Aspaqlaria Blog

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And You Shall Live by Them

This morning’s Torah reading, Acharei Mos, included the following pasuq (18:5): שְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי, אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם הָאָדָם וָחַי בָּהֶם; אֲנִי ה’. Guard My statutes and My laws which a person shall do them and live by them; I am G-d. Chazal expound “‘Vechai bahem’: velo shayamus bahem — ‘and live by them’: and not that you shall die by...

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Hagadah: Random Thought

וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן הָעֲבֹדָה, וַיִּזְעָקוּ; וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶל הָאֱ-לֹהִים, מִן הָעֲבֹדָה. It was in those many days and the king of Egypt died, and the Benei Yisrael sighed from the work and they wailed, and their crying reached to G-d from the work. – Shemos 2:23 The cry of the Jewish People when...

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Two Birds

R’ Harvey Benton posted the following to Avodah: What is the significance of dipping a live bird in the blood of its chaver (or at least a fellow bird/ of the same or similar species) and then setting it free? What is Hashem trying to convey to us, because on the surface it seems cruel. At least by the Azalzel,...

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39 Melakhos

(Expanded from a couple of months ago.) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ, שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן לַה’; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת. Six days work shall be done, and the seventh day shall be holy for you, a Sabbatical Sabbath for Hashem; whomever does work on it shall die. – Shemos 35:2 The building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, is told...

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Hopeless

(For an earlier post on depression and hopelessness, see “Raba Got Up and Slaughtered Rav Zeira” about a famous gemara about Purim. This thought comes mostly from R’ Menachem Zupnik, said a number of years ago, with some embellishments of my own. (Some conscious, some due to memory drift.)   We say in the weekday Shemoneh Esrei: “Velamalshinim, al tehi...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – Symbolic Logic

This will only be of interest to people who care about Symbolic Logic and about the rules of birur, of resolution of doubt in halachic questions. But I found something I wrote back in 1994, and didn’t want to lose it, so I’m blogging it here. Hopefully I will have time to put up something of more general interest in...

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A Quantum of Time

There are two halachic indivisible units of time. When it comes to interruption, or for defining a single statement (e.g. when correcting oneself in davening) the unit is tokh kedei dibbur — within the time it takes to say [“Shalom eilekha Rebbe uMori“], a greeting of 4 words consisting of 10 syllables. For calendrical calculations, the unit is the cheileq,...

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Brisk and Telz

(Published in the December 2010 issue of Kol Hamevaser, “The Jewish Thought Magazine of the Yeshiva University Student Body”. The issue’s topic: “Derekh Ha-Limmud”. (Two additions not in the published version are added in italics.) At some point during my time in Yeshiva University, I chose not to follow the more popular “track,” leading to R. Hershel Schachter’s and R....

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Glory and Egalitarianism

I want to share, with permission, the following exchange I had with Ellen Rosen, a member of The Mussar Institute. On Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 09:15:00AM -0800, Erosen1@aol.com wrote: I have a question that perhaps Rabbi Berger might consider. And so, [Dr.] Alan [Morinis] forwarded me your email. This is: Why does Jewish tradition glorify men? Let me start...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – Addendum: Placebos

One more thought about my “Halakhah and Phenomenology” series…. A basic assumption behind the series is that what justifies looking at the world as experienced and as it could be directly experienced is the idea that this is what shapes a person and makes the deep down changes in character, in how the person relates to Hashem, other people and...

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Halakhah and Phenomenology – The Unknown and Bitul

The Yerushami (Challah 3:5) discusses the case of when bread which didn’t have challah taken (or flour which didn’t have terumah taken from it), fell into a quantity of already separated bread. The gemara says the cases are different whether one takes challah from already separated and permissable dough instead of taking challah from another dough to permit its use,...

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Pesaq Without Resolution

In “Invoking Tradition” I suggested that the amora’im of the Yerushalmi would not add their own interpretations to the words of the tana’im. The traditions must be preserved in their integrity. (And in “On Nets and Pieces” I added that instead the Israeli amora’im saw their job as finding patterns that allow them to apply the quotes to other topics...

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When Science and Torah Conflict

(Initial post: With thanks to R’ Eli Turkel for providing some of the sources and all of the motivation for this post. (Dec 21st: Significantly expanded to include sources I dug up for further discussion with R’ Zvi Lampel, who I thank as well.) Obviously (I hope), the scenario described in the subject line of this post can’t happen. There...

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Explaining Tragedy

It seems to me, the overall question of theodicy and explaining why tragedy enters the lives of anyone but the most evil, can be addressed on two levels. Philosophically, the question is unanswerable. As I wrote a number of years ago (in “The Four Sons Encounter Tragedy“, under the wise son’s response: R’ Joseph Ber Soloveitchikzt”l (“the Rav”) addresses the...

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Tevel is Called Holy

The Mishnah in Maaser Sheini 5:4 discusses the obligation to be finished with all maaser by the Pesach after the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle. The mishnah describes messages sent to remind people to remove the maaser from their crops, so that can give it out or destroy it before the deadline. The Yerushalmi (31b) opens the...

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Holiness and Carrying the Yoke with the Other

(The following is based on a class I gave on Shabbat at Mussar Kallah IX, and is the further development of a number of ideas R’ Gil Student and I wrote for Mesuqim MiDevash.) The question of holiness is central to the title phrase of the sedra of Qedoshim. “Qedoshim tihyu hi Qadosh Ani – Be qadosh [holy, sacred] for...

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On Nets and Pieces

The story so far: In the first post, I suggested that it was Rav Yehudah, founder of the Yeshiva in Pumbedisa, who really developed the style of shaqla vetarya (dialectic) that we find in the Talmud Bavli. Which implied that we wouldn’t expect to find the similar argument style in Israel. In the second post, I tried to show how...

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What defines greatness

From R’ Gil Student’s blog “Hirhurim“, a sad quote about the underlying greatness of my rebbe: When I was a bochur in yeshivah I had a scary experience. I had the zekhus of assisting a gadol ba-Torah in his last days. When R. Dovid Lifshitz got very sick, I was assigned the task of helping him out during davening. At...

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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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Invoking Tradition

So, I recently described Rav Yehudah’s trip down to Pumbedisa, where he founded a yeshiva where learning was based on the dialectic method, the style of shaqla vetarya (question and answer) that typifies the gemara. So what was happening back in Eretz Yisrael? To put the same question in a more straightforward way — after learning the first six mesechtos...

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YAPITA

Yet Another Peshat in the Aqeidah One thing highlighted by the vast rabbinic discussion of the aqeidah — we can’t expect simple, clear-cut, answers to these questions. Much like the numerous opinions in the gemara as to what led to the destruction of the Beis haMiqdash or the many explanations of Nadav and Avihu’s sin. There is an earlier pasuq...

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Tefillah Behitpa’alut

These are notes from a talk I gave in Zion Il at the 8th Mussar Kallah. As a favor to those who asked me to publish notes, as the talk was given on Shabbos, I tried to use a more Israeli-sounding transliteration scheme than I’m used to. The result is probably sadly inconsistent. Defining Tefillah Our forefather Jacob, lying on...

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Clouds of Glory

I There is a famous dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Aqiva about what it is we commemorate with the mitzvah of sukkah.  The Torah reads (Vayiqra 23:42-43): בַּסֻּכֹּ֥ת תֵּֽשְׁב֖וּ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים כָּל־הָֽאֶזְרָח֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יֵֽשְׁב֖וּ בַּסֻּכֹּֽת: לְמַעַן֮ יֵֽדְע֣וּ דֹרֹֽתֵיכֶם֒ כִּ֣י בַסֻּכּ֗וֹת הוֹשַׁ֨בְתִּי֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּהֽוֹצִיאִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם׃ You shall dwell in sukkos for seven days; every...

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Falluja

Now that the US’s role in Iraq has formally changed, I want to mention something about the city of Falluja. During the early years of US presence in Iraq, we heard a lot about violence there. E.g. four contractors were dragged from their cars, beaten and set on fire — and then their bodies were dragged through the streets and...