Category: Dei`os

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Psychology and Mussar

The story so far from the previous two entries: Contemporary western society puts its trust in science to the extent that things outside its domain are assumed to have a lesser reality. The current stance toward morality is therefore one of uncertainty, which is paraded as the virtues of tolerance and relativism. It also means that instead of lauding free...

2

Modern Orthodoxy, Chareidism, and Mussar

Thinking about it, I don’t think the whole Torah uMadah (TuM) vs. Torah im Derekh Eretz (TIDE) vs. “Torah Only” distinctions which have become the borders between our communities are really compatible with Mussar. To simplify, let’s phrase the difference between Modern Orthodoxy and Chareidim as basically whether (1) chol is an opportunity whose risks must be mitigated or (2)...

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Did you cry?

This morning (Shabbos parashas Mas’ei) we read about the borders of Israel (ch. 34:1-12). We read that the southwest corner of Israel is to be Nachal Mitzrayim, Wadi el-Arish (R’ Saadia Gaon) or the Pelusium arm of the Nile (Rashi).Regardless of what you think about the correctness of pulling out of Azza, whether you feel it’s monumental insanity or as...

0

Did you cry? II

(This isn’t my usual style or topic for this blog. But as it approaches the deadline, sitting here on Tish’ah beAv afternoon, it would be inhuman not to feel a need to share my thoughts on the subject.)The haftorah for Devarim also must awaken thoughts of current events. “Your country is laid waste, your cities are burned by fire, your...

3

But the name of the city was “Luz” originally

And he [Ya’aqov] called the name of that place Beis-el, but the name of the city was Luz originally. – Bereishis 28:19 Luz, the original name for Beis-el, is apparently the name of a kind of tree, usually translated “chestnut”. It’s one of the kinds of wood from which Ya’aqov avinu made sticks for the sheep and goats to look...

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War

I am not a political pundit, so I don’t have much to say about current events. But how can we not discuss this topic?The Hebrew for war is milchamah. The root of the word is /לחם/ (bread or food in general). The gemara notes this point in Sukkah 52a, when it , and just read the conjugation, we need to...

1

Frum or Erlich

I highly recommend the essay “Frum or Erlich” by Dr. Yitzchok Levine. Teaser: The American Orthodox Jewish community of today is drastically different from the community that existed in America 75 years ago. Orthodox Judaism circa 1930 was struggling to maintain its numbers due to mass defections from religious observance. … In these communities one increasingly hears such statements as,...

2

The 25th of Shevat

[This is an expansion on an earlier yahrzeitz’s post.] Today is the 25th of Shevat, the 124th yartzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Ben Ze’ev Wolf Lipkin of Salant. Rav Yisrael’s best-known work, his Iggeres haMussar is available on line in English (translated by R’ Zvi Miller as part of Or Yisrael) and in a bilingual edition (by R’ Menachem G. Glenn,...

2

The 29th of Shevat

Today is the 80th Yahrzeit of R’ Nosson Tzvi Finkelzt”l, the Alter of Slabodka. The Alter’s school of mussar focused on gadlus ha’adam – the greatness of man. Anavah (modesty) needs to be distinguished from having a poor self image. A person who thinks he is worthless will not try to accomplish much, since he doesn’t think there is much...

2

Rebbe

Here is another guest post. This time, two biographies. Hopefully be”H work will slow down to the point where I can return to writing. Today is the 14th yahrzeit of Rav Dovid Lifshitz, a man who tried so hard to be my rebbe despite by inability to really listen to what he was telling me… (Some say he was niftar...

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May only goodness and kindness pursue me

.וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל-הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ, כִּי תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to the call of Hashem your G-d. – Devarim 28:2 This verse from parashas Ki Savo recalls a line from Tehillim that we sing often: .אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי, וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-ה’ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים May...

5

What is Mussar?

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 125th yahrzeit begins tonight (25 Shevat), and while searching for grist for that mill for an appropriate entry, some Avodah discussion sparked some thoughts. Foundation Stories There are two foundation stories about the birth of the Mussar Movement (which should not be confused with mussar as a whole). The first is where a young Yisrael Lipkin used...

2

Brisk and Mussar

This post is a continuation of my previous post on the nature of Mussar, and on an earlier post contrasting Brisker and Rav Shim’on Shkop’s derekh (as I saw Rav Dovid Lifshitz’s variant thereon). In the earlier post I wrote: Fundamental to Brisker philosophy is the idea that halakhah has no first principles. It can only be understood on its...

2

A Tzadiq Will Flower Like a Date-Palm

I had this thought while saying Qabbalas Shabbos this week. It’s a “Chassidishe Vort” in style, intentionally stretching the meaning of a quote in order to create a mnemonic for an important point — but with a mussar message. צַ֭דִּיק כַּתָּמָ֣ר יִפְרָ֑ח, כְּאֶ֖רֶז בַּלְּבָנ֣וֹן יִשְׂגֶּֽה׃ A righteous person will flower like a date-palm, Will grow like a cedar in Lebanon....

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“A Greater Obligation”

Just sharing a couple of posts from the blog “A Simple Jew“. A Greater Obligation Footnote in the Artscroll Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: See Mishnah Berura 1:12 and Shaar HaTziyun 26 who cites Chayei Adam which states that studying sifrei mussar is a greater obligation than that of studying Mishnayos. He follows up by posting a comment by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky...

2

Speaking Yiddish

In the US today, when someone needs to pay for a ride to get somewhere, someone in the house may wait by the window to see when it arrives. And then they’ll call out “Time to go, the taxi’s here!” In pre-war Eastern Europe, they would have called out “Der balagalah iz du — The wagon driver is here.” And...

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R’ Moshe Feinstein: Blessing the sun – and a child

The following was outright copied from Da’as Torah, a blog maintained by R’ Daniel Eidensohn (who, among other things, is the compiler of Yad Moshe, the index to Rav Moshe Feinstein’s responsa, “Igros Moshe”). It was just too beautiful not to repeat: Every 28 years there is a special blessing made on the sun. It is in commemoration of the...

2

Finding Spirituality

R’ Rich Wolpoe shared with us on Avodah this challenge: My friend’s thesis is that Judaism w/o Qabbalah or Hassidus is mechanical and lifeless. And so he challenged me as follows: To List aspects of Jewish Spirituality that were devoid of Qaballah or Hassidus. I came up with my own list. Any other takers out there? Caveat: Remember that a...

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An Esrog For Your Wife?

Lifted from Revach.net. An Esrog For Your Wife? Rav Shalom Eisen, z’tl was a dayan and moreh tzedek in Yerushalayim more than fifty years ago.  He was also known as an expert in the kashrus and hiddurim of esrogim and lulavim.  As each Succos approached, hundreds of people would appear at his house to show him the arba minim which...

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Watering our Weeds

The following post (originally written Feb 2009) was greatly expanded into “Watering our Weeds” (MS Word, PDF), an essay in Daas Torah: Child and Domestic Abuse vol. I (pp. 220-233), a book by R’ Dr Daniel Eidensohn with the assistance of Dr Baruch Shulem. In the full version, I further develop the argument that the evidence of our community’s state...

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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...

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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...

1

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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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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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...