Category: Machashavah

The Burial Site of Rabbi Meir 0

Midrashei Halakhah

There are two kinds of medrash (which should technically be called “midrash” to be grammatically correct). Midrashei Aggada are non-halakhic statements, those of mussar, Jewish thought, Qabbalah, and the like. The thought is usually connected to the text through details added to the narrative, or other stories intended as metaphor (whether in addition to being historical or not). I want...

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The Source that a Reshus haRabbim Requires 600,000 People

The following is based on an article by Rav Mordechai Yehuah Leiv Zaks in no. 27 vol. 6 (1953) of HaPardeis. (H/T Eruv Online blog.) All of our community eiruvin rely on Rashi’s opinion that if the area does not have ששים ריבו, sixty myriads (=600,000), people using the street, it is not a true reshus harabbim (public domain) according...

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: ×™Ö°×’Ö´Ö£×™×¢Ö· כַּ֭פֶּיךָ ×›Ö¼Ö´Ö£×™ 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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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 —...

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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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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 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...

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Science and Halakhah

I think many discussions of the gemara about rice not producing chameitz head in the wrong direction. The definition of chameitz isn’t entirely scientific. After all, if you mix wheat flour with 100% apple juice, it also does not produce chameitz. (Ashkenazim have a minhag for healthy people to avoid “egg matzah“, but that’s a tangent I found too long...

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How To Religiously Respond to the Pandemic

So many others wrote about THE correct way to respond to the CoVID-19 pandemic, how could someone like myself — Micha Shmuel — named for not one but TWO nevi’im not join the fray with my opinion? I think that identifying causality of the kind so many suggest, “Hashem brought this because …” is impossible for us. Read Hashem’s words...

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Rav Hirsch, Rav Yisrael and Me

I was very “into” Rav Hirsch’s worldview as a bachur. The symbol system explains so much. Don’t mix meat and milk because for an animal, the only creativity is procreativity, it’s in who it is, the meat. But to us, creativity goes beyond milk production, and well into creativity, not the automatic action of the flesh. A parah adumah is...

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Omniscience and Free Will

There is no conflict between Hashem Knowing now what we will choose tomorrow, and our ability to makes that choice freely when tomorrow comes. Hashem does not Know now what will will do tomorrow. Not because Hashem doesn’t Know, but because He doesn’t now.

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Coping with the Death of an Infant

(This post began life as a comment on an article on Torah Musings, ” When a Baby Dies” by Rabbi Gil Student.) What I held on to through the experience had at least two parts. The first is the impossibility of believing that Chazal were trying to explain tragedy. They studied the book of Iyov, after all, they know the...

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Chazal’s Use of Science

The general tendency is not an assertion that the Torah is a source of scientific theory. Chazal simply understood the pesuqim as per then-contemporary science. And it is recorded in the gemara (except according to Rabbeinu Tam) that they changed their opinion when a new theory came along. Just as we today would with our contemporary science.

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And with what? With a Shofar

אמר רבי יהודה משום רבי עקיבא … אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: … ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות. מלכיות: כדי שתמליכוני עליכם. זכרונות: כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה. ובמה? בשופר. Rabbi Yehudah said an idea from Rabbi Aqiva …: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “… say before Me on Rosh haShanah, Malkhios, Zikhoronos and Shoferos.“Malkhios: so that...

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Shemeih Rabba

The Arukh haShulchan (OC 56:1,3) discusses the meaning of the opening words of Qaddish “Yisgadel veyisqadeish shemeih rabba“. Praying that Hashem’s Great Name be made great and holy. And since a name is how we refer to something, we are talking about how humans perceive Hashem’s presence. The Arukh haShulchan mentions a tradition that “שמיה – His name” is an...

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Berakhos and Continuous Creation

You may have heard the Baal Shem Tov’s thought that the close of the first berakhah before Shema in the morning, “Yotzeir haMe’oros – Who Creates the [Celestial] Lights.” He says that it is written in the present sense because the Ribbono shel olam didn’t create the me’oros and then they just continue to persist. Rather, He is creating and...

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Rupture and Reconstruction at 25 Years

Twenty five years ago, Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik published “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy” in Tradition Magazine.1 The paper quickly became the topic of much conversation within the Orthodox community, including being cited in 325 other articles according to Google Scholar.2 Most notably, the article became a topic of conversation in the street and in synagogue, even if sometimes...

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Bottom to Top

1. The Setup A discussion on Facebook made me realize that my own attitude toward halakhah is quite different than Rav Hershel Schachter’s. If I thought there was only one right approach, I’d bet against myself, but since there isn’t… Here’s the context. Both Rav Hershel Schacter and I wear tzitzis made with a dye obtained from the banded dye-murex...

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Personal Worth

Tana Devei Eliyahu (Seder Rabba 9:1) asks how it is Devorah came to be shofetes and nevi’ah. Wasn’t Pinechas alive in those days? It answers: מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין ישראל בין עכו”ם בין איש בין אשה בין עבד ובין שפחה הכל לפי המעשה שהוא עושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו I give testimony of heaven and earth that...

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Silk Screened Sifrei Torah

Over a decade ago, Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi came up with a method for silk-screening Sifrei Torah. The ink is manually pushed through a silk-screen onto a qelaf. Here is a video in which they describe the process. I don’t know of any other support for this process. What I don’t understand is why not. This same debate was had when...

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Why the Wrap?

This blog post is with gratitude to Rabbi Pesach Sommer, for asking: Anyone aware of any interesting conceptual, philosophical, theological, or derush ideas connected to koreich, and the idea of eating Pesach, matzah and marror together? I didn’t, but the question prodded me to dream up the following. Hillel’s stated motive is textual. As the Hagadah puts it: זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ...

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With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ ×žÖµ×ÖµÖ£×ª רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils. – Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2 This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now...