Richard Claman

While ‘Zoom’ has been a lifeline these past several weeks, allowing us to maintain some sense of synagogue community and continuity, I have found participation in ‘Zoom’ minyans these past weeks to be a disconcerting experience, on many levels. It helped somewhat to read a N.Y. Times[1] explanation as to how ‘Zoom,’ to preserve transmission ‘bandwidth,’ obscures those details of persons’ faces, particularly around the eyes and mouth, that we rely upon, in face-to-face conversations, as critical cues.

Conversely, however, I suggest that it has not helped that the Conservative Movement, even while recognizing the necessity of ‘Zoom’ minyans in this hour of crisis, has persisted in the position first expressed in a Teshuvah authored by Rabbi Avram Reisner in early 2001, viz., that a minyan requires ‑‑ as a matter that, in Reisner’s view, has never been seriously challenged ‑‑ the physical presence of ten persons in the synagogue, before anyone else can participate in prayer with such a minyan.[2]

My frustration led me to revisit Reisner’s analysis: for perhaps he ignored, given the relatively calm times of early 2001 when he published his opinion, some minority viewpoint that might help us today. In that regard, we learn in Tosefta Eduyot 1:4 (or, in some editions, 1:5) that, as one answer to the question why the tradition records both majority and minority views, that “The opinion of the individual [i.e., the minority opinion] is recorded along with that of the majority only so that, if times necessitate [‘hutz-rakh la’hen sha’ah’] they [i.e., even the majority] may rely upon [that minority view].”[3] [Ironically, this view is presented in the Tosefta itself as a minority viewpoint,[4] but it seems to be validated by the statement in the Babylonian Talmud (“BT”), Berakhot 9b, that “Rabbi Shimon is a great enough authority to rely upon in cases of emergency/pressing need (she’at ha-dehak).”[5]]

This note suggests that indeed, on further analysis, Reisner, in adopting two methodological principles that, I suggest, are open to reconsideration, failed to at all recognize how Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, France, 1040-1105), in interpreting a dispute at BT Pesachim 85b, understood R. Yehoshua b. Levi (hereafter “RYBL”) as presenting a genuine minority opinion, dissenting from the opinion of Rav (as reported by R. Yehudah), and allowing (with some implicit limitations based on intention and hearing) ‘distance’ minyans, based on RYBL’s doctrine, “Even a metal barrier does not interpose between the Jews and their Father in Heaven” (‘afilu mechitzah shel barzel eina mafseket bein Yisrael la’Avihem She’Bashamayim’).[6]

I do not mean to suggest that RYBL’s viewpoint should be adopted as the general halakha: there are of course post-Talmudic texts that need to be given weight, and variety of practical considerations, as reviewed by Reisner and others.[7] (I note, however, that it may be that Meiri [Southern France, 1249-1310] followed RYBL; but his views were a practical matter ‘lost’ to the ‘mainstream’ halakhic tradition.[8])

I do mean, however, to suggest that if we can recover Rashi’s understanding of RYBL’s position, then that might add some legitimacy to, and might make some of us feel better about, the steps that we need to take until this hour of necessity has ended (and we all hope that it ends soon).


One of the controversial features, for some of us, of the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah concerning homosexuality[9], was its starting-point declaration that “Judaism is based on how the Rabbis interpreted the Bible …” Accordingly, those authors refused to even consider modern critical or other alternative approaches to the two key texts in Leviticus, but rather insisted on starting with the Talmud’s reading thereof.

I do not wish here to challenge that declaration, nor to revisit the available alternative approaches to the Leviticus text.[10] My point here, simply, is that Reisner, in his ‘Internet Minyan’ teshuvah, seems from the start to violate this principle.

The Gemara’s discussion at BT Pesachim 85b follows the discussion in the Mishnah (Pes. 7:12), addressing the question presented “if part of a limb of the pesach [offering] projected outside its boundary (‘mik-tza-to’).” (The Mishnah explains that one cannot just saw-off the protruding portion, for that would violate the Biblical rule against breaking any bone of the pesach offering; rather, one must detach the entire limb.)

What is the ‘boundary’ at issue here? According to Reisner, this must refer-back to the requirement stated in Ex. 12:46, that the pesach-offering “may only be eaten ‘in one house.’” Reisner then continues: “The Mishnah defines the parameters of ‘one house’ in clearly physical terms, considering the door and window spaces.” And he then asserts: “It is thus clear to me [sic] that ‘one house’ in the Biblical verse needs to be taken physically.” Therefore, Reisner concludes, the declaration of Rav, in the ensuing Gemara, “establishes the equation” between this physical proximity requirement applicable to eating the paschal offering within ‘one house,’ and that of a prayer minyan.

Reisner’s reading of the Biblical verse (and of the Mishnah), as “clear to [him],” however, is simply contrary to Rashi’s reading of the Mishnah, and of the Biblical verse ‑‑ where Rashi relies on the early Rabbinic reading in the Mekhilta (see further below).

First, as to the Mishnah: while Rashi does not comment thereon specifically at BT Pes. 85b, Rashi already explained, however (see “Likutei Rashi” at 85b), in connection with an earlier discussion of this Mishnah (at BT Pes. 84b), that ‘boundary’ here refers not to the boundary of any particular house, but rather to the walls of Jerusalem! Earlier, in BT Pes. 64b, the Talmud tells a story about how, in the generation prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, millions of people would go up each year to Jerusalem, to offer the Passover sacrifice. One can imagine how, with these throngs, many persons would only be able to find spaces for their family/friends’ communal eating-together units (‘havurot’) pressed against the walls of the City, which defined the boundaries of the City’s special holiness. Conversely, however, these millions of pilgrims, consisting of thousands of havurot, would not be finding accommodations within houses.

Also, the Mishnah, after discussing that the pesach-offering must be entirely within the walls of Jerusalem, explains that the areas consisting of the thickness of the doorways, and of the windows, themselves count as ‘inside.’ Plainly, doorways and windows only have such thickness in the context of city walls, and not individual homes.

Second, looking at Ex. 12:46, the verse to which Reisner refers: the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael (compiled in around early 4th cent. CE, in the Land of Israel, based on the teachings of the Tanna’im, the Sages of the Mishnah [dated around 220 CE]), Tractate Pischa, ch. 15, teaches that the Torah’s statement, while literally translated as ‘in one house (ba-bayit) shall it be eaten,’ should nevertheless be read differently: “Scripture here means ‘in one group (ba-havurah a’hat).’”[11] Rashi, in his explanation of Ex. 12:46, simply follows the Mekhilta.

Accordingly, drawing upon the understanding of the Mishnah and of Ex. 12:46 in Rashi and the Mekhilta, it would appear that there are two competing notions involved: there is the special, and perhaps unique, holiness of Jerusalem, as a physically-bounded conception, but there is also the holiness (in some sense) of the ‘havurah,’ which would seem to depend on some sense of intentionality and participation. Rav, in ‘our’ Gemara (see below), may indeed have stressed that the rules relating to the special holiness of Jerusalem must apply to the recitation today of those prayers that refer to holiness (e.g., the ‘kedusha’); compare BT Menachot 110a, where R. Giddel, in the name of Rav, teaches that the sacrifices are today still being performed on a heavenly altar, by the angel Michael.

But perhaps the significance of RYBL’s teaching that prayer has replaced sacrifices (in contrast to the opinion that the mitzvah of prayer is of Biblical origin) (see BT Berakhot 26b) is that prayer now brings with it its own, different, sense of holiness, which may accordingly appropriately reflect elements of intentionality and participation, as opposed to sheer physical presence. (We assume here a ‘traditional’ understanding of the Talmud, in which attributions of different statements, in different places, to a particular sage, are deemed to reflect the approach of that sage.)

In any event, it seems to me that Reisner, by starting-off his analysis with his own reading of the Mishnah, in light of his own reading of Ex. 12:46,[12] without even a mention of Rashi’s explication of the Mishnah, or the Mekhilta/Rashi’s understanding of Ex. 12:46, has assumed for himself a ‘pure physicality’ starting-point, where such an assumption is inconsistent with the methodological principle that he (and Dorff-Nevins) subsequently stressed.


As background: in connection with Bible commentary, we understand that even while, for example, Rashi may criticize a midrashic interpretation (e.g., at Ex. 6:9) and later, other commentators would criticize Rashi, that does not somehow eliminate those criticized understandings as legitimate. Thus, Rashi, even when criticizing a midrashic reading as incompatible with the plain meaning of the texts (id.), allows nevertheless that all such teachings are legitimate “sparks” emitted when the ‘hammer’ of analysis is applied to the ‘rock’ of Torah (per the analogy articulated in BT Sanhedrin 34a).

When we encounter the ‘commentaries’ on the Talmud by Rashi and by Tosafot (the scholars of ‘Ashkenaz,’ Western Europe, in the 200 or so years following Rashi, as compiled by the early publishers of the Talmud), however, we see a very different attitude.

Whether or not Rashi believed in the internal self-consistency of the entire Talmud, Rashi took as his mission the task of giving the best explanation of each Talmudic discussion or debate, within its immediate, “localized” context.[13] (Such explanations may represent Rashi’s own analysis, and/or may represent the ‘oral tradition’ that he inherited.)[14]

By contrast, Tosafot viewed their task, and viewed the Talmud itself, very differently. Just as the Sages viewed the entire Tanakh as a necessarily self-consistent document, and just as the Amoraim viewed the entire body of Tannaitic teaching (including the Mishnah, and the ‘halakhic midrashim’ such as the Mekhilta) as a necessarily self-consistent body of teaching, so too the medieval rabbis whose teachings became incorporated in the Tosafot (printed in the margin opposite Rashi in, e.g., the modern ‘Vilna’ editions of the Talmud) took as their starting-point the assumption that the entire Talmud was necessarily self-consistent.[15]

Accordingly, just as the Gemara adopted various techniques to ‘eliminate’ conflicts that the Amoraim perceived within the Tanaitic literature, so too Tosafot would reject any plain-meaning interpretation of any particular Gemara text that might lead to a perceived contradiction between that text and another Gemara teaching, in favor of a harmonizing ‘reading,’ however ‘artificial’ that ‘reading’ might be.

One popular method for such ‘harmonization’ adopted in the Gemara was known as “ukimta” i.e., a pronouncement declaring that an apparently broad statement, or broad dispute, in the Mishnah was ‘really’ concerned with only a very narrow and limited matter.[16] Tosafot likewise regularly engaged in such ‘ukimta’ pronouncements, so as to eliminate perceived disputes within the Talmud[17] ‑‑ and we will see in a moment an example of this approach in connection with the dispute between Rav and RYBL in ‘our’ Talmud passage at BT Pes. 85b.

One key upshot of this difference between Rashi’s “localized” approach, and Tosafot’s ‘global’ approach, is that Tosafot, and the subsequent ‘mainstream’ halakhic literature, felt free to reject, and to thereafter altogether disregard, Rashi, in cases where Rashi advocated a ‘local’ plain-meaning interpretation of a Gemara text, but Tosafot saw a need, because of a perceived conflict with a different text, to insist upon an ‘ukimta,’ or other similar restrictive (artificial) reading of the first text. From Tosafot’s perspective, Rashi was simply failing to address the relevant text ‑‑ i.e., in failing to limit the ‘local’ ‘plain’ meaning in the light of the Talmud text as a whole.

I question, however, whether the Conservative Movement, which does not generally accept a view of the entire Tanakh as a uniform composition (or even, perhaps, of the Pentateuch as a unified composition)[18] ‑‑ means to endorse, however, as a predicate of our ‘halakhic’ decision-making, this very strong assumption as held by Tosafot as to the unity of the Talmud. Indeed, our leading scholars have shown how the Talmud developed over time, per a highly complex ‘editorial’ process.[19]

Reisner, however, in his ‘Internet Teshuva,’ without giving any recognition to the above-described different agendas of Rashi and Tosafot, simply adopts Tosafot’s ‘ukimta’-type analysis of the key text, and never even mentions Rashi’s very-different reading. The result is that the viewpoint of RYBL, as understood by Rashi, has now been ‘lost’ in Reisner.

The next several paragraphs will review the key Talmudic discussion, as understood by each of Rashi and Tosafot.

* * *

The relevant Talmud passage (at BT Pesachim 85b), directly following Mishnah Pes. 7:12, (as reviewed above) is brief:

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: and so regarding prayer. But [Rav] is in disagreement with [u’fliga d’] RYBL, for RYBL said: Even a metal barrier does not interpose between the Jews and their Father in Heaven.

That’s it. Plainly, the Talmud text is unclear as to what the dispute was between Rav and RYBL. Rashi proceeds to first explicate Rav’s view, and then RYBL’s view. For Rav, Rashi explains (s.v. “v’chein li’tefilah), that “a person standing from the doorway and inward is counted in [‘mitz’taref’[20]] for the ten [necessary to constitute a minyan], but the person standing outside is not counted.”[21]

According to Rashi, RYBL’s position (s.v. “eina mafseket’), by contrast, is that “there is no dividing before Him, and there is no closing-off before Him.”[22]

In short, according to Rashi, there is a debate between Rav and RYBL as to whether, to constitute a minyan, there must be (at least) 10 persons sharing a physical presence within a single defined space. Rav says yes, and RYBL says no.

Further insight into RYBL’s view may be discerned from a second place in the Talmud where his dictum, ‘even a metal barrier …” is invoked. In BT Sotah 38b, there is a discussion about the general rule that, to ‘receive’ the Priestly Blessing, the recipient must generally be facing the priest who is pronouncing the Blessing. The Talmud first notes an exemption for those who are forced by their occupations to work outside the synagogue: for if they hear the Blessing and intend to participate therein, they are deemed included. The Talmud then asks: what if one is short, and so is shielded from the sight of the priest by the taller people in front of him? The Talmud declares an exemption for such short people as well. Finally, the Talmud asks: what if there is a partition (‘mechitza’) between the priest and the person wishing to be blessed?[23] And the Talmud answers the question by citing RYBL’s dictum.

(Strikingly, Rabbi Heller, in his new teshuvah [see fn. 2, supra], characterizes RYBL’s dictum as “a beautiful expression” but he does not identify RYBL as the author thereof; rather, Heller just quotes [at p. 10] the echo thereof in the Shulchan Aruch, in the context of its discussion of the Priestly Blessing. The statement by RYBL, in its context in Pesachim, concerning the constitution of a minyan, is not addressed there, and so a “beautiful expression” in that context has been forgotten.)

Accordingly, Rashi’s understanding of the elliptical Talmudic debate between Rav and RYBL, in BT Pes. 85b, as concerning what is necessary to constitute a minyan, certainly makes sense in the ‘local’ context of BT Pesachim 85b, and also in light of what else we ‘know’ about Rav and RYBL (i.e., reading the statements attributed to them elsewhere in the Talmud as indeed ‘theirs’) and so, we might expect, would be accorded at least some legitimacy in the subsequent tradition.

Tosafot, however, expressly refuses to follow Rashi, and instead it adopts an ‘ukimta’-type reading of the dispute between Rav and RYBL, in order to avoid what Tosafot perceives as a potential inconsistency with a text at BT Eruvin 92b. Here is Tosafot (at BT Pes. 85b, s.v. vi’chein li’tefilah):


  1. Explanation #1: Rashi explains this in connection with combining (to make a Minyan).
  2. Refutation: But this is not correct, since the Sugya in Eilu Ne’emarin (Sotah, Daf 38b) implies that the Halachah is like Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who says that ‘Even a partition made of iron does not divide …’ …
  3. Refutation (cont.): Yet in Perek Kol Gagos (Eruvin 92b) the Gemara seems [sic] to take on that a partition does interrupt with regard to Tziruf [i.e., combining to constitute a minyan]?
  4. Refuted Explanation: Neither can we learn it with regard to Shofar and Megilah …
  5. Refutation: Since we explicitly learned in Perek Ra’uhu Beis-Din (Rosh ha’Shanah, Daf 27b) that ‘if somebody passes behind a Shul or if his house was close to a Shul, and he hears the Shofar being blown or of the Megilah being read, as long as [he] has Kavanah [intent], he is Yotzei [i.e., has fulfilled the commandment].
  6. Explanation: The Ri [i.e., Rabbi Isaac of Dampierres, France, born around 1115, died around 1200; a leading Tosafist, nephew of Rashbam (grandson of Rashi)]: therefore explains that it speaks here with regard to an individual answering Kedushah and ‘Yehei Sh’meih Rabah …’, where a partition does not interrupt according to Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi, whereas according to Rav Yehudah it does …
  7. Conclusion: And just as they do not combine (according to Rav Yehudah), so too, one is not Yotzei one’s obligation. Shofar, on the other hand, does not require a Minyan.[24]

In other words, Tosafot (a) rejects Rashi, based on what “seems” to Tosafot to be an inconsistency with an anonymous (late) statement in tractate Eruvin; and then, (b) following the proposal of Rabbi Isaac of Dampierres, Tosafot insists that (i) even RYBL must agree that to constitute a minyan, 10 persons must be physically present in a single room, and that (ii) the dispute between Rav and RYBL is only about whether, if 10 persons are already in a room, so as to form a minyan, a person standing just outside the doorway can join with that minyan in order to participate in the kedusha prayer.

Thus, according to Tosafot, and directly contrary to Rashi, RYBL does not dispute that, to constitute a minyan, there must be 10 persons in a single physical space.

We will look at the Eruvin text in a moment, for even if it stated a ruling contrary to RYBL, RYBL would be free, of course, to disagree therewith, unless one had already adopted the assumption that the Talmud must be read as an integral whole.

The key point, for our present purpose, is that Reisner ‘buys-in’ entirely to Tosafot’s understanding of the Pesachim dispute, and with Tosafot’s utter rejection of Rashi. Accordingly, Reisner never even mentions Rashi’s competing understanding, not even to just note how Tosafot says that it is disagreeing with Rashi. Thus Reisner (at p. 3) first asserts that, to his mind, Rav’s view is “unchallenged.” According to Reisner, the view of RYLB, to the extent “inconsistent” with Rav, must be viewed as limited, as explained by Tosafot, and so is necessarily concerned “exclusively with regard to those hearing those prayers that require a minyan. Rav would hold that one outside is not part of the quorum, and therefore may not respond [e.g., with the words ‘ye-hei sh’mei rabah’]. RYBL would disagree. If a proper quorum has been constituted, thereafter anyone who hears may answer. With regard to that limited [sic] uncertainty, the Tosafot in Sotah rules that the law is in accordance with RYBL …”

In short: where’s Rashi?

The statement at issue from Eruvin, i.e., the statement that, according to Tosafot, “seems” inconsistent with Rashi’s understanding of the debate in Pesachim, moreover, is hardly clear. The context there is the following scenario (see at BT Eruvin 92a): Two houses, with related courtyards, adjoin each other, as follows, as viewed from west to east: house, large courtyard; wall; smaller courtyard; house. The wall then falls down. The anonymous voice of the Gemara, in a list of additional matters arising as consequence of this ‘collapsed wall’ scenario, as debated by Abbaye and three contemporaries, then stated (Artscroll, BT Eruvin 92b):

if nine people are in the large [courtyard, as formerly separated by a wall from the smaller courtyard] and one person is in the small [courtyard], they combine [to form a minyan …]. But if nine persons are in the small [courtyard] and one person is in the large [courtyard], they do not combine to form a [minyan].

The Talmud does not further discuss this statement again, it is contained in a list of issues stemming from the ‘fallen wall’ premise, as compiled by the ‘anonymous’ (and chronologically ‘late’) voice of the Gemara. It is certainly unclear to me, however, that this statement in Eruvin contradicts RYBL, as a substantive matter. As noted above, in the context of the Priestly Blessing discussion in BT Sotah 38b, RYBL would not ‘include’ persons who, as a matter of intention, excluded themselves from the relevant havurah; and so the Eruvin statement might be interpreted consistently therewith, viewing the person who refuses to join in the same room as his fellows, in the ‘small courtyard’ scenario, as displaying an intention to keep himself separate. Conversely, this statement in Eruvin does not clearly support Rav, for if the old wall has fallen, so that the two courtyards are now considered, as a physical matter, to be one, for purposes of the first scenario where one person in the small courtyard indeed ‘joins’ with the 9 persons in the large courtyard what purely physical separation exists to preclude a combination in the second scenario (i.e., nine persons in the smaller courtyard)?

Tosafot never addresses the foregoing substantive considerations. Rather, its point appears to be a purely formalist one: if Rav is not mentioned in BT Sotah 38b, but RYBL is, then (on the assumption of internal self-consistency, plus the subsidiary assumption that each sage knew the entire Talmud, and would have stated his disagreement in any place where he might disagree), Rav ‘must’ agree with RYBL there; and since neither Rav nor RYBL are mentioned in Eruvin as disputing the statement there, the two of them ‘must’ both be in agreement concerning the rule there; and so it ‘must’ be that the disagreement in BT Pesachim 85b relates only to whatever third, and narrow, issue remains after (a) the issue in Ervin that both ‘must’ agree-upon (for failure of either to object in Eruvin) and (b) the issue in Sotah where Rav implicitly ‘must’ agree with RYBL (for no objection is stated in Sotah in the name of Rav).

Again, I understand how the subsequent halakhic tradition, following Tosafot, might ignore Rashi’s ‘local’ reading of Pesachim, even if Rashi made the best sense of that text, in order to thus adhere to an assumption of Talmudic self-consistency.

But, does the Conservative Movement need to follow such an approach? In other contexts (indeed, even in the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner homosexuality teshuvah), our Movement has proclaimed a willingness to go back and re-examine the Talmudic sources for ourselves, without regard to ‘limiting’ interpretations imposed by later commentators. I suggest that indeed such critical re-examination is necessary, in accordance with our overall philosophy, and that attention should also be paid to any underlying assumptions brought to the Talmudic text by its medieval and later interpreters (including Tosafot). Such a re-examination here would have, I suggest, required Reisner to have noted that a dissenting view existed in the Talmud, concerning the possibility of a ‘distance’ minyan, namely, that of RYBL, as articulated by Rashi. But Reisner plainly failed to pursue such a critical methodology here, with the result that the Rashi/RYBL dissent was omitted. This omission might not have mattered, as a practical matter, in 2001; but it does, I suggest, matter today; and the omission of a dissenting view in 2001 has resulted in that view not being discussed by the current teshuvot, which simply take Reisner’s analysis for granted.


I respectfully suggest, accordingly, that in this time of crisis, our Movement can and should be teaching that our ‘Zoom’ minyanim are just not emergency practices, otherwise contrary to the halakha, but rather do have some legitimacy, in accordance with RYBL’s focus on our intent to join in havurah with our fellow congregants.

I pray (during this Shavuot, 5780) that the crisis should be short, and that our intentions should bring us strength.

Richard Claman is the founding editor of Zeramim.

  1. 1 Kate Murphy, “Why Zoom Is Terrible: There’s a reason video apps make you feel awkward and unfulfilled,” N.Y. Times, News Analysis, April 29, 2020.
  2. 2 See Letter from Rabbi Elliot Dorff and Rabbi Pamela Barmash, “CJLS Guidance for Remote Minyanim in a Time of Covid-19,” posted March 17, 2020, reaffirming as foundational the position expressed in Rabbi Avram Reisner, “Wired to the Kadosh Barukh Hu: Minyan via Internet,” approved by the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (“CJLS”) on March 13, 2001 (available online) (hereinafter, “Reisner”).Reisner is also accepted as foundational, without further analysis, in the new teshuvah authorized by Rabbi Joshua Heller, “Streaming Services on Shabbat and Yom Tov,” approved by the CJLS on May 13, 2020 (available online).
  3. 3 The translation in Jacob Neusner, The Tosefta (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson, 2002), vol. II at 1246, attributes this to R. Judah. The text in Sefaria (on-line) omits this attribution.
  4. 4 For general discussion of this dispute about the significance of disputes, see Moshe Halbertal, People of the Book: Canon, Meaning and Authority (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 1997) at 51-52.
  5. 5 Translation in Nathaniel Helfgot, “Minority Opinions and their Role in Hora’ah,” Milin Havivin 4 (2010) 36-60, at 43 (available online).
  6. 6 All translations of the BT here follow the ‘Artscroll’ edition. RYBL was a first-generation Amorah (post-Mishnaic scholar), living in the Land of Israel. Rav was likewise a first-generation Amorah, but, after studying in the Land, he returned to Babylonia. R. Yehuda bar R. Yehezkel was a second-generation Amorah, living in Babylonia.
  7. 7 The Reform Movement had issued a Teshuvah on point, that largely follows Reisner; see CCAR Responsa Committee #5772.1, “A Minyan via the Internet?” The article by Rabbi Jason Rosenberg, “Worship in the Cloud,” mentioned therein, was subsequently published in Walter Jacob, ed., The Internet Revolution and Jewish Law (Pittsburgh: Freehof Inst., 2014).
  8. 8 See the ‘Artscroll’ edition of BT Pesachim 85b, fn. 19. On the issue of the Meiri’s views having been ‘lost,’ see the Wikipedia article on Menachem ben Solomon Meiri for citations. See also Daniel Sperber, “Paralysis in Contemporary Halacha,” Tradition 36:3 (Fall 2002) 1-13, at p. 8.
  9. 9 See Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner, “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakha: A Combined Responsum,” approved by the CJLS on December 6, 2006, at p. 4 (available on the Rabbinical Assembly’s website).
  10. See, however, David Frankel’s account of how Leviticus should be read as controverting Deuteronomy, which did not proscribe homosexuality, in his article last year in this journal, “Contemporary Jewish Theology in Light of Divergent Biblical Views on Revelation’s Content,” Zeramim (vol. III no. 3 Spring 2019) 5-35 at 23-24.
  11. Translation per Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael (Philadelphia; JPS, 2004 [reprint of 1933 original]), at vol. I, p. 84, lines 68-69. The Mekhilta based this reading on an analysis attributed to R. Shimon bar Yohai.
  12. It is not necessary here to address the ‘critical’ understanding of Ex. 12:43-51; see William Propp, Exodus 1-18 (NY: Doubleday [Anchor Bible], 1999) at 374-375, who suggests that these verses are a fragment of an independent source older than ‘P’ ‑‑ and which does not yet know of the Deuteronomic centralization of worship in Jerusalem.
  13. See, e.g., Avraham Grossman, Rashi (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization; 2012) [translated from 2006 Hebrew ed. by Joel Linsider] at 138; and Aryeh Leibowitz, “The Emergence and Development of Tosafot on the Talmud,” Hakirah 15 (2003), 143-163; see p. 146.
  14. See Grossman, Rashi, at 140.
  15. Leibowitz, “Tosafot,” supra fn. 13, at 144-147.Leibowitz suggests that Rashi probably shared, at a theoretical level, Tosafot’s assumption as to the self-consistency of the Gemara; but, I suggest, a comment of Rashi’s at BT Berakhot 5a indicates that Rashi held a different view. The Gemara there presents, in the name of R. Shimon ben Lakish, a midrashic exposition of Ex. 24:12, concluding that not only the entire Tanakh, but also the Mishnah and the Gemara were given to Moses at Sinai. Concerning ‘Mishnah,’ Rashi’s commentary understands this to mean that God revealed to Moses at Sinai that in the future, Israel would involve itself in the study of Mishnah. And in commenting on ‘Gemara,’ Rashi implicitly rejects the idea that this refers to ‘our’ Gemara having been revealed at Sinai. Rather, Rashi teaches that God in effect already warned Moses at Sinai that future teachers should not, however, issue rulings based solely on the text of the Mishnah, but rather would need to first investigate the bases and reasoning underlying the Mishnah’s statements.Accordingly, I suggest that Rashi indeed sought simply to elucidate the reasoning of the various Talmudic expansions upon the Mishnah, without any commitment to a belief that the Gemara itself is from Sinai. By contrast, Tosafot may be seen at adopting a literalist understanding of R. Shimon ben Lakish’s midrash.
  16. Also transliterated as ‘okimta’ or ‘oqimta.’ See, for example, Moshe Silberg, Talmudic Law and the Modern State (NY: Burning Bush Press 1973) (Ben Zion Bokser, translator), at 11-12, discussing BT Bava Kamma 9b. I quote from and analyze Silberg’s discussion in my article, “Value Statements in Legal Contexts: Some Examples from the Bavli,” Journal of the Academy for Jewish Religion (vol. 2, no. 1) (2006), 1-22, see at 12-13 (available online). See also, e.g., Ronen Reichman, “The Talmudic Okimta and its Logical Structure,” JSQ vol. 12, no. 2 (2005), pp. 129-147.
  17. See, e.g., Leibowitz, “Tosafot,” supra fn. 13.
  18. See generally, e.g., Frankel, “Contemporary Jewish Theology,” supra fn. 10.
  19. For one example, see David Weiss Halivni, The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud, introduced, translated and annotated by Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (NY: Oxford U.P., 2013). See the review of recent scholarship in Moulie Vidas, Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 2014), ch. 1.
  20. The root tz’r’f is drawn from the Hebrew for metallurgy, and so refers to welding-together. The reference here is to the welding-together necessary to constitute a minyan. Compare BT Eruvin 92b, discussed below.
  21. My attempt at a literal translation, reflecting ‘Artscroll’ fn. 18.
  22. Again, my attempt at a literal translation; see Artscroll fn. 19.
  23. I do not address the issue as to whether the Talmud’s question, posed as a seemingly extreme hypothetical, suggests, conversely, that generally there were not ‘mechitzas’ in the synagogues in those days.
  24. Translation, with elucidation, by Rabbi Eliezar Chrysler, available online at Tosfos-Pesachim.