Category: Middos

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Idealism

Judaism has numerous words for particular ideals; there is the tzadik, the chasid, the ba’al teshuvah, etc… But does it have a word for idealism itself – for the inherent value of a burning desire to pursue an ideal? This question is quite important. If there is no word for idealism in lashon hakodesh, neither in biblical Hebrew nor rabbinic...

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Love, part I

Rav SR Hirsch relates the word ahavah (love) /ahb/ to the roots /hbh/ meaning “offer” and /hbb/, “bring forth”. To love is to give.In his Kunterus haChesed, Rav Dessler writes a truth fundamental to Mussar. We think of giving as an expression of love, but moreso giving is the cause of love. There’s a famous story of Rav Yisrael Salanter...

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Love, part II

If we look at the portrayal of the avos, both in their relationships with Hashem and with their families, I believe you find three distinct models for loving relationships. Avraham is noted by Chazal for being a baal chessed, for being generous, giving. As we saw in part I, this is in imitation of G-d. The purpose of creation (to...

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The Fire Within the Bush

“Dirshu Hashem behimatz’o — seek G-d when He can be found, qara’uhu bihyoso qarov — call Him when He is near.””Shuvu eilai, veashuva aleikhem — Return to Me and I will return to you.”Contrasting images. The first is one of G-d initiating the repentance process, and man responding after Hashem has first made Himself available. The second is G-d’s cry...

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Tefillin Mirrors

When I started wearing tefillin, few people used a small hand mirror to see whether or not it was properly centered. I recall men using the shiny metal area indicating where to push on a door, the window in a door to a darkened stairwell, and other awkward solutions. Compared to that, the current ubiquity of mirrors, whether in the...

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Yir’ah

In Mesilas Yesharim, the Ramchal (R’ Moshe Chaim Luzato) writes of three kinds of yir’ah (fear / awe / awareness of magnitude). 1- Yir’as ha’onesh: fear of punishment. This is the lowest of the three. However, since even fear of punishment is a motivator, even yir’as ha’onesh is viewed positively. R’ Shlomo Wolbe zt”l writes that today, we’ve lost that...

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Charitzus – Decisiveness

The Cheshbon haNefesh opens his discussion of charitzus (decisiveness) by contrasting the human condition to that of a bird. If a bird is caught in a trap once or twice, it will reflexively avoid things that look like traps. The key term is “reflexively”. There is no conscious decision process. Everything very Pavlovian. A dog, he continues, operates similarly. A...

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Conflict Resolution

The first miracle disproving the claims of Korach and his followers was when the earth opened up and swallowed them, and fire came and killed the 250 men who tried to offer incense instead of the kohanim. (Bamidbar 16:31-35) Now one would think that’s pretty definitive, and things would end there. However, how did the masses react? “The whole congregation...

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Defining Anavah

(Copied from a “Der Alter” post of mine, but Der Alter seems defunct. I copied the time-stamp from there. -mi 1/16/2008) Is anavah really “humility”? The basic problem of understanding the difference between the Rambam Hil Dei’os ch 1 and ch 2 is not anavah, but ka’as (anger). With ka’as he explicitly invokes the middle path in ch. 1, and...

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Menuchas haNefesh

Picture being in a box. A large box, plenty of room to walk around, but very much with a “boxy” feel. There is a pervasive smell of tar; the box itself is wood sealed with tar. There’s a constant background smell of animals and food as well. Your rocking, floating on the water. The lighting is poor, barely present, and...

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Qedushas Beis HaKenesses

When a Jew talks during davening in a shul in America, A shul in Netzarim is set aflame. That’s the lesson I took from this Elul. The feelings generated from pictures of the fires and celebrations made me realize something. I care a lot more about the sanctity of a synagogue and all that it stands for than what I...

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Qedushas Beis HaKenesses, part II

In an earlier entry, I suggested that we take the feelings generated by seeing the shuls of Azza ransacked, and use them to motivate our behavior in our own synagogues. Including (but not limited to) cutting down on the talking.I since learned of a program produced by the Orthodox Union for this past Shabbos with exactly the same thought in...

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Mima’amaqim

Shir haMa’alos: Mima’amaqim qarasikha Hashem A song of ascents: From the depths, I call You, Hashem – Tehillim 120:1 I’ve written a number of essays about tragedy from the perspective of philosophy and theory. But there are times when it simply isn’t the right approach.What do you say to someone who is in the middle of facing profound tragedy? A...

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Anavah (Redux)

In responding to my first attempt to define “anavah” (on “Der Alter“) RYGB wrote, “According to RSRH, anavah is derived from anah, to respond. Perhaps an anav is one who feels an acharayus to answer for everything he does.”In preparing a devar Torah for my son’s bar mitzvah, I thought of a different spin on the idea.When we’re conversing with...

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Ma’avir al Midosav

Whoever is “ma’avir al midosav”, ma’avirin lo, they pass over his sins for him. As it says, ‘… forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression’ (Mikha 7:18). To whom does He forgive iniquity? To the one who remits transgression.- Rosh Hashanah 17a With such a promise, we would surely be motivated to master this middah, “ma’avir al midosav”! But what exactly does...

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Ma’avir al Midosav — the pragmatics

In the previous entry, I tried to discuss the importance of being ma’avir al midosav, and some various approaches to defining this critical but rarely discussed middah. Although I did link to Rav Dessler’s list of possible first-steps to fulfilling this middah, I neglected to explicitly give suggestions for building this middah that someone could actually start doing today.Here’s some...

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Yahrzeit and Simchah

This Shabbos is the first yahrzeit of the children Aryeh Lev ben Avraham, a”h Noach Simcha ben Avraham, a”h Adira Emunah bat Avraham, a”h Natan Yekutiel ben Avraham, a”h You may recall the story; four children, were killed when a fire struck their home in Teaneck. Firemen were at the home a mere four hours before, but declared the house...

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Rav Breuer: ‘Glatt Kosher — Glatt Yoshor’

The essay below, written by Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer, Zt”l, originally appeared in volume XI 1949/50 of the Mitteilungen. It was reproduced on pages 238 to 239 in Rav Breuer: His Life and Legacy. (With thanks to R’ Yitzchok Levine for putting the text on line.) Glatt Kosher — Glatt Yoshor The conscientious and minute observance of the laws of...

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The Devastating Power of Leitznus

President Ford a”h‘s passing brought something into sharp focus for me. Here is how the OU remembers Mr. Gerald R. Ford: The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish Umbrella organization mourns the death of former President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Ford, our country’s 38th president, took office amid tremendous internal divisions domestically and complex,...

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Universalism

(Updated 12-Oct-2007: Added kaf zechus.) In today’s world, with the Orthodox community as tiny as it is, dealing with high costs of education and our own needs, our chessed tends to be focused on the helping others within our own communities. Another factor promoting our insularity is our need to self-define in order to survive. We are more likely to...

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The Five Hardest Words

At Mussar Kallah V, R’ Ephraim Becker said something that really resonated with me. Of all the phrases in English that one could say — and mean what one says — which five words are hardest? R’ Becker offered the sentences: “I’m fine. How are you?” To say “I’m fine” and really mean it, one must have bitachon, belief that...

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Be a Jew Through and Through

Another guest entry. The following was originally submitted to (but not picked up by) Hamodia. Rav Hirsch’s quoted words are clearly the predecessor of R’ Breuer’s talk on “Glatt Yoshor“, which was also posted to this blog from an email by R’ Dr Levine. -micha Be A Jew Through and Through! Dr. Yitzchok Levine Department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute...

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Something Else to Throw into the Bonfire

Saul Mashbaum wrote the following back during the “should we burn the wigs?” period a few years ago. I think it’s still quite apropos, a reminder of our priorities. SOMETHING ELSE TO THROW INTO THE BONFIRE Sources close to several major poskim have claimed that they have declared a new chovat biur. “After examining the situation carefully, we have come...

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Saving One’s Own First

On Areivim, we’re discussing how history remembers or should remember Rudolf Kasztner. Yad Vashem is trying to rehabilitate his memory. Here is some of the metzi’us behind the question, from The Star: Kasztner … headed the Relief and Rescue Committee, a small Jewish group that negotiated with Nazi officials to rescue Hungarian Jews in exchange for money, goods and military...

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The Desire to Desire

I must confess that I find mussaf (and many parts of the rest of davening) very difficult. Frankly, I am unable to feel a longing for a restoration of animal sacrifice. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t. My work-around is to make that very lack the focus of my intent during the tefillah. Rather than thinking about qorbanos...