דער פאלטאווער עילוי

Rabbi Yoel Shurin – the Poltava Illui – was a talmid of the Netziv and the Rosh Yeshiva of yeshivas Ohr Torah. I found this article about the Poltaver Illui in the Yiddishe Licht. And here in the publication Beis Yaakov. Also, a קשה he asked in בבא קמא is brought in אבן האזל. Some historical documentation here, here and here. I have previously posted about…

Misplaced Loyalties: Part IV

Correction: Previously, I had written that the Ohr HaChaim was a 15th Century commentator. He is a seventeenth century commentator. (I subtracted instead of added to the 1600s.) Let’s examine some of the more salient points of the Ramban we mentioned in the last post here. The Ramban claims that the verse in Deuteronomy 17:11 about not straying from the words of the Sages, implies…

Misplaced Loyalties Part III – The Radical Views of Nachmanides

Let’s just come right out and say it! In addressing this conflict between the Sifrei and the Talmud – which says that one could err in his understanding of the commandment to listen to the Sages – we are focusing on something profound. This commandment, to heed the words of the Sages, is different than most commandments. This is not a question of how to…

Misplaced Loyalties: Part II

Now that we have seen the sources here – we can begin understanding when we say it is a liability to rely on the authority of the Sages and when one is obliged to do so. First, we should quickly note, that the Sages we are referring to here are the Sanhedrin. Let’s start with the apparent contradiction between the Sifrei and the the Talmud Yerushalmi…

Misplaced Loyalties: Part I – Sources

First, Some Sources: Regarding translations: The translations of Biblical verses are usually the King James Version The translations of the Bavli Talmud are usually Sefaria.org. (Note that I did not necessarily review or agree with the translation). Since I have not found an open-sourced quality translation of the Rambams, Midrashim, Yerushalmis etc – all such translations are my own. על פי התורה אשר יורוך ועל…

Misplaced Loyalties: טעה במצווה לשמוע לדברי חכמים

A Preface. I’ve often encountered a challenge when writing about topics that interest me – where I start writing without realizing how involved the topic and how much time it will take to write something accessible to a general audience. As such, recently I’ve tried to write really short self-contained blog posts. So it’s with some misgivings that I start writing about an extremely involved…

Sefirah and LagBaOmer Part III

To recap here is a general timeline of the development of the mourning customs during the days of Sefiras HaOmer: Some time during the first century CE Rabbi Akiva’s students all die during a period between Passover and Shavous Sixth Century The talmud records the story as an example of Rabbi Akiva’s teaching that if you taught students when you were young, you should teach…

Jewish Mourning Customs Between Passover and Shavous

Before dissecting it, let’s first lay out what the accepted modern-day understanding of the origins of Sefira and Lag BaOmer customs are according to the classical Jewish sources. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim siman 493) says: נוהגים שלא לישא אשה בין פסח לעצרת עד ל”ג בעומר מפני שבאותו זמן מתו תלמידי ר’ עקיבא אבל לארס ולקדש שפיר דמי ונשואין נמי מי שקפץ וכנס אין עונשין…

Haircuts, Bonfires and Weddings: Lag BaOmer and the customs of Sefira

It is customary for all Jews to observe some customs of mourning during the days of Sefiras HaOmer – between Pesach and Shavous – and to have a festive day on either the 33rd day of the Omer – or for Sephardim the 34th. These customs are binding for all observant Jews as codified in the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch etc. That said, it…

Who Is This Rabbi?

Many have asked me to explain who the Rabbi in this picture is and why I use his likeness in my blog sometimes. His name is Rabbi Yoel Shorin zt”l but he was more widely known as the Poltava Illui (The Prodigy from Poltava). He was a student of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l (the Netziv) and was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah…