Aspaqlaria Blog

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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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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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Matis!

40 years ago, parashas Pinechas, my bar mitzvah peshetl at Shabbos lunch was about the contrast between Pinechas’s extremism and that of Shim’on and Leivi. That peshetl was written by a master of thoughts on the parashah, future-Rabbi Matis Blum zt”l. Reb Matis fell victim to CoVID-19 over Shabbos. 10 Nissan, 5780. These are disjointed thoughts… Not collected into some...

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Widen Your Tent – The Vaad

New Online Va’ad with
TMI faculty member Rabbi Micha Berger
Author of Widen Your Tent

Micha explores the worldview of Rabbi Shimon Shkop, a Mussar Master who was a leading figure in the world of the Lithuanian Yeshiva of a century ago. 

ABOUT THE COURSE: WIDEN YOUR TENT

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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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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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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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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...

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Epistemology in the Torah

There are three verbs in pasuq 31 describing the steps in which being saved at the Red Sea impacted the Jews:

vayyar – they saw
vayyir’u – they felt yir’ah (fear / awe)
vaya’aminu – they believed

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Yonah and Perseverance

A famous rabbi explains the intent behind establishing the book of Yonah as the haftarah for Minchah on Yom Kippur as follows: וכוונתם, כי האדם חושב כמה פעמים לייאש את עצמו שאין יכול לתקן בשום אופן ועל כן יתנהג תמיד באופן א’, ואם יגזור עליו הקב”ה למות ימות. אבל טעות הוא, שסוף דבר יהיה, כל מה שהקב”ה רוצה מנפשו שיתקן...

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Barukh Sheim

Reciting Shema on Yom Kippur is unique in that we say the second line, “בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד — Blessed is the name of the Glory of His Rule for all eternity.” Every Shema, after accepting Hashem as our King with the opening verse, we continue by declaring His Kingship as the angels do. (Devarim Rabba 2:36) Since...

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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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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 —...