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The Importance of the Community Rabbi

Leading with Compassionate Halachah

By Rabbi Daniel Sperber

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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

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Additional Info

Additional Info

ISBN 978-965-524-238-6
Pages 367
Format Hardcover
SKU urim1567
Publisher Urim Publications