Yearly Archive: 2011

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 5: Sharing – Part 3

WITH THIS it is possible to get a feeling for the idea that is told in the Talmud in an amazing story about the holy man Nachum ish Gam Zu. One time he did not fulfill the mitzvah of charity as he felt he should. He decreed upon himself that his eyes go blind, his hands whither, and his feet...

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A Physics Metaphor for Coming to Terms with Theodicy

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Aristotle believed that motion was caused by an intellect imparting impetus to an object, which then moved until the impetus ran out. Newton replaced this model of physics with his three laws, including: Law I: Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as...

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When a Paradox is not a Disproof

The central theme of religion is whether the values, ritual, and system of thought work. The issues of genesis, the flood, or the tower of Babel are tangential, and out the outskirts of the Torah as a “theory” of meaning and purpose in life. It’s like studying modern physics. We currently have two systems: quantum mechanics (QM) which was born...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 5: Sharing – Part 2

With this idea one can understand how charity has the effect of enriching the one who performs it, as the sages say on the verse “‘aseir ta’aseir – you shall surely tithe’ – tithe, so that you shall become rich – shetis’asheir” . Someone who is appointed over a small part of the national treasury who does a good job...

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Malki-Tzedeq and Birkhas Avos

Compare these two snippets. I added color to highlight my point. First, Bereishis 14:19-20. A massive regional war just completed, and Avraham joins the kings he fought with. Malki-Tzedeq the king of Shaleim (the future Jerusalem) and priest of the Kel Elyon (most high G-d) serves food and blesses him: וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ וַיֹּאמַר: “בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵ-ל עֶלְיוֹן קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. וּבָרוּךְ...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 5: Sharing – part 1

Similarly it is appropriate to think about all the gifts of heaven “from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land” (Bereishis 27:38) that they are given to the Jewish people as a whole. Their allotment to individuals is only in their role as caretakers until they divide it to those who need it, to each according...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – Conclusion

In my opinion, this idea is hinted at in Hillel’s words, as he used to say, “If I am [not] for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I?” It is fitting for each person to strive to be concerned for himself. But with this, he must also strive to understand that “I...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – part 4

And there are more levels in this of a person who is whole, who can connect his soul to feel that all of the world and worlds are his “I”, and he himself is only one small limb in all of creation. Then, his self-love helps him love all of the Jewish people and [even] all of creation. ועוד יש...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – part 3

… And above him is someone who can include in his “I” all of his household and family. Someone who walks according to the way of the Torah, his “I” includes the whole Jewish people, since in truth every Jewish person is only like a limb of the body of the nation of Israel …ולמעלה מזה מי שמכניס לה״אני״ שלו...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – part 2

The entire “I” of a coarse and lowly person is restricted only to his substance and body. Above him is someone who feels that his “I” is a synthesis of body and soul. … האיש הגס והשפל כל ״אני׳׳ שלו מצומצם רק בחמרו וגופו, למעלה ממנו מי שמרגיש ש״אני״ שלו הוא מורכב מגוף ונפש, … How do people differ qualitatively?...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – part 1

Although at first glance it seems that feelings of love for oneself and feelings of love for others are like competing co-wives one to the other, we have the duty to try to delve into it, to find the means to unite them, since Hashem expects both from us. This means [a person must] explain and accept the truth of...

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Ten Reasons to Attend Kallah IX

Reasons to Attend Mussar Institute Kallah IX Where: The Mussar Kallah will take place at beautiful and serene Illinois Beach Resort, located in Zion, Illinois, amid 4,100 acres of a protected state park, right on the shore of Lake Michigan.The Illinois Beach Resort One Lake Front Drive Zion, IL 60099 Driving Directions When: Friday November 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM...

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Like a Strand of Hair

The beraisa repeats a story of Rabbi Lazar bei R’ Tzadoq and Abba Sha’ul ben Batnis, who were storekeepers in Jerusalem. They would fill their measure[d jars of oil] on erev Yom Tov and give them to buyer on Yom Tov [letting every last drop of sold oil drip into the buyer’s container overnight].R’ Chaninah ben Aqaviah said: even on chol...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – Conclusion

In the previous installment, Rav Shimon wrote, “שאם יאמינו שכל חכמתם וקנינם לא להם הוא, הרי אז אבדו כל עשרם, ורק על ידי הכפירה יתעשרו — If they believe that all their wisdom and all they acquired were not theirs, they would lose all their wealth. Only through heretical denial can they make themselves rich.” It would seem Rav Shimon...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 5

One can also feel this way with respect to acquiring a greater thing [than a qav of merchandise], which is wisdom. To elaborate: If a person does not try to the full measure of his ability to acquire Torah, to grasp the wisdom of awe-fear and pure faith, then there is a possibility to stumble through the strength of the...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 4

In my opinion, this is true despite all the evil and sin that the world is full of because of this middah of self-love. Added to the challenge of wealth, this middah will cause him to stumble until the depths, as it is written, “Lest I grow full and deny[, and say, ‘Who is Hashem?’” (Proverbs 30:9)] Because of the...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 3

There are also grounds for asserting that in the very foundation of the creation of Adam, the Creator planted in him a very great measure of propensity to love himself. The sages of truth [i.e. Qabbalists] describe the purpose of all the work in this language, “The Infinite wanted to bestow complete good, that there wouldn’t even be the embarrassment...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 2

For His Holiness is greater than ours. His Holiness is only for the created and not for Himself because nothing was ever added to or could ever be added to the Creator through the actions He did or does. Therefore all His Desire could only be to be good to the created, but what He wants from us is not...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 3: Self-Interest – part 1

HOWEVER, what of a person who decides to submerge his nature, to reach a high level so that he has no thought or inclination in his soul for his own good, only a desire for the good of others? In this way he would have his desire reach the sanctity of the Creator, as His Desire in all of the...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – Conclusion

In this way, the concept of separation is a consequence of the underlying basis of the mitzvah of holiness, which is recognizable in practice in the ways a person acts. But with insight and the calling of spirituality this mitzvah broadens to include everything a person causes or does even between him and the Omnipresent. In relation to this, this...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 5

And so, it appears to my limited thought that this mitzvah includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives. All of our work and effort should constantly be sanctified to doing good for the community. We should not use any act, movement, or get benefit or enjoyment that doesn’t have in it some element of helping...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 4

2- It is more difficult to understand “My sanctity is higher than yours.” This explanation is incumbent upon us to understand – in truth there is some similarity in the holiness He expects of us to His [Holiness], except that His Holiness is more general and inclusive. If we say that the essential idea of the holiness He demands of...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 3

According to this, it would seem the Midrash is incomprehensible.1- What relevance does the concept of separation have to being similar to the Holy? The verse tells us with regard to this that His Will is not like this. As it says, “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘For I am holy’ to teach that...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 2: Qedushah – part 2

And about the foundation of this mitzvah of sanctity the Toras Kohanim has “‘be holy’ – be separate”. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, explains at length this notion of separation as it is stated in this mitzvah, that it is separation from excessive comfort and pleasure – even if they are actions that are not prohibited to us....

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Just One Small Cry

I had the severely painful experience this past Sunday of attending the levayah for a six year old boy r”l. Reuven Dovida”h went for a walk with his father R’ Yehuda Herbst and R’ Dovid Reichenberga”h shortly after Hurricane Irene. He touched a fence that was electrified by a downed power line, burning himself and his father. R’ Dovid Reichenberg...