Monthly Archive: כ״א באייר תשס״ה – May 29, 2005

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A History of Mussar, part II

The Ramchal and the Gra The Ramchal lived in the early 18th century, primarily in Italy, but he moved to Akko shortly before his passing. He was primarily a qabbalist, although he also wrote Derekh Hashem, a philosophical work that does not overtly rely on his qabbalah. In Derekh Hashem the Ramchal describes the purpose of our time in this...

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A History of Mussar, part I

The Dawn of Mussar Why is Avraham our first forefather? It can’t be his independent discovery of Hashem as Creator and Lawgiver, as Sheim and Ever already established such a tradition. In fact, Yitzchaq and Yaaqov each went to the school established by Sheim and Ever rather than relying on their parental tradition!The difference is that Noach and his children...

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Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

There is a quote from the Christian Testament that it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is a rich man to get into heaven.It makes an interesting contrast to a Talmudic quote, a promise G-d makes the repentant: If you make for yourself an opening like the eye of a needle, I...

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Yom haAtzma’ut

A few years back, when Yom haAtzma’ut was also celebrated on Thursday 3 Iyyar, my father asked me what I thought about not saying Tachanun or saying Hallel. The choice of 5 Iyyar as the point at which we gained atzma’ut, independence, is itself not perfectly compelling. It was not the date we were given independence, or the date the...

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Yir’ah

In Mesilas Yesharim, the Ramchal (R’ Moshe Chaim Luzato) writes of three kinds of yir’ah (fear / awe / awareness of magnitude). 1- Yir’as ha’onesh: fear of punishment. This is the lowest of the three. However, since even fear of punishment is a motivator, even yir’as ha’onesh is viewed positively. R’ Shlomo Wolbe zt”l writes that today, we’ve lost that...

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Reasons for Mitzvos

There are three things we might be talking about when we ask about reasons for a mitzvah: (if it’s Torahitic:) the source in the pasuq directly or through derashah; the halachic mechanism by which a given conclusion was reached; the philosophical principle behind the mitzvah. I’m speaking of the third. But the gemara’s usual question is the first: How do...

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A Use for Every Middah, part II: Two Dictionaries

Among the ideas I touched on in “A use for every middah” was that oftentimes the use is when dealing with others.It’s okay to be an “apiqoreis” and worry about Hashem not providing, when it comes to providing for others.At ne’ilas hachag last night, I heard R’ Yitzchak Wolpin (Rosh Yeshiva of Slonim, Boro Park) repeat a thought from his...