Monthly Archive: י״ג בסיון תשס״ז – May 30, 2007

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… The rest is commentary

(More material added on May 30th.) There is a famous story in the gemara (Shabbos 31a) about three prospective converts who each came to Shammai saying that they want to convert but only if he meets some absurd condition. In all three cases, Shammai turns them away, they go to Hillel, who accepts them, they convert and they drop their...

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A Broad Life

A recurring concept in Rav Hutner’s writings on Shavu’os (Pachad Yitzchaq, no.s 5, 13, 40) is the idea that talmud Torah isn’t limited to sitting in front of a book. Why do we only make birkhas haTorah once a day? Tosafos explain (Berakhos 11b) “she’eino miya’eish mida’ato, shekol sha’ah chayav lilmod — because it is never lost from his thought,...

1

Ethics and Morality

Everyone else in the frum blogosphere is dealing with the questions Richard Dawkins raises in his book “The God Delusion”, and whether morality is possible without religion. So why shouldn’t I? I want to introduce a few distinctions that in my humble opinion are necessary for having a clear conversation of the subject. Morality vs. Ethics Morality is defined in...

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Hashem and Morality

In his essay “Euthyphro”, Plato has Socrates ask a young student named Euthyphro, “Is what is righteous righteous because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is righteous?” The Jewish spin would be to ask: Is an act good because HQBH chose to make it a mitzvah, or did Hashem command us to do it...

1

Introduction to Shaarei Yosher

I recently had the honor of translating the introduction to Rav Shimon Shkop‘s Shaarei Yosher. My love of this piece is only partly because Rav Shimon was the rebbe of my rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz. In a few short pages, Rav Shimon defines holiness, gives the key to happiness and contentment, explains the path to chessed (lovingkindness), and the relationship...

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Birkhas Avos

This chart combines the ideas contained two earlier divrei Torah. The first is the idea of the Vilna Gaon that the first berakhah of the Amidah, Birkhas Avos, consists of iterations of variations on Moshe’s praise for Hashem – “HaKeil, HaGadol, HaGibbor VeHanorah.” See Mesukim MiDevash – Tetzaveh pp. 3-4. The second is the concept that the berakhah follows a...

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The Five Hardest Words

At Mussar Kallah V, R’ Ephraim Becker said something that really resonated with me. Of all the phrases in English that one could say — and mean what one says — which five words are hardest? R’ Becker offered the sentences: “I’m fine. How are you?” To say “I’m fine” and really mean it, one must have bitachon, belief that...