Yearly Archive: 2020

Minyan Saying Shema 0

Shema Yisrael

The following is a post I wrote for the Judaism Reclaimed Facebook page, a space that in general discusses Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah, by R’ Shmuel Phillips (Mosaica 2019). The opening in italics is an introduction by R’ Phillips. And the paragraph in sans-serif font was in my original submission, but removed from the post when...

3

Sin’as Chinam

Sin’as Chinam does not mean “baseless hatred”.It means “pointless hatred”. To explain: My point is about holding grudges, even if the hatred initially had cause, perhaps even started out with a halachically appropriate one. Should you still hold on to the hatred, because it has a basis, even though it serves no purpose? I am arguing that it is still...

Ad for Project Elevate 11 Day Tznius Program 3

Chessed and Tzenius

There was one movement in the Twentieth Century CE that was definitively established as an Other-Focused Orthodoxy (OFO). From its founding by Sarah Schenirer in 1917 until the late 1990s, the Judaism girls were taught in typical Beis Yaakov schools was one of chessed (Lovingkindness) first and foremost and only then the other mitzvos. But I noticed that there has...

2

Mysticism and Rationalism

A lot has been said on-line about Mystical (e.g. Qabbalah) and Rationalist (e.g. the Rambam) approaches to Judaism. In this post, I aspire to propose clear definitions of these terms. Because much of the existing discussion suffers from a lack of precision to the point of inconsistency. For example, the Rambam was a Rationalist by the standards of his day....

0

Why Parashas Balaq?

A lesson that can be learned from Parashas Balaq…. Why is the story of Balaq trying to hire Bil’am in the Chumash altogether? The Moavim don’t learn a lesson, they remain our enemies. Bil’am certainly didn’t change. And the Jews? We didn’t know anything about it at the time. And if it weren’t in the Torah, we still wouldn’t. My...

0

The Parent, the CEO and Me

The Parent I believe that the efficacy of prayer is in the relationship built by turning to one’s Parent in times of trouble. One may indeed get what one prayed for, in some circumstances, because perhaps the deprivation served its purpose once it woke you up to prayer. The you post-prayer has a different set of needs than the you...

0

The Role of Ritual in Other-Focused Orthodoxy

Rav Shimon Shkop gives a very inter-personal view of Judaism, writing that the we were made “וְחַיֵּי עולָם נָטַע בְּתוכֵנוּ — and eternal life was planted among us” (quoting the berakhah‘s description of the giving of the Torah) is entirely ” להיטיב עם זולתנו — to be of benefit to others, in imitation of the Creator. Rav Shimon even defines...

0

A Lesson for the Month of Eeyore

You may have seen the Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, but have you thought about the Selflessness of Eeyore? Eeyore is most famous for being depressed. If there is something wrong with the situation, he’ll find it. And Ralph Wright (the first actor to play him for Disney) gave him that constant mournful singsong speaking voice.  When...

0

Science and Halakhah

I think many discussions of the gemara about rice not producing chameitz head in the wrong direction. The definition of chameitz isn’t entirely scientific. After all, if you mix wheat flour with 100% apple juice, it also does not produce chameitz. (Ashkenazim have a minhag for healthy people to avoid “egg matzah“, but that’s a tangent I found too long...

0

How To Religiously Respond to the Pandemic

So many others wrote about THE correct way to respond to the CoVID-19 pandemic, how could someone like myself — Micha Shmuel — named for not one but TWO nevi’im not join the fray with my opinion? I think that identifying causality of the kind so many suggest, “Hashem brought this because …” is impossible for us. Read Hashem’s words...

0

Matis!

40 years ago, parashas Pinechas, my bar mitzvah peshetl at Shabbos lunch was about the contrast between Pinechas’s extremism and that of Shim’on and Leivi. That peshetl was written by a master of thoughts on the parashah, future-Rabbi Matis Blum zt”l. Reb Matis fell victim to CoVID-19 over Shabbos. 10 Nissan, 5780. These are disjointed thoughts… Not collected into some...

2

Rav Hirsch, Rav Yisrael and Me

I was very “into” Rav Hirsch’s worldview as a bachur. The symbol system explains so much. Don’t mix meat and milk because for an animal, the only creativity is procreativity, it’s in who it is, the meat. But to us, creativity goes beyond milk production, and well into creativity, not the automatic action of the flesh. A parah adumah is...

3

תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה

תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה רבי אלימלך מליז’ענסק A Prayer to Merit Light and Love by Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787, one of the early rebbes of the Chassidic movement) This prayer, written by the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, strikes a chord for me because of its heavy focus on hakarat hatov for all we have in life, and asking...

0

Omniscience and Free Will

There is no conflict between Hashem Knowing now what we will choose tomorrow, and our ability to makes that choice freely when tomorrow comes. Hashem does not Know now what will will do tomorrow. Not because Hashem doesn’t Know, but because He doesn’t now.

1

Widen Your Tent – In Jewish Action

A review of my book, Widen Your Tent, appears in the current issue of Jewish Action. REVIEWS IN BRIEF Reviews in Brief GIL STUDENT By Rabbi Micha Berger  Mosaica Press Beit Shemesh, Israel, 2019 395 pages Widen Your Tent: Thoughts on Life, Integrity & Joy Rabbi Shimon Shkop was one of the great roshei yeshivah of Europe. A student of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, he had a brilliant mind and clarity of expression...

0

Did Hashem Command Us About Qorbanos?

Well, given this and next weeks’ parashios, as well as numerous other places in the Torah, the question in the subject line appears to have an obvious answer: Yes! And yet, that’s not what Yirmiyahu appears to say (7:22-23): כִּ֠י לֹֽא־דִבַּ֤רְתִּי אֶת־אֲבֽוֹתֵיכֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א צִוִּיתִ֔ים בְּי֛וֹם (הוציא) [הוֹצִיאִ֥י] אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם עַל־דִּבְרֵ֥י עוֹלָ֖ה וָזָֽבַח׃ For when I freed your ancestors from...

0

For the Jews, There Was Light (ver. 2)

Related to the Ramban’s position, about holiness being about following the Torah’s ideals, and not stopping at the letter of its laws… There is an enigmatic statement in the Talmud (Nedarim 81a, Koren edition (Links to an external site.), original in bold, with translations of Rabbi Edin Steinsaltz’s explanatory insertions): Ravina says: They are punished because they do not first recite a blessing...

0

Coping with the Death of an Infant

(This post began life as a comment on an article on Torah Musings, ” When a Baby Dies” by Rabbi Gil Student.) What I held on to through the experience had at least two parts. The first is the impossibility of believing that Chazal were trying to explain tragedy. They studied the book of Iyov, after all, they know the...