A Personal Introduction to Integral Halachah

Affirming the Halachic Process is certainly one of the more difficult things for many of us in ALEPH. Like so many others, we are weighed down by the insistence of our more Orthodox colleagues that Halachah is self verifying and contained due to its Divine origin in the nighttime teachings that the Holy Blessed One imparted to Moshe Rabbeinu after each day’s writing of the written Torah. Each succeeding generation is farther from the origin moment and thus more prone to confusion and increasingly dependent on the rulings of those who have gone before us. Thus, the Halachah of the moment is uncovered by a careful analysis of the texts from the past and each new situation must be comparable to some concept or precedent from that past.

While totally aware of this phenomenon, Reb Zalman z”l was still committed to the halachic process by which we link the needs of the moment to the precedents of the past. He also believed that this was possible only by instituting a new principle which would allow the past to continue to speak to us while also providing a greater degree of freedom in determining our responses to the questions of our time. Thus, what he originally called Psycho-Halachah and which we renamed Integral Halachah was born, a new principle which both included and transcended the past and which acknowledged the paradigm shift in which we are living.

Streaming Shabbat Davvenen

The current discussion on the OHALAH list with regard to streaming and recording the services at next year’s kallah has been interesting to follow.

Preface: A Little History

For many years, my portfolio in ALEPH included the ALEPH ReSources Catalog. One of the things I really wanted to offer were recordings of live services so that people who were interested in Jewish Renewal could at least listen to a real service and get some idea of what davvenen meant to us. For a time, the catalog offered recordings of a service at Shir Tikvah in Michigan and the davvenen at the 75th birthday weekend for Reb Zalman z”l at B’nai Jeshurun in New York. We also offered “studio’ recordings from P’nai Or of Philadelphia and Reb Zalman’s Audio Siddur (which is the only one still available from the ALEPH catalog).

Of course, this was before live streaming and the video recording which is really inseparable from the streaming itself.

Wedding on Chol Hamo’ed Sukkot•2014

I received the following question from a colleague:

A real life couple would like me to officiate at their wedding on Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot in October of 2014. They are Jewish farmers who will celebrate Sukkot at most on days 1 and 2 of the chag.

They are interested in that weekend because it is the Columbus Day weekend. Officiating in mid October, would also give us more time to prepare as the groom is converting to Judaism.

I looked at Bar Ilan Responsa Project, and I think I understand the notion of “Ein M’arvin Simcha be Simcha”.

I am not sure this principle applies to them. Might you offer your thoughts?

(The couple are living together but not legally married.)


Birkat Kohanim at Ordination Ceremony

At the end of the ordination ceremony in Colorado last month, Hazzan Jack recited the Birkat Kohanim / the priestly blessing, while facing the musmachot / ordainees with his tallit over his head and without shoes. This prompted the following series of questions from Jalda Rebling, which I will take up one at a time.

First Question: When the priestly blessing is recited by the shali’ach tzibbur, there is no special blessing that precedes it and the congregational response to each of the three individual blessings is kayn y’hi ratzon / may this be the Divine will. When the priests give the blessing, what is called duchanen, there is a blessing and the congregational response to each of the three units of the blessing is amen. Why is that?

The Shulchan Aruch,Orach Chayyim 127:2 says clearly that amen is only used when the priests themselves are reciting the blessings. The Mishnah B’rurah explains: Amen is the correct response to a blessing, which occurs when the priests are the reciters. When the shali’ach tzibbur is the one, then it isn’t actually a blessing but rather a request, a plea that this blessing should be granted us.