Category: Audio

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Meshekh Chokhmah – BeChuqosai

Parashas BeChukosai begins “אם בחוקוני – If you follow My statutes… ” and continues by promising “I will give you your rain .. in its time.” The reward for following Hashem’s laws is measure-for-measure through His natural law. The Mechech Chokhmah discusses the centrality of natural law, that the world wasn’t made to run on miracles, and miracles aren’t the point...

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Widen Your Tent on JM in the AM

Nachum Segal interviewed me on the radio during the morning rush hour yesterday. If you’d like to hear something about the book — my objectives, some of the points raised, and a little about why Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction was my choice of starting point, a you can listen here: 

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Behar

Parashas Behar opens with the mitzvah of shemittah. The Meshakh Chokhmah’s first two entries on the parashah are about (1) what shemittah implies about how Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael to us and (2) the distinction between shemittah and yovel. Audio:   Video:  The first comment shed some light on the second. We see Hashem call Israel a gift, and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Emor

Part of parashas Emor (VaYiqra 22:26-23:44) contains a survey of the holy days of the year. It is well known because it is also read on the first day(s) of Sukkos and in the diaspora, the second day of Pesach. The Meshekh Chokhmah makes a profound statement in his commentary on the end of 23:21, in the description of Shavuos,...

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Shaarei Yosher – VeAhavta leRei’akha kaMokha

Vayiqra 19:18 famously says “VaAhavta lerei’akh kamokha, ani Hashem — love your neighbor as yourself, I Am Hashem. Rav Shimon Shkop has much to say about this pasuq, so I followed up the previous shiur on “qedoshim tihyu qi Qadosh Ani — be holy for I Am Holy” with another. In that shiur, we saw that Rav Shimon defines our...

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Shaarei Yosher – Qedoshim

Instead of discussing a comment by the Meshekh Chokhmah this week, I chose to present an idea from Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher. The thoughts in this shiur are bits taken from a much longer treatment in my book, Widen Your Tent. The chapter which consists of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher itself, with my translation, is available...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Acharei Mos

The Torah returns to the topic of the death of two of Aharon’s sons when introducing the Yom Kippur service in the Beis haMiqdash. What is the connection between the two topics? The Yerushalmi says it is that just as Yom Kippur atones, the death of the righteous atones. Is it any righteous person’s death? And doesn’t this somewhat beg...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Introduction to Vayiqra

There is a dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban’s Castilian school about the role of qorbanos. The Rambam apparently* says that qorbanos were proposed as a strategy to wean people away from avodah zara. The Ramban and his whole Catalonian school objected. Adam, Qayin and Hevel brought sacrifices before idolatry was invented. Noach brought his when there were no...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Haftaras Pequdei – Hester Panim

It seems that by the time we get to the end of the discussion of the Mishkan, haRav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk already wrote all the more philosophical points he wanted to make about the subject. So this week, we’ll take a look at what the Meshekh Chokhmah says on the haftarah, on Melahim I 5:18. He opens by referring...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayaqhel – Shabbos & Miqdash

In Ki Sisa, last week’s parashah, the discussion of building the Mishkan is preceded by the obligation to observe Shabbos. However this week’s parashah placed the Mishkan first — and Rashi says this is the source of the idea that building the Mishkan does not override Shabbos. Implied is that had only the telling in Ki-Sisa stood, building the Mishkan...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Ki Sisa — Nature and Revelation

1- Shemos 32:19: The mistake that led to the eigel was thinking Moshe had inherent qedushah, and therefore they needed an an inherently holy eigel to replace him. Therefore, Moshe breaks the first luchos, despite their being carved and written by G-d, forcefully demonstrating that even they don’t have inherent qedushah. 2- Shemos 32:16: The luchos could be read from...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Tetzaveh – Mizbeiach & Aron

Hashem (Shemos 29:42) speaks of revealing Himself from the entrance of the Ohel Mo’eid, from where the daily tamid was offered. And yet elsewhere we learnt that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the keruvim, atop the aron. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk uses this contrast to discuss: What is the role of each of these keilim within the purpose of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Terumah – Who can be a Talmid Chakham?

The Torah (Shemos 26:15) says that the poles used to carry the aron may not be removed from it. Even when the Mishkan was assembled, and the aron wasn’t being moved. Why? What lesson can we take from this? Rav Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk takes two lessons — one pragmatic about how it takes a village to have a talmid chakham,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Mishpatim – Personal and National Religion

What happened between Shemos 24:3 “kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem na’aseh” and v. 7 “kol asher diver Hashem na’aseh venishmah”? Why did we accept the Torah twice, using two different terminologies? Audio:   Video: שמות כ״ד:ג-ז וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ה֔׳ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה֖׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ג – 3 Moses went and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Yisro – Intellect or Action?

The Meshekh Chokhmah on Shemos 20:18 discusses Moshe’s approach through the smoke to the top of Har Sinai. What does the smoke represent? How did Moshe perfect himself to be capable of reaching Sinai. The difference between the prophecy at the burning bush and the revelation at Sinai. HaRav Meir Simcha haKohein contrasts the philosopher’s idea of self perfection, which...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Beshalach – Thought and Deed

(Yes, this title is an intentional play on last week’s.) The Meshekh Chokhmah writes on Shemos 14:23, a line describing the crossing of the Red Sea. The Meshekh Chokhmah compares how individuals are judged and nations. For individuals, sins of action, such as idolatry or Shabbos desecration, are punished. But flaws in one’s middos or a lack of politeness are...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Va’eira – Challenges and Rewards

In his commentary on Shemos 6:13, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein notes that if you look closely, not only Par’oh was asked to free Benei Yisrael, but Benei Yisra’el also were. What’s that about — who among the Jews were holding other Jews as slaves? When Moshe and Aharon approach Par’oh, there is a big step back in describing who they...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Introduction to Shemos

In his introduction to seifer Shemos, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein discusses a few themes, some of which we covered in this shiur. Why is Moshe’s nevu’ah special? Interestingly, the Meshekh Chokhmah emphasizes how we know that Moshe received nevu’ah, not the nature of the nevu’ah itself. Moshe, prophecy, and free will. The central role of free will in life. And,...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi II – My Sword and My Bow

In this second shiur on Vayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on Bereishis 48:22. My sword and my bow – tzelos’hi uva’ushi – tefilah vesachanunim — siddur prayer and personal requests. There are two mitzvos of prayer — one to impress how we ought to relate to G-d, one to express our actual feelings for and requests from Him. Audio:...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayechi I – Yaaqov in Mitzrayim

In this first shiur on parashasVayechi, we look at Meshech Chokhmah on the opening words of the parashah. Similarities between Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk’s understanding of (47:28) “ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים” and Rav Shimon Shkop’s notion of broadening one’s “אני”. Audio:  Video: Bereishis 47:28: וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם שְׁבַ֥ע עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה וַיְהִ֤י יְמֵֽי־יַעֲקֹב֙ שְׁנֵ֣י חַיָּ֔יו שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֔ים וְאַרְבָּעִ֥ים...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayigash – In a dream at night…

There is a recurring them in the Meshekh Chokhmah on parashas VaYigash about when is someone who is in the diaspora capable of nevu’ah or ruach haqodesh. In this shiur, we look at two comments of the Meshekh Chokhmah — Bereishis 45:12, and 46:2. Yaakov dreams at night, he prays at night, and this happens before he leaves into exile....

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayishlach – A Time to Do, A Time to Build

Meshekh Chokhmah on Bereishis 33:18 expands on a medrash that makes much of Yaaqov’s camping “in front of Charan”, that he set up techum Shabbos (measured the limits of how far he may travel on Shabbos) outside Charan. This is the first mention in the text of the Torah of a person observing Shabbos (albeit a pretty oblique reference). The...

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Meshech Chokhmah – VaYeitzei – “… Hashem is present in this place, and I – I did not know!”

There are two ways to approach G-d through His Action. One can admire the G-d of miracles, or the G-d of nature. The medrash describes Avraham as having discovered G-d through contemplating nature. Science only began when the Greeks looked past their gods at the notion of a Creator, which gave them the expectation that the world has a single...