R. Zvi Leshem on Kitniyot

Of everything that's come out in English on kitniyot, this is the best. By best I mean the one that remains true to Ashkenazic custom while accepting certain commonsense arguments (i.e., that if the kitniyot did not come into contact with water, it's permitted; that there is room for leniency in recently discovered species, etc.). There are some other Hebrew articles that are at least as good (including R. Leshem's own original Hebrew article and the article by R. Yehuda Fris that appeared in Tehumin; a cached version of the latter article can be found at the end of this thread), but for the English-speaking world, this is about as good as it gets:



2 Pieces: One Serious, One for Purim

I have a feature article on R. Moshe Feinstein at Jewish Ideas Daily. The only real "chiddush", I believe, is in the idea of "reluctant leniency" as a strategy for enabling the mekilim without denigrating the machmirim, as it's quite clear--and R. Moshe said on occasion--that he paskened le-kula because that's what he believed, not because of any constraints. I enjoyed researching and writing the article, and I believe that we've just started scratching the surface of R. Moshe's p'sak.

While working on that article, I was also working on a shul Purim shpiel (talk about compartmentalization) which should be up on youtube by the end of the weekend. I also helped with the Lord Chief Rabbi Sacks-style translation of this excellent Purim parody by Elli Schorr:
2011 אנעים זמורות

A gut Shabbos and a freilichen Purim!


Transparency as a Jewish Value

The following midrash addresses the detailed audit of the construction of the Mishkan conducted by Moshe. The issue of transparency has come up quite a bit in context of Jewish and Israeli religious and secular leadership. The upshot of this midrash is that nobody--not even Moses himself--can or should get away without giving an accounting. If opacity was not tolerated from Moshe, kal va-chomer anyone else. I wrote about this midrash 3 years ago, but it's worth repeating from time to time.

 מדרש תנחומא (ורשא) פרשת פקודי סימן ז
אמר משה יודע אני שישראל רוגנים הם הריני עושה להם חשבון מכל מלאכת המשכן, התחיל לעשות חשבון עמהם אלה פקודי המשכן והוא נותן להם חשבון על כל דבר ודבר לזהב ולכסף ולנחשת וכסף פקודי העדה מאת ככר ואלף ושבע מאות ויהי מאת ככר הכסף לצקת ונחשת התנופה שבעים ככר, עם שהוא עושה חשבון והולך על כל דבר ודבר שעשויין כסדר בתוך המשכן שכח אלף ושבע מאות וחמשה ושבעים שקל שעשה מהן ווין לעמודין ולא היו נראין, התחיל עומד תמה ואומר עכשיו ימצאו ידיהם של ישראל עלי לומר שאני נטלתי אותם והוא חוזר לבוא על כל מלאכה ומלאכה, מיד האיר הקב"ה את עיניו ותלה עיניו וראה שהיו עשוין ווין לעמודים, התחיל להשיב להם בקול רם ואת האלף ושבע המאות וחמשה ושבעים עשה ווים לעמודים באותה שעה נתפייסו ישראל, מי גרם לו על ידי שישב ועשה חשבון אלה פקודי המשכן, ולמה עשה חשבון הקב"ה מאמינו שנא' (במדבר יב) בכל ביתי נאמן הוא ומשה נתן חשבון, אלא מפני ששמע ליצני הדור שהיו משיחין אחריו שנאמר והיה כצאת משה וגו' והביטו אחרי משה, ומה היו אומרים ר' יצחק היה דורש לשבח (וכו' כדאיתא לעיל סדר כי תשא סימן כ"ז) וחברו משיבו ריקה אדם שנתמנה על מלאכת המשכן על ככרי כסף ועל ככרי זהב שאין לו חקר ולא משקל ולא מנין מה אתה רוצה שלא יהיה עשיר, כששמע כן אמר חייכם משנגמרה מלאכת המשכן אני נותן להם חשבון כיון שנגמרה אמר להם אלה פקודי המשכן.
Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 7
“Moshe said: ‘I know that the Israelites are malcontents. Therefore, I will audit the entire construction of the Mishkan’. He began making an accounting: ‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ and he began reporting everything, the gold, silver and bronze, and the silver of the public census 100 kikar of silver and 1700 [shekel]. 100 kikar went to cast…and 70 kikar of bronze for crafting…. He continued reckoning each item in the Mishkan in order, but forgot 1575 shekels from which the hooks on the pillars were fashioned, but which were not generally visible. He stood bewildered and said: ‘Now they will lay their hands on me, saying that I took it’, and he went back to recalculate. Immediately, God opened Moshe’s eyes and showed him that the silver was used in the hooks on the pillars. He began to reply to them, saying: ‘and 1575 were fashioned into pillar hooks’ and the Israelites were immediately appeased. What enabled this? The fact that he sat and made an accounting.
‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ - But why did he make an accounting? Did not God trust him, as it says: ‘He is trusted in all My house’, yet Moshe made an accounting? It’s only because he heard the cynics talking behind his back, as it says ‘And when Moshe left…they looked back at Moshe’. What did they say? R. Yitzhak said that people spoke positively. Then others would chime in: ‘Imbecile! He’s the one who controlled the entire enterprise of the Mishkan – kikarim of gold and silver that were not counted, weighed, or numbered! Wouldn’t you expect that he be rich?’ When Moshe heard this, he said: ‘My word! When the Mishkan is completed, I will make an accounting’, as it says ‘These are the records of the Mishkan.’”