Aspaqlaria Blog

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Mi sheBeirakh

When someone is found guilty of a crime, he may be sent to jail. But that person isn’t the only person who gets punished. His wife loses his companionship. His children lose access to their father. They and his parents are shamed. His employer loses out on an employee, and his customers on his services. The person he used to...

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The Kindness of Hashem

For many years — from before my bar mitzvah until my marriage — I had the honor to learn with Rabbi Matis Blum (who was a teen when we started) on Shabbos morning. Yesterday I had the heartwrenching experience of attending his wife’s funeral. Rebbetzen Etty Blum was 45 at the time, a mother of ten children. I just want...

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Recognizing Your Friend in the Dark

Rav Hutner, in the Pachad Yitzchaq for Purim, addresses the famous medrash (on Mishlei 9) which says that after moshiach comes, all the holidays will cease except Purim. This is derived from the verse (Esther 9:28) “the memory of Purim will never cease from among their descendants.” The notion that all the holidays in the Torah are not permanent is...

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Simchah and Oneg

Simchah is related to wanting and having, because Ben Zoma defines the wealthy person as “sameiach bechelqo — happy with his lot”. The Tanya speaks about how each aspect of the soul lives in tension between “ratzon – desire/will” and ta’anug. Thus we see that “oneg” too is related to wanting and having. However, the mitzvah on Yom Tov is...

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Brisk and Mussar

This post is a continuation of my previous post on the nature of Mussar, and on an earlier post contrasting Brisker and Rav Shim’on Shkop’s derekh (as I saw Rav Dovid Lifshitz’s variant thereon). In the earlier post I wrote: Fundamental to Brisker philosophy is the idea that halakhah has no first principles. It can only be understood on its...

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What is Mussar?

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 125th yahrzeit begins tonight (25 Shevat), and while searching for grist for that mill for an appropriate entry, some Avodah discussion sparked some thoughts. Foundation Stories There are two foundation stories about the birth of the Mussar Movement (which should not be confused with mussar as a whole). The first is where a young Yisrael Lipkin used...

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Why I’m a Man

My son Shuby said something interesting to me over lunch today. Shuby is a very cute nine-year-old little boy with Downs. His ability to actually articulate the words isn’t caught up with his ability to decide what to say, so our conversations involve some checking what he was trying to say, some signing, etc… After I gave him his food,...

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Perishus

It is difficult to understand the exact limits of perishus (restraint) by looking at the relevent chapters of Mesilas Yesharim. (In all of the following, I am using quotes from the on-line copy of the translation by R’ Aryeh Kaplan.) In the third sentence or so of chapter 13: The rationale of Separation is epitomized in the words of our...

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Prayers and Requests

Yaaqov avinu lying on his deathbed, tells his son Yoseif: וַֽאֲנִ֞י נָתַ֧תִּֽי לְךָ֛ שְׁכֶ֥ם אַחַ֖ד עַל־אַחֶ֑יךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לָקַ֨חְתִּי֙ מִיַּ֣ד הָֽאֱמֹרִ֔י בְּחַרְבִּ֖י וּבְקַשְׁתִּֽי׃ Also, I gave you one portion (or perhaps, “one thing, [the city of] Shechem”) beyond that of your brothers, which I took from the control of the Emori — becharbi uvqashti — with my sword and with my...

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Neither Random nor Predetermined

Free Will is difficult to define. We’re saying that people make choices that are neither predetermined by outside causes, and yet non-random. Moshe Koppel, in his book “Metahalakhah” proves that such a domain exists, but without showing us what that domain might contain. A random sequence is one whose next element is not predictable given the sequence’s history so far....

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Rav Dessler: 25 Teves

Today (25 Teves 5714, 1964CE) is Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler’s yahrzeit. Rav Dessler (or REED, as he is called on Avodah) was a paragon of Kelm Mussar, who was willing to merge that worldview with Chassidus and the philosophy of his era. In particular from Qabbalah-influenced paths, we see the influence of the Maharal and the Tanya. Rav Dessler himself...

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Halachic Process, addenda

With this post, I am closing the series (for now) with three other thoughts that came up during the Avodah discussion, but aren’t part of my core thesis. I The concept of minhag hamaqom impacts two different things — actual minhagim and local pesaqim. I’m now addressing only the latter. A community can’t survive with too much variation, so we...

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Halachic Process, part II

So far, I’ve discussed how I think halakhah works, and how I think it doesn’t. To refresh — fitting devar Hashem into this world an our minds requires simplifying modeling, “shadows” that only capture aspects of the fuller truth. These models can conflict, leading to machloqes. It also means that living by halakhah will requires assessing conflicting priorities. Ideally this...

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Halachic Process, interlude: What it isn’t

(I am going to do something I try to avoid when writing in public — dedicate a post to criticism. This post may someday disappear, if I ever change my mind, so read it now while you can.) The story so far: In part I, I suggested that the process of pesaq isn’t a set of rules to be followed,...

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Halachic Process, part I

“Eilu va’eilu divrei E-lokim Chaim, vehalakhah keBeis Hillel — These and those are the words of the ‘Living’ G-d, but the halakhah is like Beis Hillel.” The voice rung out from heaven that even though the law is ruled according to Beis Hillel, Beis Shammai’s position is also the word of G-d. There is some variation in halakhah between people...

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Halachic Change

Pesaq “changes” in a number of very different ways. I put the word in quotes, because I’m including things I do not consider an actual change in pesaq. R’ Herschel Schachter writes in a number of places of the difference between appropriate halachic innovation, “chiddush“, vs unauthorized change in established din, “shinui“. Much rests on whether one is actually changing...

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Angry at G-d

A friend of mine wrote this morning about his three experiences with cancer in his immediate family. He was equipped to handle his wife’s bout, abut by the time he had to deal with it for the third time, he tells me that all he felt was anger, anger at G-d. His tefillos that Rosh haShanah he describes as mechanically...

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Yisrael, Yaaqov and Beis Yaaqov

Someone asked on soc.culture.jewish: Today in my Women In Hebrew Bible class we talked about how Yaakov (Jacob) was renamed Yisrael (Israel). This was a way of redeeming him of all his past trickery. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Yaakov. He is, after all, my favorite Patriarch. But he was...

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Anger and the Golden Mean

(I invite people to visit my analysis of the Orchos Tzadiqim’s psychological model. Among the points I discuss is the relationship between dei’os and middos. In painful brevity: a dei’ah is a feature of one’s psyche — which in turn is something performed by the soul. All people have the same set of dei’os. A middah, which literally means measure,...

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Shemittah

( You will notice that this entry is pretty much straight lomdus rather than my usual fare. When I wrote Rafi’s bar mitzvah speech, I ran overly long. Here is an even longer earlier edition, but one that is more complete in covering my thoughts on the subject. -mi) In parashas Behar (25:18), it says: “Vesapharta lekha sheva` shabasos shanim...

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×›×’ אלול תשס”א

Tonight begins the 6th yahrzeit. It can be no coincidence that it is a weak before Rosh haShanah that we have the reminder of how a beautiful sunny day can, in the blink of an eye, turn into the most horrible of tragedies. …בראש השנה יכתבון, וביום צום כפור יחתמון On Rosh Hashanah they will be written, and on Yom...

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Mi Keil Kamokha

In Tomer Devorah, Rav Moshe Cordevero explains the 13 attributes of Divine Mercy, in particular showing them as exemplars for us to follow — “just as I Am Merciful, so too you be merciful.” Rather than following the original revelation of these attributes in seifer Shemos, he uses the version in seifer Mikhah (7:18-20) which we say during tashlikh, and...

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May only goodness and kindness pursue me

.וּבָאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל-הַבְּרָכוֹת הָאֵלֶּה וְהִשִּׂיגֻךָ, ×›Ö¼Ö´×™ תִשְׁמַע בְּקוֹל ×”’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to the call of Hashem your G-d. – Devarim 28:2 This verse from parashas Ki Savo recalls a line from Tehillim that we sing often: .אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי, וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-×”’ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים May...

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The Desire to Desire

I must confess that I find mussaf (and many parts of the rest of davening) very difficult. Frankly, I am unable to feel a longing for a restoration of animal sacrifice. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t. My work-around is to make that very lack the focus of my intent during the tefillah. Rather than thinking about qorbanos...