Category: Mussar

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Learning and Teaching

I The pasuq (Devarim 28:61, parashas Ki Savo) reads, if we would translate it naively (ignoring the point we’re about to see in Rashi): גַּ֤ם כׇּל־חֳלִי֙ וְכׇל־מַכָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א כָת֔וּב בְּסֵ֖פֶר הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את יַעְלֵ֤ם ה֙ עָלֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד הִשָּׁמְדָֽךְ׃ Also every sickness and every plague which is not written in this Seifer Torah, Hashem will raised against you until you are...

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Yeru+Shalem

The first time we encounter Yerushalayim (Bereishis 14:18), it is under the rule of Malki-Tzedeq, a “kohein leKeil elyon — a priest of the most high G-d”, under the name “Shaleim”. The other half of the city’s name begins with Avraham’s naming a nearby mountain, “har Hashem yir’eh — Mount ‘Hashem Will be Seen’”. Today it is called Moriah, the...

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Anav Mikol Adam: reactions

My previous post engendered a couple of responses and a follow-up thought of my own that I would like to share. A quick reminder: In that post, I suggested that maybe “וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃” can be defined not only as “Moshe was a very humble man, more so than any other human on earth.”...

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Anav Mikol Adam

A quick thought on something from the parashah (Behaalosekha), based on how one translates the words in the title. Bamidbar 12:3. The context is that Miriam and Aharon just complained about Moshe’s neglected wife, noting that no other prophet saw it necessary to do this. וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ Moshe was a very humble man,...

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The Three Most Central Mitzvos – May 13th

The Three Most Central Mitzvos of the Torah:A Pre-Shavuos Shiur On Thursday 2 Sivan, (May 13th, 2021) gave a shiur in preparation for Shavuos. A short discussion of what Shavuos and the Torah are all about, focuses on the three most central mitzvos of the Torah. (Hint: They’re not “Shabbos, Kashrus and Taharas haMishpachah“) 

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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...

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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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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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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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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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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A Lesson for the Month of Eeyore

You may have seen the Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, but have you thought about the Selflessness of Eeyore? Eeyore is most famous for being depressed. If there is something wrong with the situation, he’ll find it. And Ralph Wright (the first actor to play him for Disney) gave him that constant mournful singsong speaking voice.  When...

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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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תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה

תפילה לזכות לאור ולאהבה רבי אלימלך מליז’ענסק A Prayer to Merit Light and Love by Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787, one of the early rebbes of the Chassidic movement) This prayer, written by the Rebbe Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, strikes a chord for me because of its heavy focus on hakarat hatov for all we have in life, and asking...

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Did Hashem Command Us About Qorbanos?

Well, given this and next weeks’ parashios, as well as numerous other places in the Torah, the question in the subject line appears to have an obvious answer: Yes! And yet, that’s not what Yirmiyahu appears to say (7:22-23): כִּ֠י לֹֽא־דִבַּ֤רְתִּי אֶת־אֲבֽוֹתֵיכֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א צִוִּיתִ֔ים בְּי֛וֹם (הוציא) [הוֹצִיאִ֥י] אוֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם עַל־דִּבְרֵ֥י עוֹלָ֖ה וָזָֽבַח׃ For when I freed your ancestors from...

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Seforno on the Purpose of Life

Rav Ovadiah ben Yaaqov Seforno (15th cent CE, Cesena, Italy) writes…

The similarity to Rav Shimon Shkop’s philosophy should be obvious to readers of this blog. Enough that it is surprising Rav Shimon doesn’t quote the Seforno….

We get one important addition to the picture with this look at the Seforno. In the Seforno we find a taxonomy to analyze ritual mitzvos in the context of an Other-Focused Orthodoxy. A direction Rav Shimon doesn’t explore in his haqdamah.

Ritual in halakhah serves to:

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Four Types of Perfection

It seems, therefore, that Rav Yochanan is simply saying that a navi must be perfect in every way. Even those that would seem to be less important.

But.

Notice that the Rambam reverses the order of the third and fourth items. The gemara’s list is “גבור ועשיר וחכם ועניו — mighty, wealthy, wise, and humble,” The Rambam not only places character third and knowledge of G-d last, he ranks them accordingly.

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Redeeming a Wasted Youth

Someone lamented on Mi Yodeya: I wasted my youth. I am 35 years old. I had a toxic relationship with my parents, especially my mother. My career never started, and I am still looking for a fresh start and finding it humiliating at my age. What does the Torah says about wasting your youth? Is redemption possible? My answer: In...

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With G-d’s Help

Moshe Steinberg asked on Mi Yodeya on April 2nd, 2018: Does the phrase b’ezras Hashem make sense philosophically and if so, what does it mean? B’ezras Hashem implies to me that a person can do things himself, but Hashem helps. In what sense is it true that we have a sort of independent ability to do things? How does that interplay with...