Aspaqlaria Blog

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Why Do the Best of Doctors Go to Gehennom?

On Mi Yodeyah, DonielF quotes the last mishnah in Qiddushin. The mishnah first lists a set of professions that one shouldn’t teach one’s son, because it’s hard to make money in them while avoiding theft. After a couple of debates about specific jobs belonging on the list, the mishnah says: טוב שברופאים לגיהנם, והכשר שבטבחים שותפו של עמלק The best...

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What does אחָד in שמע ישראל actually mean?

Shoaib asked on Mi Yodeya: In the Shema the word used for the oneness of God is אחָד (ref.). This is startling for a Muslim, as they find in the Quran almost a transliteration of the same word, i.e. the Arabic احد (pronounced: Ahad). What is surprising, however, is that in almost all the translations that I could find on...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayaqhel – Shabbos & Miqdash

In Ki Sisa, last week’s parashah, the discussion of building the Mishkan is preceded by the obligation to observe Shabbos. However this week’s parashah placed the Mishkan first — and Rashi says this is the source of the idea that building the Mishkan does not override Shabbos. Implied is that had only the telling in Ki-Sisa stood, building the Mishkan...

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VeShomru

The opening of the middle berakhah of Shabbos Morning Admidah is somewhat famously odd, “Moshe will be rejoicing with the giving of his portion, for You called him a loyal servant. A crown of splendor descended on his head when he stood before You in Mount Sinai, and two stone luchos he brought down in his hand. And Shabbos was written in them,...

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Coin of Fire

זֶ֣ה ׀ יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִ֤ים גֵּרָה֙ הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל מַחֲצִ֣ית הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל תְּרוּמָ֖ה לַֽה’׃ This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-sheqel by the sanctuary weight — twenty gerahs to the sheqel — a half-sheqel as an offering to Hashem. – Shemos 30:13 The word “זה – this” generally refers to pointing...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Ki Sisa — Nature and Revelation

1- Shemos 32:19: The mistake that led to the eigel was thinking Moshe had inherent qedushah, and therefore they needed an an inherently holy eigel to replace him. Therefore, Moshe breaks the first luchos, despite their being carved and written by G-d, forcefully demonstrating that even they don’t have inherent qedushah. 2- Shemos 32:16: The luchos could be read from...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Tetzaveh – Mizbeiach & Aron

Hashem (Shemos 29:42) speaks of revealing Himself from the entrance of the Ohel Mo’eid, from where the daily tamid was offered. And yet elsewhere we learnt that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the keruvim, atop the aron. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk uses this contrast to discuss: What is the role of each of these keilim within the purpose of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Terumah – Who can be a Talmid Chakham?

The Torah (Shemos 26:15) says that the poles used to carry the aron may not be removed from it. Even when the Mishkan was assembled, and the aron wasn’t being moved. Why? What lesson can we take from this? Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk takes two lessons — one pragmatic about how it takes a village to have a talmid chakham,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Mishpatim – Personal and National Religion

What happened between Shemos 24:3 “kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem na’aseh” and v. 7 “kol asher diver Hashem na’aseh venishmah”? Why did we accept the Torah twice, using two different terminologies? Audio:   Video: שמות כ״ד:ג-ז וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ה֔׳ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה֖׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ג – 3 Moses went and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Yisro – Intellect or Action?

The Meshekh Chokhmah on Shemos 20:18 discusses Moshe’s approach through the smoke to the top of Har Sinai. What does the smoke represent? How did Moshe perfect himself to be capable of reaching Sinai. The difference between the prophecy at the burning bush and the revelation at Sinai. HaRav Meir Simcha haKohein contrasts the philosopher’s idea of self perfection, which...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Beshalach – Thought and Deed

(Yes, this title is an intentional play on last week’s.) The Meshekh Chokhmah writes on Shemos 14:23, a line describing the crossing of the Red Sea. The Meshekh Chokhmah compares how individuals are judged and nations. For individuals, sins of action, such as idolatry or Shabbos desecration, are punished. But flaws in one’s middos or a lack of politeness are...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Va’eira – Challenges and Rewards

In his commentary on Shemos 6:13, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein notes that if you look closely, not only Par’oh was asked to free Benei Yisrael, but Benei Yisra’el also were. What’s that about — who among the Jews were holding other Jews as slaves? When Moshe and Aharon approach Par’oh, there is a big step back in describing who they...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Introduction to Shemos

In his introduction to seifer Shemos, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein discusses a few themes, some of which we covered in this shiur. Why is Moshe’s nevu’ah special? Interestingly, the Meshekh Chokhmah emphasizes how we know that Moshe received nevu’ah, not the nature of the nevu’ah itself. Moshe, prophecy, and free will. The central role of free will in life. And,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi II – My Sword and My Bow

In this second shiur on Vayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on Bereishis 48:22. My sword and my bow – tzelos’hi uva’ushi – tefilah vesachanunim — siddur prayer and personal requests. There are two mitzvos of prayer — one to impress how we ought to relate to G-d, one to express our actual feelings for and requests from Him. Audio:...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi I – Yaaqov in Mitzrayim

In this first shiur on parashasVayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on the opening words of the parashah. Similarities between Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk’s understanding of (47:28) “ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים” and Rav Shimon Shkop’s notion of broadening one’s “אני”. Audio:  Video: Bereishis 47:28: וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם שְׁבַ֥ע עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה וַיְהִ֤י יְמֵֽי־יַעֲקֹב֙ שְׁנֵ֣י חַיָּ֔יו שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֔ים וְאַרְבָּעִ֥ים...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayigash – In a dream at night…

There is a recurring them in the Meshekh Chokhmah on parashas VaYigash about when is someone who is in the diaspora capable of nevu’ah or ruach haqodesh. In this shiur, we look at two comments of the Meshekh Chokhmah — Bereishis 45:12, and 46:2. Yaakov dreams at night, he prays at night, and this happens before he leaves into exile....

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayishlach – A Time to Do, A Time to Build

Meshekh Chokhmah on Bereishis 33:18 expands on a medrash that makes much of Yaaqov’s camping “in front of Charan”, that he set up techum Shabbos (measured the limits of how far he may travel on Shabbos) outside Charan. This is the first mention in the text of the Torah of a person observing Shabbos (albeit a pretty oblique reference). The...

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Meshech Chokhmah – VaYeitzei – “… Hashem is present in this place, and I – I did not know!”

There are two ways to approach G-d through His Action. One can admire the G-d of miracles, or the G-d of nature. The medrash describes Avraham as having discovered G-d through contemplating nature. Science only began when the Greeks looked past their gods at the notion of a Creator, which gave them the expectation that the world has a single...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Toledos – Esav and Humanity’s So-Far-Missed Opportunity

After a long introduction, we looked at Meshekh Chokhmah on the navi’s explanation to Rivqah about why her pregnancy was so odd. She wasn’t merely surprised by having twins — one attracted to idolatry, and the other capable of founding the Jewish People. But why was she prenant with both? Why not like in the previous generation, where Hagar birthed...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Chayei Sarah – Teleology

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live looking at three comments by the Meshekh Chokhmah on the story of the servant finding a wife for Yitzchaq. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein appears to find a central theme in the story is that events are not only caused by what came before, but also driven toward a purpose. (And that in events...

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Meshekh Chokhmah VaYeira 18:10 – Yir’as haRomemus and Yir’as haCheit

Mesilas Yesharimm on the relationship between yir’as haromemus and yir’as hacheit (awe of [Hashem’s] Grandeur and fear of sinning), and the difference between yir’as hacheit and yir’as ha’onesh (fear of sin vs fear of punishment.) With that background, we look at the Meshakh Chokhmah. Avraham and Iyov are both called yerei Elokim. But why do Avraham’s compliments stop there, while...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Lekh Likha 15:13 – Free Will and National Destiny

If Hashem told Avraham that the Egyptians would oppress us, why were they then punished for doing His Will? Commanding the Egyptians vs speaking of future realities Speaking of the group vs speaking of the individual The law of large Numbers, Free Will, Providence, and Bayesian Statistics Audio:   Video: The Meshakh Chokhmah is on Sefaria, here. If you liked...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Noach 6:9 – Behavior and Character

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of the first pasuq of parashas Noach (Bereishis 6:9) “נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו — Noach was a righteous man, he was perfect in his generations.” The challenges of living among the pre-Flood generation compared to living in the post-Flood one. The value of actions and of...