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Hakirah Vol. 31, Winter 2022 has shipped, and is also available from Amazon.

Marshall M. Joffe

Marshall M. Joffe (Moshe Mordechai ben Natan) z”l authored an article titled Danger in Sabbath Law: A Novel Perspective Using Causality and Statistics published in Volume 30 of Hakirah.  A few months later, on October 5 / 29 Tishrei, he passed away after a 35-year battle with multiple sclerosis. 

With an AB from Harvard, an MD from the University of Maryland, an MPH from Harvard, a PhD from UCLA, and a post-doc from Harvard, Marshall joined the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 and became a Professor of Biostatistics in 2012.  According to his department website, he earned international recognition for his development of both statistical methods and concepts in causal inference.  His work and expertise were crucial to the accurate, imaginative execution of many collaborative and applied research studies.  He published numerous professional articles and trained many students in his field and helped make Penn an international center for causal inference research. In 2019 an award for excellence in his field was named in his honor.

Marshall was a deeply devout and humble talmid hakham.  According to his rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg of Etz Chaim in Queens, “Marshall brought the same brilliance and persistence to his Torah study as to his secular studies, finishing Daf Yomi and Mishnah Yomit, and learning with numerous hevrutot, even in the most difficult of times for him. He was also a master ba'al k’riah. The halakhic system was so much a part of him that he asked the sh’eilot that others would have been too embarrassed to raise, and was ready to accept the answers no matter what the personal cost.” He didn’t lose faith, question, or complain about the many losses he faced as his illness progressed. 

Personally, Marshall was characterized by a deep modesty and humility. He did not promote himself or brag about his accomplishments (some of which he didn’t even reveal to his family). He was kind and cared about others, regularly cheering up his many friends and visitors. He always asked about how others were doing, whether his friends or colleagues or the staff that helped him at the rehabilitation center, and he truly cared about the answers, and for this, he earned tremendous respect from all who met him.

In addition to the article published in Hakirah, at the time of his death, Marshall was working on a second article blending statistics and halakhah which has been taken up by others to complete.

Marshall’s loss is deeply felt by his family, friends, and colleagues.  The scientific and halakhic worlds have lost a great scholar and a tremendous person.  May his memory be for a blessing and may his work continue to help and save lives long into the future.


Hakirah Volume 31, Winter 2022

This volume of Ḥakirah begins with the final installment of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zẓ”l’s, “Lectures on Genesis.” Here, the Rav explains that the concept of yemot ha-Mashiaḥ consists of the merger of the natural scientific order with the moral order. In delving into the connection between aggadah and halakhah he clarifies the Kabbalistic concept of the three Sabbath meals. The second essay in the Jewish Thought section, titled “A Light unto the Nation: R. Meir Simḥah of Dvinsk’s Approach to Nationhood and Zionism in Meshekh Ḥokhmah,” sheds light on the views of a gadol from the previous generation who had much in common with the Rav in the depth and breadth of his religious thought and in some of the positions he took with regard to confronting the modern world. The third essay in the section, “Ignoring the Writing on the Wall: Semiology vs. Metaphysics,” discusses the issue of creation and science from a unique perspective, incorporating the thought of a scholar who lived both in the world of the beit midrash and the university.

Our Talmud Torah section features two articles disputing claims made by Orthodox academic scholars that challenge fundamentals of our faith. In “Of Dogma & Dissimulation: Marc Shapiro’s Analysis of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised,” the author refutes the suggestion that Rambam was insincere in stating three of the ikkarei emunah. In “The Exodus and Historical Truth: A Critique of Ani Maamin by Joshua Berman and the Late Date Exodus Theory,” the author rejects the claim that the traditional dating of Israel’s Exodus cannot be reconciled with historic data. Other articles in this section feature acute textual analyses of traditional sources. “Emotion and Intent in Prayer” studies Rambam’s exact choice of words in Mishneh Torah when defining the religious experience of prayer as well as other mitzvot. “Untangling the Mystery of Women’s Hair Covering in Talmudic Passages” analyzes the individual Talmudic passages in Bavli and Yerushalmi to detect differing views regarding women covering their hair.

In the History of Halakhah section, the authors reveal facts known by few Talmudic scholars. “Yom Tov Sheini: Reasons and Relevance” shows that the geonim felt that Yom Tov Sheini was not an accommodation to those who did not know when Rosh Ḥodesh was, but rather an earlyor perhaps even Torah—law, to strengthen Judaism in the galut. The essay “The Origin and Evolution of ‘Masorat ha-Shas’” reveals the real originator of an important tool in Talmud study and traces the story of its misattribution. Another article in this section, “Let Him Bray: The Stormy Correspondence Between Samuel David Luzzatto and Elia Benamozegh,” tells the little-known story of two outstanding nineteenth-century Jewish religious figures who took “polar opposite positions with regard to the value of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah.”

In our Torah and Medicine section, two essays deal with the history of Jews in the modern western medical world. In “The Mystery of the Medical Training of the Many Isaac Wallichs: Amsterdam (1675), Leiden (1675), Padua (1683), Halle (1703),” the author solves a riddle with regard to the identity of an early Jewish university-trained medical student, and in so doing gives us a glimpse into the beginning of Jews entering the medical profession in Western Europe. And in “What Does It Mean to Be a Jewish Hospital in America Today?” the author gives us the history of Jewish hospitals in North America, beginning with a wave of them c. 1850.

The two Hebrew articles deal with issues related to death. One essay disputes a claim made in an earlier Ḥakirah article that halakhah allows a parent to excuse a child from avelut. The other article deals with the issue of whether communities should make up for the lost reading of the weekly parashah when communal services were disrupted by causes such as the Covid pandemic. In contrast, in our Minhag section the origin and meaning of the Jewish toast/blessing of L-Ḥayyim are traced.

Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought is a publication of Hakirah, Inc. a non-profit private foundation exempt under section 501 (c) (3).

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