Aspaqlaria

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Is the Value of Human Life Infinite?

Does Yahadus view the value of a human life to be very large, or actually infinite? There are famously three prohibitions that one must avoid even at the cost of one’s life even outside the context of an active campaign against Yahadus or the Jewish People: gilui arayos (sexual immorality), avodah zara (idolatry) and shefichas damim (bloodshed). (Sanhedrin 64a) The natural first...

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Is G-d Infinite?

Seems like a silly question: G-d is the Absolute Infinite. No? Actually, it’s not clear Hashem is infinite, as that would be a positive attribute of G-d. Aristotle did not believe in the possibility of an actual infinity, a completed set of infinite size. To him, “parallel lines meet at infinity” and “parallel lines never meet” are the same thing. And...

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Chamushim

(This devar Torah is unchanged from 6 years ago. I am just re-posting it because I am a proud daddy and Opa.) Someone showed me the following idea in the Be’er Yoseif by Rav Yoseif Zvi Salant. וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱ-לֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַֽחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ – שמות יג:יח ואסחר ה’ ית עמא אורח מדברא לימא דסוף ומזרזין סליקו בני ישראל...

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A Tzadiq Will Flower Like a Date-Palm

I had this thought while saying Qabbalas Shabbos this week. (Actually, part of it during Qabbalas Shabbos 7 years ago, after which I wrote an earlier version of the post. A further development was a product of this week’s davening, yeilding this version.) It’s a “Chassidishe Vort” in style, intentionally stretching the meaning of a quote in order to create a...

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Frogs and Orchestras

“And Aharon stretched out his hand over the water of Egypt, and the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt…. And Pare’oh called to Moshe and to Aharon and said, ‘Plea to Hashem, that He take away the frogs from me and my people….’”[1] Rashi on our parashah[2] notes the use of the singular, “hatzfardei’ah”, “the frog” when...

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Boycott Facebook

Shurat haDin — Israel Law Center finally demonstrated what Jewish Facebook users have felt anecdotally, that Facebooks’s dread of catering to Islamophobia has them underenforcing their own rules of appopriate content when posted by an Arab or Muslim group. They are thereby enabling the incitement to kill our people, our friends and/or family in Israel. Protection they are extending in the reverse. Yes, response to reported posts...

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Kayli

שַׁמַּאי אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה תוֹרָתְךָ קֶבַע. אֱמוֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה, וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת: Shammai would say: Make your Torah a fixture [of your day]. Speak little and do much. And be accepting of all people with a pleasant facial expression. – Pirqei Avos 1:15 Rav Yisrael Salanter says that we do not own the right to...

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Living in Tranquility

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: “Yaaqov was living in the land where his father visited, in the land of Kenaan” – G-d, Bereishis 37:1 רש״י: … ועוד נדרש בו, וישב יעקב, ביקש יעקב לישב בשלוה קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף, צדיקים מבקשים לישב בשלוה אמר הקב”ה לא דיין לצדיקים מה שמתוקן להם לעוה”ב אלא שמבקשים לישב בשלוה בעוה”ז....

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The True Hero of Chanukah

No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to HQBH, although clearly it could. (Or can it: Can we define “heroism” with respect to One for Whom there are no risks to take?) Nor Yehudah haMakabi, nor Matisyahu, nor Chana or any of her sons, nor Yehudis… The Beis Yoseif famously asks why we celebrate the first day of Chanukah....

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Mazal Tov!

The Jewish People have been invited to the wedding of Ariel Bigel to Sarah Tichyeh Litman! Binyanei haUmah, Jerusalem at 10:30 pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 26th, 2015) Yaakov Litman Hy”d, the kalah’s father, and Netanel Litman Hy”d, her brother, were taken from us by the a terrorist’s hand while on the way to the chasan’s aufruf. The words gracing the...

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Sefeiq Sefeiqa

Back in 2007, I posted 7 answers to the question of why we treat Torah law and rabbinic law differently. In particular, we are lenient when in doubt about a rabbinic law (safeiq derabbanan lahaqeil) but are stringent when it comes to Torah law (safeiq deOraisa lechumra). “[W]hy do we rule leniently for a rabbinic law? Isn’t every rabbinic law...

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The Jewish Home

וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ. And Yitzchak brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent, and he wedded Rivqah and she became a wife for him and he loved her; and Yitzchak was comforted after losing his mother… – Bereishit 24:67 ויביאה האהלה והרי היא שרה אמו כלומר ונעשית דוגמת שרה...

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Time During Creation

The whole question of time sequence in either description is questionable. Time itself was something created, and thus some rishonim (including the Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 1:30) understand chapter 1 (at least, perhaps ch. 2 as well) as discussing a logical progression, not a chronological one. That the concept of time and chronological order only make sense after creation. Rav Dessler...

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Aseres Yemei Teshuvah Reader

There is a new version of my reader for Aseres Yemei Tehuvah, suitable for putting that wandering mind to work while in shul. Contents: Spiritual Planning………………………………1 9/11 and How to Effect Permanent Change…………..3 Teshuvah and Submission…………………………7 The Baal Teshuvah and the Tzadiq…………………9 A Good and Sweet New Year………………………11 Crowning Hashem My King………………………..13     Epilogue: Pragmatics……………………….16 Memories of His Dear Child Ephraim………………18...

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My Life as a Pendulum

Usually, when we think of the pendulum as a metaphor, it’s of a process that goes too far in one direction, then too far in the other, until eventually it reaches equilibrium at the mean. I’m thinking of a different perspective.Think of the soul, not as some point within you, but as a line. The lowest region, the nefesh, is...

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Copyright

Back in 2001, when Napster was in the news, I attended a “lunch and learn” program at the OU office given by R’ Zev Reichman, then of REITS’ Kollel Elyon. I just learned of a beautiful insight on the topic by R’ Asher Weiss, that Rabbi Jonathan Ziring heard in 2013. So, here’s a survey of the topic… Not #1-...

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What does Hashem ask of you?

We saw earlier in our discussion of yir’ah the following gemara (Berakhos 33b, Megillah 25a and Niddah 16b): ואמר רבי חנינא: הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. שנאמר (דברים י:יב) “עַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה…?” Rabbi Chanina said: Everything is in the hands of [the One in] heaven except for yir’as Shamayim, as it says: “And...

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בן חמישים לעצה

Among the list of landmarks Rabbi Yehuda ben Taima lists in psychological development (Avos 5:21) is “בן חמישים לעצה — a 50 year old is [ready] for planning / advice”. (This is 10 years after “בן ארבעים לבינה” — that 40 year olds are capable of comprehension.) Generally this is taken to mean that when someone turns 50, they should...

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Gratitude and Thankfulness

It takes two skills to thank someone: hakaras hatov, recognizing the good, being able to see the good in your life, and hoda’ah, being willing to attribute its presence to someone / Someone else. (Same thought, but with more rigor and detail, here.)

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Marriage and Gender

While I’m on the topic of gender roles, I might as well put in my two bits about Obergefell v. Hodges. As others noted, it’s the first time that holding on to classical Jewish Morality puts us in the counterculture. I R’ Aryeh Klapper writes (see moderntoraleadership: Chok, Mishpat and Obergefell) that I think puts a nice context on the...

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Gender Roles

Rather than assuming the level of duties the Torah imposes on men is the baseline, and asking why women are exempt, I want to flip the question around and ask why men are obligated. What gender difference would make these obligations more meaningful to a man than a woman. I think we should just admit that synagogues (and, lehavdil, churches)...

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Tefillah beHispa’alus: Building the Temple Within – part 1

This was a webinar given for The Mussar Institute on 3-Mar-2014. Class 1 of 2. (Part 2 is here.) The format is more introducing and practicing tools for kavanah than a class in the meaning of the words of the siddur. Audio only version is available here. (Admittedly this is a good deal of the blind leading the blind.)

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Qoheles in a Nutshell

While tradition skips over the who said to whom before identifying the significant word or two to take as the text’s name, there are exceptions, notably Vayiqra (both the parashah and the book) and Qoheles. Focusing on Qoheles, there is good reason for that: דִּבְרֵי קֹהֶלֶת בֶּן דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם. The words of Qoheles son of David, king in Yersushalayim: (1:1)...

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Naso: Society and the Priesthood

A thought struck me during the Torah reading this past Shabbos about a unifying theme throughout parashas Naso. Here are the topics in the parashah: The task assignments and census of the three clans of sheivet Levi. This section defines the sacred camp. The rest of the parashah discusses the porousness of the divider between the sacred camp and general...