Aspaqlaria Blog

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The Last Tish’ah be’Av

I recall one year I had just started a new camp. I was davening in the evening, at the very beginning of Tish’ah be’Av, and I heard a shofar blow. After a moment, I realized it was the PA system, that this was the camp’s “siren” marking the beginning of the fast. I have no idea how deep my belief...

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Hilkhos Mashiach

On Avodah, Saul Newman gave the following summary of halakhos related to bi’as hamashiach from an article in the Yated. I found that the pragmatic halachic discussion gave some mamashus (tangibility) to the idea. In conclusion, we may recite a total of eight special brachos when Moshiach arrives, in the following order: When we first hear from a reliable source...

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Hashem is Righteous

Eli Turkel summarized some thoughts from the 100 pages introduction to the sefer “The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways”, from the notes of R’ JB Soloveitchikzt”l. The format isn’t the usual for this blog, being more like his notes, but then, it wasn’t written for this blog either. Questions: Many things are missing from the Tisha Ba’av tefila:...

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Safeiq deRabbanan

R’ Aharon Rakeffet has a 10 year series on responsa literature and the art of making a halachic rulings. The classes are available on YUTorah.org. The following is primarily from his shiur of Dec. 19th, 1994 “Safek from Torah or Rabbanan” (starting at around 52 min. in). As is my norm, I add bits here and there. The Rama writes...

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TIDE, variants on a theme

In an earlier post, I raised one very fundamental difference between Rav Hirsch’s “Torah im Derekh Eretz” (Torah with culture, hereafter “TIDE”) and Rav JB Soloveitchik’s attitude toward the secular, which YU titles “Torah uMadda” (Torah and other knowledge, “TuM”). TIDE is a lifestyle that is wholly Torah and wholly derekh eretz, in that the Torah is what gives form...

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Noach and the Use of Wine

We were discussing on Avodah the origins of the idea of Qiddush. I argued that the notion of celebrating or thanking G-d with wine would seem to be one people would stumble upon naturally, arguing from Noach’s instinct to plant a vineyard. Rn Toby Katz noted that I was making an unsupported assumption: “Celebrating”? as Noach celebrating the “human condition”...

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Benching Gomel

I just wrote the following in an email to some friends. I thought it might interest others. First, note that it’s called “gomel“, from a key word in the text of the berakhah. But it’s the same /גמל/ as “gemillus chasadim“. It means to support over time, rather than a single moment of loving-kindness. (The same root yields “gamal“, “camel”.)...

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Be a Jew Through and Through

Another guest entry. The following was originally submitted to (but not picked up by) Hamodia. Rav Hirsch’s quoted words are clearly the predecessor of R’ Breuer’s talk on “Glatt Yoshor“, which was also posted to this blog from an email by R’ Dr Levine. -micha Be A Jew Through and Through! Dr. Yitzchok Levine Department of Mathematical Sciences Stevens Institute...

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Rebbe

Here is another guest post. This time, two biographies. Hopefully be”H work will slow down to the point where I can return to writing. Today is the 14th yahrzeit of Rav Dovid Lifshitz, a man who tried so hard to be my rebbe despite by inability to really listen to what he was telling me… (Some say he was niftar...

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Dear Graduate

Reprinted from Am Echad Resources. -mi DEAR GRADUATES Rabbi Avi Shafran [I was recently privileged to address the commencement ceremony of Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, an Orthodox girls school founded in 1942. Below is an edited version of my remarks to the more than 100 high school graduates, their families and friends.] Back in the day — the day when...

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Synthesis and Dialectic

Rav Shimon Gershon Rosenbergzt”l passed away. He was more commonly known as Rav Shagar, a nickname he picked up when a friend starting calling him by the initials on the corner of his tallis. Rav Shagar was Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Siach Yitzhak, staunchly Religious Zionist, with a mystical, spiritualist bent. Rav Shagar was 57 years old when he lost...

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The Blessing of a Commoner

תניא א”ר ישמעאל בן אלישע פעם אחת נכנסתי להקטיר קטורת לפני ולפנים וראיתי אכתריאל יה ה’ צבאות שהוא יושב על כסא רם ונשא ואמר לי ישמעאל בני ברכני אמרתי לו יה”ר מלפניך שיכבשו רחמיך את כעסך ויגולו רחמיך על מדותיך ותתנהג עם בניך במדת הרחמים ותכנס להם לפנים משורת הדין ונענע לי בראשו וקמ”ל שלא תהא ברכת הדיוט קלה בעיניך:...

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Tzitzis: Advance and Retreat, part II

I discussed the role of tzitzis and the various roles we have for clothing in a number of earlier posts in this topic. The following is a different take on the idea from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UK. He is closest in topic to my “Tzitzis: Advance and Retreat“. I wrote about two aspects to the mitzvah...

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Angels and Idols

What exactly was the sin involved in the making of the Eigel haZahav, the Golden Calf? Rashi (Ex 32:1 “asher yeilekhu“, “asher he’elanu“) says it was actual idolatry. The Kuzari (1:97) says it was a representation to be used as a conduit between man and G-d. A Moses replacement. Not so much a violation against the second and third of...

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… The rest is commentary

(More material added on May 30th.) There is a famous story in the gemara (Shabbos 31a) about three prospective converts who each came to Shammai saying that they want to convert but only if he meets some absurd condition. In all three cases, Shammai turns them away, they go to Hillel, who accepts them, they convert and they drop their...

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A Broad Life

A recurring concept in Rav Hutner’s writings on Shavu’os (Pachad Yitzchaq, no.s 5, 13, 40) is the idea that talmud Torah isn’t limited to sitting in front of a book. Why do we only make birkhas haTorah once a day? Tosafos explain (Berakhos 11b) “she’eino miya’eish mida’ato, shekol sha’ah chayav lilmod — because it is never lost from his thought,...

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Ethics and Morality

Everyone else in the frum blogosphere is dealing with the questions Richard Dawkins raises in his book “The God Delusion”, and whether morality is possible without religion. So why shouldn’t I? I want to introduce a few distinctions that in my humble opinion are necessary for having a clear conversation of the subject. Morality vs. Ethics Morality is defined in...

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Hashem and Morality

In his essay “Euthyphro”, Plato has Socrates ask a young student named Euthyphro, “Is what is righteous righteous because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is righteous?” The Jewish spin would be to ask: Is an act good because HQBH chose to make it a mitzvah, or did Hashem command us to do it...

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Introduction to Shaarei Yosher

I recently had the honor of translating the introduction to Rav Shimon Shkop‘s Shaarei Yosher. My love of this piece is only partly because Rav Shimon was the rebbe of my rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz. In a few short pages, Rav Shimon defines holiness, gives the key to happiness and contentment, explains the path to chessed (lovingkindness), and the relationship...

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Birkhas Avos

This chart combines the ideas contained two earlier divrei Torah. The first is the idea of the Vilna Gaon that the first berakhah of the Amidah, Birkhas Avos, consists of iterations of variations on Moshe’s praise for Hashem – “HaKeil, HaGadol, HaGibbor VeHanorah.” See Mesukim MiDevash – Tetzaveh pp. 3-4. The second is the concept that the berakhah follows a...

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The Five Hardest Words

At Mussar Kallah V, R’ Ephraim Becker said something that really resonated with me. Of all the phrases in English that one could say — and mean what one says — which five words are hardest? R’ Becker offered the sentences: “I’m fine. How are you?” To say “I’m fine” and really mean it, one must have bitachon, belief that...

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Universalism

(Updated 12-Oct-2007: Added kaf zechus.) In today’s world, with the Orthodox community as tiny as it is, dealing with high costs of education and our own needs, our chessed tends to be focused on the helping others within our own communities. Another factor promoting our insularity is our need to self-define in order to survive. We are more likely to...

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The Butler’s Dilemma

A moral dilemma taken from the Dilbert Blog by newspaper cartoonist, Scott Adams: Let’s say you’re the butler to a billionaire who lives alone. The billionaire dies in his sleep. You know he owns a large piece of jewelry that no one else has seen, and you have access to it. If you steal the piece of jewelry, sell it,...

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Like the Laws of Pesach

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן. The wise son of the Hagaddah asks, “What are the laws of testimony, the metarational laws, and the more intuitive laws which Hashem our G-d has commanded you?” The wise son already knows much about the...