Aspaqlaria Blog

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Interview: Widen Your Tent

Here is an interview I had with Rabbi Doron Kornbluth about my book, Widen Your Tent, Rabbi Shimon Shkop, and the topic of the book — Rav Shimon’s worldview as he describes it in the introduction to Shaarei Yosher. (Rabbi Kornbluth is a partner in Mosaica Press.)

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The Chatas and the Olah

There is a difference in halakhah between how a bird is slaughtered when brought as a qorban chatas and when brought as a qorban olah. The Torah says (Vayiqra 5:8-10) that the kohein must “וּמָלַ֧ק אֶת־רֹאשׁ֛וֹ — flick off its head” of the bird offered as a chatas. But there is no similar instruction for the olah; it is just...

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Ki and Im

How likely is it that someone would spill ink and it would legibly depict the Mona Lisa? How likely is it to win the lottery? The two questions differ in one way… When you go to the lottery winner and ask them about their chance of winning, they are amazed. But from the perspective of the lottery, someone usually wins....

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Pieces of Sapphire

In this week’s parasha (Shemos 34:1), when Hashem tells Moshe to carve the second luchos, He says “פסל לך – carve for yourself”. The gemara comments on the apparently superfluous “לך – for yourself” by explaining that Hashem was telling Moshe that he could keep the extra precious stone to make the writing surface. “לא העשיר משה אלא מפסולתן של...

Keruvim on the Aron 0

Calves, Cherubs, and Half Sheqels

Why is it that in last week’s parashah (Ki Sisa) we read all about the sin of the eigel hazahav but this week’s parashah we read about the mitzvah of making two keruvim atop the aron? Why is one a grave sin, and yet the other is mandatory? Skippable, but enhances the question: A while back I posted about the linkage between the...

Path To Happiness 0

Simchas Purim

Let’s just look at Ben Zoma (Avos 4:1): אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר? הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ. Who is wealthy? Someone who is sameiach, happy, with their lot.   Ben Zoma isn’t arguing for complacency. Look at his prooftext: שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: יְגִ֣יעַ כַּ֭פֶּיךָ כִּ֣י תֹאכֵ֑ל אַ֝שְׁרֶ֗יךָ וְט֣וֹב לָֽךְ׃ אַשְׁרֶיךָ — בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. וְטוֹב לָךְ — לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. As it says (Tehillim 128:2): “When you eat the labor...

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Doing what is Customary

When the Jews reached the Red Sea and saw the Mitzriyim catching up, “וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־ה’ — they became very fearful, and the Benei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.” (Shemos 14:10) Rashi, on the word “וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ — they cried out”, quotes the Mekhilta, “תָּפְשׂוּ אֻמָּנוּת אֲבוֹתָם — they picked up their ancestors’ profession” and then quotes a pasuq...

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Hardening the Heart vs. Weighing it Down

So, I recently noticed that the translation of Unqelus I am using offers “hardened Par’oh’s heart” and the like regardless of whether the original word ויחזק (Aramaic: ואתקף) or another word built from \חזק\ or whether it was ויכבד (Aramaic: ויקר) or some other conjugation of \כבד\. I guess “חזק”, strengthened, could refer to hardening, although the Targum’s “ואתקף” refers...

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Why mitzvos?

The following question appeared in the Orthodox Conundrum Discussion Group on Facebook: Been on my mind for a few years and never really discussed it, but feel this is a good forum for it.   I have family and friends who are devout Christians, and can’t help but be a bit jealous of their emuna, bitachon and passion for spirituality....

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When a Paradox is not a Disproof

The GPS is an amazing thing. The chips in it work because of the physics of semiconductors, and the fact that the energy the electrons can absorb or emit come in fixed quantities. All of which is literally applied Quantum Mechanics. The calculations those chips perform involve calculating the distance to multiple satellites by comparing the timestamp the satellites sent...

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Zos Chanukah

Rashi writes on Bamidbar 30:2: “Zeh haDavar — This is the Idea“: Moshe gave nevu’ah with “Koh amar Hashem — Like this said Hashem, ‘Like in the middle of the night’” (Shemos 11, about Makas Bekhoros). And the nevi’im prophesied with “Koh amar Hashem“. Moshe was beyond them in that he also prophesied in the language of “Zeh hadavar —...

Rembrandt: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel 4

Why is this, that you ask my name?

In Vayishlakh, this week’s parashah, Yaaqov Avinu battles an angel. At the end he asks the angel what his name was. The angel answers, “לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי — why is this that you ask my name?” A mal’akh is literally a messenger. An angel is defined by its mission. Thus the name of the angel of healing is simply...

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Rav Yisrael, Epidemics, and Priorities

On the topic of people insisting on maintaining risky behaviors during the corona pandemic… Too many of us are placing minyan, attending weddings or funerals, and other such mitzvos ahead of safety. Despite the fact that we all know, that risk to life comes first. “וחי בהם – ולא שימות בהם”. (“‘And you shall keep My statues and My law]...

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Which Rainbow?

An interesting tidbit from the Seforno on Ber’ 9:13 “vehaysa le’os beris”: והיתה לאות ברית: בהיות הקשת כפולה. כי אמנם נלאו חכמי המחקר לתת טעם לסדר צבעי הקשת השנית אשר הוא על הפך סדר צבעי הקשת הראשונה המורגלת. והיא תהיה אות לצדיקי הדור שדורם חייב. כאמרם כלום נראתה הקשת מימיך. ויתפללו ויוכיחו וילמדו דעת את העם: And it will be...

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Aseres Yemei Teshuvah Reader

There is a new, slightly enlarged, version of my reader for Aseres Yemei Tehuvah for 5781, suitable for putting that wandering mind to work while in shul. Contents: Spiritual Planning………………………………………………………… 1 9/11 and How to Effect Permanent Change…………………….. 3 Teshuvah and Submission…………………………………………….. 7 The Baal Teshuvah and the Tzadiq………………………………… 9 A Good and Sweet New Year………………………………………… 11      Dip...

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Ideals and Yokes

The question I started with was wondering about the first two paragraphs of Shema. (Which is what Arukh haShulchan Yomi is up to.) The first paragraph is an exercise of accepting ol Malkhus Shamayim, the yoke of the Kingdom of [the One in] heaven. The second — ol Mitzvos, the yoke of the commandments. Those mitzvos are the commands of...

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Minyan for a Davar sheBiqdushah

There are tefillos including Qaddish, Qedushah, Borkhu, that are labeled a “Davar sheBiqdushah“, literally: “a matter that is in holiness”. The way we usually study the halakhah, it is said that a minyan is required to recite a davar shebiqdushah. Which is why we don’t say (e.g. Qaddish) when davening without a minyan. I am going to propose an entirely...

Minyan Saying Shema 0

Shema Yisrael

The following is a post I wrote for the Judaism Reclaimed Facebook page, a space that in general discusses Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah, by R’ Shmuel Phillips (Mosaica 2019). The opening in italics is an introduction by R’ Phillips. And the paragraph in sans-serif font was in my original submission, but removed from the post when...

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Sin’as Chinam

Sin’as Chinam does not mean “baseless hatred”.It means “pointless hatred”. To explain: My point is about holding grudges, even if the hatred initially had cause, perhaps even started out with a halachically appropriate one. Should you still hold on to the hatred, because it has a basis, even though it serves no purpose? I am arguing that it is still...

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Chessed and Tzenius

There was one movement in the Twentieth Century CE that was definitively established as an Other-Focused Orthodoxy (OFO). From its founding by Sarah Schenirer in 1917 until the late 1990s, the Judaism girls were taught in typical Beis Yaakov schools was one of chessed (Lovingkindness) first and foremost and only then the other mitzvos. But I noticed that there has...

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Mysticism and Rationalism

A lot has been said on-line about Mystical (e.g. Qabbalah) and Rationalist (e.g. the Rambam) approaches to Judaism. In this post, I aspire to propose clear definitions of these terms. Because much of the existing discussion suffers from a lack of precision to the point of inconsistency. For example, the Rambam was a Rationalist by the standards of his day....

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Why Parashas Balaq?

A lesson that can be learned from Parashas Balaq…. Why is the story of Balaq trying to hire Bil’am in the Chumash altogether? The Moavim don’t learn a lesson, they remain our enemies. Bil’am certainly didn’t change. And the Jews? We didn’t know anything about it at the time. And if it weren’t in the Torah, we still wouldn’t. My...

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The Parent, the CEO and Me

The Parent I believe that the efficacy of prayer is in the relationship built by turning to one’s Parent in times of trouble. One may indeed get what one prayed for, in some circumstances, because perhaps the deprivation served its purpose once it woke you up to prayer. The you post-prayer has a different set of needs than the you...

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The Role of Ritual in Other-Focused Orthodoxy

Rav Shimon Shkop gives a very inter-personal view of Judaism, writing that the we were made “וְחַיֵּי עולָם נָטַע בְּתוכֵנוּ — and eternal life was planted among us” (quoting the berakhah‘s description of the giving of the Torah) is entirely ” להיטיב עם זולתנו — to be of benefit to others, in imitation of the Creator. Rav Shimon even defines...