Category: Audio

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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...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Toledos – Esav and Humanity’s So-Far-Missed Opportunity

After a long introduction, we looked at Meshekh Chokhmah on the navi’s explanation to Rivqah about why her pregnancy was so odd. She wasn’t merely surprised by having twins — one attracted to idolatry, and the other capable of founding the Jewish People. But why was she prenant with both? Why not like in the previous generation, where Hagar birthed...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Chayei Sarah – Teleology

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live looking at three comments by the Meshekh Chokhmah on the story of the servant finding a wife for Yitzchaq. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein appears to find a central theme in the story is that events are not only caused by what came before, but also driven toward a purpose. (And that in events...

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Meshekh Chokhmah VaYeira 18:10 – Yir’as haRomemus and Yir’as haCheit

Mesilas Yesharimm on the relationship between yir’as haromemus and yir’as hacheit (awe of [Hashem’s] Grandeur and fear of sinning), and the difference between yir’as hacheit and yir’as ha’onesh (fear of sin vs fear of punishment.) With that background, we look at the Meshakh Chokhmah. Avraham and Iyov are both called yerei Elokim. But why do Avraham’s compliments stop there, while...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Lekh Likha 15:13 – Free Will and National Destiny

If Hashem told Avraham that the Egyptians would oppress us, why were they then punished for doing His Will? Commanding the Egyptians vs speaking of future realities Speaking of the group vs speaking of the individual The law of large Numbers, Free Will, Providence, and Bayesian Statistics Audio:   Video: The Meshakh Chokhmah is on Sefaria, here. If you liked...

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Meshekh Chokhmah Noach 6:9 – Behavior and Character

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of the first pasuq of parashas Noach (Bereishis 6:9) “נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו — Noach was a righteous man, he was perfect in his generations.” The challenges of living among the pre-Flood generation compared to living in the post-Flood one. The value of actions and of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bereishis 1:26 – Free Will

A 15 minute shiur on Facebook Live on the Meshekh Chokhmah’s discussion of Bereishis 1:26 “וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹקִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ — And G-d said, ‘Let us make man in our Image.” Audio:   Video: Source sheet on Sefaria is here. If you liked this shiur and would like to subscribe to a podcast of the audios on this blog,  the...

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Tefillah beHispa’alus: Building the Temple Within – part 1

This was a webinar given for The Mussar Institute on 3-Mar-2014. Class 1 of 2. (Part 2 is here.) The format is more introducing and practicing tools for kavanah than a class in the meaning of the words of the siddur. Audio only version is available here. (Admittedly this is a good deal of the blind leading the blind.)

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Finding the Means to Return to Your Ideal You

Many thanks to Jon Baker for recording my talk before selichos at the Yavneh Minyan last motza’ei Shabbos. The material: An audio recording is here. And here is the handout. The first two pages were the topic of the opening of the talk, about the Rambam’s two kinds of vidui. The second sheet contains quotes from Mesilas Yesharim discussing the...

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Parashas Tzitzis

This week’s shiur rounds out our discussion of Shema with the third paragraph. In the first paragraph we accept Hashem as King, and that evolves to the theme of Vehayah im Shomo’ah, accepting the King’s commandments. Beliefs motivate action. In parashas tzitzis we look at how mitzvos reciprocate by shaping our minds. The meaning of parashas tzitzis is studied by...

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Vehayah im Shamoa

We entered Shema last week by following the detailed look at the text started with Birchas Ahavah, Kel Melekh Ne’eman and the rich first sentence of Shema. This week we looked at the second paragraph of Shema, and started by noting similarities and contrasts with the first one. This invited us to take a step back to look at the...

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Veahavta

In this shiur, we look at the rest of the first paragraph of Shema. Some of the issues discussed are: Why do we say “Barukh sheim“? How can a person choose to fulfill the commandment to love Hashem? Can you choose an emotion? What does it mean to serve Hashem with our whole hearts? Two approaches to the idea of...

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Shema Yisrael

In this week’s shiur we concluded Birkhas Ahavah and started Shema with the origin of “Kel Melekh Ne’eman” and some thoughts on its first sentence. Some of the topics discussed: Veha’eir eineinu beSorasekha — Tif’eres, fully integrating our Torah knowledge to shape our entire selves. Vedabeiq libeinu vs Veyacheid levaveinu — Two approaches to serving G-d (another reference to the...

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Birkhas Ahavah

The Tefillah: Beyond the Words shiur resumed this week, picking up where we left off, with birkhas Ahavah.Some of the topics discussed: Two dimensions for discussing a middah: “Ahavah Rabba” and “Ahavas Olam” How those dimensions are reflected in the structure of the berakhah as a whole What is love? The avos: Three models for how to express love The...

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Yotzeir Or, part III

See the previous discussions of Yotzeir Or here (part I) and here (part II). This week we concluded our discussion of the berakhah of Yotzeir Or, as well as the shiur’s run until after the yamim tovim. Some highlights: The process of creation is continual, and thus the berakhah is about the end of evil more than evil itself. There...

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Yotzeir Or, part II

In this second of three parts on the berakhah of Yotzeir Or we continued our look at the problem of evil. (The shiur was given during the Three Weeks.) The previous shiur focused on tragedy, the evil that we experience. This week we look at the interplay of the sun, and what it symbolizes, and the moon, and its symbology,...

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Yotzeir Or, part I

(I was on vacation and so there was no shiur last week.)This week’s shiur picks up with Borkhu and the question of what makes it, or any other prayer (including at least Qaddish and Qedushuah) a davar shebiqdushah (a declaration of holiness).The majority of the shiur was dedicated to opening of the berakhah of Yotzeir Or. We discussed the structure...

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Nishmas, part II

This week’s shiur picks up from “HaKel besa’atzumos uzekha”, the point where the Chazan begins on Yamim Tovim.Some of the key topics raised: The impossibility of understanding Hashem, and the resulting consequence of tending to describe Him in conflicting dialectics. Immanence — Hashem is everywhere; Trancendence — Hashem is in shamayim. The impersonal G-d of nature, and the G-d of...

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Nishmas. part I

This week’s shiur skips to Nishmas, under the assumption that davening in shul runs too quickly for slow and careful recitation, and it would be more practical to skip to around the point where we switch Chazanim and assume a more contemplative pace.Just some of the discussed subjects: Who wrote Nishmas? The Peter connection and what it says about the...

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Birchos haTorah

This week’s shiur (audio recording) concludes a series on aspects of the soul. With Asher Yatzar we looked at man’s ability to exist in and relate to the physical world. This is followed by E-lokai Neshamah, and our connection to heaven and man’s higher calling. Now we look at the universe we hold within our heads, our ability to change...

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E-lokai Neshamah

This week’s class was on E-lokai Neshamah. Some of the topics discussed: Different opinions about why the berakhah doesn’t begin with the word “barukh” The berakhah’s possible connection to Hamapil said before going to bed or Asher Yatzar Is the berakhah primarily about waking up, or the resurrection? Who is the “me” saying “the soul which You put within me”?...

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Asher Yatzer

This week’s shiur began with a continuation of last week‘s discussion of qedushah (as in “asher qidishanu vemitzvosav”) and taharah (“al netilas yadayim”).The discussion of qedushah’s “separation for” and taharah’s “separation from” was used to flow into discussing the various vectors of human personality — with a detour into the Beis haMiqdash. (That parallel between man and miqdash actually comes...