Yearly Archive: 2006

3

The Devastating Power of Leitznus

President Ford a”h‘s passing brought something into sharp focus for me. Here is how the OU remembers Mr. Gerald R. Ford: The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish Umbrella organization mourns the death of former President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Ford, our country’s 38th president, took office amid tremendous internal divisions domestically and complex,...

5

Why do we light the new candle first?

My son (4th grade) had a class Chanukah party, for which he was aked to prepare a devar Torah. A short vertl, a question and answer to fit in less than a minute. My son wanted to know why we light the Chanukah menorah starting from the left candle and working your way to the right. Usually mitzvos start on...

1

Shiluach haQen

This entry is a continuation of the previous one. I – Shilu’ach haQein האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך ועל טוב יזכר שמך מודים מודים משתקין אותו: One who prays, “Upon the birds nest your mercy extends[, so too may you have mercy upon us]” … we silence him. – Mishnah Berakhos 5:3 (33b) פליגי בה תרי אמוראי במערבא רבי...

2

Ruach Memalela

I – Ru’ach Memalela Here’s the creation of man, as described in the Torah. וַיִּיצֶר יְ-הוָה אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה. Hashem G-d formed man, dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils a living spiritual-soul; and man became a living life-soul. – Bereishis 2:7 וּבְרָא יְ-יָ אֱ-לֹהִים יָת אָדָם, עַפְרָא...

3

Parashas Tzitzis

This week’s shiur rounds out our discussion of Shema with the third paragraph. In the first paragraph we accept Hashem as King, and that evolves to the theme of Vehayah im Shomo’ah, accepting the King’s commandments. Beliefs motivate action. In parashas tzitzis we look at how mitzvos reciprocate by shaping our minds. The meaning of parashas tzitzis is studied by...

3

Chayei Sarah – Kibbush and Chizuq

1. Buying Ma’aras haMachpeilah It is interesting to note that Judaism’s holiest sites were not conquered but bought. Parashas Chayei Sarah opens with Avraham purchasing the Ma’aras haMakhpeilah and the fields around it. Later, Yaakov buys the city of Shechem from Canaanite princes, the sons of Chamor (Bereishis 33:19). Similarly, Shemuel II concludes with David haMelekh purchasing the Temple Mount...

6

Changing Name

There are two places in halakhah where the criterion for whether something is significantly changed is whether there was a shinui sheim, a change in name. The first is in the laws of Shabbos, something is nolad (“born”, i.e. unusable because it did not exist when Shabbos began) if it underwent a change that changes what we call it. For...

2

Models of Creation

Updated by user suggestion. Element added: tzimtzum. We can’t really understand how the Ribbono shel olam does anything, and so in contemplating the concept of creation we have to fall back on simplifications, models that capture some aspects of the process that we can understand. Traditionally a number of such models have been used; and in fact, the same authority...

2

Vehayah im Shamoa

We entered Shema last week by following the detailed look at the text started with Birchas Ahavah, Kel Melekh Ne’eman and the rich first sentence of Shema. This week we looked at the second paragraph of Shema, and started by noting similarities and contrasts with the first one. This invited us to take a step back to look at the...

0

Veahavta

In this shiur, we look at the rest of the first paragraph of Shema. Some of the issues discussed are: Why do we say “Barukh sheim“? How can a person choose to fulfill the commandment to love Hashem? Can you choose an emotion? What does it mean to serve Hashem with our whole hearts? Two approaches to the idea of...

5

The Unobservable, the Unobserved, and the Observed

Given the thought of my previous post we need to subdivide reality into three categories: that which no person could have observed, that which someone could have observed, but didn’t, and that which someone did actually observe. There is a more elaborate example at this appendix to a seifer I might complete someday. The following covers a much smaller range...

5

The Nature of Reality

It’s interesting to note that in Jewish terminology, existence is phrased in terms of the thing-as-experienced, not the thing-in-itself, as it would be objectively known if it were possible. For example, the Rambam opens the Yad by telling you that there is a First Matzui, and He is mamtzi everthing that is nimtza. The word “nimtza”, which is used to...

0

Shema Yisrael

In this week’s shiur we concluded Birkhas Ahavah and started Shema with the origin of “Kel Melekh Ne’eman” and some thoughts on its first sentence. Some of the topics discussed: Veha’eir eineinu beSorasekha — Tif’eres, fully integrating our Torah knowledge to shape our entire selves. Vedabeiq libeinu vs Veyacheid levaveinu — Two approaches to serving G-d (another reference to the...

0

Parshas Vayeitzei: Mountain, Field, House

The Gemara (Pesachim 88a) discusses the future return to the Beis Hamikdash in terms of a quote from this week’s parashah. And R. Elazar said: What is it when it says (Yeshaiah 2) “And many nations will go and say ‘Let us go and go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaacov!’”? [Does...

1

Urgency, Importance, and the Yeitzer

Rabbi Ephraim Becker wrote in a reply to a comment on one of his posts: The Yetzer hijacks our urgency (we get more excited about playing with the latest PDA than about getting up and putting on Tefillin) and leaves us struggling with trying to uphold rules that do not move us – only the guilt remains. Two comments later...

0

Birkhas Ahavah

The Tefillah: Beyond the Words shiur resumed this week, picking up where we left off, with birkhas Ahavah.Some of the topics discussed: Two dimensions for discussing a middah: “Ahavah Rabba” and “Ahavas Olam” How those dimensions are reflected in the structure of the berakhah as a whole What is love? The avos: Three models for how to express love The...

7

Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu

Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu. Artscroll renders this line from the machzor as referring to we as Hashem’s designated, and Him as our designator.I would like to suggest a different translation. The mishnah says that Hashem created the world with “eser ma’maros — ten utterances”. Ma’amar means utterances, and in particular, Chazal associate it with the ten statements through which Hashem...

3

A Fallen Soldier’s Prayer for Peace

Modified: Transcription of text in Hebrew added. – 30-Sep-2006.(Hat tip to the One Family Fund. May they be put out of business soon!) Benaya Rein Hy”d fell toward the end of the war on Saturday night (yahrtzeit: 19 Av). He and four others were part of a unit that went in battle to rescue wounded soldiers and soldiers in distress....

0

Coronating G-d, part II — Pragmatics

I was recently discussing the ideas in my essay “Coronating G-d“. In it I utilized the Vilna Gaon’s distinction between a melekh (king) and a mosheil. A melekh rules with the support of his people, a mosheil rules by strength. I suggested that the reason why accepting Hashem as Melekh is such a central part of Rosh haShanah is that...

1

Frum or Erlich

I highly recommend the essay “Frum or Erlich” by Dr. Yitzchok Levine. Teaser: The American Orthodox Jewish community of today is drastically different from the community that existed in America 75 years ago. Orthodox Judaism circa 1930 was struggling to maintain its numbers due to mass defections from religious observance. … In these communities one increasingly hears such statements as,...

0

The Simplicity of the Shofar

(Hat tip to my daughter Shifra, who made this point the centerpiece of her speech at her bas mitzvah celebration.)Halachically, a shofar must be a simple instrument. If it has a crack or anything that might shape the note, it is invalid. A cow’s horn, which is layered and therefore not a shofar but a shefarferet, is not usable for...

0

Something you can do to help the situation

בעון נבלות פה צרות רבות וגזירות קשות מתחדשות ובחורי שונאי ישראל מתים יתומים ואלמנות צועקין ואינן נענין שנא’ (ישעיהו ט) על כן על בחוריו לא ישמח ה’ For the sin of vulgar speech many evils and harsh decrees are made anew, and the choicest of … (euphamism ellided) Israel die, and orphans and widows cry and are not answered. As...

4

Hashgachah Peratis as a level of abstraction

Say you were a chip designer, and you wanted to know why this particular trace (wire) on some particular microprocessor chip went from 0 volts to 3 volts….The answer could be given at various levels of abstraction. 1- In quantum mechanical terms: We could speak of the doped gallium arsenide that the chip is made out of, valence levels, electrons,...

0

Yotzeir Or, part III

See the previous discussions of Yotzeir Or here (part I) and here (part II). This week we concluded our discussion of the berakhah of Yotzeir Or, as well as the shiur’s run until after the yamim tovim. Some highlights: The process of creation is continual, and thus the berakhah is about the end of evil more than evil itself. There...

0

Yotzeir Or, part II

In this second of three parts on the berakhah of Yotzeir Or we continued our look at the problem of evil. (The shiur was given during the Three Weeks.) The previous shiur focused on tragedy, the evil that we experience. This week we look at the interplay of the sun, and what it symbolizes, and the moon, and its symbology,...