Category: Fundamentals

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Tiqanta Shabbos

This week I’d like to discuss three seemingly unrelated questions about the words of the tephillah: The focus of Shabbos Mussaf davening is the paragraph that begins “Tiqanta Shabbos…” What most readily jumps to the eye about the tephilla is that the 22 words it opens with are an anagram of the Hebrew alphabet in reverse. (“Tiqanta” starts with a...

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The Semitic Perspective

In honor of Chanukah, I thought I would finally post my ideas on the differences between the Yefetic and Semitic perspectives. Yefes, and his son Yavan are the progenitors of western thought. Yavan, the Ionians, are the first Greeks to establish academies of art and philosophy, paving the way for the more famous Athenians. We, on the other hand, are...

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Ikkarei Emunah

The Rambam lists his ikkarim in his introduction to the chapter “Cheileq” in Tr. Sanhedrin. The mishnah states “All of Israel has a portion in the World to Come except…” The Rambam is addressing the question of who is “Yisrael” in this mishnah, which beliefs keep one from their guaranteed portion in the World to Come. (See also Hilkhos Teshuvah...

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Rav Dessler on Reality and Perception

Time — its existence is only within our perception. Creation is far more profound than our ability to grasp and far greater than that which is represented in our physical universe. Consequently, “creation” transcends any limitations of time. The concept of something being “beyond the limitations of time” cannot be fully grasped by the human intellect. Thus when considering “beyond...

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Rav Dessler On Reality and Perception, part II

(This post is an erratum and addendum to points made in “Rav Dessler On Reality and Perception“.)1: A correction. I wrote that in order to experience miracles, one must lift themselves into a world where moral law is more absolute than physical law. This is only partly true. Alternatively, Hashem can push the person into that world — as need...

5

Roads and Cities

(This is a second angle on the same topic as my earlier Semitic Perspective post, as well as Mesukim MiDevash for parashas Behar.)Do roads exist to connect cities, or do cities exist to serve the roads? We naturally assume the former, that roads are built to allow people and goods to travel from one center to another. However, historically speaking,...

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Chayei Sarah – Kibbush and Chizuq

1. Buying Ma’aras haMachpeilah It is interesting to note that Judaism’s holiest sites were not conquered but bought. Parashas Chayei Sarah opens with Avraham purchasing the Ma’aras haMakhpeilah and the fields around it. Later, Yaakov buys the city of Shechem from Canaanite princes, the sons of Chamor (Bereishis 33:19). Similarly, Shemuel II concludes with David haMelekh purchasing the Temple Mount...

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A Broad Life

A recurring concept in Rav Hutner’s writings on Shavu’os (Pachad Yitzchaq, no.s 5, 13, 40) is the idea that talmud Torah isn’t limited to sitting in front of a book. Why do we only make birkhas haTorah once a day? Tosafos explain (Berakhos 11b) “she’eino miya’eish mida’ato, shekol sha’ah chayav lilmod — because it is never lost from his thought,...

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Angels and Idols

What exactly was the sin involved in the making of the Eigel haZahav, the Golden Calf? Rashi (Ex 32:1 “asher yeilekhu“, “asher he’elanu“) says it was actual idolatry. The Kuzari (1:97) says it was a representation to be used as a conduit between man and G-d. A Moses replacement. Not so much a violation against the second and third of...

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Synthesis and Dialectic

Rav Shimon Gershon Rosenbergzt”l passed away. He was more commonly known as Rav Shagar, a nickname he picked up when a friend starting calling him by the initials on the corner of his tallis. Rav Shagar was Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Siach Yitzhak, staunchly Religious Zionist, with a mystical, spiritualist bent. Rav Shagar was 57 years old when he lost...

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TIDE, variants on a theme

In an earlier post, I raised one very fundamental difference between Rav Hirsch’s “Torah im Derekh Eretz” (Torah with culture, hereafter “TIDE”) and Rav JB Soloveitchik’s attitude toward the secular, which YU titles “Torah uMadda” (Torah and other knowledge, “TuM”). TIDE is a lifestyle that is wholly Torah and wholly derekh eretz, in that the Torah is what gives form...

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כג אלול תשס”א

Tonight begins the 6th yahrzeit. It can be no coincidence that it is a weak before Rosh haShanah that we have the reminder of how a beautiful sunny day can, in the blink of an eye, turn into the most horrible of tragedies. …בראש השנה יכתבון, וביום צום כפור יחתמון On Rosh Hashanah they will be written, and on Yom...

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Why I’m a Man

My son Shuby said something interesting to me over lunch today. Shuby is a very cute nine-year-old little boy with Downs. His ability to actually articulate the words isn’t caught up with his ability to decide what to say, so our conversations involve some checking what he was trying to say, some signing, etc… After I gave him his food,...

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Types of Thought: Gender Differences, part II

In the previous post we spoke of gender difference in terms of extending society’s reach vs developing what we have – R’ Aharon Soloveitchik’s “kibush vs yishuv” (as discussed in this devar Torah for parashas Chayei Sarah), and R’ SR Hirsch’s outside vs inside. (And Dear Abby’s goal vs process.) And in the post before that we started discussing the...

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What Exists?

Bishop Berkley said that  “reality” is a set of inputs G-d feeds into our souls. In His compassion, he allows us to work together by giving us consistent worldviews with each other. Which is why when a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, it makes no sound. But then, there is really...

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Aggadic Stories, History and Halakhah

Someone raised on Avodah the following question (see the posts listed here under two different subject lines, “Kinyan on Shabbos??” and “Kinyan on Shabbos? (Har Sinai)” ). The first Shavuos was on a Shabbos. Didn’t we acquire the Torah — doesn’t this imply a qinyan on Shabbos — which is prohibited? What about our being made avadim, servants, of the...

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1984, NewSpeak and the Holy Language

A long while back I wrote some thoughts on the dispute between the Ramban and the Rambam about what makes Hebrew the holy language, in the context of a general dispute over the context of qedushah. The Rambam says that Hebrew’s holiness comes from it having no native expletives, even sexual organs are identified by euphemisms or loan words. The...

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Allegory and Literalism

In an earlier essay, I wrote about mandatory beliefs in Judaism. What about the less central claims? There is a specific mitzvah obligating us to believe the events of yetzi’as Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt. But a topic of much discussion in the Orthodox corner of the internet (and in particular, the blogosphere) is whether one must believe that there...

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Things to Thank the Maccabees For

Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I noticed a number of ways in which Jewish and Hellenic thought differ. Not just difference of philosophy — differences even more fundamental than philosophy. Ideas that conflicting schools of thought that belong to the same culture rarely argue. The things people raised in each culture take for granted. I thought in honor...

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Don’t Forget Daf Alef!

A thought that I had amidst all the talk about the start of Daf Yomi Cycle #13… But first: Mazal Tov to all the mesaymim! There has been much talk lately about one of AishDas’s central themes: seeing the forest for the trees. Eg the Spring 2012 issue of Klal Perspectives, and R’ Dr Gidon Rothstein’s recently published seifer, “We’re...

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The Rambam’s Philosophy and Mesorah

The argument over whether the Rambam’s philosophy had a place in Jewish Thought didn’t end in 1306 when the Maimonidian Controversies (that began in his lifetime) died down. Even to this day, in many circles his Guide for the Perplexed and the first four chapters of the Mishneh Torah are not studied. (For similar reasons, in these communities, when Chovos...

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Orthodoxy and Biblical Criticism

This is part two of my reactions to the internet discussions about Dr Zev Farber’s essay “Avraham Avinu is My Father: Thoughts on Torah, History and Judaism” on thetorah.com. In the first part, I tried to lay out how I view the topic of what is Orthodoxy and what is an Orthodoxy Jew, just to set the scene. Very quick...

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The Limits of Orthodoxy

I feel a need to chime in about the contretemps about Dr Zev Farber’s essay “Avraham Avinu is My Father: Thoughts on Torah, History and Judaism” on thetorah.com. But first I want to lay out some thoughts about defining heresy, who qualifies as a heretic, and the limits of Orthodoxy, which may not be the same thing. To be clear,...

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So, Should I Believe?

If the topic of how far we can stretch Orthodox believes, and whether Dr Farber’s paper violates those limists bore you, you might want to skip ahead to the subtitle “Toward an Orthodox Epistemology“. Well, now that we spent two posts on the topic of a man who is considered to be an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and dayan but doesn’t...

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Why are there poor people

The gemara tells a story on Bava Basra 10a: שאל טורנוסרופוס הרשע את ר”ע: אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא, מפני מה אינו מפרנסם? א”ל: כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם. א”ל: [אדרבה!] זו שמחייבתן לגיהנם. אמשול לך משל למה הדבר דומה. למלך בשר ודם שכעס על עבדו, וחבשו בבית האסורין, וצוה עליו שלא להאכילו, ושלא להשקותו. והלך אדם אחד,...