Category: Uncategorized

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For the Jews, There Was Light (ver. 2)

Related to the Ramban’s position, about holiness being about following the Torah’s ideals, and not stopping at the letter of its laws… There is an enigmatic statement in the Talmud (Nedarim 81a, Koren edition (Links to an external site.), original in bold, with translations of Rabbi Edin Steinsaltz’s explanatory insertions): Ravina says: They are punished because they do not first recite a blessing...

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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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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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HaTov Shimkha

We close Birkhas Hoda’ah (“Modim”) “‘HaTov’ shimkha, ulkha na’eh lehodos — your Name is “The Good”, and it is pleasant to praise You.” And yes, it does mean that Hashem’s name, the way we perceive Him, is “HaTov — The Good”. The more intuitive translation, that Hashem’s name is Good (good being an adjective), would have been “shimkha tov —...

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Body and Soul

The Shulchan Arukh opens with a discussion of the proper attitude upon awakening and some of the fundamentals of Judaism. And so, the Arukh haShulchan does as well. In Orach Chaim 1:4, R Yechiel Michl Epstein writes something about how we are to view ourselves. That it should be evident to anyone of some intellect that a person is both...

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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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Mind and Body, Qabbalah and the Sorites Paradox

I The name of the Sorites Paradox comes from the Greek word for heap, “soros”, a key word in the typical formulation. If someone had one million grains of sand, they would have a heap of sand. If we took away just one grain of sand, it would still be a heap. And similarly, the second grain. But what if...

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Yerushalayim

I’m about to repeat two points by R’ Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk zt”l: 1- Yerushalayim is named for being the convergance of two principles: refined middos and perfected intellectual comprehension. 2- There is an old question, “Chazal say that Sheim and Eiver ran a yeshiva that Avraham, Yitzchaq and Yaaqov attended. But that far before the giving of the Torah,...

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Mourning the Three Weeks

The point of mourning during Bein haMetzarim (“between the tragedies”, a/k/a the “Three Weeks”) is not to be miserable in-and-of itself. How many politicians and other famous people recently said “I’m sorry” only to continue their announcement in a way that implies that they mean “I’m sorry I was caught?” Now picture the criminal who is caught and actually repents...

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Gratitude – Natural and Learned

“If he shall offer it as a todah, a thanksgiving offering…” (Vayikra 7:1). The gemara reads, “Rabbi Yehudah said that Rav said: There are four who have to thank [Hashem] — those who go down to sea, those who traverse the desert, one who was sick and was cured, and one who was trapped in jail and was freed.” (Berachos...

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Freedom

We learn in Bereishis 46:34 וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֗ם אַנְשֵׁ֨י מִקְנֶ֜ה הָי֤וּ עֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ מִנְּעוּרֵ֣ינוּ וְעַד־עַ֔תָּה גַּם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ גַּם־אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ בַּעֲב֗וּר תֵּשְׁבוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ גֹּ֔שֶׁן כִּֽי־תוֹעֲבַ֥ת מִצְרַ֖יִם כָּל־רֹ֥עֵה צֹֽאן׃ Then you shall say: Your servants have been cattle keepers from our youths until now, both we and our fathers. (Say this) so that you be settled in the land of Goshen, for the abomination of Egypt are...

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Pesel Mikhah

From Sanhedrin 103b: תניא רבי נתן אומר מגרב לשילה ג’ מילין והיה עשן המערכה ועשן פסל מיכה מתערבין זה בזה בקשו מלאכי השרת לדוחפו אמר להן הקב”ה הניחו לו שפתו מצויה לעוברי דרכים. A beraisa: Rabbi Nasan would say: From Gerev [the town which housed the idolatrous temple of Mikhah] to Shilo [where the Mishkan was located] was 3 mil...

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Recent Webinar: Three Worlds of Relationships

The class announcement from The Mussar Institute: Six Free Webinars for 2017 Pirkei Avot: Explorations in Root Principles Ask someone to translate the title “Pirkei Avot” and you are likely to be told “Chapters of the Fathers.” But that translation misses the essence of what this treasured section of the Mishnah — and this webinar series —  is all about....

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Shalom Rav

Two variants of Shalom Rav were found in the Cairo Geniza. Given the similarities between Cairo and Israeli nusachos, it is assumed to have been the Nusach Eretz Yisrael in the days of the tannaim and Israeli amora’im. Another indication is that Nusach Provence, the berakhah was always “Shalom Rav“. The Provencial community, which was a true center of Jewish...

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Orthodoxy

Before I define the label “Orthodox”, I want to spell out what kind of entity is being labeled. The Enlightenment and the fall of the ghetto walls created a religious crisis for Ashkenazic Jewry. First for those in Western Europe, but the development does reach Eastern Europe over the course of the next several decades. Until then, for most people...

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Boycott Facebook

Shurat haDin — Israel Law Center finally demonstrated what Jewish Facebook users have felt anecdotally, that Facebooks’s dread of catering to Islamophobia has them underenforcing their own rules of appopriate content when posted by an Arab or Muslim group. They are thereby enabling the incitement to kill our people, our friends and/or family in Israel. Protection they are extending in the reverse. Yes, response to reported posts...

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Mazal Tov!

The Jewish People have been invited to the wedding of Ariel Bigel to Sarah Tichyeh Litman! Binyanei haUmah, Jerusalem at 10:30 pm tomorrow (Thursday, November 26th, 2015) Yaakov Litman Hy”d, the kalah’s father, and Netanel Litman Hy”d, her brother, were taken from us by the a terrorist’s hand while on the way to the chasan’s aufruf. The words gracing the...

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בן חמישים לעצה

Among the list of landmarks Rabbi Yehuda ben Taima lists in psychological development (Avos 5:21) is “בן חמישים לעצה — a 50 year old is [ready] for planning / advice”. (This is 10 years after “בן ארבעים לבינה” — that 40 year olds are capable of comprehension.) Generally this is taken to mean that when someone turns 50, they should...

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Qoheles in a Nutshell

While tradition skips over the who said to whom before identifying the significant word or two to take as the text’s name, there are exceptions, notably Vayiqra (both the parashah and the book) and Qoheles. Focusing on Qoheles, there is good reason for that: דִּבְרֵי קֹהֶלֶת בֶּן דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם. The words of Qoheles son of David, king in Yersushalayim: (1:1)...

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The Great Seal of the United State of America

Resolved, That Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, be a committee, to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America. – Journals of Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776 Rabbi Meir de Soloveitchik (as the rabbi of the Spanish Portugese Synagogue jokingly calls himself) recently mentioned this committee and the resulting seal when introducing...

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Why Chumash Has Subtly Different Duplications

The Arukh HaShulchan (OC 431:21) writes: …והנה לדינא: חמץ ושאור – הכל אחד, שהרי מצינו שני פסוקים המתחילים ב”שאור” ומסיימים ב”חמץ”, דכתיב: “[שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ] אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם [כִּי כָּל אֹכֵל חָמֵץ וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן עַד יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי.]” וכתיב: “שִׁבְעַת יָמִים שְׂאֹר לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל אֹכֵל מַחְמֶצֶת [וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת...

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Desire and Will

A gett must be given willingly, and for the past 1,100 years (among Ashkenazim, eventually reaching Sepharadim as well) received willingly as well. However, when a husband is obligated to dissolve the marriage, beis din is authorized to compel him using excommunication, economic sanctions, prison and even corporeal punishment as necessary. Today in Israel, the batei din for divorce are...

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Yisurim

Rabbi R Yitzchak Eisenman recently wrote a “Short Vort” essay that asked: Many of us recall with horror the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School which occurred almost two years ago…. What ever happened to Sandy Hook Elementary School? Is there a memorial somewhere in the school? Are children still learning the ‘three R’s’ there? No, there are no children...

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My Dream Synagogue

Here are things my dream Growth Oriented Shul would provide that normal shuls today do not: Qiddush after leining, before mussaf, combined with a devar Torah or text learning. Our attention spans have shrunk. Rather than fight it, and ending up with people who come late, talk, walk out for Kiddush Club, we build the service around this limitation. It...