Aspaqlaria Blog

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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...

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The Rambam’s Philosophy and Mesorah

The argument over whether the Rambam’s philosophy had a place in Jewish Thought didn’t end in 1306 when the Maimonidian Controversies (that began in his lifetime) died down. Even to this day, in many circles his Guide for the Perplexed and the first four chapters of the Mishneh Torah are not studied. (For similar reasons, in these communities, when Chovos...

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A Retrospective Implication of Bitachon

Saying that I have bitachon, trust that Hashem sets up the world I experience to maximize my opportunity for success, implies that I believe that all of my failures are due to my own decisions. So, if I am not succeeding, there are really only two possibilities. Either I am not carrying my own side of the partnership. In which...

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Two Kinds of Law, Teshuvah, and Par’oh’s Heart

We open the Shemoneh Esrei by referring to Hashem as “Hashem Elokeinu vEilokei avoseinu — Hashem, our G-d, and the G-d of our ancestors….” Three distinct ways of perceiving G-d are being given here: The tetragrammaton refers to the G-d Who “Will be – Is – Was” (taking the letters as a contraction), who is “the cause of existence” (taking...

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Pagans in Our Midst

נענה רבן גמליאל ואמר: “צְדָקָה תְרוֹמֵם גּוֹי…” (משלי יד:לד) — אלו ישראל. דכתיב (דברי הימים א יז:כא) “וּמִי כְּעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל…” [וגו’] “…וְחֶסֶד לְאֻמִּים חַטָּאת”(משלי שם) — כל צדקה וחסד שעכו”ם עושין, חטא הוא להן. שאין עושין אלא להתיהר בו. וכל המתיהר נופל בגיהנם, שנאמר (משלי כא:כד), “זֵד יָהִיר לֵץ שְׁמוֹ עוֹשֶׂה בְּעֶבְרַת זָדוֹן.” ואין עברה אלא גיהנם שנאמר (צפניה א:טו),...

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Taamei haMitzvos

Until adultery became too commonplace (in the days of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, shortly after the destruction of the Beis haMiqdash) a wife whose husband suspected her of having an affair could forbid her from secluding herself with that man. If they are caught in seclusion, she is brought to the Beis haMidqash where a kohein would write the relevent...

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Don’t Present Oneself as a Liar!

צריך שיהיו תפילין עליו בשעת ק”ש ותפלה. A man must have tefillin on at the time of reading Shema and prayer [Shemoneh Esrei]. – Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 25:4 בשעת ק”ש ותפלה: ר”ל לכל הפחות בשעת ק”ש ותפלה וכדלקמן בסימן ל”ז ס”ב ואמרינן בגמרא כל הקורא ק”ש בלי תפלין הרי הוא כאלו מעיד עדות שקר בעצמו ח”ו ופירשו בתוספות לפי...

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No rest for the weary…

(This post is a different treatment of the same themes as “Mas’ei — the Journey as a Name of G-d“.) וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן. And Yaaqov settled in the land of his fathers’ dwelling, in the land of Canaan. – Bereishis 37:1 (איוב ט) “אם שוט ימית פתאום…” אנטונינוס שאל את רבינו, אמר לו: מהו דכתיב: אם שוט...

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Yir’ah and its Middos

The story so far… Words are how we divide the space of ideas into more specific “countries”. Our choice of vocabulary therefore not only reflects our thoughts, but shape them. And more importantly, they change what parts of our experience we notice, remember, and reinforce in our memories. We can’t really work on our yir’as Shamayim if we continue dividing...

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Torah im Small Jugs

What is the role of the laws of business listed in Choshein Mishpat (the quarter of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch on financial matters)? One approach could be that working for income is a necessary evil. It’s Hashem’s punishment to Adam for eating the forbidden fruit — “with the sweat of the brow shall you eat bread” (Bereishis 3:19). However,...

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The Country of Yir’ah

The time it took me to write my previous post grew long, so I cut it down to being set-up material for this one just to get it out the door. Here was the summary with which I left things: 1- Words are how we divide the space of ideas into more specific “countries”. Our choice of vocabulary therefore not...

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Awe and Fear

In a relatively recent post (“Confrontation and Babel“) I invoked a quote from R’ J.B. Soloveitchik’s Confrontation to highlight the linkage between language and worldview, and thus between language and religion. Rabbi Soloveitchik writes: The great encounter between God and man is a wholly personal private affair incomprehensible to the outsider – even to a brother of the same faith...

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The Avos Kept the Torah

There is a 3 way dispute on Yuma 28b about whether the avos kept all of halakhah, or just those mitzvos already given: Rav: The avos kept the entire Torah R’ Ashi: … even the rabbinic enactments! R Shimi bar Chiya: Avraham only kept the 7 mitzvos benei Noach and beris Milah. (If we’re talking all three avos, presumably the...

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Teaching Non-Jews Their Torah

In my previous post I discussed the basic problems with effective interfaith dialog. All of which may be unimportant if Judaism is a prosletizing religion. Not in the sense that anyone would suggest that Jews are obligated to convert all people to Judaism. But if there is an obligation to bring all humans to conform to the 7 mitzvos benei Noach then perhaps...

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Confrontation and Babel

וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים. And the whole earth was of one speech and of one set of ideas. – Bereishis 11:1 I blogged in the past about the difference between thinking in Biblical Hebrew tenses and in the tenses one finds in most contemporary languages and how the Holy Language does not distinguish between “he is a builder”...

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Rebooting on Sukkos

I discussed the following medrashim in more detail in Mesukim MiDevash for parashas Pinechas and in earlier blog posts “The Origins of Imperfection” and “Simchas Beis haSho’eivah“. In this post, I want to look at how each step in the progression I outlined before is addressed by the mitzvos of Sukkos. Enlarging the theme of what I said about Simchas...

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Mother’s Day and Teshuvah Week

We don’t feel a need to observe Mother’s Day, because the mitzvah of kibud av va’eim means that every day is Mother’s Day. – Rabbi Shpitzer, my 5th grade rebbe This sentiment is far from uniquely Rabbi Shpitzer’s — but he was my first rebbe from the chareidi world, and so the first person to give me this explanation. Twenty five...