Aspaqlaria Blog

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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...

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Selichah, Mechilah, Kapparah, Yir’ah and Simchah

Caveat: Most of these entries are extrapolations from something I learned. In this case, the entry is a chidush on top of an earlier chidush. In Mesilas Yesharim ch. 24, the Ramchal describes the various types of yir’ah (awe / fear). This is the topic of an earlier entry. To quote: 1- Yir’as ha’onesh: fear of punishment. This is the...

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M-Theory and Creation

There is much todo in some circles about Stephen Hawking’s latest book, “The Grand Design”. Co-written by Leonard Mlodinow, but it’s Hawking’s name in science and sheer genius that gives the book its gravitas, not Moldonow’s explanatory abilities. Here’s one sample review from The Washington Post. A snippet: [They] have taken on that ultimate question in a somewhat more rigorous...

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Terumah and Maaser

It is interesting to contrast the Chinukh’s description of terumah, the first gift taken from one’s produce, given to a kohein, with his description of ma’aser rishon, the tenth given to the levi’im. Terumah, mitzvah #507: … משרשי המצוה, לפי שהדגן והתירוש והיצהר הן עיקר מחיתן של בריות, והעולם כולו להקדוש ברוך הוא הוא, על כן ראוי לאדם לזכור את...

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R’ Dr Eliezer Ehrenpreis z”l

So there I was, first day of calculus class, and the professor, Dr Leon Ehrenpreisz”l hands out a xerox of a page of gemara. The blatt is Sukkah 8a, a conversation of the minimum size of a sukkah, and what it would mean for someone who makes a circular sukkah — do we need to match the diameter of the...

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Choosing Chumeros

As I write this, it’s a few hours before Rosh Chodesh Elul. For many people, a time for choosing chumeros, stringencies in those areas of our lives that could use that extra attention. The Daf Yerushalmi Yomi recently learned Shevi’is 20a (in the Vilna edition) 7:20. The gemara is citing a Tosefta (Maaseros 1:2): התני הסיאה והאיזוב והקורנס שהובילו לחצר...

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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...

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Balancing Community and Authenticity

This post, like the one I blogged last week, reflects a conversation with R’ Rich Wolpoe and R’ Ben Hecht on NishmaBlog and email, on the topic of R’ Nathan Lopez Cardozo’s “On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity“. That issue appears to be closely tied to the role of communal pesaq, and why do...

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Book Announcement: Every Day, Holy Day

Now available. Alan’s newest book! (assisted by Rabbi Micha Berger) “You shall be holy,” teaches the Torah, and the masters of Mussar have always taken that command very seriously. Mussar is a system of introspective practices that help you identify and break through the obstacles to your inherent holiness, using methods that integrate easily into daily life. Every Day, Holy...

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Balancing Simplicity and Authenticity

This post is in response to R’ Nathan Lopez Cordozo’s “On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity” on the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals web site. First to quote some points with which I firmly agree: I teach Jewish Philosophy. I am confronted daily with countless young Jews who search for an authentic Jewish...

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Halakhah leMosheh miSinai

מעשה ברבי ישבב שעמד והחליק את כל נכסיו לעניים. שלח לו ר”ג, “והלא אמרו חומש מנכסיו למצות?” ור”ג לא קודם לאושא היה? ר’ יוסי בר’ בון בשם ר’ לוי: כך היתה הלכה בידם, ושכחוה, ועמדו השנים והסכימו על דעת הראשונים. ללמדך שכל דבר שבית דין נותנין נפשן עליו הוא מתקיים, כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני. ואתייא כיי דאמר רבי מנא: “כי...

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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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How Does Prayer Influence?

As a memorial to R’ Mordechai Eliyahuzt”l, here is a translation of the introduction to his siddur, “Sefatei Tiftach”: How Does Prayer Influence? One must read well the verses that speak about the creation of man in order to understand man’s mission in this world: כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ...

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The Pashkevil To End All Pashkevilin

R’ Yaakov Haber put this up at his blog, and I think it SO warrants further distribution, I’m mentioning it here. To quote: … [E]veryday there were posters about how, in the opinion of the poster maker, various rabbis, organizations or publications, created existential threats to the Jewish community. There are also pashkevil about the dangers of attending public concerts....

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The Time of the Ivrim

Note this map of Israel, as it was divided into the territories for the various shevatim: There are two things odd about the south-west corner of the map. First, the Gaza Strip is not included, and second, the tribe of Shim’on lives in an island within Yehudah’s land. These two are connected. Shim’on never succeeded in conquering its promised portion...

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Two Ideals

(Split off from last week’s post “Shavuos Reading” because I thought of a number of points I wanted to add.) Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in the Naso 5770 issue of his weekly Parashah Sheet “Covenant and Conversation” discusses what appears to be a contradiction in the Rambam. In Hilkhos Dei’os 3:1, the Rambam writes: שֶׁמֶּא יֹאמַר אָדָם, הוֹאִיל וְהַתַּאֲוָה וְהַכָּבוֹד...

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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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Yom Yerushalayim

“זְכֹ֤ר ה’֨ ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽרוּשָׁ֫לִָ֥ם …— Hashem, remind the children of Edom of the Day of Jerusalem…” – Tehillim 137:7 It seems odd to me, but this is the oldest source for the idiom which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel took as the name of the holiday. But what is Yom Yerushalayim? The name of the city...

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Building Anew

65 years before was the holocaust — one third of our people killed. When we left Egypt, we were led through the desert by a pillar of fire by day, and a pillar of smoke by night. When we made camp, the pillar moved to the Qodesh haQadashim in the Mishkan, the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Now, a...

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Backgammon

The following is probably fiction, but is certainly possible. Picture a salt truck in February 2008, running down a Manhattan street, its mechanism scattering salt behind it. One particular piece of salt is sprayed out of the back of the truck, balances on a pebble embedded in the asphalt for a moment… … and falls to the left. There it...

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Because they did not serve…

In response to my previous post, Shmuel commented: “They learned facts from their rabbeim, but without spending the time that comes from watching them live, they didn’t learn attitude.” That statement alone is worth its own post, or many, for that matter… So, a little more elaboration. Here’s the section we’re discussing: Qabbalistically, Beis Shammai is described as embodying the...