era.
20th Century Responsa: Secular education for rabbis (and students)
The Russian government required official rabbis to know Russian and have some level of secular knowledge.
This divided the religious world. Should rabbis be required to pass an exam (equivalent of a high school diploma) to hold office, or should they focus solely on Torah study?
In this class (the first on the topic) we will look at some interesting ideas of Rabbi David Friedmann (Karliner) and Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (fifth Lubavitch Rebbe).
20th Century Responsa: Meir Simcha of Dvinsk
This class focuses not on a topic, but an individual, Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, also known by the name of his most famous book, the Ohr Sameach.
We look at rulings he made about the mitzva of returning to Israel, permitting an aguna, and declaring the Yerushalmi on Kodshim to be a forgery.
20th Century Responsa: Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski and Rabbi Yitzchak Schmelkes
In this class, we look at two very influential rabbis who are not very well known today.
Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, author of “Achiezer,” was considered the leader of Lithuanian Jewry, even though he was younger than many of the other great rabbis of the time. His views and efforts shaped the modern Jewish world in many ways.
Rabbi Yitzchak Schmelkes, author of “Beit Yitzchak,” made rulings on topics such as copyright law, electricity on shabbat and conversion which shaped all future discussion of those topics.
Rabbi David Sedley lives in Jerusalem with his wife and six children. He was born and raised in New Zealand before making Aliya in 1992. He left Israel temporarily (for eight years) to serve as a communal Rabbi in Scotland and England and returned to Israel in 2004. He has translated Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on Pirkei Avos and is the co-author of Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer (both Judaica Press). Over the years Rabbi Sedley has worked as a journalist, a translator, a video director and in online reputation management. He also writes a weekly Torah blog on the Times of Israel.