Aspaqlaria Blog

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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...

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To Be or Not To Be

ת”ר: שתי שנים ומחצה נחלקו ב”ש וב”ה. הללו אומרים, “נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא, יותר משנברא.” והללו אומרים, “נוח לו לאדם שנברא, יותר משלא נברא.” נמנו וגמרו, “נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא, יותר משנברא.” עכשיו שנברא, יפשפש במעשיו. ואמרי לה: ימשמש במעשיו. Our Rabbis repeated: For two and a half years, Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel were divided. These were...

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Thoughts about Teshuvah

“Aspaqlaria: Aseres Yemei Teshuvah” (49 pages) is a collection of essays adapted from those that appeared here on the subjects of teshuvah, shofar, vidui, and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It is in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, ready for printing.

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Narcissistic Spirituality

I was at a Mussar conference once, and Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin asked me about the programming. He asked, roughly, “When did Mussar shift from being about giving to others to being about working on my own middos?” In general, this kind of self-focus is an error that is all too easy in many spiritual paths. Rabbi Shem Tov ibn...

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Hoshin Plan

At one point in my career I was working at a bank that took on a large initiative to formalize its processes. Everything done within the bank had to follow procedures, with the requisite paperwork completed, and every procedure had to conform to a standard called “Six Sigma“. Part of Six Sigma is an idea called Hoshin Kanri, or in...

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Don’t Forget Daf Alef!

A thought that I had amidst all the talk about the start of Daf Yomi Cycle #13… But first: Mazal Tov to all the mesaymim! There has been much talk lately about one of AishDas’s central themes: seeing the forest for the trees. Eg the Spring 2012 issue of Klal Perspectives, and R’ Dr Gidon Rothstein’s recently published seifer, “We’re...

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Today’s Daas Torah

Here’s a theory that I developed recently [when this was posted in its first, much shorter, version on 26-Nov-04]… The gemara uses the term “da’as Torah” in a sense totally different than today’s usage. It appears once, in Chullin 90b, to ask whether a cited opinion on a halachic matter was from sources, which it calls “da’as Torah“, or whether...

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No Answers

Why do bad things happen? אמר אביי לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שחללו בה את השבת… אמר ר’ אבהו לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו ק”ש שחרית וערבית… אמר רב המנונא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שביטלו בה תינוקות של בית רבן… אמר עולא לא חרבה ירושלים אלא מפני שלא היה להם בושת פנים זה מזה… אמר ר’ יצחק לא...

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Clear the Air Week

לא חרבה ירושלים, אלא בשביל שלא הוכיח זה את זה. Yerushalayim was only destroyed because they didn’t give tokhachah to [usually translated: rebuke] one another. – Shabbos 119b Not the sin we usually associate with the destruction of the Beis HaMiqdash. More often quoted is: מקדש ראשון מפני מה חרב מפני ג’ דברים שהיו בו ע”ז וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים…...

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The God Particle

Not long ago, CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider produced evidence of the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle Peter Higgs predicted in 1964, and was a major missing piece from the Standard Model. In order to explain mass, and thus why certain particles differ in mass, which in turn influences things like why the Weak Force (carried by particles...

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Da’as Rachamim Tif’eres

You might have noticed on the AishDas home page the motto “Da’as, Rachamim, Tif’eres” and wondered what it meant. It was something lifted from Dr Nathan Birnbaum’s organization “HaOlim”. (Note to the skimmer: Please do me the favor of at least skipping down to the conclusion of this post. You’ll get the final explanation, without the sources.) I recently found...

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3×2 Constant Mitzvos

There Chinuch famously states in his introduction that there are six mitzvos that because they refer to a state of mind, can be performed constantly or perpetually. (At least, while awake; I won’t speak to whether you fulfill them while sleeping.) … והחיוב של אלו לעשותן אינו בכל עת רק בזמנים ידועים מן השנה או מן היום. חוץ מששה מצוות...

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An Ideal “Balebos”

We often speak of gedolim who pursue the learning and teaching of Torah as both their vocation and avocation — rashei yeshiva and other great rabbanim. Today (10 Sivan 5772) is the 108th yahrzeit of a role model that may be easier for those of us who have full-time jobs outside of religious work to take life lessons from. Reb...

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What Shabbos is For

Jonathan Rosenblum shared on February 21st on the Cross-Currents blog a beautiful thought by Rabbi Yaakov Estreicher. To quote: Rabbi Estreicher presented Shabbos as the key to experiencing life with joy, of rejoicing in one’s portion. He noted how rare it is to meet someone overflowing with joy. If we asked someone how he was, and he responded enthusiastically by...

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The Curriculum at Volozhin

On the April 6, 1858, the government ordered the closure of the yeshiva in Volozhin. There is no record that anyone from the government tried to implement this order. But on the 22nd, R’ Gershon Amsterdam led a delegation to have the ruling repealed. Among the things presented to the government was the curriculum at the yeshiva. Here is my...

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The Holy Refrain

Rav Shim’on Shkop comments on the Toras Kohanim (a/k/a the Sifra) at the opening of parashas Qedoshim.… Yes, I’m revisiting the introduction to Shaarei Yosher. Again. And about the foundation of this mitzvah of sanctity the Toras Kohanim has “‘be holy’ – be separate”. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, explains at length this notion of separation as it...

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Abstruse Goose hit the nail on the head again!

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The Eilu vaEilu Paradox

The notion of eilu va’eilu is taken by many to be quite literal — that two conflicting halachic opinions can both be equally correct, both equally truly representing the Will of G-d. This is a product of halakhah being a mapping from Hashem’s infinite Thought to human reality and/or His leaving us a process that has room for our creativity...

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Teach Him Like the Laws of Pesach

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה׳ אֱ-לֹקינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן. The wise [son], what does he say? “What are the testimonial rites, the dictates and the laws which Hashem our G-d commanded you?” And even you tell him like the laws of the Passover [offering]. We...

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40 or 50 Makkos

There is a dispute in the Haggadah about how to count the plagues. Rabbi Yosi simply says there were 10 plagues in Egypt, and the equivalent of 50 at the sea. Just focusing on the makkos themselves, Rabbi Yoshi looks at each plague as a unit; he doesn’t subdivide them. I wish to look at the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer...

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Rav and Shemuel on Redemption

The mishnah in Pesachim requires that in telling of the Pesach story at the seder, “we begin with degradation, and end with glory.” There is a debate between Rav and Shemuel over what this applies to. In practice, our Haggadah contains both. (Probably because, as the Haggadah itself says, “whomever [says] more, behold he is praiseworthy.”) According to Shemuel, the...

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What are we?

My son Shuby and I go to shul for Shacharis weekday mornings, ever since Shuby started putting on tefillin. Shuby has Downs, so I wind the tefillin for him, help him with the berakhos, etc… We had a conversation that morning, which started with him declaring me “the boss of the tefillin.” When I explained that tefillin weren’t something I...

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Why are bricks red?

One way to explain the color of the brick would involve discussing the quantum mechanics of the atoms bricks are made of, (and this is where most readers eyes gloss over and skim to the end of the paragraph…) and the possible energy levels electrons can take when those atoms are combined into the compounds they are when they comprise...

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The Mussar Ideal

(This is a rewrite and expansion of a couple of comments I made to something someone posted on an online course offered by The Mussar Institute. ) There are many middot that one can apply in relation to others, or reflecting back to themselves. For example, kavod (respect) or ahavah (love) are attitudes I must have toward others, but must...