No Answers

Why do bad things happen?

אמר אביי לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שחללו בה את השבת…
אמר ר’ אבהו לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו ק”ש שחרית וערבית…
אמר רב המנונא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו בה תינוקות של בית רבן…
אמר עולא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא מפני שלא היה להם בושת פנים זה מזה…
אמר ר’ יצחק לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שהושוו קטן וגדול…
אמר רב עמרם בריה דר”ש בר אבא א”ר שמעון בר אבא א”ר חנינא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שלא הוכיחו זה את זה…
א”ר יהודה לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביזו בה ת”ח…
ואמר רבא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שפסקו ממנה אנשי אמנה…

Abayei said: Jerusalem would not have been destroyed but for they desecrated Shabbos in it…
Rav Avohu said: Jerusalem would not have been destroyed but for their neglecting reciting Shema morning and evening…
Rav Hamnuna said: … in it they neglected [the teaching of] children in their rabbis’ schools…
Ula sai: … they had no embarrassment, one of the other…
Rav Yitzchaq said: … they equated the small [ie the unaccomplished] and the great…
Rav Amram the son of Rabbi Shim’on bar Abba said that [his father] Rabbi Shim’on bar Abba said that Rabbi Chanina said: … they didn’t give tokhachah one to the other
Rav Yehudah said: … in it, they embarassed sages…
Rava said: … there ceased to be honest people in it…

Eight different answers (although there is strong similarity between not treating those who are great with the proper respect and embarrassing sages), each made with the claim that it’s the sole reason for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Jack Love, a rebbe-chaveir, would point to this very variety of answers, or of identification of the specific sin committed by Nadav and Avihu to warrant their death, or what Moshe did wrong when he struck the rock. The gemara is making a statement. This kind of question has no final answer. The gemara grapples with the problem, but doesn’t claim to have a final answer.

So then why ask the question, if we know it’s unanswerable?

אמר רבא ואיתימא רב חסדא: אם רואה אדם שיסורין באין עליו, יפשפש במעשיו… פשפש ולא מצא, יתלה בבטול תורה….  ואם תלה ולא מצא, בידוע שיסורין של אהבה הם….

Rava said, and some posit [it was] Rav Chisda:

If a person sees that suffering is coming to him, he should inspect his deeds…. If he inspected and didn’t find [a flaw in his deeds], he shall attribute [the suffering] to wasting Torah [ie by wasting time from immersion in it]…. And if he [tried] to attribute it [thus] and didn’t find [any time wasted that could have been spent on Torah], it is known that they are tribulations of love….

- Berakhos 5a

(More on this gemara, here. And the next piece is from here.)

R’ Joseph Ber Soloveitchikzt”l (“the Rav”) addresses the question posed by the Holocaust in his seminal work on religious Zionism, “Qol Dodi Dofeik”. His position is that the question of why is there human suffering can’t be answered. Any attempt to address theodicy is going to insult the intellect or the emotions, and quite likely both. But “Why?” isn’t the Jewish question. Judaism, with its focus on halachah, on deed, asks, “What shall I do about it?”

The Rav continues by quoting the Talmudic principle, “Just as we bless [G-d] for the good, so we bless [Him] for the evil.” Just as we dedicate all the good that comes are way to be tools in our avodas Hashem, we also dedicate ourselves through our responses to suffering.

The gemara in Berakhos calls upon us to inspect our deeds, to take a lesson from the event. Hashem shakes us out of our routines, gives us motivation to leave the status quo, and we are obligated to channel it into abandoning a sin or doing some mitzvah we’re neglecting. This is very different different than finding the cause of a tragic event.

With this idea in mind, we must take the various amoraim‘s statements in Shabbos as exhortations, not actual statements about the past.  Each tries to find some element of the pre-destruction generation that was being echoed in their and their followers’ lives. Knowing there is no conclusive answer to finding the cause, and they would never even succeed to find a cause, they still needed to struggle with the question of causes in order to find motivations to change. And by framing the problem in terms of that sin, they inspire their students to repair it.

Thus, the loss of one of our greatest poseqim must be utilized as inspiration for our own change. One can’t simple say that it is normal for 102 year olds to pass away. That would be a cause, but we aren’t seeking causes, we’re seeking lessons. (Besides, even knowing the physical cause would only explain how Hashem did something, not why.) The emotions the event generates can motivate, and it’s only the callous who would waste such opportunity.

When Jews die in a bus bombing in Bulgaria, it is irrelevent which mitzvos they did or didn’t keep. Nor what some other observant community, nor the Israeli government is doing wrong. The gemara says yefashpeish bema’asav, each person takes that moment to inspect their own deeds. And each of us might find very different answers to that question, as did the eight amoraim in our gemara.

Clear the Air Week

לא חרבה ירושלים, אלא בשביל שלא הוכיח זה את זה.

Yerushalayim was only destroyed because they didn’t give tokhachah to [usually translated: rebuke] one another.

- Shabbos 119b

Not the sin we usually associate with the destruction of the Beis HaMiqdash. More often quoted is:

מקדש ראשון מפני מה חרב מפני ג’ דברים שהיו בו ע”ז וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים… אבל מקדש שני שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות ע”ז גלוי עריות ושפיכות

The First Beis haMiqdash, why was it destroyed? Because of three things that were in it: idolatry, sexual immorality, and bloodshed. [Proof-texts elided.] … But the second Beis haMiqdash, when they were involved in Torah, mitzvos and supporting acts of kindness, why was it destroyed? Because there was in it pointless hatred. This teaches you that pointless hatred is equal to the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed.

However, it is hard to say the two sins — not giving tochakhah (rebuking) and sin’as chinam (pointless hatred) — are unrelated. They are both prohibited in the same pasuq in the Torah (Vayiqra 19:17):

לֹא תִשְׂנָא אֶת אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ; הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת עֲמִיתֶךָ, וְלֹא תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא.

Do not hate your brother in your heart; you shall truly give tokhachah to your compatriot, and do carry for him a sin.

There are three clauses in the pasuq, and it’s unclear how tightly they are coupled. Is “do not hate” and “you shall surely give tokhachah” aspects of one mitzvah, or two distinct mitzvos that happen to be listed in the same pasuq. The Ramban considers both possibilities:

בעבור שדרך השונאים לכסות את שנאתם בלבם כמו שאמר (משלי כו:כד) בִּשְׂפָתָיו יִנָּכֵר שׂוֹנֵא [וּבְקִרְבּוֹ יָשִׁית מִרְמָה] הזכיר הכתוב בהווה ואמר הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת עֲמִיתֶךָ מצוה אחרת ללמדו תוכחת מוסר “וְלֹא תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא” שיהיה עליך אשם כאשר יחטא ולא הוכחת אותו ולזה יטה לשון אונקלוס שאמר וְלָא תְּקַבֵּיל עַל דִּילֵיהּ חוֹבָא שלא תקבל אתה עונש בחטא שלו ואחרי כן צוה שתאהוב אותו והנה השונא את רעהו עובר בלאו והאוהב לו מקיים עשה

והנכון בעיני כי “הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ” כמו וְהוֹכִחַ אַבְרָהָם אֶת אֲבִימֶלֶךְ (בראשית כא:כה) ויאמר הכתוב אל תִשְׂנָא אֶת אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ בעשותו לך שלא כרצונך אבל תוכיחנו מדוע ככה עשית עמדי וְלֹא תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא לכסות שנאתו בלבך ולא תגיד לו כי בהוכיחך אותו יתנצל לך או ישוב ויתודה על חטאו ותכפר לו ואחרי כן יזהיר שלא תנקום ממנו ולא תטור בלבבך מה שעשה לך כי יתכן שלא ישנא אותו אבל יזכור החטא בלבו ולפיכך יזהירנו שימחה פשע אחיו וחטאתו מלבו ואחרי כן יצוה שיאהב לו כמוהו

[It says "in your heart"] because it is the way of those who hate to cover up their hate in their hearts. As it says “With his lips, the hater dissembles [and within him he lays up deceit.]” (Mishlei 26:24). It says, “you shall surely give tokhachah to your compatriot” as a different mitzvah to teach him the tokhachos of Mussar. It says “and you shall not carry for him a sin” that there should be guilt upon you when he sins because you did not give him tokhachah. This is the way the Unqelus’s language inclines, as it says [in his translation of these last words], “And do not receive obligation on his account”.

What appears correct in my eyes is that “you shall surely rebuke” is like “And Avraham gave tokhachah to Avimelekh” (Bereishis 21:25). The verse is saying do not hate your brother in your heart when he did something to you that isn’t what you wanted. Rather give him tokhachah, “Why did you do like this to me?” [The verse continues, "and do not carry for him the sin" of hiding hatred for him in your heart without talking to him. For through such tokhachah you may get him to apologize to you or do teshuvah and confess his sin and we will be atoned. After that [continuing with the theme of the following verses], be careful not to takes revenge or hold a grudge in your heart over what he did to you. Because it is possible that he doesn’t hate him, but remembers the trespass in his heart. Therefore he is warned to erase his brother’s wrongdoing and sin from his heart, and finally he is commanded to love him as himself.

The Ramban’s first interpretation is that the verse has two distinct mitzvos:

(1) Do not hate another Jew in your heart. Why in your heart? Simply because that’s the most common way to hate, to let it simmer internally. Along these lines Rav Achai Gaon (She’ilta 27) explains this clause as though it said “do not hate your brother even in your heart”, and all the moreso do not express hatred. In contrast, the Rambam (Lo Sa’asei #302) says this sin is only hatred in one’s heart. Expressed hatred would violate other prohibitions, such as “do not take revenge” or “do not hold a grudge” or “do not strike”, or the like.

(2) Rebuke your neighbor, because otherwise you will share the guilt for his sin. You could have corrected him, you didn’t, so it’s partly your fault too. In this interpretation, “tokhachah” is taken the way it’s normally translated — rebuke.

The Ramban calls the second interpretation “correct in my eyes” and is the roughly the position of the Rashbam, the Ibn Ezra and the Chizquni (all on this verse). The pasuq is describing what is basically one mitzvah. Don’t hate another Jew, letting it simmer in your heart. Instead, talk it out with the person. Air your grievances. As the Ibn Ezra and Chizquni note, it could resolve what was a simple misunderstanding. Maybe, as the Ramban suggests, he will apologize and confess. But communication can end a fight and hatred, so we are obligated to communicate. This is a very different translation for the word “tokhachah“.

And yet regardless of how we explain the pasuq the mitzvah of tokhachah does indeed involve correcting someone else’s sins that aren’t against me. Such as warning others against Shabbos violations or harming a third party. But this too may derive from the notion of healing rifts:

מנין לרואה בחבירו דבר מגונה שחייב להוכיחו שנאמר (ויקרא יט, יז) הוכח תוכיח

From where is it that someone who sees something reprehensible in his friend, that he is obligated to give him tokhachah? For it says: “you shall surely give tokhachah“.

Helping someone else do what’s right is obvious of value, but that’s not the focus the pasuq is giving the mitzvah. (Also, giving tokhakhah in such cases is complicated, and is only permissible when there is a likelihood that the person or in some cases a spectator will actually change. It is prohibited to give tokhachah when the likely outcome is only more enmity, or that the person continues sinning, but now does so consciously rather than through ignorance. Consult your rabbi for many more details, as erring in either direction is a sin.)

Tokhachah is appropriate when someone is doing something that makes them look bad to you. Whether it’s a personal affront, or they do something to another or in their relationship to the Almighty that threatens to alienate them.

I snuck something in toward the beginning of this post. “Sin’as chinam“, most literally “free hatred”, is usually taken to mean “baseless hatred” (taking “free” to mean that nothing was “paid” to cause it). Knowing where the post was going, I instead translated it “pointless hatred”. Even if the hatred in one’s heart has a real cause, to refrain from trying to heal the rift would make the hatred pointless.

Which brings us back to our opening gemara, “Yerushalayim was only destroyed because they didn’t give tokhachah to one another.” It would seem that this period should be considered “Clear the Air Week.” (Or Three Weeks, had I been writing back then.) A time to call someone I had a disagreement with, talk out our differences and eliminate the sin’as chinam from my heart.

With berakhos for an easy fast,

-micha

The God Particle

Not long ago, CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider produced evidence of the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle Peter Higgs predicted in 1964, and was a major missing piece from the Standard Model. In order to explain mass, and thus why certain particles differ in mass, which in turn influences things like why the Weak Force (carried by particles that have mass) and electromagnetism (carried by photons, which don’t) are different forces with different properties. A big deal for physicists, but somehow it generated a lot more attention in the general media than such things usually do.

The reason for this is that Leon M. Lederman wanted to sell books. (Or maybe it was his co-author Dick Teresi. Either way, he jokes that the publisher vetoed his original title “The Goddamn Particle”) Lederman named his popularization of the relevant science, “The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What Was the Question?” And so, people mistakenly thought the discovery implied something significant the Big Bang vs. Literal Genesis debate. It does provide one big piece of the Big Bang puzzle, it explains how a high energy “soup” too energetic to be thought of in terms of different particles divided the way it did.

But the discovery says nothing about Creation, despite rhetoric otherwise. The scientists who write such things (but I think most scientists are still theists or at least deists) are battling paganism. They think that we believe in Thor to get a handle on thunder and Poseidon justifies the moods of the sea. A “God of the Gaps” who is there to explain all the bugaboos of a world we don’t understand. And therefore they think that the more they explain scientifically, the less space is left for G-d.

Many Creationists defend their position by distinguishing between “science”, the stuff they can’t deny and depend upon for medicine and engineering, and “scientism”, the stuff they disagree with. Without a rigorous definition of “scientism”, that’s really all it can boil down to. So here’s my proposed definition:

Science is a methodology for reaching and testing theories about the empirical world, and the current collection of resulting theories. It has a limited domain of study — it is only the empirical and it only deals in the repeatable. Scientism is the belief that there are no truths outside of science’s domain of inquiry. In other words, it’s correct to say that belief in a Creator is unscientific, because G-d is neither empirical, nor is He constrained to follow natural law that we could repeat experiments in a laboratory to get predicted results. It is incorrect and becomes scientism when the person saying he thinks that saying “the notion of G-d is unscientific” has anything to do with the fact that there actually is One.

Thus, paganism’s “god of the gaps” is based on the same error as scientism; both are founded on the notion that religion and science are competing explanation systems. One overreaches religion, the other overreaaches science.

Science itself stands on the culture built by monotheism — the notion of One G-d, One Designer, One Maker, who had One Plan. There is no reason to assume a Grand Unified Theory or a Theory of Everything if it weren’t that even the atheists among them come from a culture that saw the Hand of G-d in creation. The main role of such religion is to explain “why” and what ought to be, though belief in One Creator is what led us to expect an elegant answer to “how” and what is.

And so, when science reveals more wisdom within nature, more design, gets one step closer to unity, it is actually reaffirming faith, not providing an alternative.

The Higgs Boson is like a beautiful sunset. An opportunity to gape open-jawed at the incredible Wisdom of the Designer. “מָה-רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ ה, כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ; מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ — How wondrous are Your works, Hashem!”(Tehillim 104:24)

Da’as Rachamim Tif’eres

You might have noticed on the AishDas home page the motto “Da’as, Rachamim, Tif’eres” and wondered what it meant. It was something lifted from Dr Nathan Birnbaum’s organization “HaOlim”.

(Note to the skimmer: Please do me the favor of at least skipping down to the conclusion of this post. You’ll get the final explanation, without the sources.)

I recently found his explanation of the terms in a Hebrew magazine produced for Lubavitch schools in the early 1970s, and traced it as far back as a journal called Yavneh, year 3, issue 156-157, pp 8-9 published in Levov (Lemberg) for Kisleiv-Teiveis 5691 (late 1930 CE).

The three words are usually translated: da’as – knowledge, rachamim – compassion, tif’eres – harmony and splendor.

My translation:

Dr Nathan Birnbaum

Da’as, Rachamim, Tif’eres
Da’as:

Even one who says that he doesn’t believe in G-d — feels Him. The loss of faith comes only from stupidity, foolishness or stubbornness.

If a person believed in Hashem, even in an emotionally cold way, there is no doubt that he also has da’as, although this is the lowest level of da’as.

On the higher levels, a person is illuminated, warmed, and is shaken by the Shechinah. He feels the closeness of Hashem anyway, in the furthest reaches of eternity — he has a path to his G-d, and he quakes in submission before Him and in love for Him.

Rachamim:

The stream of Love that flows from under the Throne of Glory works not only in a direct manner, but also in an indirect way; in particular Hashem yisbarakh made man to rule with his physical love. The love of G-d readies man and adapts him to sacrifice all the urges of his heart for the sake of lofty things and moving ideals, and all his senses and feelings are pulled and drawn after what is high and uplifted, pure and holy…

*

The love of G-d purifies the heart. Makes the spirit [ru'ach] pleasant and refines the soul [nefesh]. In it man feels strength and joy, pleasure and entertainment, magical melodies. Love illuminates the face, brings happiness to the heart, and is a crown of grace to its possessor.

*

The feeling of love is the strongest of the feelings of the nefesh. Before it, the other feelings and motivations in a person bow and are nullified. In particular the love that is for G-d, it has an overpowering strength and it rule is great over all the forces of the nefesh. “רְשָׁפֶיהָ רִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ שַׁלְהֶבֶתְיָה — [your heart's] flashes are flashes of fire, the Divine Flame.” (Shir haShirim 8:6)

*

How frightening is the emptiness one that can be felt in life, and how sweet is the light that appears on a person from the day he begins to feel in his heart G-d’s Love!

In G-d’s Love there is more power present and more sublime than any other inclination. G-d’s Love gives some embellishment of port, value and merit to life.

The essential reason of human suffering in the world, it is an overabundance of feelings and of love for oneself, and a person must put a stop to it. Man was not created for his pleasure or his own ends, but to love G-d. He must get habituated to love G-d in truth and entirely, and every time and every moment, and then he will not know evil; then he will know why he was alive, all the accursed questions won’t cry out to him any more, and he will not feel within his nefesh ruptures, contradictions and opposition, darkness and gloom. He will understand then, that his life is like an impotent city against the love and the light. The nefesh of man is taken from the storehouse of list and love, and upon a person is the obligation not to separate it from this… — – –

The person should please see the final purpose of the creation of the world, the love toward all creatures and in particular toward a person. Whomever doesn’t feel for his friends loss. even someone who helps him but his heart isn’t with him, or he damages the honor of the one he is helping – a person like this doesn’t know what rachamim is. If they say that some person disburses a log of money to tzedaqah — and indeed that is the truth of the matter — we have no greater proof than this that he is a master of rachamim.

On a higher level of rachamim one finds a person whose heart is full of warmth and generosity for all other people, even those who do not love him.

Tif’eres:

To give form to the substance and master it. Formation and mastery is the Might of the Creator in a direct way. Formation and mastery by another undermines the essence of Formation and Mastery [by G-d]. But the design of the substance is also made by the Creator in an indirect manner — through a person. [Hashem] gave [humanity] the senses for the purpose of tif’eres, the power to know from tif’eres, to be informed about it and to strengthen it.

(translated to Hebrew: Alexander Shmuel Halpern [editor, Yavneh])

There is another source that summarizes Dr Birnbaum’s understanding of these concepts, his 1927 presentation to the Agudah (reprinted in in L’Or HaNetzach, p. 439, translation by R’ YG Bechhofer for an article in the Jewish Observer):

It is the greatest demand placed by Judaism itself on the Jewish people: “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a sacred nation.” If Charedim seek to be true activists, then they must consider how they will fulfill this lofty demand that Judaism makes. They must place this demand at the center of their activism.

I know that many – and not necessarily the most base among us – respond to such demands with a smile on their lips. They perceive this as exaggerated temimus, as a naivete that refuses to recognize the nature of humanity and its inescapable frailties. In truth, even I am far from believing that all human beings possess an equal capacity and ambition for a life of Mussar

What I think, what I hope to achieve, what I demand from Charedi activists who recall G-d’s ancient charge to the Jewish people, is a society that attains a lofty character, so that each member of the society ascends discernibly, whether to a great or small degree, even if that individual does not end as the outstanding Ba’al Middos

How can the ideal of sanctity and character refinement become the new driving force within Am Yisroel? It seems to me, without doubt, that this ideal can only serve as a driving force if we can find suitable individuals to accept upon themselves to enunciate and declare this ideal in all its breadth and depth. They must do so incessantly, without slavishness, with the full weight of the idea. Furthermore, there must arise a small force of pioneers in self sanctification to serve as an example and role model for Am Yisroel

[Organized Orthodoxy] is obliged to come together and create societal tools that will teach:

  1. How to deepen our awareness of Hashem out of love for Him [Da'as].
  2. How to dedicate ourselves to love our fellow human beings [Rachamim].
  3. How to pursue modesty [hatznei'a leches] as a manifestation of the glory of our Hashem [Tiferes]

We must admit that cold intellectualism has penetrated our relationship with Hashem. Following through with that metaphor, Ha’Olim cannot remain at ease with this frigidity. They must toil until within their societies, within each of their groupings and within each of their members there arise divine hislahavus and inner spiritual feeling.

To achieve aliya in Da’as Hashem there float before my eyes [the following ideas]:

  1. Torah study in a more profound manner: Every “Oleh” is required to expand and deepen his knowledge of Torah and Chochmas Yisroel. Before all else, if he does not possess basic knowledge, he must acquire it upon entering the society. The society must constantly supervise its members to ensure that they are fulfilling this obligation. It must provide the opportunity to learn and grow through shiurim that it will conduct within its circle. The society shall campaign among its members, their children and their students to convince them to embark upon a term of study in a yeshiva or under a renowned talmid chacham for one to three years.
  2. Festive gatherings of Charedim, for spiritual purposes (such as the introduction of the Eastern European Shalosh Seudos, etc.).
  3. Special instruction in the history and development of Hislahavus and Dveykus in Israel and its practice.
  4. Great emphasis must be placed upon a stipulation that every Oleh to refrain from any excesses or immodesty in speech, clothing, deed and from any competitive sport or gambling.
  5. The development of a pure esthetic that will free the architecture of our Shuls and the nature of our music from the influence of other religions…

To achieve aliya in bein adam l’chaveiro I consider:

  1. Instruction in the issues of bein adam l’chaveiro and guidance in expanded practical applications. Both modern and classic texts should be employed, with a particular stress on current situations. To develop a greater sense of belonging to Orthodox society as a whole.
  2. The obligation of every Oleh to engage in Cheshbon HaNefesh at least once a week, to ascertain if, and to what extent, he has fulfilled mitzvos and refrained from aveiros according to the instruction and guidance provided to him.
  3. An outright ban on certain material pursuits.
  4. Substantive and apolitical common counsel to resolve Jewish societal problems in the spirit of Torah and Mesorah. Even if the manner in which we display the public image of our lives does not currently convey our glory as the Chosen Nation, even if we are uncertain how to properly become the glory [pe'er] of the world, Ha’Olim cannot allow the status quo to continue. They must attempt to rectify as much as possible.

To achieve aliya in the manners of creating public lives, I depict to myself:

  1. Instruction in issues concerning glory [Tiferes]and its correlation to religion and Mussar [and] practical guidance in the application of these principles to the creation of appropriate public lives.
  2. The development of an independent Jewish social structure following Judaism and Mussar.
  3. The development of arts, especially architecture, music and poetry, rooted in the spirit of true Jewish Mesorah, and the establishment of competitions in these areas.
  4. The previously mentioned (in the section on Da’as Hashem) ban on excesses.

As a means of ascent in all three aforementioned areas I consider:

Involvement in the education of young men and young women according to the demands of Ha’Olim – an involvement that will become especially substantial when it will be possible to arrange such education among large groups of Ha’Olim or in their respective communities…

There is no room to doubt the importance of Ha’Olim to the entirety of Agudas Yisroel… Not only will they carry the pressure of Yahadus in to the world of treason thereto; more so, they, through their Avodah in the ideals of Mussar and Middos (a labor unto itself) can be a special force for the Agudah, if only the Agudah realizes how to take advantage of this opportunity.

For although the Agudah’s strngths are mostly organizational and political, it cannot derive its life force from those strengths… It must focus on those inherent strengths of Yahadus itself, its eternal ideas and ancient yearnings as well. In the final analysis, stength of will is contingent on those ideas and yearnings…

Please do not allow your hearts to persuade you that all there is here is the foundation of yet another redundant new society. That which we will found here is a Kiddush Hashem that will and unite the driving forces of Chassidus, of the Mussar Movement, of the Talmudic Masters and of the ambition for loftier Derech Eretz… This will be a Kiddush Hashem to an extent never before attempted. A Kiddush Hashem that will be the first step toward the blossoming of the ancient Torah, a debt that we owe Hashem in return for the chesed He has granted us in choosing our nation. It is the first step toward fulfilling the task, for which Hashem has chosen us.

Conclusion

It would seem from these sources that Dr Birnbaum’s ideal is something like what follows. At least, if it was not his intent for HaOlim, it explains what I meant by the motto when I chose it for AishDas.

Da’as: Knowing G-d. Not knowing about Him in some philosophical way, but knowing Hashem the way one knows a Parent and a Beloved. I do not think it’s coincidental that Dr Nathan Birnbaum chose the word “da’as“, with its implications of experiential knowledge and intimacy. “And Adam knew Chavah his wife, and she conceived…” (Bereishis 4:1).

Rachamim: Being a conduit of Hashem’s Love from its source “under the Throne of Glory” through the higher levels of the soul to the nefesh, the souls presence in the physical world, so as to bring that Love to the others we encounter there.

Tif’eres: Human autonomy and creativity, the ultimate expression of our Image of the Divine, when placed in service of the Almighty. Thus tif’eres involves both the notion of a Jewish aesthetic and refinement of the self through mussar. It is creating a unity of soul in which one can be fully self-expressive and yet fully in service of the Creator.

The triad could be seen in terms of perfecting three relationships, as the Maharal understands Torah, Avodah and Gemillus Chassdim. Daas describes the ideal relationship with G-d, rachamim guides our interactions with others, and tif’eres is perfection of the self.

Or we could see them in terms of a single process, and this understanding is not contradictory. Da’as is how one attaches oneself to Hashem’s good and love. Rachamim is sharing that love with others, being good to them as He would. And tif’eres is the process of maximizing our ability to do so, now and in the future.

(Dear skimmer: If I now tempted you to return to the top and read through, click here.)