Yearly Archive: 2019

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Widen Your Tent on JM in the AM

Nachum Segal interviewed me on the radio during the morning rush hour yesterday. If you’d like to hear something about the book — my objectives, some of the points raised, and a little about why Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction was my choice of starting point, a you can listen here: 

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Behar

Parashas Behar opens with the mitzvah of shemittah. The Meshakh Chokhmah’s first two entries on the parashah are about (1) what shemittah implies about how Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael to us and (2) the distinction between shemittah and yovel. Audio:   Video:  The first comment shed some light on the second. We see Hashem call Israel a gift, and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Emor

Part of parashas Emor (VaYiqra 22:26-23:44) contains a survey of the holy days of the year. It is well known because it is also read on the first day(s) of Sukkos and in the diaspora, the second day of Pesach. The Meshekh Chokhmah makes a profound statement in his commentary on the end of 23:21, in the description of Shavuos,...

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Shaarei Yosher – VeAhavta leRei’akha kaMokha

Vayiqra 19:18 famously says “VaAhavta lerei’akh kamokha, ani Hashem — love your neighbor as yourself, I Am Hashem. Rav Shimon Shkop has much to say about this pasuq, so I followed up the previous shiur on “qedoshim tihyu qi Qadosh Ani — be holy for I Am Holy” with another. In that shiur, we saw that Rav Shimon defines our...

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Shaarei Yosher – Qedoshim

Instead of discussing a comment by the Meshekh Chokhmah this week, I chose to present an idea from Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher. The thoughts in this shiur are bits taken from a much longer treatment in my book, Widen Your Tent. The chapter which consists of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher itself, with my translation, is available...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Acharei Mos

The Torah returns to the topic of the death of two of Aharon’s sons when introducing the Yom Kippur service in the Beis haMiqdash. What is the connection between the two topics? The Yerushalmi says it is that just as Yom Kippur atones, the death of the righteous atones. Is it any righteous person’s death? And doesn’t this somewhat beg...

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Why the Wrap?

This blog post is with gratitude to Rabbi Pesach Sommer, for asking: Anyone aware of any interesting conceptual, philosophical, theological, or derush ideas connected to koreich, and the idea of eating Pesach, matzah and marror together? I didn’t, but the question prodded me to dream up the following. Hillel’s stated motive is textual. As the Hagadah puts it: זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ...

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With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils. – Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2 This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now...

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Purim and Achdus

קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּל֣[וּ] הַיְּהוּדִים֩ the Jews fulfilled and accepted says the Megillah (Est 9:27), which is darshened “they fulfilled that which they accepted already.” (Shavuos 39a) Purim not only introduces the redemption season, it represents the completion of the redemption process. Pesach’s freedom finds its purpose in Shavuos’s Torah. And the acceptance of mitzvos of Shavuos is finally fully embraced on...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Introduction to Vayiqra

There is a dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban’s Castilian school about the role of qorbanos. The Rambam apparently* says that qorbanos were proposed as a strategy to wean people away from avodah zara. The Ramban and his whole Catalonian school objected. Adam, Qayin and Hevel brought sacrifices before idolatry was invented. Noach brought his when there were no...

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Erasing Amaleiq

I heard (via YouTube) a thought in a shiur by Rabbi Yaakov Haber that I wanted to share and embellish. When we first found out in 2012 that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons against their own people, we were shocked. It was repeatedly in the news headlines. It is now 2019. They are still gassing their own people;...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Haftaras Pequdei – Hester Panim

It seems that by the time we get to the end of the discussion of the Mishkan, haRav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk already wrote all the more philosophical points he wanted to make about the subject. So this week, we’ll take a look at what the Meshekh Chokhmah says on the haftarah, on Melahim I 5:18. He opens by referring...

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Why Do the Best of Doctors Go to Gehennom?

On Mi Yodeyah, DonielF quotes the last mishnah in Qiddushin. The mishnah first lists a set of professions that one shouldn’t teach one’s son, because it’s hard to make money in them while avoiding theft. After a couple of debates about specific jobs belonging on the list, the mishnah says: טוב שברופאים לגיהנם, והכשר שבטבחים שותפו של עמלק The best...

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What does אחָד in שמע ישראל actually mean?

Shoaib asked on Mi Yodeya: In the Shema the word used for the oneness of God is אחָד (ref.). This is startling for a Muslim, as they find in the Quran almost a transliteration of the same word, i.e. the Arabic احد (pronounced: Ahad). What is surprising, however, is that in almost all the translations that I could find on...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayaqhel – Shabbos & Miqdash

In Ki Sisa, last week’s parashah, the discussion of building the Mishkan is preceded by the obligation to observe Shabbos. However this week’s parashah placed the Mishkan first — and Rashi says this is the source of the idea that building the Mishkan does not override Shabbos. Implied is that had only the telling in Ki-Sisa stood, building the Mishkan...

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VeShomru

The opening of the middle berakhah of Shabbos Morning Admidah is somewhat famously odd, “Moshe will be rejoicing with the giving of his portion, for You called him a loyal servant. A crown of splendor descended on his head when he stood before You in Mount Sinai, and two stone luchos he brought down in his hand. And Shabbos was written in them,...

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Coin of Fire

זֶ֣ה ׀ יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִ֤ים גֵּרָה֙ הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל מַחֲצִ֣ית הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל תְּרוּמָ֖ה לַֽה’׃ This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-sheqel by the sanctuary weight — twenty gerahs to the sheqel — a half-sheqel as an offering to Hashem. – Shemos 30:13 The word “זה – this” generally refers to pointing...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Ki Sisa — Nature and Revelation

1- Shemos 32:19: The mistake that led to the eigel was thinking Moshe had inherent qedushah, and therefore they needed an an inherently holy eigel to replace him. Therefore, Moshe breaks the first luchos, despite their being carved and written by G-d, forcefully demonstrating that even they don’t have inherent qedushah. 2- Shemos 32:16: The luchos could be read from...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Tetzaveh – Mizbeiach & Aron

Hashem (Shemos 29:42) speaks of revealing Himself from the entrance of the Ohel Mo’eid, from where the daily tamid was offered. And yet elsewhere we learnt that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the keruvim, atop the aron. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk uses this contrast to discuss: What is the role of each of these keilim within the purpose of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Terumah – Who can be a Talmid Chakham?

The Torah (Shemos 26:15) says that the poles used to carry the aron may not be removed from it. Even when the Mishkan was assembled, and the aron wasn’t being moved. Why? What lesson can we take from this? Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk takes two lessons — one pragmatic about how it takes a village to have a talmid chakham,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Mishpatim – Personal and National Religion

What happened between Shemos 24:3 “kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem na’aseh” and v. 7 “kol asher diver Hashem na’aseh venishmah”? Why did we accept the Torah twice, using two different terminologies? Audio:   Video: שמות כ״ד:ג-ז וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ה֔׳ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה֖׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ג – 3 Moses went and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Yisro – Intellect or Action?

The Meshekh Chokhmah on Shemos 20:18 discusses Moshe’s approach through the smoke to the top of Har Sinai. What does the smoke represent? How did Moshe perfect himself to be capable of reaching Sinai. The difference between the prophecy at the burning bush and the revelation at Sinai. HaRav Meir Simcha haKohein contrasts the philosopher’s idea of self perfection, which...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Beshalach – Thought and Deed

(Yes, this title is an intentional play on last week’s.) The Meshekh Chokhmah writes on Shemos 14:23, a line describing the crossing of the Red Sea. The Meshekh Chokhmah compares how individuals are judged and nations. For individuals, sins of action, such as idolatry or Shabbos desecration, are punished. But flaws in one’s middos or a lack of politeness are...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...