Category: Psyche

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Three Pillars in Mikhah

Many comment on a pasuk from this week’s haphtorah: He tells you man, what is good, and what does HaShem expect of you? Only do justice, to love kindness, and to walk modestly with your G-d. – Michah 6:8 In modern times, much of this attention is because of how grossly this pasuk was mis-appropriated by the Reform movement as...

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Parashas Chuqas

When looking at the mitzvah of tzitzis for parashas Shelach (Toras Aish: Vol. 1, No. 4, Mesukim MiDevash) we discussed at the color of tekheiles. This week’s parashah opens at the opposite end of the spectrum, the red heifer. As a preface, here is a very brief review of the relevant concepts. We noticed that man feels torn between two...

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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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Atah Qadosh

“You Are Kadosh, and Your Name Is Kadosh, and kedoshim praise You every day. Selah! [For you are G-d, King, Great and Kadosh. –Sepharad] Baruch Atah … the Kadosh G-d.” The question of kedushah is also central to the opening phrase of one of last week’s parashiyos. “Kedoshim tihyu… – Be kadosh for I Am Kadosh.” (Vayikra 19:2) But what...

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Politeness and Taharah

The word “polite” comes from the Latin “politus” via the Old English “polit”, to polish. Polish is itself of the same derivation.I think this is a very telling statement about Western Culture. Politeness is about perfecting the surface. It doesn’t demand a change of the self, but putting up the appropriate front for others. This is the key to a...

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Tum’ah and Taharah

[From this week’s Shabat B’Shabbato by Machon Zomet. I found this devar Torah to be particularly Aspaqlaria-esque. See also my take on tum’ah from Mesukim MiDevash on Chukas.]POINT OF VIEW Ritual Impurity and Purity Prof. Shalom Rozenberg I will take this opportunity to discuss the significance of ritual purity and impurity in Jewish thought. To do this, I will relate...

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Tum’ah and Taharah, part II

Rav Y Henken replied to my previous entry on this subject (repeated here for the benefit of Google). He wrote: See in my “New Interpretations on rhe Parsha” (Ktav) and also Shu”t Bnei Banim vol. 4 maamar 22. Q. Why is a woman in childbirth considered to be ritually impure? A. That is a difficult question. Vayikra is full of...

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The Psychological Model of Orechos Tzaddiqim

(First paragraph edited on July 16 in response to R’ Seth Kadish’s comments. -mi)The following is culled from the introduction to Orchos Tzaddiqim. Orchos Tzaddiqim, was written anonymously some time between 1306 and 1400 CE. It was written in Hebrew, but first printed in Yiddish. The earliest copies still existing are Hebrew, with great disparity in the versions of the...

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See but not Seen

The best day of my life — my rebirthday, so to speak — was when I found I had no head… I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual...

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The Origins of Imperfection

The first we hear of Hashem allowing things to go in something other than the ideal way is in the creation of plants. There is a medrash (Breishis Rabba 5:9) that comments on a change in language in the middle describing of the creation of trees. Hashem orders the earth on the third day to bring forth “eitz peri oseh...

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Adam and Pinocchio

(First, please see part I about the eitz hada’as, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The following is extrapolated from a thought in an essay by R’ Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer.) Until Adam ate the fruit, he consisted of free will and internalized yeitzer hatov (inclination to do good). He had no yeitzer hara; the inclination to do evil...

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Havdalah

Returning back to the theme raised in the week of parashas Bereishis, In the first part, I drew a progression from the medrash of the earth refusing to make the trees taste like the earth, to that of the moon arguing that the world could not have two rulers and getting reduced, to the eating of the eitz hada’as. The...

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The Point of Decision

A rather well-known section of Michtav meiEliyahu (vol 1 pg 113) is the Qunterus haBechirah. In it, Rav Dessler compares the decision-making process to a battle. All the fighting occurs at the front lines; beyond them, everything belongs to one camp. With each victory, the line advances. So too with free will. At the point of decision, the nequdas habechirah,...

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Urgency, Importance, and the Yeitzer

Rabbi Ephraim Becker wrote in a reply to a comment on one of his posts: The Yetzer hijacks our urgency (we get more excited about playing with the latest PDA than about getting up and putting on Tefillin) and leaves us struggling with trying to uphold rules that do not move us – only the guilt remains. Two comments later...

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Ruach Memalela

I – Ru’ach Memalela Here’s the creation of man, as described in the Torah. וַיִּיצֶר יְ-הוָה אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה. Hashem G-d formed man, dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils a living spiritual-soul; and man became a living life-soul. – Bereishis 2:7 וּבְרָא יְ-יָ אֱ-לֹהִים יָת אָדָם, עַפְרָא...

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Shiluach haQen

This entry is a continuation of the previous one. I – Shilu’ach haQein האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך ועל טוב יזכר שמך מודים מודים משתקין אותו: One who prays, “Upon the birds nest your mercy extends[, so too may you have mercy upon us]” … we silence him. – Mishnah Berakhos 5:3 (33b) פליגי בה תרי אמוראי במערבא רבי...

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Yeitzer haRa

(This entry draws heavily from one posted a couple of weeks ago.) I – Defining the Term What is the Yeitzer haRa? The simplest translation is the inclination to do evil. But people do not inherently know what is evil and what is not. The tinoq shenishba, the child who was taken captive and raised by bandits or a person...

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Dialectics

As developed in the past, I believe that man’s dialectic nature is inherent in the purpose for which we were created. “It is the nature of good to have someone to whom to be good.” With these words the Ramchal explains Hashem’s purpose for creating man (Derech Hashem 1:2:1, see also Rav Saadia Ga’on, Emunos veDei’os). The human being can...

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Neither Random nor Predetermined

Free Will is difficult to define. We’re saying that people make choices that are neither predetermined by outside causes, and yet non-random. Moshe Koppel, in his book “Metahalakhah” proves that such a domain exists, but without showing us what that domain might contain. A random sequence is one whose next element is not predictable given the sequence’s history so far....

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Types of Thought: Progressions

The first of the requests of the Shemoneh Esrei is Birchas haDa’as, the blessing on understanding. We first state “Atah chonein le’adam da’as – You grant humanity understanding, umelameid le’enosh binah – and teach man comprehension.” What is da’as that is chonein, granted freely, whereas binah is taught, and therefore requires that the student participate by learning it? And why...

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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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Types of Thought: Dictionary

A while back, last time I had a chance to complete a blog entry, I promised a dictionary of terms for thought. When writing it up, I noticed I had MUCH more to say on da’as / dei’ah / yedi’ah than the other topics. In any case, here is the result. Da’as: According to the Rambam, yedi’ah is at the...

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Three Desires

In the last entry, I quoted part of Even Sheleimah, 2:1, by the Vilna Gaon. The full paragraph reads: The sum of all evil middos are ka’as[1] (anger), ta’avah (desire), and ga’avah[2] (egotism), which are “haqin’ah vehata’avah vehakavod — jealousy, desire and honor”.[3] Each includes two [parts]. Of ka’as: ra (evil) and mirma (duplicity). Ra is revealed, and mirmah is...

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Bilvavi, part I

בלבבי משכן אבנה להדר כבודו, ובמשכן מזבח אקים לקרני הודו, ולנר תמיד אקח לי את אש העקידה, ולקרבן אקריב לו את נפשי היחידה. In my heart I will build a mishkan to the magnificence of His honor, In this mishkan I will establish an altar to the pride of His glory, For an eternal lamp I will take for myself...

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Bilvavi, part II

To summarize part I: I opened by raising the question why such a significant portion of the book of Shemos is dedicated to the building of the mishkan. The rest of the post didn’t seem to address that question, but instead developed a structural model of the human soul, based on the Maharal’s understanding of Avos 1:2 combined with the...