Tzomet Institute, 5777
Techumin – which is actually an acronym for Torah Hevrah uMedINa (literally, ‘Torah, Society and State’) – is a Hebrew-language annual journal of articles about Jewish law and Modernity that is published by the Tzomet Institute in Israel. Just over a year ago I reviewed Vol. 36, and for the past few weeks I have been enjoying and digesting the many fascinating articles in the recently published Volume 37.
Volume 37 of Techumin spans 507 pages and contains 54 individual articles. As with previous volumes, the articles in Techumin are divided into different categories and the 54 articles found in this volume are divided into 9 categories: Shabbat and Festivals (7 articles); Medicine (7 articles); Marriage and Family Law (15 articles); Society (4 articles); Conversion (3 articles); Justice (6 articles); Business & Finance (6 articles); The Land and its Mitzvot (4 articles) and The Sanctuary and Redemption (2 articles). However, what is particularly noteworthy about articles in Techumin is that many of them have been written in direct response to events that have taken place in Israel and elsewhere in recent years.
For example, in response to the significant pressure placed on Rabbi Uriel Lavi for him and his Beit Din to revoke their ruling which permitted the giving and receiving of a get after a husband had been in an accident that left him in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) as explained in the previous volume of Techumin, this volume contains an incredibly important essay by Dayan Deichovsky discussing whether it is permissible for a Beit Din to revoke their own ruling and concluding that the revocation of a ruling by a Beit Din in response to external pressure – including pressure by Gedolei Torah – is against halakha.
Interestingly, two essays in this volume discuss ‘Shaming’. The first by Rabbi Yehuda Zuldan explores the prohibition of public shaming and specifically shaming on social media and explains the different instances when such shaming may be permissible. This is followed by an essay by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Yaabetz addressing the question of shaming those who refuse to give a Get (religious divorce bill) and whether such shaming would undermine any subsequent get that is delivered (nb. he concludes that it wouldn’t!). Beyond this, there are also a number of articles in this volume exploring ways to avoid and address cases of Igun and Mamzerut.
As mentioned above, many of the articles in Techumin are written in response to developments and trends in the Jewish world. As Rabbis David and Avraham Stav explain in their essay on ‘Interruptions between the blessings at a Chuppah’, many couples wish to add further prayers, readings and songs to the Jewish wedding ceremony and often choose to do so between each of the Sheva Brachot. The question addressed by Rabbis Stav is whether this is permitted, to which they conclude that such additions and interruptions are permitted by others, but not by the bride and groom themselves.
Rabbi Aharon Bak discusses another practical question concerning the directionality of prayer in a synagogue where the ark is not in the direction of Jerusalem, or where some congregants when facing the ark are not directly facing Jerusalem. Though the general approach is to face Jerusalem if the ark is placed in a significantly different direction to Jerusalem, Rabbi Bak offered an alternative approach to consider whereby the ark should be the primary point of focus.
Despite its brevity, the article by Rabbi Asher Weiss packs a punch and emphasizes the halakhic duty to adhere to safety and traffic laws when driving while also noting that even where a particular action could be either legally or halakhically justifiable, general ethics, common sense and derech eretz must be taken into consideration.
In addition to this, Techumin Vol. 37 contains an essay by Rabbi Abraham Rasnikov about the use of cannabis for medical purposes, a piece by Rabbi Yehoshua Weissinger about the kashrut of inflatable sukkot, and article by Omer David about the halakhic times that need to be followed by those in a deep-water submarine.
Clearly, this summary cannot do justice to this volume, and there are many other important articles that I have not discussed. However, for those with good hebrew and an interest in serious halakhic study, this is a truly fascinating read. To see a list of all the articles in the volume, download any individual article, or order the volume itself, please click here.