Aspaqlaria Blog

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1. The Setup A discussion on Facebook made me realize that my own attitude toward halakhah is quite different than Rav Hershel Schachter’s. If I thought there was only one right approach, I’d bet against myself, but since there isn’t… Here’s the context. Both Rav Hershel Schacter and I wear tzitzis made with a dye obtained from the banded dye-murex...

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18 Av 5689

In 1929, Arab leadership fomented a wave of violence across Palestine by inventing rumors of a Jewish plans to take over Har haBayis. By Friday, August 23rd, 1929, the local Arabs in Chevron were explicitly declaring their intent to kill. Stones were thrown through house windows. At 4pm the Slabodka Yeshiva was attacked. Only a couple of people were inside...

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Personal Worth

Tana Devei Eliyahu (Seder Rabba 9:1) asks how it is Devorah came to be shofetes and nevi’ah. Wasn’t Pinechas alive in those days? It answers: מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין ישראל בין עכו”ם בין איש בין אשה בין עבד ובין שפחה הכל לפי המעשה שהוא עושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו I give testimony of heaven and earth that...

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Body and Soul

The Shulchan Arukh opens with a discussion of the proper attitude upon awakening and some of the fundamentals of Judaism. And so, the Arukh haShulchan does as well. In Orach Chaim 1:4, R Yechiel Michl Epstein writes something about how we are to view ourselves. That it should be evident to anyone of some intellect that a person is both...

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Torah im Derekh Eretz – Torah uMada

I wrote the following for a rather informal venue. Lots of acronyms to speed up typing. Given my son Aishey’s upcoming wedding, I don’t have the time to rewrite it, but I wanted to capture the content while it was still new enough for me to remember to do so. “Torah uMadda“, YU’s motto, doesn’t have a precise formulation. Rav...

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Silk Screened Sifrei Torah

Over a decade ago, Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi came up with a method for silk-screening Sifrei Torah. The ink is manually pushed through a silk-screen onto a qelaf. Here is a video in which they describe the process. I don’t know of any other support for this process. What I don’t understand is why not. This same debate was had when...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – BeChuqosai

Parashas BeChukosai begins “אם בחוקוני – If you follow My statutes… ” and continues by promising “I will give you your rain .. in its time.” The reward for following Hashem’s laws is measure-for-measure through His natural law. The Mechech Chokhmah discusses the centrality of natural law, that the world wasn’t made to run on miracles, and miracles aren’t the point...

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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...