Yearly Archive: 2012

24

The Curriculum at Volozhin

On the April 6, 1858, the government ordered the closure of the yeshiva in Volozhin. There is no record that anyone from the government tried to implement this order. But on the 22nd, R’ Gershon Amsterdam led a delegation to have the ruling repealed. Among the things presented to the government was the curriculum at the yeshiva. Here is my...

2

The Holy Refrain

Rav Shim’on Shkop comments on the Toras Kohanim (a/k/a the Sifra) at the opening of parashas Qedoshim.… Yes, I’m revisiting the introduction to Shaarei Yosher. Again. 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...

8

It’s a Wonderful Life

Abstruse Goose hit the nail on the head again!

14

The Eilu vaEilu Paradox

The notion of eilu va’eilu is taken by many to be quite literal — that two conflicting halachic opinions can both be equally correct, both equally truly representing the Will of G-d. This is a product of halakhah being a mapping from Hashem’s infinite Thought to human reality and/or His leaving us a process that has room for our creativity...

0

Teach Him Like the Laws of Pesach

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה׳ אֱ-לֹקינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן. The wise [son], what does he say? “What are the testimonial rites, the dictates and the laws which Hashem our G-d commanded you?” And even you tell him like the laws of the Passover [offering]. We...

0

40 or 50 Makkos

There is a dispute in the Haggadah about how to count the plagues. Rabbi Yosi simply says there were 10 plagues in Egypt, and the equivalent of 50 at the sea. Just focusing on the makkos themselves, Rabbi Yoshi looks at each plague as a unit; he doesn’t subdivide them. I wish to look at the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer...

2

Rav and Shemuel on Redemption

The mishnah in Pesachim requires that in telling of the Pesach story at the seder, “we begin with degradation, and end with glory.” There is a debate between Rav and Shemuel over what this applies to. In practice, our Haggadah contains both. (Probably because, as the Haggadah itself says, “whomever [says] more, behold he is praiseworthy.”) According to Shemuel, the...

1

What are we?

My son Shuby and I go to shul for Shacharis weekday mornings, ever since Shuby started putting on tefillin. Shuby has Downs, so I wind the tefillin for him, help him with the berakhos, etc… We had a conversation that morning, which started with him declaring me “the boss of the tefillin.” When I explained that tefillin weren’t something I...

8

Why are bricks red?

One way to explain the color of the brick would involve discussing the quantum mechanics of the atoms bricks are made of, (and this is where most readers eyes gloss over and skim to the end of the paragraph…) and the possible energy levels electrons can take when those atoms are combined into the compounds they are when they comprise...

2

The Mussar Ideal

(This is a rewrite and expansion of a couple of comments I made to something someone posted on an online course offered by The Mussar Institute. ) There are many middot that one can apply in relation to others, or reflecting back to themselves. For example, kavod (respect) or ahavah (love) are attitudes I must have toward others, but must...

1

Interpretations of Probability

At “Casting Lots” I tried to use the relationship between the field of statistics and Divine Providence as a means of looking at the verse “Hipil pur hu hagoral — he cast a pur, that is a goral” (Esther 3:7). I asked: Which raises the more general question as to whether the Believer’s lexicon even has meaning for the word...

3

Casting Lots

Regardless of what one believes about Creation and the origin of the species, we have evolution since then. In order to even entertain the possibility of evolution as the origin of the species, one would have to understand that “random mutation” is not random, but Divinely guided. So that in addition to the filtering effects of “survival of the fittest”...

0

Midgets on the Shoulders of Giants

Someone recently (when I first wrote an earlier version of this post, Feb 2007) asked me about nisqatnu hadoros, the decline over time from one generation to the next. How is this possible, given that we now have universal education, and the masses know more Torah than any other generation in millennia? Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident....

2

Shaarei Yosher: Chapter Headings

An outline, according to how I presented it: Life’s Mission Making ourselves in the “image” of the Creator. The “image” of the Creator is to bestow good on others — because creation had to be for our benefit, as He has no needs. We therefore must commit ourselves, sanctify all we have, to the mission of bestowing good to others....

0

Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Conclusion

To my mind, one can use this idea to elaborate what our sages explained in Nedarim (folio 38[a]) on the verse “carve for yourself”. Moses didn’t get rich except through the extras of the Tablets. This is an amazing idea – [is it possible that] Hashem couldn’t find any way to make Moses wealthy except through the extras of the...

0

Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 4

The beginning of the receiving of the Torah through Moses was a symbol and sign for all of the Jewish people who receive the Torah [since]. Just as Hashem told Moses, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets”, so too it is advice for all who receive the Torah. Each must prepare Tablets for himself, to write upon them the word...

0

Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 3

The first Tablets were made by G-d, like the body of writing as explained in the Torah. The latter Tablets were made by man [Moses], as it says “Carve for yourself two stone tablets.” (Exodus 34:1) Tablets are things which cause standing and existence, that it’s not “letters fluttering in the air.” Since they were made by Hashem, they would...

0

For the Good

אמר רבי אבהו כתיב (תהילים ד:ב) “בְּקָרְאִי עֲנֵנִי אֱ-לֹהֵי צִדְקִי, בַּצָּר הִרְחַבְתָּ לִּי[; חָנֵּנִי, וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי].” אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, “רבון העולמים! כל צרה שהייתי נכנס לה, אתה הייתה מרחיבה לי. נכנסתי לצרתה של בת שבע, ונתת לי את שלמה. נכנסתי לצרתן של ישראל ונתת לי את בית המקדש:” Rabbi Avohu said: It says, “When I called, You...

0

Fast for the Sinners

תני כשם שמתריעים עליהן בשאר ימי שבוע כך מתריעין עליהן בשביעית מפני פרנסת אחרים מהו מפני פרנסת אחרים חברייא אמרי מפני פרנסת עכו”ם… A beraisa: Just as we blow shofar [and make a fast day] for [a lack of rain] on the other days of the seven-year cycle, so too we blow shofar for them during shemittah for the income...

2

Who fed the Egyptians?

During the second 3 days of choshekh in which the darkness was tangible and the Mitzriim could not move, how did they eat? After all, an oath not to eat for 3 days is considered suspect, and we wait in expectation that the person will need to violate it. (Which is less suspect than if the oath were three days...

0

Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 2

One can use this to explain the whole notion of breaking the [first] Tablets, for which I have not found an explanation. At first glance, understanding seems closed off. Is it possible that Moses our teacher would think that because the Jews made the [Golden] Calf they should be left without the Torah? He should have just waited to teach...

0

Precondition for a Fast

דלמא: ר’ בא בר זבדא, ורבי תנחום בר עילאי, ור’ יאשיה נפקוי לתעניתא. דרש ר’ בא בר זבדא (איכה ג:מא) “נִשָּׂא לְבָבֵנוּ אֶל כַּפָּיִם, [אֶל אֵ-ל בַּשָּׁמָיִם.].” “נשא לבבנו אל כפים” — ואיפשר כן” אית בר נש דנסב ליביה ויהיב גו ידיה? אלא, מהו נשא? נשוי ליבינן לכך ידינן, ואחר כך “אל א-ל בשמים.” כך אם יהיו השרץ בידו של...

0

If I am here…

תניא: אמרו עליו על הלל הזקן, כשהיה שמח בשמחת בית השואבה אמר כן: “אם אני כאן, הכל כאן. ואם איני כאן. מי כאן?” A beraisa: They said about Hillel the Elder, when he was happy during Simchas Beis haShoeivah would say like this: If I am here, then all are here. And if I am not here, who is here?...

0

Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 1

AS A BEGINNING OF this preparation, so that one is ready to acquire Torah, the Torah requires specific conditions. The first condition is toil and contemplation, as our sages explain “‘If in my statues you go’ (Vayiqra 26:3) … that you should be toiling in the Torah.” (Rashi ad loc, quoting Sifra 26:2) And other things required for acquiring Torah....