The Importance of the Community Rabbi

Leading with Compassionate Halachah

By Rabbi Daniel Sperber

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 367

ISBN: 978-965-524-238-6


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Foreword by Rabbi Dov Linzer and Chaim Trachtman MD

The contemporary rabbi is influenced by the modern rabbinic establishments throughout the world, including the rabbinate in Israel. The rabbinate's monopoly on opinions and interpretations prevents rabbis from expressing their individual positions out of fear of delegitimization. The current structure gives the public a negative impression of the rabbinic establishment. The Importance of the Community Rabbi strives to describe and delineate key requirements for a good rabbi, i.e., one who can provide socially acceptable halachic solutions within the parameters of Orthodox thinking. Rabbi Sperber elucidates the halachic techniques and mechanisms that may be used toward this goal. These are further illustrated with stories from rabbinic literature and examples from various responsa. 

About the Author:

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber is a leading scholar of Jewish law, customs, and ethics. He taught in the Talmud Department of Bar-Ilan University, where he also served as dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies and president of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. In 1992, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies. Prof. Sperber currently serves as rabbi of the Menachem Zion Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. 
The descendant of a line of distinguished Orthodox rabbis, Prof. Sperber was born in 1940 in a castle in Ruthin, Wales, and studied in the Yeshivot of Kol Torah and Hevron in Jerusalem. He earned a BA in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and received a PhD in classics, ancient history, and Hebrew studies from University College, London.
Prof. Sperber has published more than thirty books and four hundred articles on the subjects of Talmud and Jewish socio-economic history, law and customs, classical philology, and Jewish art. Among his major works is a well-known, eight-volume series, Minhagei Yisrael, on the history of Jewish customs. More recently, he has written books on halachic methodology and rabbinic decision-making in confrontation with modernity, and has established an independent beit din dealing with agunah issues. He is the author of On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations; On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker, and Rabba, Maharat, Rabbanit, Rebbetzin: Women with Leadership Authority According to Halachah.

Rabbi Dov Linzer is the President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and is the primary architect of its groundbreaking curriculum. Rabbi Linzer has been a leading rabbinic voice in the Modern Orthodox community for over 20 years. He hosts a number of highly popular podcasts, including "Joy of Text," "Iggros Moshe A to Z," and his "Daf Yomi" podcast, covering all of shas. Rabbi Linzer has published many Torah articles, writes a widely-read weekly parsha sheet, and authors teshuvot on a wide range of contemporary halachic topics. He teaches regular classes in advanced Talmud, advanced halachah and the thought of Modern Orthodoxy, and serves as a religious guide to the yeshiva's current rabbinical students and over 125 rabbis serving in the field. 

Chaim Trachtman is chief of pediatric nephrology at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is on the board of Yeshivat Maharat and is editor of the book Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives (KTAV, 2010)

Review by By Ben Rothke, NJ Jewish Link Here
Review by Rabbi Ari Enkin, Torah Book Reviews Here
by Rabbi Dov Linzer and Chaim Trachtman MD
The Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies at Bar-Ilan University by R. Shimon Altshul
Dynamism in Halachah
Halachah and Modernity

I. The "Friendly" Pesak

Fundamental Values in Halachah
Applications of These Values: Halachic Adjudication
Its Ways Are the Ways of Pleasantness
Sensitivity to Personal Feelings
Human Dignity
Care Not to Shame or Embarrass
Leniency to Prevent Distress and Suffering
Beyond the Letter of the Law
Adaptability of Halachah to Changing Circumstances
Conflict Between Legal Formalism and Morality
Compassion and Casting a Blind Eye
Searching aSource for an Ethical Directive
Encouraging Repentance
Summary of the "Friendly" Pesak

II. The "Friendly" Posek

The Unfriendly Rabbi
First Story: The Winds of Man
Second Story: A Stained Reputation
Third Story: Halachic Morality
Fourth Story: The Ugly Man
Fifth Story: The Ignorant Jew
Sixth Story: Charcoal and Distress

III. The Friendly Rabbi

First Story: Hillel
Second Story: R. Meir
Power of Leniency
Not to Prohibit the Permitted and the Sin of Indolence in Adjudication
Sensitivity to the "Have-Nots"
Knowing the Needs of Others
Communal Involvement
An Independent Stance
Summary: The Requirements of the Contemporary Rabbi


Appendix 1: Three Examples of Sensitivity and Compassion in Psak
Introductory Note
The Dumb
The Blind
The Deaf
Appendix 2: On Leniency in Halachah
Appendix 3: On the Legitimacy of Halachic Innovation 
Appendix 4: On the Necessity of a Rabbi Having an Independent Stance
Appendix 5: An Example of Compassion without Compromise
Appendix 6: "Its Ways Are the Ways of Pleasantness" and "Charitable Interpretation"
Subject Index
Name Index
Source Index 
About the Authors