Category: Dei`os

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Internalizing Torah

A beraita (an early text later incorporated into the Talmud) in Avot (6:6) opens, “Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: …” And then the beraita truly lists virtues. Some are obviously linked to acquiring Torah, like the first...

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A Tzadiq Will Flower Like a Date-Palm

I had this thought while saying Qabbalas Shabbos this week. (Actually, part of it during Qabbalas Shabbos 7 years ago, after which I wrote an earlier version of the post. A further development was a product of this week’s davening, yeilding this version.) It’s a “Chassidishe Vort” in style, intentionally stretching the meaning of a quote in order to create a...

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What does Hashem ask of you?

We saw earlier in our discussion of yir’ah the following gemara (Berakhos 33b, Megillah 25a and Niddah 16b): ואמר רבי חנינא: הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. שנאמר (דברים י:יב) “עַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה…?” Rabbi Chanina said: Everything is in the hands of [the One in] heaven except for yir’as Shamayim, as it says: “And...

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Two Temidim a Day

One Purim at the se’udah, when people were feeling a little levity, Rav Chaim Volozhiner asked his Rebbe, the Vilna Gaon, for a berakahah. The Vilna Gaon blessed him that he would merit to bring two temidim daily. Rav Chaim was thrown — we do not bring the tamid, the twice-daily offering, today as there is no beis hamiqdash!1 The...

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The Mussar Dispute

Rav Yisrael Salanter wrote to Volozhin, the flagship yeshiva of the yeshiva movement. He offered the Netziv his services as a mashgiach ruchani. The Netziv said that he was welcome to come, but if Rav Yisrael came, the Netziv would have to leave. Rav Yisrael Salanter was a brilliant talmudist and overqualified for the job, but the Netziv felt he...

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Toward a Torah Definition of “Ethics”

A short thought, maybe a conversation starter… There is a paradoxic obligation: it is prohibited to conform in all ways only to the letter of the law. One must stay well within it (lifnim mishuras hadin; or using the contrasting English metaphor: “beyond the letter of the law”) both in ways that prevent violation through error, habit or negligence and...

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Rav Wolbe’s World part II: Middos

This is the second part of a translation of Rav Shlomo Wolbezt”l‘s contribution to Bishvilei haRefu’ah [In the Paths of Medicine], volume 5, Sivan 5742, “Psychiatria veDat” [Psychiatry and Religion], section beis (pp 60-70). In this section, the Mashgiach prepares the background for the discussion by laying out his basic worldview, his view of the purpose of Torah and life,...

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Rav Wolbe’s World part I: Yedidus

Rav Shlomo Wolbe was a transitional figure in Jewish thought, presenting pre-Holocaust yeshiva mussar to students steeped in modern Charedi idiom. A German-born, university-educated ba’al teshuvah, he studied in one of the premier East European yeshivas and became a Mussar devotee, eventually marrying the daughter of R. Avraham Grodzinski, the martyred mashgiach of the famous Slobodka yeshiva. Until his passing...

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Mixed Motives

See the value of a single mitzvah, even if performed for primarily ulterior motives! From Yerushalmi Qiddushin 22b: א”ר יוחנן: אם שמעת דבר מר’ ליעזר בנו של ר”י הגלילי, נקב אזנך כאפרכס. הזו ושמע דאמר רבי יוחנן, ר’ ליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר: אפי’ תשע ומאות ותשעים ותשעה מלאכים מלמדין עליו חובה, ומלאך אחד מלמד עליו זכות, הקב”ה...

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The Rambam, Knowledge and Akrasia

(Version 3.) In the previous entry, I wrote: “Rav SR Hirsch argues that the Rambam only failed to find the meaning to the details of the mitzvos because his assumption that mitzvos serve to either (a) teach true monotheism, (b) wean us away from idolatry, or (c) create a society which enables us in these pursuits is based on Aristotle’s...

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Today’s Daas Torah

Here’s a theory that I developed recently [when this was posted in its first, much shorter, version on 26-Nov-04]… The gemara uses the term “da’as Torah” in a sense totally different than today’s usage. It appears once, in Chullin 90b, to ask whether a cited opinion on a halachic matter was from sources, which it calls “da’as Torah“, or whether...

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3×2 Constant Mitzvos

There Chinuch famously states in his introduction that there are six mitzvos that because they refer to a state of mind, can be performed constantly or perpetually. (At least, while awake; I won’t speak to whether you fulfill them while sleeping.) … והחיוב של אלו לעשותן אינו בכל עת רק בזמנים ידועים מן השנה או מן היום. חוץ מששה מצוות...

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Learning and Teaching, part II

Concluding the Meshekh Chokhmah’s comment on Devarim 28:61… In the first installment, we saw Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinskzt”l distinguish between Torah, which could only being given via Moshe, and the Sefer Torah, which also includes the last eight pesuqim even if they were transmitted through Yehoshua after Moshe Rabbeinu’s passing. That there is something about the passing of a...

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Learning and Teaching, part I

Continuing from the previous entry‘s coverage of Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinskzt”l‘s commentary in the Meshech Chokhmah on Devarim 28:61. He segues from the idea that the last eight verses of the seifer Torah were added via Yehoshua to the Torah itself that we received through Moshe in order to teach us about the effect of the death of the...

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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...

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Like a Strand of Hair

The beraisa repeats a story of Rabbi Lazar bei R’ Tzadoq and Abba Sha’ul ben Batnis, who were storekeepers in Jerusalem. They would fill their measure[d jars of oil] on erev Yom Tov and give them to buyer on Yom Tov [letting every last drop of sold oil drip into the buyer’s container overnight].R’ Chaninah ben Aqaviah said: even on chol...

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The Bathroom

(תהילים לב) “עַל זֹאת יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ לְעֵת מְצֹא…” אמר ר’ חנינא, “‘לעת מצא’ זו אשה…”  ר’ נתן אומר, “‘לעת מצא’ זו תורה…” רב נחמן בר יצחק אמר, “‘לעת מצא’ זו מיתה…”  … ר’ יוחנן אמר, “‘לעת מצא’ זו קבורה”… מר זוטרא אמר, “‘לעת מצא’ זה בית הכסא.” אמרי במערבא, “הא דמר זוטרא עדיפא מכלהו.” “For this every pious...

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Like a Weasel

כתיב (תהילים מט[:ב]) “שִׁמְעוּ זֹאת כָּל הָעַמִּים, הַאֲזִינוּ כָּל יֹשְׁבֵי חָלֶד.” ר’ אחא אמר ר’ אבהו ורבנן ח”א למה הוא מושל כל באי העולם בחולדה.  אלא לפי שכל מה שיש ביבשה יש בים הרבה מינים בים מה שאין ביבשה ואין חולדה בים.  וחורנה אמר למה הוא מושל כל באי העולם בחולדה אלא מה החולדה הזאת גוררת ומנחת ואינה יודעת למי...

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In one sentence, what Yeshiva chinuch is all about

(Cut-n-paste from R’ Chaim Brown’s blog, Divrei Chaim.) Thursday, November 11, 2010 “In public school, they’ll ask you at the end, ‘Well, what have you learned?’ But here at Rice, the question is, ‘What kind of person have you become?” – p. 75 in “The Street Stops Here – A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem” by Patrick...

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Book Announcement: Daas Torah: Child and Domestic Abuse

Now available by R’ Dr Daniel Eidensohn and Dr Baruch Shulem!Daas Torah: Child & Domestic Abuse, vol 1 & 2 This book is divided into two volumes – each of which is a complete work and yet they clearly supplement each other. Volume II deals with the classic Jewish sources that are relevant to define and understand the issue of...

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The Call of the Chatzotzros

כל הכלים שעשה משה כשרים לו וכשרים לדורות, חצוצרות ־ כשרות לו ופסולות לדורות. All the vessels that Moshe made were valid for him and valid for future generations, [except for] the chatzotzros ([silver] trumpets) which were valid for him but invalid for future generations. -Menachos 28b While it is permissible to use a 100 year old shofar, or in...

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Qorach’s Heart

The title verse of this week’s parashah reads “ויקח קרח” (Bamidbar 16:39). The simple translation would be “And Qorach took”. However, the Midrash Rabbah takes it slightly differently, using an equally valid if less obvious translation. “‘And he took Qorach’ — meaning, his heart took him.” The Ramban notes that the word “vayiqach” consistently refers to a non-physical move. This...

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Shavuos Reading

I just wanted to share some of what I came across this Shavuos… 1- From YU’s “Shavuos-to-Go”, R’ Mordechai Torczyner writes about the connection between Shavuos and chessed. Often cited is the idea that Rus, a book about chessed, is read on Shavuos to highlight this connection. R’ Torczyner opens with a different point of connection: [A] midrash describing the...

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Wisdom from Eeyore

The month that starts today, אִייָר‎ or אִיָּר, borrows its name (as do all the months) from those of Babylonia, in commemoration of our exile there — and our redemption from it. In Akkadian, the month name is “Ayyaru”, meaning “blossom” — logical enough for this time of year. But that brings to mind a piece of wisdom from an...

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Whomever gets to the water first…

אמרין עליו על רבי חנינא בן דוסא שהיה עומד ומתפלל ובא חברבר והכישו, ולא הפסיק את תפילתו. והלכו ומצאו אותו חברבר מת מוטל על פי חורו. אמרו “אי לו לאדם שנשכו חברבר, ואי לו לחברבר שנשך את רבי חנינא בן דוסא!” מה עיסקיה דהדין חברבריא? כד הוות נכית לבר נשא – אין בר נשא קדים למיא חברברא מיית ואין חברברא...