Category: Shaarei Yosher

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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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Widen Your Tent – In Jewish Action

A review of my book, Widen Your Tent, appears in the current issue of Jewish Action. REVIEWS IN BRIEF Reviews in Brief GIL STUDENT By Rabbi Micha Berger  Mosaica Press Beit Shemesh, Israel, 2019 395 pages Widen Your Tent: Thoughts on Life, Integrity & Joy Rabbi Shimon Shkop was one of the great roshei yeshivah of Europe. A student of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, he had a brilliant mind and clarity of expression...

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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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Rav Shimon Shkop on His 80th Yahrzeit

The following article appeared in this week’s Hamodia, in their Community magazine insert for 8 Marcheshvan 5780. The nicely formatted PDF proof of the article is available here. Torah Sparks Harav Shimon Shkop, Zt”l Marking his 80th yahrzeit on 9 Marcheshvan On the 9th of Marcheshvan, 5700, we lost Rav Shimon Yehudah haKohen Shkop zt”l, making this Thursday (November 7th)...

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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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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 – 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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The Interpersonal Aspect of Parah Adumah

The most fundamental difference between the kind of reasoning one finds in the Bavli with that one finds in the Yerushalmi is “vertical” vs. “horizontal”. The Bavli will drill down to get the full depth of an opinion, whereas the Yerushalmi will refuse to speculate about the implications of a position and will instead compare statements from various discussions to...

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Not Good!

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה’ אֱלֹקים לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ Hashem Elokim said: It is not good for the man to be alone; I shall make for him a helper opposite him. – Bereishis 2:18 וַיֹּ֛אמֶר חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֵלָ֑יו לֹא־טוֹב֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה עֹשֶֽׂה׃ נָבֹ֣ל תִּבֹּ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֕ה גַּם־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֤ד מִמְּךָ֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר לֹא־תוּכַ֥ל עֲשֹׂ֖הוּ לְבַדֶּֽךָ׃ Moshe’s father-in-law said...

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The CEO

The primary metaphor of the High Holidays is the King, sitting in judgment. Hashem rules, the world will run according to His Will regardless. On Rosh haShanah we coronate Hashem as King, so that He need not impose that Will as Dictator. However, I thought of another metaphor that holds some appeal to someone living in a 21st century democracy....

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Shaarei Yosher Meaning of Life Poster

If you would like this picture as a PDF to print for hanging in a school, shul or home, it is available here. We often complain that  we spend so much time on the halachic trees, we lose sight of the forest. I hope someone finds this reminder helpful.

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Torah Lishmah and Nefesh haChaim

Nefesh haChaim is a collection of Rav Chaim Volozhiner’s writings organized posthumously by his son and successor, R’ Yitzchak. We can see this in the self-description in the title page of the early editions of the Nefesh haChaim which opens, “Yir’as Hashem — for Life! Notebooks of holy writings of the true genius who was famous for his Torah and...

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Why give?

If we look in the Torah at verses that describe our obligations to give or loan to others, it is common for them to conclude with “I am your G-d”. For example: וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תְעוֹלֵל, וּפֶרֶט כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט; לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם; אֲנִי ה אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם. Do not totally glean your vineyard, and the fallen [fruit] from your vineyard do not...

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Earning one’s livelihood

The pasuq reads:  וּבָא הַלֵּוִי כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִמָּךְ, וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, וְאָכְלוּ וְשָׂבֵעוּ, לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ, בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה.  {ס} And the Levi, because he doesn’t have a portion nor an inheritance with you, and the ger, and the orphan and the widow, who are within gates, shall come, eat and be satisfied; so...

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Recorded Video Classes

I just completed a webinar (3 classes, 45 min each) for The Mussar Institute on Project Sinai‘s web site. Recordings of the classes are available on Project Sinai’s site: First Shiur. (The volume is overly loud for the first 3 min or so, which includes most of a rough biography of Rav Shimon Shkop, but not the actual text.) Second...

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The Holy Refrain

Rav Shim’on Shkop comments on the Toras Kohanim (a/k/a the Sifra) at the opening of parashas Qedoshim.… Yes, I’m revisiting the introduction to Shaarei Yosher. Again. And about the foundation of this mitzvah of sanctity the Toras Kohanim has “‘be holy’ – be separate”. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, explains at length this notion of separation as it...

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Shaarei Yosher: Chapter Headings

An outline, according to how I presented it: Life’s Mission Making ourselves in the “image” of the Creator. The “image” of the Creator is to bestow good on others — because creation had to be for our benefit, as He has no needs. We therefore must commit ourselves, sanctify all we have, to the mission of bestowing good to others....

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Conclusion

To my mind, one can use this idea to elaborate what our sages explained in Nedarim (folio 38[a]) on the verse “carve for yourself”. Moses didn’t get rich except through the extras of the Tablets. This is an amazing idea – [is it possible that] Hashem couldn’t find any way to make Moses wealthy except through the extras of the...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 4

The beginning of the receiving of the Torah through Moses was a symbol and sign for all of the Jewish people who receive the Torah [since]. Just as Hashem told Moses, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets”, so too it is advice for all who receive the Torah. Each must prepare Tablets for himself, to write upon them the word...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 3

The first Tablets were made by G-d, like the body of writing as explained in the Torah. The latter Tablets were made by man [Moses], as it says “Carve for yourself two stone tablets.” (Exodus 34:1) Tablets are things which cause standing and existence, that it’s not “letters fluttering in the air.” Since they were made by Hashem, they would...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 2

One can use this to explain the whole notion of breaking the [first] Tablets, for which I have not found an explanation. At first glance, understanding seems closed off. Is it possible that Moses our teacher would think that because the Jews made the [Golden] Calf they should be left without the Torah? He should have just waited to teach...

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If I am here…

תניא: אמרו עליו על הלל הזקן, כשהיה שמח בשמחת בית השואבה אמר כן: “אם אני כאן, הכל כאן. ואם איני כאן. מי כאן?” A beraisa: They said about Hillel the Elder, when he was happy during Simchas Beis haShoeivah would say like this: If I am here, then all are here. And if I am not here, who is here?...

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Shaarei Yosher, sec. 6: Refinement – Part 1

AS A BEGINNING OF this preparation, so that one is ready to acquire Torah, the Torah requires specific conditions. The first condition is toil and contemplation, as our sages explain “‘If in my statues you go’ (Vayiqra 26:3) … that you should be toiling in the Torah.” (Rashi ad loc, quoting Sifra 26:2) And other things required for acquiring Torah....