Aspaqlaria Blog

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 1: Mission – part 1

Shaarei Yosher was written by Rav Shim’on Shkop (1860-October 22, 1939), and the body of the text deals with the principles by which doubt is resolved in court cases and in legislation, and the principles by which halakhah is set. We will be dealing, however, with the first part of the introduction. The introduction opens with an explanation of the...

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Modeh Ani (redux)

A while back I blogged a recording of a shiur I gave on Modeh Ani. The sound quality on the recording was too poor for the shiur to be made out by most listeners. I recently emailed a group a piece on Modeh Ani that makes, in abbreviated form, many of the points I made in that shiur. So, here it is.`...

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The Ninth of Av 5761

Elad Fogel, age 4   We say, “משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה — when Adar comes in, we increase in joy.” But this year, like too many years, Adar brought with it events that more fit our saying for this month. “משנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה — when Av comes in, we decrease in joy.” Bruria and her husband, Rabbi Meir, had...

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The Ninth of Av, 3830

The second half of parashas Naso is quite repetitious. The head of each tribe brought a gift for the consecration of the Mishkan. Each gift was the same, but aside from some slight but intriguing grammatical differences, all twelve are recorded in the same words. Seemingly repeatedly. The Ramban (on 7:1) explains that each korban was in fact unique. Even...

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Teaching Mussar

I recently commented on a post on Cross-Currents by R. Jonathan Rosenblum (RJR), an article that originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine on July 30th 2011, titled “Dr. Middos is not Just for Kids“. A good article, worth reading, a discussion of the centrality of middos to the entire Torah. Despite the subject line, RJR concludes, “I would like to hear...

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He Should Inspect His Deeds

אמר רבא ואיתימא רב חסדא: אם רואה אדם שיסורין באין עליו, יפשפש במעשיו. שנא’ (איכה ג): נַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה, וְנָשׁוּבָה עַד ה’. פשפש ולא מצא, יתלה בבטול תורה. שנאמר (תהילים צד): אשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּ-הּ, וּמִתּוֹרָתְךָ תְלַמְּדֶנּוּ. ואם תלה ולא מצא, בידוע שיסורין של אהבה הם. שנאמר (משלי ג): כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב ה’ יוֹכִיחַ[, וּכְאָב אֶת בֵּן יִרְצֶה]....

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Shechitah as a Guide for Personal Evolution

I found the following on R’ Mordechai Torczyner’s blog “The Rebbetzin’s Husband“, in a post titled “Shechitah: A Guide for Evolution“. I thought that was a little confusing, like perhaps the topic would be about how to shecht animals that evolved from our current ones, so I bowlderized the title for this post. One might be forgiven for thinking of...

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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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The Holy Script and Speech

There is a beraisa quoted in mesechtos Megillah (3a) and Shabbos (104a) that R’ Chisda says, “the [final] mem and samech of the luchos stood miraculously.” Meaning: the letters were carved all the way through, so that  ם and ס, letters that are drawn as closed shapes had a piece in the middle unattached to rest the luchos. The miracle was that...

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Mixed Emotions

A long while ago I wrote (in “A use for every middah“): The Rambam (Hilkhos Dei’os 1:4) describes the ideal balance of middos as being the shevil hazahav, the golden mean. He writes (tr. Immanuel O’Levy), “The way of the upright is [to adopt] the intermediate characteristic of each and every temperament that people have. This is the characteristic that...

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Any Torah Which Has No Ancestral Home

Certain mitzvos must be done on a specific day, such as the beris milah of a boy who is healthy on the 8th day, or the Qorban Pesach. In these cases, the mitzvah overrides Shabbos. According to Rabbi Eliezer, this includes even preparatory steps before the mitzvah itself, such as carrying the milah knife in a public domain, things that...

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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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Aristotle, Science and Halakhah

ר’ יצחק בי רבי אלעזר שאל זרק מרשות היחיד לרשות הרבים ונזכר עד שהוא ברשות הרבים. על דעתיה דר’ עקיבה יעשה כמי שנחה בר”ה ויהא חייב שתים. א”ר חונה לא חייב ר’ עקיבה אלא ע”י רה”י השנייה. רבי אבהו אומר בשם ר’ אלעזר בשם ר’ יוחנן היה עומד בר”ה וזרק למעלה מעשרה. רואין שאם תפול אם נחה בתוך ד’ אמות...

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Semag – why we’re still in galus

The Semag (Seifer Mitzvos Gadol; written by R’ Moshe from Coucy, France early 13th cent., one of the last Tosafosts, a student of R’ Yehudah haChasid, and an admirer of the Rambam) writes the following in Asei #74 (“Returning Stolen Items”): כבר דרשתי לגלות ירושלים אשר בספרד ולשאר גלויות אדום כי עתה שהאריך הגלות יותר מדאי יש לישראל להבדיל מהבלי...

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Not for the Seder Table

We say in the Hagadah אמר רבי אלעזר בן עזריה: הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה ולא זכיתי שתאמר יציאת מצרים בלילות, עד שדרשה בן זומא “למען תזכור את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך”: ימי חייך – הימים, כל ימי חייך – הלילות. וחכמים אומרים: ימי חייך – העולם הזה, כל ימי חייך – להביא לימות המשיח. Rabbi Elazar...

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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...