Aspaqlaria Blog

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The Limits of Orthodoxy

I feel a need to chime in about the contretemps about Dr Zev Farber’s essay “Avraham Avinu is My Father: Thoughts on Torah, History and Judaism” on thetorah.com. But first I want to lay out some thoughts about defining heresy, who qualifies as a heretic, and the limits of Orthodoxy, which may not be the same thing. To be clear,...

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Orthodoxy and Biblical Criticism

This is part two of my reactions to the internet discussions about Dr Zev Farber’s essay “Avraham Avinu is My Father: Thoughts on Torah, History and Judaism” on thetorah.com. In the first part, I tried to lay out how I view the topic of what is Orthodoxy and what is an Orthodoxy Jew, just to set the scene. Very quick...

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Hatred

The Netziv (Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin 1816-1893, last Rosh Yeshiva at Volozhin) wrote a relatively famous piece in Meishiv Davar (1:44) that is quoted a lot this time of year. I thought I would translate a core section (pg 52, col 2, paragraph starting “Vehinei“). The context is that the Netziv just discussed the prohibition against going into business...

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Ways of Peace

In a comment on my recent post “Infinite Worth“, Raffi asked: Hey – would you elaborate on your intriguing definition of darkhei Shalom as “walking the path of He Who makes peace”? Vav — I’d be glad to. (Now aren’t you glad I don’t inject my sense of humor into this blog too often?) The factoid behind Raffi’s question is...

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Value and Money

Yerushalmi Mes’ Qiddushin (or, as the Y-mi would itself call it: Meikhas Qiddushin, see here , the section subtitled “Linguistics”, for why I believe the difference in nomenclature is significant) includes three discussions that I believe reflect on the topic of how to relate value to price. In 2:5, vilna ed. 25a, the gemara discusses the possibility of marrying a...

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Infinite Worth

I have for a while kept a theory that not only do we aggadically consider human life to be of infinite value but that this notion has halachic import. For example, there is a dispute about what to do when an enemy or criminal gang tell a group of Jews to turn one of their number in to be killed,...

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Experimental Evidence of the Efficacy of Hispaalus

Scientific American just (June 24,2013) put up a podcast titled “Teaching People To Be Nice” by Christie Nicholson on their “Mind & Brain :: 60 Second Mind” series. To quote (in full): Can you train someone to be a nicer person? A recent study using meditation techniques shows that it might be possible. (The research is published in the journal...

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VeAhavta

My rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, passed away on 9 Tammuz 5753, 20 years ago today. I am posting a gemara that rebbe would often refer to in his shmuessin. Yuma 86a: At Rabbi Yanai[‘s school] it was said: Anyone whose peers are embarassed by what is heard about him, that is a desecration of Hashem’s name. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchaq...

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Process and Permanence

When you drop a drop of ink into a cup of water, the ink spirals around in some chaotic pattern and eventually diffuses until the entire liquid is a uniform light blue. Even though each time you repeat the experiment the dance and spiral is different, something about it in the general is predictable. If you had different snapshots of...

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Qinyan and Ba’alus

(Originally posted Mar 2007, now enlarged.) “Qinyan” is usually translated “acquisition”, and “ba’alus“, “ownership”. I would suggest that neither translation is precise. And this imprecision only leads to difficulties in understanding the law, rather than the clarity we get by analyzing the halakhah on its own terms. This is another instance of what we looked at in “The Country of Yir’ah“,...

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Mysticism and Rationalism: Act I

I have been exposed to many misunderstandings in online conversations that revolve around the issue of Mysticism and Rationalism as competing strains in Jewish Thought. Including the idea that these accurate describe streams of Jewish Thought altogether. I also want to challenge the notion that the popularization of Qabbalah is somehow a byproduct of the Maimonidian Controversy, an “equal and...

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Mixed Motives

See the value of a single mitzvah, even if performed for primarily ulterior motives! From Yerushalmi Qiddushin 22b: א”ר יוחנן: אם שמעת דבר מר’ ליעזר בנו של ר”י הגלילי, נקב אזנך כאפרכס. הזו ושמע דאמר רבי יוחנן, ר’ ליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר: אפי’ תשע ומאות ותשעים ותשעה מלאכים מלמדין עליו חובה, ומלאך אחד מלמד עליו זכות, הקב”ה...

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Recorded Video Classes

I just completed a webinar (3 classes, 45 min each) for The Mussar Institute on Project Sinai‘s web site. Recordings of the classes are available on Project Sinai’s site: First Shiur. (The volume is overly loud for the first 3 min or so, which includes most of a rough biography of Rav Shimon Shkop, but not the actual text.) Second...

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An amazing, wonderful and fundamental Tanchuma

H/T RYGB, who posted this Tanchuma under the same title (“An amazing, …”). I would like to add translation. Medrash Tanchuma, Tzav (#3 in Warsaw ed., #5 in Buber ed.): “This is the Torah of the praise-of-peace [offerings]…” (Vayiqra 7:11) This is what is written “Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.” (Mishlei 3:17). Everything that...

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Tum’ah in a Private Domain

A central theme in this “Phenomenology” category of this blog is an extension of an idea from a responsum by R’ Aqiva Eiger. That extension isn’t really part of this observation, but since I’m revisiting the topic, I’m categorizing it here anyway. To save you looking up a prior post and me figuring out another way to explain RAE’s position:...

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HP, Chaos, and QM

Nowadays, it’s the norm to believe that all events in the universe, even which way a leaf falls in the middle of the forest, is subject to specific Divine Providence (hashgachah peratis — HP in Avodah parlance). However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says this notion was a chiddush of the Baal Shem Tov’s, and R’ Chaim Friedlander in Sifsei Chaim credits...

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What’s the rush?

דְּבַשׁ מָצָאתָ אֱכֹל דַּיֶּךָּ פֶּן תִּשְׂבָּעֶנּוּ וַהֲקֵאתוֹ. If you find honey, eat just enough; lest you get full and vomit it. – Mishlei 25:16 (In the days of the geonim and earlier rishonim it was customary to start a derashah with a verse from Mishlei and then use its explanation to conclude with an explanation of something from the parashah. I’m...

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The Fourth Son

We can consider the rasha, the evil child, to be a failed chakham (the wise one). He is engaged with the laws of Pesach, but unlike the first child, he rejects them. The third son, the tam, is usually defined simple in an unsophisticated or ignorant sense, as though his approach is inferior to the wise child’s. But when we find the word “tam”...

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Redemption and Teshuvah

My friend Neil Harris wrote over on his blog Modern Uberdox: I pray that this Pesach brings an end to the exile of the self and a redemption of the person I was created to be. On which I commented: First reaction: Beautiful! Second reaction: Woah, wait a second, how then is Pesach different than Yom Kippur? (not meant rhetorically)...

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Tzav

Halakhah is the means G-d gave us to actively and creatively complete ourselves, to use our Image-of-G-d ability to be who choose to make ourselves and become ever close to that “Image”. The word we generally use is “mitzvah” — that which someone commanded. Notably it is not the more direct conjugation, “tzava” — commandment. It is written as though...

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Vayiqra 2

A second thought on the first / title word of parashas Vayiqra… וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moeid, saying. – Vayiqra 1:1   “וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה” – (יומא ד’ ת”כ) הקול הולך ומגיע לאזניו וכל ישראל לא שומעין יכול אף להפסקות היתה קריאה...

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Vayiqra 1

וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moeid, saying. – Vayiqra 1:1 “וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה” – לכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל צוויים קדמה קריאה לשון חבה (יומא ד:; ויקרא רבה) לשון שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו שנאמר (ישעי’ ו, ב) וקרא זה אל זה, אבל לנביאי האומות אומות העולם נגלה עליהן...

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Halakhah: Truth or Law?

R’ Moshe Halbertal’s paper on the nature of machloqes found three classical positions. (I blogged on this back in 2005; and you can see RMH’s original 1994 paper “The History of Halakhah, Views from Within: Three Medieval Approaches to Tradition and Controversy“.) As I summarized it then: RM Halbertal proposes that there are three basic positions on plurality in halakhah:...

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Purim and Ki Sisa

I have heard many derashos discussing the linkage between parashas Tetzaveh and Purim, which usually falls out around the week of Tetzaveh. Typically involving the discussion of the kohein‘s uniform in Tetzaveh and all the mentions of clothing in the megillah — people wearing their finest at the party, Esther’s change into royal clothes, sackcloth when the news of Haman’s...

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The Rambam, Knowledge and Akrasia

(Version 3.) In the previous entry, I wrote: “Rav SR Hirsch argues that the Rambam only failed to find the meaning to the details of the mitzvos because his assumption that mitzvos serve to either (a) teach true monotheism, (b) wean us away from idolatry, or (c) create a society which enables us in these pursuits is based on Aristotle’s...