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Listener Questions



In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we listen to voicemails sent in by you, our listeners, and reflect on the community we have built beyond our conversations.

  • Which episode is the favorite, or least favorite, of 18Forty listeners?
  • Why did David Bashevkin get outraged about pagination?  
  • Is “undoubtably” a word in the English language?

Tune in to hear a conversation between Batman and the Joker, and other fun feedback.  

Voicemails begin at 7:24.



IFC YouTube channel

Malka Simkovich: The Mystery Of The Jewish People

Bnei Yissaschar by Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov

Tzidkas HaTzaddik by Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin

Oz VeHadar Mesivta Talmud

Show and Tale

I Read This Over Shabbos

Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide by Aryeh Kaplan

The Birth of the Spoken Word by Dovid’l Weinberg

If You Were God by Aryeh Kaplan

Tefillin by Aryeh Kaplan

Waters of Eden by Aryeh Kaplan

David Bashevkin:
Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty Podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities, to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin. And this month we’re really off, but we’re continuing with our larger reflection that we do every so often on the podcast itself, and more importantly, on our community.

This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big juicy Jewish ideas. So be sure to check out, that’s, where you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings. There is a show that I don’t think airs anymore, that I absolutely loved when it came out. It hurt that I loved it because so many people recommended it to me.

Because I think sometimes the pretentiousness that the show mocks, they sometimes associated with myself. I think they were sending me clips with love, but it was a show that so often people will send me clips from. That show is Portlandia, which stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Super cute, super funny show. So many great clips. You could find them all on YouTube.
But they had this one clip, and it’s like a skit show, so there’re these quick skits. You can watch them independently. There wasn’t like a larger plot to really understand them. But in this particular clip, it imagined a police briefing after a murder.

And in the back of the room, as the police chief is briefing these fellow police officers in order to solve the crime, they had a podcast team who instead of body cameras to find out and to make sure that they’re acting properly, they had a podcaster kind of trailing them throughout their process. Listen in.

Other Actors:
This morning, just before 8:40 AM, police responded to a distress call at 101 Northeast Second Street. Officers entered the apartment and found the body of a man in his mid-forties with stab wounds to his chest and neck.

Fred Armisen:
The air is humid in Portland, Oregon. There’s an inescapable closeness that feels almost oppressive.

Carrie Brownstein:
I close my eyes and try to imagine growing up in a place like this, living with the feeling that I’ll never be able to leave.

Other Actors:
Hicks, do you want me to get rid of these guys? This is a closed briefing. There’s no press.

No, they’re good. We had the option between body cameras and podcasters. I went with the podcasters. My kids love them.

Fred Armisen:
I’m Darren Blum.

Carrie Brownstein:
And I’m Dana Blume.

Fred Armisen:
And this is Forgotten America, Rural Footprints.

Other Actors:
Pretty good old tune right there.

Carrie Brownstein:
It’s only been three hours since the body was discovered, but already this case is being badly bungled.

David Bashevkin:
So obviously this clip, it’s kind of hilarious. I always got a kick out of it. Check it out on YouTube. You could find it on the IFC YouTube channel. It’s called NPR Podcast. But to me, what it had me think about is the way kind of community works when you build a podcast. This is kind of mocking the fact that very often things that are very serious and very real can be filtered through this kind of like synthetic voice that’s taking you through these very real issues.

It’s something that I’m always conscious of. I don’t know that I always avoid it. But the things that we discuss here, like there is a realness to it. Sometimes it feels like I’m in the back of a police briefing that is talking about a very serious crime or in our case, a very serious struggle. And there you are in the back of the room, you know speaking into your mic in your whisper podcast-y voice. And that’s always something that I’ve been a little hesitant about, maybe a little self-conscious about, in order to avoid that.

But on the flip side, and something that we’ve mentioned so many times, I want to avoid just being an interview. We want to foster the kind of questions, the kind of communal identity formation that we’re all in this journey together. This journey, not of 18Forty, the journey of life. The journey of being able to construct meaning in our lives.

And in the process of doing it together, one of the ways is we listen in on other people’s journeys. We listen in other people’s discoveries. Very often we listen into journeys and paths that don’t necessarily cohere or sometimes we could find upsetting in the way that we reflect on our own lives. I think that that’s okay.
If we only listen to people who are exactly on our path and contending with exactly the same issues as us, I’m not sure that we’d get very far. We’d end up all talking to ourselves in a room. But being able to process and provide a lens through what I think is the most essential part of our lives, which is the way that we construct meaning, the way we find satisfaction and spiritual nourishment in our lives, is one of the holiest projects.

It’s one of the most holy priorities that we could center in our lives. And part of that is not just listening to experts in the field. Part of it is not just long-form interviews. Part of it is finding out avenues that we could gather together digitally, virtually to feel some sense of community and listen in, and provide feedback on what we’ve been hearing and what we’ve been listening to.

Which is why for me the listener feedback episode has become so, so important. It takes the lens that we’ve been providing, that we’ve been constructing together, through the topics that we’ve dealt with and gives an opportunity for our listeners to also be a part in shaping the journey and providing feedback. So it’s really with that introduction that I am so excited to introduce…

Again, it’s like the summer break. We have these two weeks off before we come back to our next topic that’s going to drop the very end of August. But in the meantime, I thought this was a nice opportunity to connect together as a community. If you’re interested, of course, you can go back and look at some of the topics that we discussed earlier in this month. Books, Books, Books.
And be sure to check out all the videos that we’ve been dropping on our YouTube channel, 18Forty on YouTube. The Show and Tale series, the “I Read This Over Shabbos” series. A lot of new exciting projects coming out under the 18Forty banner, the 18Forty initiative. And of course our series and all of the online content we dropped as part of the 18Forty magazine for our series on loss.

But for right now, I thought before we get to our next big topic, we could spend two weeks reflecting on what this project is about. Last week, we dropped an episode where somebody interviewed me. I hope that was somewhat entertaining and interesting. I’m always a little bit ambivalent about that. But more importantly, to listen to our listeners and hear, what is the feedback? What are the questions? What is bubbling up in our listeners’ lives? So please, listen in together with me to the voicenotes that we’ve been receiving.

And of course, you are always welcome to send us a voice note. That number that we say in every outro is of course, 917-720-5629. Again, that’s 917-720-5629. In case we get in any trouble, just another reminder. If you leave us a voice note, unless you specify otherwise, we’re going to assume that you’re okay with it being played on air. If you don’t want being played on air, please just make that very clear. But here are some listener feedback that we have received over the past few months.

Listener Voicemail 1:
Hey David, thanks so much for tackling the topic of faith within the community, within members of the community, and the challenges that questions of faith bring. As someone who has seriously grappled and struggled with belief while also having an intense desire to maintain a place within the community for familial, for communal reasons, for familiarity reasons, I think it’s something that really touched me.

And I think it’s something that is much more prevalent, which is something that you noticed, within the community than many people think. I’ve mostly seen it amongst younger men, younger fathers. For me personally, I’ve struggled with this intensely. It’s something that I feel is stuck. Essentially, this feeling of being in a place where there’s no out.

You’re basically in a position where you don’t want to leave something, but your brain can’t handle the incongruity of staying there as well. And I’ve spent many an hour in therapy in figuring out how to grapple with it. Not looking for somebody to change my mind about my religious dogma or lack thereof. But also not somebody suggesting, “Just leave this.”

Because neither solution would work. It’s dealing with that frustration. It’s a very challenging and exhausting problem to have, and I very much appreciate you working through those problems and talking about it. I don’t think rabbis have answers to these questions en masse, certainly not the ones that I’ve spoken to about it.

And you know, I think it’s just a huge struggle for many more people than the community wants to let on. I guess the last couple thoughts I have on it, and this is probably running longer than you would typically like. One, I think a lot of people struggle with the intellectual side of things. And it’s not hedonistic reasons why a lot of the people that I know struggle with religion.

They enjoy the communal aspect. They just don’t believe either that God exists, or that God gave the Torah to Moshe. Often my experience has been that I started with struggling with rabbinic requirement and rabbinic development, and why things stopped evolving in Pumpedisa, to use a phrase. And why things are narrowing and that evolved.

To the point that Strauss was making, I do think that there are fundamentally two types of thinkers. There are believers and truth seekers. Believers stand on their mountain and unless you can disprove them without a shadow of a doubt, they still believe, and that’s sort of the person he was talking to.
A truth seeker has no predispositions, is assessing the evidence based on the preponderance of the evidence, I suppose whether it’s more likely than not that things happened exactly as rabbinic Judaism believes. And they make decisions based on belief, based on that preponderance of the evidence.

So Judaism needs to tip the scale and often it doesn’t. That’s the challenge. Should Judaism even be able to stand up to these questions? Does it have to? Rabbis often welcome questions, but what happens when those questions result in antithetical beliefs? The rabbis really often have nothing left to say to you.

David Bashevkin:
So that was incredibly powerful. I appreciate those voice notes a lot, because I do get a lot of pushback from people who would prefer that we don’t speak about these things. And I’ll be honest, I was one of them myself. I resisted very long for talking about these matters of faith. A, because the first time we tried to do it, I stepped into a little bit of a mess. But secondly, because I didn’t think there was that many people who were interested in it.

And I have now been thoroughly convinced otherwise. That very often we convince ourselves that there is not an intellectual frustration that animates people’s dissonance. It certainly doesn’t animate everyone’s dissonance. But there are a lot of people who are really struggling with these issues and they want to understand how does the practice today that I observe connect with what I am reading, with what I am seeing in the Gemara.

We do plan on having a major series about this, coming up probably after the Yamim Tovim, which hopefully will shed light and hopefully not be the end of 18Forty, that people come and slice my head off. But I think more than anything else, what we’ve done and created together is recognizing collectively that this is not a fringe niche issue, and expanding the issues that animates people’s difficulty.

When they want to stay, they want to be a part of this, they want to make it work, and they probably have too much education or too much of their own communal experiences that the neat-pat answers that worked for so many, it doesn’t work for everybody. They want something with maybe a little bit more sophistication, that maybe is a little bit more individualized and getting in the weeds a little bit more about what is yiddishkeit that we are practicing? What is Jewish practice all about?

And it is something that I am committed to exploring further. Obviously I always like to space it out. The analogy I always give when I talk to Mitch about this project is with like actors, who they always say, “One for me and one for you.” Actors will do one for you. One like big budget film, a Marvel movie, a superhero movie, that’s for the masses. And then one for me, that’s some niche indie film. To me, that philosophy plays out in 18Forty also. We don’t just talk about, kind of in the weeds, the development of Judaism through the generations.

We also want to talk about… I don’t want to call them lighter issues. I really don’t, because they’re equally heavy and equally important in my mind. But at least issues that are not explicitly theologically driven. And we are topic oriented so we have the luxury of doing deep dives in one subject, going to another topic, and then coming back to other subjects. I don’t know. In a way, maybe overall it loses more people. I always say, “We’d be a lot better off if we just interviewed Mordechai Ben David every week.” Mordechai, if you’re listening, we want you.

But even with that not being the case, the variety of topics that we’re able to cover, I think, allows over the course of many months to get a more holistic portrait of what navigating these issues in Jewish life, and our emotional lives, and our family lives, and our sociological lives, what that can be. It doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be alienating. It doesn’t have to be isolating. We can find a way out from this and I am absolutely committed to doing so. Okay. Our next voicemail.

Valerie from Teaneck, Listener Voicemail 2:
Dear fellow listeners, it’s Valerie from Teaneck. This voicemail is being read via prepared statement that will take about 30 seconds. Understand sometimes the person has summed up all the courage they have and just need to leave a message when they need to leave it.

But other times I’d like my fellow listeners to consider writing down their thoughts first and reading it from a prepared statement, as it can make their messages more easily understood. And it will be shorter, I promise. Thank you.

David Bashevkin:
There. I am laughing right now at how awesome that voicemail was. A prepared statement and you see the brevity, clocking it at 30 seconds, exactly. Yes, sometimes our voicemails, and every voicemail at some point is like, “This is probably too long,” and they usually are. It’s been a while but I feel like people stopped leaving voicemails. Like who leaves a voicemail? It’s like an act of violence.

I don’t get that many voicemails. I hate voice notes. And this suggestion is both hilarious and wonderful, which is maybe write it out. Because I like hearing people’s voices. I don’t want it to just be emails. I think sometimes we get, thank God, a lot of emails. And we have a lot of people who reach out and we connect to in person. But I love the idea of being able to feature people.

But yes, Valerie from Teaneck is correct. Valerie, thank you so much for calling in with this advice. Sometimes writing it out beforehand ensures that whatever you want to say is maybe as succinct and as clearly stated as possible. Thank you, Valerie. Our next voicemail is from a personal friend, somebody I know, who is a rabbi in the larger community, and I am so excited that he reached out.

Judah Kerbel, Listener Voicemail 3:
Hi Rabbi David, this is Judah Kerbel calling. This is a bit meta. I actually wanted to respond to the listener calls. I hope at some point I’ll share thoughts on substantive topics as well. But as much as you made that self-denigrating point about people are still listening. I really listened to the whole thing, all the way through. I really enjoyed the listener calls and your comments on them.
I was especially intrigued by the discussion on the interdenominational marriage and addressing that topic of how Orthodoxy relates to the other denominations. I think as you know, I grew up Conservative. My wife grew up in a family where everyone was frum going back generations. And although we occupy similar hashkafic truths at this point, I come from a Conservative background and that brought out certain differences.

When we were dating, we were engaged, there’re certain things that we had to navigate. And I think you’re really right, that this would be part of the meaningful relationships building process and learning mutual respect for each other, for each other’s families, for appreciating people who come from different places. So the voicemails being played, I definitely want to wish mazel tov to the couple.
But what I really wanted to respond to was your reticence about discussing topic of Orthodoxy and the other denominations. As a rabbi myself, I navigate this tension of wanting sometimes to say something real and not get my head chopped off. I think we all face that. But if I can give any feedback, I think this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I think there are many misconceptions of how the movements view each other. I have my own opinions of how Orthodoxy sometimes views Conservative Judaism and vice versa.

But I think we need to constantly be relearning how we can be a people together despite our differences. And if you’re able to muster up the gal at some point to address this issue, I think that you would be the perfect person to address this in a way that’s substantive, respectful, but also really gets at the real juicy things that we need to discuss. So if I can give my strong encouragement, I wish you much hatzlacha if you’re able to address this topic.

David Bashevkin:
I absolutely love this voicemail. Judah, I know personally. He is an Orthodox rabbi who grew up Conservative. It’s so interesting. So many of my favorite Orthodox Jews grew up in Conservative homes. I can almost sometimes tell who our children of Conservative rabbis. There was a demographic probably from the 70s and 80s, where not most but many Conservative rabbis, sent their children to Orthodox schools.

I don’t know how frequent that is anymore. And their children very often gravitated towards the Orthodox community. I want to state this delicately, but there’s a certain decency, there’s a certain kindness, a certain rhythm, in the way that they interact with people that I find absolutely moving, charming, and so sweet and kind and decent. And I don’t know. There’s something there.
I am nervous to talk about denominations because denominations is the level of institutional preservation. It’s not dealing with individuals. And institutions, by definition, their number one priority is self preservation.
They’re not as in touch with the volatility and change that every individual, no matter the denomination or institution, experiences on the individual level. Institutions are meant to be umbrella groups that frame and have that stability.
When you discuss those differences in a nuanced way, not in a charactered way, not in a PC way, any discussion like that, lines, I don’t know, they can maybe get fuzzier. They can maybe get blurred and it is an easy way to catch the ire of institutions when they feel that you are blurring important lines.
I want to be absolutely clear. Our ideological differences between the different nominations are on very important points. My goal would never be to blur the importance of the points, but maybe to give some context for how they came about where they are now.

Even with that being said, I happened to 100% agree with Judah. It is time to, I think he used the phrase, revisit and relearn. To relearn. Those differences change. Institutions change and differences change over time.
And the differences that we may have had in the 1940s are not the same differences that we had in the 1840s, and are not the same differences that we have in 2022. The differences absolutely endure. Institutional differences absolutely endure.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t revisit and discuss maybe with a different lens. I hope, it’s listeners like you, Judah, who reach out and leave these kind messages, that give me not just the strength to overcome my fears of getting my head chopped off, which you and I have both used that phrase.
But more than anything else, the importance of it. Meaning we can’t shy away from important conversations. This is an important conversation and one that I will come to, so I so appreciate that suggestion.

Listener Voicemail 4:
Hello, David. I just finished the podcast about, trying to think of her last name. Wow. Really, really fascinating. I’m glad that you led off in the intro, the desire to really delve into the piece of how Torah sh’Baal Peh evolved into what it is today to some extent. It’s a little bit of a scary comment.
But at the same time, I know that bit or that few minutes of discussion around how it was at the time of Beis HaMikdash and how, now the world people sort of stuck to and evolved their own yiddishkeit through the text. It’s really, really, really fascinating. And I would love for you to really delve into that further.

David Bashevkin:
I am so gratified by the feedback we got specifically from the interview and conversation we have with Professor Malka Simkovich. I think it’s the only conversation we ever had that has ranked as people’s most favorite and least favorite conversation.
There are some people who found some of what she said, I would say, deeply upsetting. We mentioned that in an earlier reflection that we had last week, and I think that that’s fine. I think sometimes we do hear things that are deeply upsetting and that’s okay.
We don’t have to agree with anything that we hear. And there are some people who found her approach to be incredibly illuminating and eye opening and powerful. I personally found it deeply powerful, particularly the way that she grounds yiddishkeit, the founding idea of belief in the Jewish people, belief in the chosenness of the Jewish people.
But I would say two things. First, in anecdote, you should know when I had this interview, I have a family member. I’m not going to say who. But I have a family member who is incredibly, incredibly smart, one of the smartest people I know. And this family member almost never comments on 18Forty, I think rarely listens to 18Forty.
The only time that I’ve heard from this incredibly bright family member was in reference to this interview, called me up in the middle. This is somebody who, again, deeply committed, deeply observant, really, really bright and said this was one of the most intelligent discussions that this family member had ever heard. And it was very, very gratifying.
I would just say two things. Number one, we did talk about some sensitive things. We began the conversation talking about rationality, and then like we veered into all these other things, like how you ground your faith. And we veered into all of these other subjects, which I think are so, so important. And it’s okay for some people…
Some people were upset by different things in the episode. Some people didn’t like the way she spoke about frum points. Which again, I don’t know where you operate, but everybody has some notion of frum points. Come on, now. But some people found it a little cynical and that’s okay.
And some people had issues with the way that she grounded the chosenness of the Jewish people. We touched upon some of the issues that people have with chosenness. There were a lot of issues in that interview that people found, I think the right word is, provocative.
Which is why I’m really proud that it was one of the episodes that was people’s most favorite, and there were some people that it was their least favorite. That’s how you know that you really provoked thought provoking ideas, which is everything that we’re trying to do.
Another thing that was unique about this episode is the moment that we finished, I emailed Dr. Simkovich. I emailed Malka. I know her. And I said right then and there, “We have to do a follow-up.” I knew it even before we published. And we are already working not just on a follow-up episode, but on an entire series.
That’s going to be not only reflecting on that particular interview, but really more methodically looking at that second temple period, the emergence of rabbinic Judaism. That, God willing, will be dropping very early in the coming months. Stay tuned for that. But thank you so much for reaching out.

Listener Voicemail 5:
Shalom aleichem Reb Dovid. I just wanted to say how much I really, really appreciate the content that you put out on 18Forty. It’s really, really incredible. I was just listening to the new episode you just put out on books. And you mentioned at the very beginning that you felt that the three people who you’re speaking to are three of the most major publishers of today.
I wanted to just make a quick observation that although those three are obviously very, very big, but I think that there’s someone who’s being excluded from that list. Maybe even more prominent than some of those is Rabbi Leifer from Oz Vehadar. Now you could say this maybe because I personally live in more yeshivishcircles, but the work that Oz Vehadar has done just putting out beautiful gemaras from kisvei yad, comments from kisvei yad that virtually every single beis midrash today has.
And besides for that, they put out commentaries, elucidated commentaries opening up the world of the Bnei Yissaschar to people to now learn and opening up the Megillahs and opening up… I was just reading one on Rav Tzadok opening up to people who had totally been closed to, and exposing them through the real content and real Torah learning right there. So I just wanted to share that with you to say maybe that there’s another person there whose impact on the Jewish community today is felt by many, many people around the world. Thank you very much.

David Bashevkin:
Okay. I love this voicemail for a few reasons. Number one, we got a lot of feedback from our books topic, that we’re excluding people. Now, I think people understand, I never mean to exclude. Sometimes… That’s not true. I sometimes do mean to exclude. But on this topic, a few people reached out. We have friends in Mosaic, we have friends in Feldheim. The Hebrew publishing world has absolutely exploded.
So why did I pick those three? I don’t know, maybe they were the three. We did ArtsScroll, Koren and Schocken. They’re not necessarily the three biggest. Schocken is actually pretty small. But I don’t know. The history of the press interested me and I hope one day we’ll get to other presses. I hope one day we’ll talk to bookstores.
The other feedback I got from that series, which I love and I’m going to remedy, is we didn’t highlight enough children’s books, and absolutely we’re in the plans right now of having children’s books. But let’s talk about Oz Vehadar. I don’t know if all of our listeners know what that is, but there is a volume of Oz Vehadar that is sitting right next to me right now. Oz Vehadar is a publisher that I believe is based in New Square.
And they put out what is known as the Mesivta Talmud, which is all in Hebrew. It is footnoted as several sections. I use it. I have the entire set of Mesivta on the sections of the Talmud of both Mo’ed and Nashim. I also have Brachos which is part of Zera’im. And I absolutely love Oz Vehadar. It’s such a charming and awesome suggestion.
I’ll tell you a brief story, because it’s a pretty niche suggestion. It’s not somebody who I would have immediately thought to have on 18Forty. But he’s right. And he mentioned Rabbi Leifer, who runs Oz Vehadar. Now, I in fact know that. Why? Because I have spoken to Rabbi Leifer. When did I call Rabbi Leifer? It was not for 18Forty. It was when I was in yeshiva.
When I was in yeshiva, I would study Gemara, Rashi, Tosfos. Those are the commentaries on the page. And then I would go to the back and I would learn the Rif and then Ran. Depending on the Ran, Rabbi Nissim is one of the Rishonim. And then the Rosh, another one of the Rishonim.
And then sometimes I would do the Tur, Beis Yosef. But I basically really read my set of Talmud cover to cover. It was an Oz Vehadar Talmud. And I would read the Rif, Rav Yitzchak Alfasi. Those who have really been following for a long time will remember that was the book that Dr. Haym Soloveitchik recommended to our listeners to read, which I thought was very cute and sweet and charming and amazing and tells you so much about Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, that that was his recommendation.
But I would read the Rif in the back and what Oz Vehadar, which does amazing work. And he mentioned the Oz Vehadar edition of Rav Tzadok’s work. They put out a Tzidkas HaTzaddik. I believe I know the author who put out the Tzidkas HaTzaddik. He’s an English speaking Amshinover chassid who lives in Bnei Braknow. I’ve contributed to his works. Really an incredible, incredible, incredible person.
But coming back to the Mesivta and why I called Rabbi Leifer. The Oz Vehadar Talmuds that I would read, not the Mesivta Talmud, but the regular Talmuds volumes that they put out. They changed the pagination of the Rif from what was known as the old tzuras hadaf, which is the setup, the layout of the page. They changed it and updated and made it more… Gave it nicer font and nicer… On the top in brackets, they explained to you how it correlated to the old pagination.
And I’m going to be honest, I was outraged. This made me furious. Because I spent so much time in the old pagination of the Rif. I was old school. Look at me, David Bashevkin, this was at the peak probably of my yeshivish powers. I was so outraged by changing the pagination. I called up Rabbi Leifer and I begged him to continue putting out the Rif with old pagination. I was devastated. I really was. And I love their work. I’m not knocking it, God forbid. But I never bought another Oz Vehadar Talmud after they changed the pagination of the Rif.
And God willing, if we ever have Rabbi Leifer on, this is such a niche discussion. I hope our listeners don’t kill me for going into it, because I love it. But if we ever have Rabbi Leifer on, we will absolutely debate it out on their decision to change the tzuras hadaf, the layout, the pagination of the Rif of Yitzchak Alfasi in the back of the Gemara. I’m so glad somebody brought this up to the 18Forty podcast. Our next voicemail.

Mel Berenholz, Listener Voicemail 6:
Hello Reb David, this is Mel Berenholz. I was just elatedly listening to an old podcast with Shira Berkowitz. In the intro, which was very good, you twice misspoke. You said, “Undoubtably.” There is no such word. The word is undoubtedly. I Googled it and it’s a common mistake because people hear it wrong. But if something is true, it’s undoubted and if you say something about it, then it’s undoubtedly, and not undoubtably. So just a quick call to let you know about that.

David Bashevkin:
Before I respond, and brace yourselves, because Mel Berenholz and those listeners, if you ever listen to one of these episodes. If I am in my own mind Batman, he is our Joker. If I am Superman in my own head, he is Lex Luthor. We know each other well. I love him. I love that he sends these in, but we’ve got one more before I respond.

Mel Berenholz, Listener Voicemail 7:
Hi, Reb David. This is Mel Berenholz again with a comment more typical for me about some of the language that you used in the episode on books, books, books. You referred to the mechaber of the Shulchan Aruch as Rav Yoseph Cairo. His name is Rav Yoseph Karo, K-A-R-O. Has nothing to do with the city of Cairo. It’s a very common mistake, but I don’t think you should propagate it. And in the future, please pronounce his name properly. Rav Yoseph Karo.
You said Rav Hutner was very peculiar and very specific about what he would quote. I think you meant to say Rav Hutner was very particular, not peculiar, about what he would quote. Then finally, for now, you said something about chomping at the bits. The expression is chomping at the bit. A horse, when somebody’s riding on it, has a bit in its mouth. Doesn’t have multiple bits. And therefore the expression when somebody is trying to do something, to say they’re chomping at the bit, not multiple bits. Thank you.

David Bashevkin:
God bless Mel Berenholz. I cannot get enough of his corrections. They bring me great joy. And my comparison, of course, to Lex Luthor and to Joker is not because of the sheer, how villainous his corrections are. And they certainly are. It really is because any great superhero, any great effort, is only as good as his best villain. And the work we do here is only as good as the comments and feedback we get, particularly from the ever villainous Mel Berenholz, who picks up on every detail.
I know him well. He comes to my shiur. He knows that. I love him. He knows that. And I listen to each of these with a smile and I’m going to deliberate… What did I say? I undoubtedly… I undoubtedly enjoy all of his corrections though I will undoubtedly continue to make mistakes. We have one more from him on a topic that many people reached out about.

Mel Berenholz, Listener Voicemail 8:
Hi David, this is Mel Berenholz again. This time with a perhaps more substantive comment, as opposed to my comments about language. I thoroughly approve of your new series about books, books, books. I love books although I cannot even try to keep up with you reading a book a week. I enjoyed the first episode very much with all the interviews, with the important publishers. But I am very puzzled as to how you could choose major publishers and not even mention Mossad HaRav Kook. It can’t be because they’re based in Israel, because Koren is also based in Israel.
I’m guessing that you didn’t include them because the books they publish are in Ivrit. But I think you should have explained that, if that was the basis of your selection. So I hope you will play this comment and take the opportunity to explain how you selected your universe of publishers from which you chose three. And in particular, why Mossad HaRav Kook was not included. Thank you.

David Bashevkin:
Another pushback for who we included in the books, books, books series. And I want to assure our listeners that it was nothing malicious. It was not the canon of who was important and who was not important. There are many topics and books, books, books is one of them that I hope and plan from the outset to come back to over and over again. That’s why it’s books, books, books. It wasn’t just one book. We’re going to be coming back this again.
And I could not agree more, Mossad HaRav Kook has done so much in their annotations and their… I don’t even know where to begin with Mossad HaRav Kook. My house has plenty of volumes that they have published. They are, I think, entirely in Hebrew. I’ve done some serious damage at the annual Mossad HaRav Kook sale when I would spend time, when I lived in Israel, when I was in Yeshivat Shaalvim, and that definitely in the future will be included. On to our next voicemail.

Elise Sharon, Listener Voicemail 10:
Good morning, Rabbi Bashevkin. This is Elise Sharon calling. I absolutely love listening to your podcast. I just wanted to let you know, you probably have already gotten this feedback from someone else, but I think the word you were looking for when you were describing your reading is voracious.
Vociferous, I believe, is referring to more a loud decibel volume for speech tone. I think you meant a voracious reader. That was it. I know you don’t necessarily like getting these types of calls and feedback, but I just had to share.

David Bashevkin:
Elise, have you been hanging out with Mel Berenholz? Be honest. I really do love it. I think it’s a part of the joy. I trip over my words all the time. I am unfortunately not scripted and you are absolutely right. It is voracious and not vociferous. The real word is voracious.
That is the danger of trying to use fancier words than you know how to pronounce, a tight rope high wire act that I do all the time when recording these episodes. And sometimes more often than not, I fall off of that high wire. It is the listeners like Elise, like the Mel Berenholz, who are there to catch me and correct me. I really do appreciate it. I enjoy it. It’s a part of the joy.

I’m going to continue mispronouncing words until the very end of time. Because as I’ve mentioned before, anyone who is mispronouncing a word. Not anyone, but many times, the people who are mispronouncing words means that they learned them through reading and never heard them pronounced. This wasn’t a case of that. I can’t blame that. Elise is right. I just got two words confused. It wasn’t a mispronunciation. It was just using the wrong word.
And I also wanted to show our audience, do you see what I have to put up with here? I’m getting killed. I’m getting killed here. Oh, Lordy. I need a cold drink of water. I think I need a hug more than anything else. But thank you so much, Elise. I’m teasing. I so appreciate you calling in with that correction. On to our next voicemail.

Listener Voicemail 11:
Hi, big fan of the pod. Just one feedback I have, and I know this is the first iteration of it, but I noticed that you guys have started doing YouTube channels, two channels, that’s so yeshivish. You’re posting now YouTube content, which is great. Think a great way to amplify it is by putting the video in the show’s notes. I noticed that the latest with Michelle Margolis, you talk about the video, which is great. But definitely putting it on the show’s notes would be very helpful.

David Bashevkin:
We’ve built up a really great community in the podcast space and we’re trying to build a YouTube community. And surprise, we stink at it. It’s a new initiative. We’re trying our best. We started with two different series, one called Show and Tale, which is we go into both public and private libraries and learn about some of the treasures from Jewish history.
The other is more content and more videos around, I Read This Over Shabbos. So we share videos, tips, some of my favorite books, unboxing. You can find all of that on our YouTube channel. If you go to YouTube and search for 18Forty, 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y, or on Instagram, 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y. This is part of building a new audience, I’ll be the first to admit.
People who have built fantastic YouTube audiences, like my dearest friend, Yaakov Langer, who is the absolute king of all Jewish media, but he’s certainly the king of YouTube. He’s voicednoted to me with tips in the past on this. I was honest with him, like, we actually stink at this. And I remember what this was like.
Because so much of our growth, all of our 18Forty growth has basically all been organic. We’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to put stuff out there that people are like, “No, thank you. We are not interested.” But finding out a way to integrate it into the podcast notes.
And if you’re listening and you have the time, and you want to go onto YouTube or Instagram, we would post it on the reels. But on YouTube, it’s again, both our 18Forty, 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y and hit a subscribe. Check out a video. Maybe you like it. Maybe you hate it. The subscribing really helps. It really helps us build that audience. Same with the podcast, same with any community.
I don’t know that it’s going to take off, but my one promise as always with everything is that we are always going to do our best to find the types of ideas, voices, and experiences that work within the medium and are aligned with the overall mission of 18Forty, and providing that type of depth, sophistication with a little bit of whimsy.
There’s always got to be a little bit of whimsy. And we will try to include that on our YouTube channel as well. So again, check us out, subscribe on YouTube, on Instagram. It really does mean a great deal and helps us grow. We have one more voice note.

Neil Harris, Listener Voicemail 11:
Hi, my name is Neil Harris. I would like to say that I’m a first time caller, but this is actually my third attempt to do this. Maybe you could do a show about bloopers because I’m sure you have a few of them. I wanted to take a moment and address the question you had in terms of books that excite your readers from the podcast with the three editors. I wanted to mention two that are actually connected. One of them published by Shocken in 1985, which is Jewish Meditation, a Practical Guide by the late Rav Aryeh Kaplan.
It’s a fascinating book. Even if you’re not into meditation per se, there’s lots of practical advice. Specifically, there’s a chapter on shema as well as shmonei esrei that talks about what one’s kavanas should be for that. And something that transformed my davening. I only started reading it in 1992, but something I refer to quite often connected with that partially is a more recent book that came out by Rav Dovid’l Weinberg called The Birth of the Spoken Word.
It is a fascinating book that explores my relationship with HaShem via personal prayer or hisbodedus And it’s framed around the story of creation and Bereishis. It also has tons of sources. I mean, the footnotes are fantastic. It’s got tons of sources, everything from the gambit from Rav Jonathan Sacks to Rav Soloveitchik, to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Rav Kook. It’s just unbelievable.
For myself personally, I found it to be really helpful in terms of not just having an active, passionate relationship with HaShem via personal prayer. But even more so it really grounded and focused my daily shachris, mincha, and maariv davening with a siddur It’s just really a fantastic book. Anyhow, thank you so much for everything and take care.

David Bashevkin:
I absolutely love these suggestions from our friend Neil, and thanks so much for him calling in. Number one, he mentioned a bloopers episode. There’s got to be a bloopers episode. These are obviously edited. I think once we did an episode with me trying to pronounce the word circumambulatory, which I have become slightly more proficient at pronouncing though I’m still not perfect at it.
But if we ever strung together all of the uncut recordings with all of my ums, with all of my trying to look things up, remember a word, remember a name, remember a book, that would be a very messy, sloppy… But it would give you a peak of what really goes into this. Because it is not always smooth sailing. I do not have a script in front of me. So there are a lot of pauses that get taken out by our incredible editor, Denah Emerson.
Both of those recommendations are fantastic, as some listeners may or may not know. I actually republished the collected writings of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan with NCSY under ArtScroll publishers. We put it out with ArtScroll and we republished the pamphlets that he put out. If You Were God, Tefillin, Waters of Eden, some of the absolute classics. And I have been influenced so much, not just by the ideas of Rav Aryeh Kaplan, but more importantly from his writing style and his story. His life story, which I’ve always found deeply moving.
And the second recommendation, which is a friend, Dovid’l Weinberg, I go all the way back with Dovid’l Weinberg. And aside from the book recommendation, I really hear it as a topic recommendation. One of the topics that I’ve been working on, and if listeners have suggestions with this, it’s a topic I really want to get to. And that is the topic of prayer. And Dovid’l Weinberg has a book that does an absolutely fantastic job of opening up of the world of prayer can be in your life.
I’m trying to figure out the right angle to approach it. But both of those suggestions are absolutely phenomenal, and I’m so appreciative of him calling in. And you should know, and on our website on, we will be dropping a new series called The Books That Made Us. We will be highlighting different book lists from some previous guests, maybe some listeners.
Again, check out Sign up for our emails where you will get more information about all of our new series, because we are rapidly expanding, thank God. One of the ways that we want to expand is all things book culture. It’s not just in the summertime when we talk books, books, books. People love book lists. They love hearing book lists from other scholars, thinkers, educators. And we will be sharing those book lists in a new series, I hope, called The Books That Made Us. So please check that out on

I’m so appreciative to all of our listeners who reached out with questions, ideas. Obviously we have so many emails, some of which that we’re going to read to you on future episodes, especially ones that relate to the specific topic. Please continue reaching out. I love hearing the voicemails. They bring smiles, laughter. They’re thought provoking. It’s really, really special to have a community where people feel comfortable taking their time and calling up our voicemail number, which once again, is 917 720 5629. Again, 917 720 5629.

So thank you so much for listening. This episode, like so many of our episodes, was edited by our dear friend, Denah Emerson. And it wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of Jewish guilt. So if you enjoyed this episode or any episode, please subscribe, rate, review, tell your friends about it. You can also donate at
This all really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. You can also leave us a voicemail with questions or feedbacks as we’ve mentioned throughout this episode. In case you didn’t write it down the first 10 times, that we may play it in a future episode. That number is 917 720 5629.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered in the past, be sure to check out That’s the number 1-8, followed by the word Forty,, where you can also find videos, articles, recommended readings, weekly emails, all sorts of good stuff. Be sure to sign up for our weekly email list. Thank you so much for listening and stay curious, my friends.