Aspaqlaria Blog


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:


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. 



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.


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.


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)...


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...


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.


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...


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


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...


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...


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...


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 —...


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...


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...


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...


Do Before Me Like This Order

After the Eigel haZahav, Moshe asked to see Hashem’s Glory, and Hashem said a human couldn’t, but to hide in a cleft in the rock of Har Sinai and Hashem would reveal something about Himself to Moshe . ” וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר ה֥׳ ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ — Hashem “passed before” him and proclaimed the 13 Middos haRachamim — “Attributes” of how we...


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...


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...


18 Av 5689

In 1929, Arab leadership fomented a wave of violence across Palestine by inventing rumors of a Jewish plans to take over Har haBayis. By Friday, August 23rd, 1929, the local Arabs in Chevron were explicitly declaring their intent to kill. Stones were thrown through house windows. At 4pm the Slabodka Yeshiva was attacked. Only a couple of people were inside...


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...


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...


Torah im Derekh Eretz – Torah uMada

I wrote the following for a rather informal venue. Lots of acronyms to speed up typing. Given my son Aishey’s upcoming wedding, I don’t have the time to rewrite it, but I wanted to capture the content while it was still new enough for me to remember to do so. “Torah uMadda“, YU’s motto, doesn’t have a precise formulation. Rav...


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...


Meshekh Chokhmah – BeChuqosai

Parashas BeChukosai begins “אם בחוקוני – If you follow My statutes… ” and continues by promising “I will give you your rain .. in its time.” The reward for following Hashem’s laws is measure-for-measure through His natural law. The Mechech Chokhmah discusses the centrality of natural law, that the world wasn’t made to run on miracles, and miracles aren’t the point...