Aspaqlaria Blog

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Anavah and Anvanus

The story of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza is very well known. It is introduced by Rabbi Yochanan, who asks, “’What is the meaning of the verse in Mishlei which reads, ‘Fortunate is the one who is always fearful, but the one who is hard of heart will fall to evil?’ (28:14) It was because of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza that...

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How Tish’ah beAv will End

The last Tish’ah beAv will end with us rushing to finally get to say “Hello!” to our shul-mates the way in years past we rushed to the table in the back with the orange juice and rugelach.

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The Interpersonal Aspect of Parah Adumah

The most fundamental difference between the kind of reasoning one finds in the Bavli with that one finds in the Yerushalmi is “vertical” vs. “horizontal”. The Bavli will drill down to get the full depth of an opinion, whereas the Yerushalmi will refuse to speculate about the implications of a position and will instead compare statements from various discussions to...

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Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City

Rav Shelomo al-Qabetz actually addresses much of Lekha Dodi to Jerusalem: “מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה — Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City.” “הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי \ לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי — Arise, get up from the dust / dress yourself in your glorious clothes, my nation.” “כְּבוד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּהּ — Hashem’s Glory is revealed upon you.” “וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר...

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There is a Person who Craves Benefiting Others

For the past three years or so, I belonged a va’ad led by haRav Naftali Kaplan shilit”a,the mashgiach and administrator of Yeshiva Netiv haDaas in Ramot. (His sons include Rav Avraham shilit”a, the Rosh Yeshiva, and Rav Nissan shilit”a, a popular maggid shiur in the Mir.) A few months after we began, the mashgiach gave out artistic cards that contained...

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Freedom

We learn in Bereishis 46:34 וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֗ם אַנְשֵׁ֨י מִקְנֶ֜ה הָי֤וּ עֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ מִנְּעוּרֵ֣ינוּ וְעַד־עַ֔תָּה גַּם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ גַּם־אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ בַּעֲב֗וּר תֵּשְׁבוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ גֹּ֔שֶׁן כִּֽי־תוֹעֲבַ֥ת מִצְרַ֖יִם כָּל־רֹ֥עֵה צֹֽאן׃ Then you shall say: Your servants have been cattle keepers from our youths until now, both we and our fathers. (Say this) so that you be settled in the land of Goshen, for the abomination of Egypt are...

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Pesel Mikhah

From Sanhedrin 103b: תניא רבי נתן אומר מגרב לשילה ג’ מילין והיה עשן המערכה ועשן פסל מיכה מתערבין זה בזה בקשו מלאכי השרת לדוחפו אמר להן הקב”ה הניחו לו שפתו מצויה לעוברי דרכים. A beraisa: Rabbi Nasan would say: From Gerev [the town which housed the idolatrous temple of Mikhah] to Shilo [where the Mishkan was located] was 3 mil...

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This Month Shall Be For you

In his first comment, Rashi opens his study of Chumash by repeating a medrash that asks why the Torah start with creation rather than with the first commandment to the Jewish People: הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃ This month [this stage of the moon (the L-rd “pointing it out” to Moses)] [Nissan] shall be to...

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Stan Wortman a”h

I thought I should write something about my late father-in-law. In truth, I am pretty unqualified — me, a boy who grew up in the yeshiva system and never fully left the bubble, “Pop-pop” Stan Wortman, who in his heyday belonged to such biker clubs as the “Chai Riders” and “Hillel’s Angels”. Philanthropic clubs to be sure, but still… My...

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Not Good!

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה’ אֱלֹקים לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ Hashem Elokim said: It is not good for the man to be alone; I shall make for him a helper opposite him. – Bereishis 2:18 וַיֹּ֛אמֶר חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֵלָ֑יו לֹא־טוֹב֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה עֹשֶֽׂה׃ נָבֹ֣ל תִּבֹּ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֕ה גַּם־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֤ד מִמְּךָ֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר לֹא־תוּכַ֥ל עֲשֹׂ֖הוּ לְבַדֶּֽךָ׃ Moshe’s father-in-law said...

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Recent Webinar: Three Worlds of Relationships

The class announcement from The Mussar Institute: Six Free Webinars for 2017 Pirkei Avot: Explorations in Root Principles Ask someone to translate the title “Pirkei Avot” and you are likely to be told “Chapters of the Fathers.” But that translation misses the essence of what this treasured section of the Mishnah — and this webinar series —  is all about....

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Who knows 4?

Someone named Ray asked on Mi Yodea (in part), “What is the special fundamental significance of the number four that God’s primary Name has four letters”? I liked how my answer came out, so I’m sharing it here. Bear with me, I am going to build things up the way the Seder song “Echad Mi Yodeia / Who knows one?”...

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A Thought About Maoz Tzur

(Updated again for 2009, 2013 and now in 2016.) One line in Ma’oz Tzur I particularly love. The 5th verse of Ma’oz Tzur describes the Chanukah story. One phrase in this verse is “ufortzu chomos migdalai“, which would be literally translated “and burst open the walls of my citadel”. Mentally, I used to picture breaking down the walls of the...

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Irrational Emotion

Rashi quotes Bereishis Rabba on this week’s parashah (Vayeishev) but then continues beyond what is in the medrash. וַיַּעֲזֹ֣ב כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ֮ בְּיַד־יוֹסֵף֒ וְלֹא־יָדַ֤ע אִתּוֹ֙ מְא֔וּמָה כִּ֥י אִם־הַלֶּ֖חֶם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא אוֹכֵ֑ל וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה׃ [Potiphar] left all he has in Yosef’s control (lit: hand) and didn’t think about anything of his except the food he was eating; and Yoseif was well...

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Welcoming Guests is Greater

Shabbos 127a: אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: גדולה הכנסת אורחים יותר מהקבלת פני השכינה, דכתיב “וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲ-דֹנָ֗י אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ, אַל־נָ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר מֵעַ֥ל עַבְדֶּֽךָ׃” Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Divine Presence. “[{Avraham} lifted his eyes, and he saw — behold, three men were standing above him; he saw, he...

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The CEO

The primary metaphor of the High Holidays is the King, sitting in judgment. Hashem rules, the world will run according to His Will regardless. On Rosh haShanah we coronate Hashem as King, so that He need not impose that Will as Dictator. However, I thought of another metaphor that holds some appeal to someone living in a 21st century democracy....

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Mas’ei — the Journey as a Name of G-d

Parashas Mas’ei opens with a description of Benei Yisra’el’s trip through the desert, and lists the forty-two stops made along the way. An oft-quoted Zohar identifies the stops in the desert with each of the letters in Hashem’s forty-two letter name. What’s the particular significance of the journeys and stops in Sinai that give them such cosmic significance? Taking a...

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Materialism Addiction

I was asked the following question, and I was happy with how the reply came out. I just received permission to post the exchange, minus identifying information. Question: I learn in yeshiva kollel in Yerushalayim,  and I was bothered by something that I don’t find anyone speaks about or I can ask to help. Every Rosh haShana we want to...

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G-d of the Gaps

The pagans worshipped deities to drive out the fear of the unknown. Blaming lightning on Thor does give the person hopes to control lightning by appeasing its god. But logically prior to that, blaming it on Thor takes it out of the realm of the unknown. And so the pagan associates the gods with things they don’t understand and can’t get...

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Internalizing Torah

A beraita (an early text later incorporated into the Talmud) in Avot (6:6) opens, “Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: …” And then the beraita truly lists virtues. Some are obviously linked to acquiring Torah, like the first...

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The Defining Mitzvos of Judaism

Relevant to why megillas Rus is read on Shavuos… Yevamos 47a explains what we must teach a prospective convert: ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות, ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני. ומודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, … וכשם שמודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, כך מודיעין אותו מתן שכרן… לא רוב טובה ולא רוב פורענות. ואין מרבין...

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From Your Homeland

Most young Yeshiva children come home sometime around Shavuos with the story of how Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, but only the Jews accepted it. The medrash, as told in the Yalqut Shim’oni, tells how first Hashem went to Edom and offered them the Torah. They asked, “What is written in it?” Hashem replied,...

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Why didn’t we catch up?

Last Pesach ended in Israel on Friday, and in the rest of the world on Shabbos. Which means that in Israel, Acharei Mos was read that week, while we in chutz la’aretz (outside of Israel; chu”l) read a holiday portion, saving Acharei Mos for the next week. In a leap year like this one, the two reading schedules stay out of...

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Free Will and Divine Providence

The notion that hashgachah peratis (personalized Divine Providence; HP) includes influence over every event dates back to the 18th century or so. The Lubavitcher Rebbe calls it a chidush (novellum) of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Chassidus) here. According to R Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Pirqei Emunah veHashgachah vol I, ma’amar 4) the innovation was the Vilna Gaon’s, although based on...

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Mesilas Yesharim and the Haggadah

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto opens Mesilas Yesharim with this questionable claim: הקדמה – אמר המחבר: החיבור הזה לא חברתיו ללמד לבני האדם את אשר לא ידעו, אלא להזכירם את הידוע להם כבר ומפורסם אצלם פירסום גדול. כי לא תמצא ברוב דברי, אלא דברים שרוב בני האדם יודעים אותם ולא מסתפקים בהם כלל, אלא שכפי רוב פרסומם וכנגד מה שאמתתם גלויה...