Aspaqlaria Blog

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Ki Sisa — Nature and Revelation

1- Shemos 32:19: The mistake that led to the eigel was thinking Moshe had inherent qedushah, and therefore they needed an an inherently holy eigel to replace him. Therefore, Moshe breaks the first luchos, despite their being carved and written by G-d, forcefully demonstrating that even they don’t have inherent qedushah. 2- Shemos 32:16: The luchos could be read from...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Tetzaveh – Mizbeiach & Aron

Hashem (Shemos 29:42) speaks of revealing Himself from the entrance of the Ohel Mo’eid, from where the daily tamid was offered. And yet elsewhere we learnt that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the keruvim, atop the aron. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk uses this contrast to discuss: What is the role of each of these keilim within the purpose of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Terumah – Who can be a Talmid Chakham?

The Torah (Shemos 26:15) says that the poles used to carry the aron may not be removed from it. Even when the Mishkan was assembled, and the aron wasn’t being moved. Why? What lesson can we take from this? Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk takes two lessons — one pragmatic about how it takes a village to have a talmid chakham,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Mishpatim – Personal and National Religion

What happened between Shemos 24:3 “kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem na’aseh” and v. 7 “kol asher diver Hashem na’aseh venishmah”? Why did we accept the Torah twice, using two different terminologies? Audio:   Video: שמות כ״ד:ג-ז וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ה֔׳ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה֖׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ג – 3 Moses went and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Yisro – Intellect or Action?

The Meshekh Chokhmah on Shemos 20:18 discusses Moshe’s approach through the smoke to the top of Har Sinai. What does the smoke represent? How did Moshe perfect himself to be capable of reaching Sinai. The difference between the prophecy at the burning bush and the revelation at Sinai. HaRav Meir Simcha haKohein contrasts the philosopher’s idea of self perfection, which...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Beshalach – Thought and Deed

(Yes, this title is an intentional play on last week’s.) The Meshekh Chokhmah writes on Shemos 14:23, a line describing the crossing of the Red Sea. The Meshekh Chokhmah compares how individuals are judged and nations. For individuals, sins of action, such as idolatry or Shabbos desecration, are punished. But flaws in one’s middos or a lack of politeness are...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Va’eira – Challenges and Rewards

In his commentary on Shemos 6:13, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein notes that if you look closely, not only Par’oh was asked to free Benei Yisrael, but Benei Yisra’el also were. What’s that about — who among the Jews were holding other Jews as slaves? When Moshe and Aharon approach Par’oh, there is a big step back in describing who they...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Introduction to Shemos

In his introduction to seifer Shemos, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein discusses a few themes, some of which we covered in this shiur. Why is Moshe’s nevu’ah special? Interestingly, the Meshekh Chokhmah emphasizes how we know that Moshe received nevu’ah, not the nature of the nevu’ah itself. Moshe, prophecy, and free will. The central role of free will in life. And,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi II – My Sword and My Bow

In this second shiur on Vayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on Bereishis 48:22. My sword and my bow – tzelos’hi uva’ushi – tefilah vesachanunim — siddur prayer and personal requests. There are two mitzvos of prayer — one to impress how we ought to relate to G-d, one to express our actual feelings for and requests from Him. Audio:...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi I – Yaaqov in Mitzrayim

In this first shiur on parashasVayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on the opening words of the parashah. Similarities between Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk’s understanding of (47:28) “ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים” and Rav Shimon Shkop’s notion of broadening one’s “אני”. Audio:  Video: Bereishis 47:28: וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם שְׁבַ֥ע עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה וַיְהִ֤י יְמֵֽי־יַעֲקֹב֙ שְׁנֵ֣י חַיָּ֔יו שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֔ים וְאַרְבָּעִ֥ים...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayigash – In a dream at night…

There is a recurring them in the Meshekh Chokhmah on parashas VaYigash about when is someone who is in the diaspora capable of nevu’ah or ruach haqodesh. In this shiur, we look at two comments of the Meshekh Chokhmah — Bereishis 45:12, and 46:2. Yaakov dreams at night, he prays at night, and this happens before he leaves into exile....

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayishlach – A Time to Do, A Time to Build

Meshekh Chokhmah on Bereishis 33:18 expands on a medrash that makes much of Yaaqov’s camping “in front of Charan”, that he set up techum Shabbos (measured the limits of how far he may travel on Shabbos) outside Charan. This is the first mention in the text of the Torah of a person observing Shabbos (albeit a pretty oblique reference). The...

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Meshech Chokhmah – VaYeitzei – “… Hashem is present in this place, and I – I did not know!”

There are two ways to approach G-d through His Action. One can admire the G-d of miracles, or the G-d of nature. The medrash describes Avraham as having discovered G-d through contemplating nature. Science only began when the Greeks looked past their gods at the notion of a Creator, which gave them the expectation that the world has a single...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Toledos – Esav and Humanity’s So-Far-Missed Opportunity

After a long introduction, we looked at Meshekh Chokhmah on the navi’s explanation to Rivqah about why her pregnancy was so odd. She wasn’t merely surprised by having twins — one attracted to idolatry, and the other capable of founding the Jewish People. But why was she prenant with both? Why not like in the previous generation, where Hagar birthed...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Chayei Sarah – Teleology

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live looking at three comments by the Meshekh Chokhmah on the story of the servant finding a wife for Yitzchaq. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein appears to find a central theme in the story is that events are not only caused by what came before, but also driven toward a purpose. (And that in events...

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Meshekh Chokhmah VaYeira 18:10 – Yir’as haRomemus and Yir’as haCheit

Mesilas Yesharimm on the relationship between yir’as haromemus and yir’as hacheit (awe of [Hashem’s] Grandeur and fear of sinning), and the difference between yir’as hacheit and yir’as ha’onesh (fear of sin vs fear of punishment.) With that background, we look at the Meshakh Chokhmah. Avraham and Iyov are both called yerei Elokim. But why do Avraham’s compliments stop there, while...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Lekh Likha 15:13 – Free Will and National Destiny

If Hashem told Avraham that the Egyptians would oppress us, why were they then punished for doing His Will? Commanding the Egyptians vs speaking of future realities Speaking of the group vs speaking of the individual The law of large Numbers, Free Will, Providence, and Bayesian Statistics Audio:   Video: The Meshakh Chokhmah is on Sefaria, here. If you liked...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Noach 6:9 – Behavior and Character

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of the first pasuq of parashas Noach (Bereishis 6:9) “נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו — Noach was a righteous man, he was perfect in his generations.” The challenges of living among the pre-Flood generation compared to living in the post-Flood one. The value of actions and of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bereishis 1:26 – Free Will

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of Bereishis 1:26 “וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹקִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ — And G-d said, ‘Let us make man in our Image.” Audio:   Video: Source sheet on Sefaria is here. If you liked this shiur and would like to subscribe to a podcast of the audios on this blog,  the...

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Choosing Role Models

Next time you hear a speaker or a rabbi speak about “the goyim” in some disparaging stereotype, ask them about this gemara. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asks about an apparent contradiction in seifer Yechezqeil. The first pasuq (5:7): לָכֵ֞ן כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר ׀ אֲ-דֹנָ֣י ה֗’ יַ֤עַן הֲמָנְכֶם֙ מִן־הַגּוֹיִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר סְבִיבֽוֹתֵיכֶ֔ם בְּחֻקּוֹתַי֙ לֹ֣א הֲלַכְתֶּ֔ם וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֖י לֹ֣א עֲשִׂיתֶ֑ם וּֽכְמִשְׁפְּטֵ֧י הַגּוֹיִ֛ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר סְבִיבוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם לֹ֥א עֲשִׂיתֶֽם׃...

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For He Remembered Us When We Were Low

Tehillim 136, which Chazal call Hallel haGadol, has a long list of things Hashem did for us with the refrain “כי לעולם חסדו — for His Lovingkindness is eternal.” The first three call us to thank Hashem: הוֹד֣וּ לַה֣’ כִּי־ט֑וֹב כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ ה֭וֹדוּ לֵֽאלֹקֵ֣י הָאֱלֹקִ֑ים כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ ה֭וֹדוּ לַאֲדֹנֵ֣י הָאֲדֹנִ֑ים כִּ֖י לְעֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃ Thank Hashem for He is...

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The Blue Does Not Hold Up the White

התכלת אינה מעכבת את הלבן והלבן אינו מעכב את התכלת תפילה של יד אינה מעכבת של ראש ושל ראש אינה מעכבת של יד הסולת והשמן אינן מעכבין את היין ולא היין מעכבן המתנות של מזבח החיצון אינן מעכבות זו את זו. [The absence of] the tekheiles [strings of a tzitzis] does not hold up [the validity of] the white [string],...

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Dip the Apple in the Honey

Here are three thoughts related to the siman, the mnemonic practice, of eating an apple dipped in honey. (Aside from the ear-worm you or your kid learned in preschool that starts with the words in the post’s subject line.) 1- The original Bostoner Rebbe commented on the expression “Shanah tovah umsuqah – a good and sweet new year”, which is...