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Volume 37: Number 32

Wed, 17 Apr 2019

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Joshua Meisner
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 12:35:27 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Shinana

An alternative thought, based on the same passuk as quoted by RAZZ and that
perhaps has some overlap.

The root QHH appears to have a broad spectrum of meanings, but one of them,
found in the gemara in Arvei Pesachim by the Charoses, is tart or sour
(used to explain why we add tapuchim to the charoses).  The Jews of
Yirmiyah?s time complained that because the fathers ate sour immature
grapes, why should the sons wince from the acidic tinge, while Yirmiyahu
responded that the sourness comes from what they themselves ate.

At the leil seder, we respond to the Ben Chacham, who comes with an
expansive appetite for everything in front of him, with a sumptuous feast
of Torah, concluding with the final warning that no matter how much he
consumes, the ikkar is what he takes away with him ? the ta?am Pesach must
remain in his mouth, and this is more important that how much he is
actually able to eat.

The Ben Rasha, on the other hand, is unimpressed.  He waves away everything
offered as being a chore, and a chore for someone else.  He has no savor
for the delicious meal in front of him, so we are instead commanded
?Hak?heh es shinav? ? give him a little bit of a sour taste.  Demonstrate
to him the imperative of what we?re doing here tonight as descendants of
the yotz?ei mitzra?im and how it impacts our avodah during the entire year.
The avodah may not be pleasant ? kol has?chalos kashos ? but the masa is
placed upon us all.  We are confident that if he takes the first bite, even
merely to remove the bad taste in his mouth, he will be motivated to eat
more.  How we are to do this is a question of pedagogy, but the goal is

               This addresses the question presented by the attitude of
some that our goal in blunting the edge of his words is to serve as a
warning to or to protect others ? however, Echad Chacham v?Echad Rasha!
Each son presents us with the same goal and is equally a son.  The Rasha is
not merely an obstacle to be neutralized to protect the other three sons
but rather his own unique person with experiences that may be different
than those of the Chacham and Tam but that has no less potential.

               This also answers the question of why the ba?al Haggadah
uses the third person perspective toward the Rasha.  Better to say ?Li v?lo
lecha ? ilu hayisa sham, lo hayisa nig?al? ? rather than throwing the
passuk at him before moving on to the next son and expecting him to draw
the diyyuk himself as stated by an unseen narrator of the unfolding of the
seder.  As stated before, it is also problematic to say that we?re speaking
to the other three sons as a means of blocking the Rasha out ? how is that
chinuch?  Instead, we?re talking to ourselves.  We do say to him ?Baavur
zeh asah Hashem li?, because that?s where the whole story starts! But, as
we continue talking to the wayward child in front of us, who just doesn?t
get it, we should realize, ?Li v?lo lo? ? unfortunately, this son has not
yet chosen to be a participant in the work of Klal Yisroel.  ?Ilu haya
sham, lo haya nig?al? ? If he were there, he would have been completely
destroyed.  And, therefore, we have the imperative to do whatever we can to
guide him back to the road, not by unadulterated sweetness and changing the
goalposts but by straight honesty (with tact and love) and a recognition of
the compelling obligation placed upon us.

               The Ben Rasha is not the Chacham, not the Tam, and not even
the Eino Yodei?a Lish?ol.  However, our responsibility towards him is no
less than that towards the others.  We *must* teach him and bring him
within the fold.  We must speak to him in words that he will accept.  Success
is within the realm of God, but this realization must guide our avodah
towards him.

On Mon, Apr 15, 2019 at 12:35 PM Micha Berger via Avodah <
avo...@lists.aishdas.org> wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 15, 2019 at 05:34:49AM -0400, Micha Berger wrote:
> : On Sun, Apr 14, 2019 at 12:57:52PM -0400, Sholom Simon forwarded a
> friend's
> : thought:
> :: It is the nick name given to R Yehuda because he had big teeth. But it
> ...
> : I would think it's definitely sharp thinking. When you go from sharp
> : to persuaive, the metaphor of teeth fails. But who ever heard of a Jew
> : being encouraged not to think so much?
> ...
> Offlist, R A Zivotovsky mentioned his article in Alei Etzion #18, now
> available at
> https://www.etzion.org.il/en/personal-accountability-and-blunting-teeth-rasha
> Before his own proposed explanation of haqhei es shinav, RAZZ writes
> (consider these teasers):
>    The most perplexing part of the Haggada's formulation, and the focus
>    of this essay, involves the rasha, whose question is deemed to be
>    outright heresy and who is met with a bafflingly severe response:
>    ...
>    The anomalies in the answer are also troubling from a stylistic
>    viewpoint. Whereas the other three children each receive a
>    straightforward verbal response, the rasha is treated to two
>    additional components. The Haggada's response to the rasha includes
>    the instruction "hakheh et shinav" - do something to his teeth -
>    and it additionally provides a stinging reprimand for his impudence...
>    In the remainder of this essay, we will first survey some of the
>    standard answers offered to these questions, and we will then propose
>    a novel explanation of the Haggada's message.
>    Previously Suggested Explanations
>    The Haggada Sheleima translates "hakheh" as "anger him," and thereby
>    ...
>    Others similarly explain that "hakheh" is not active, but ...
>    When we inform the rasha that he will have to watch everyone else
>    eat the succulent, aromatic Passover sacrifice, while he will not be
>    permitted to partake, his teeth will "stand on edge."[13] The Ramban
>    (Bereishit 49:10) similarly explains that the meaning is "to weaken
>    his teeth with your words."[14]
>    Most explanations translate "hakheh" as to "blunt" or "dull" his teeth,
>    and various explanations have been offered to clarify the intent
>    here. R. Ovadia Yosef in his Haggada offers a creative and beautiful
>    explanation that views this phrase as an analogy to the rasha.[15]
>    The rasha is bothered by all of the ritual activities performed at
>    the seder, which he labels as avoda (work). It seems that he would
>    rather meditate and think about the Exodus than do...
>    Interestingly, there is Biblical precedent for "bashing the teeth"
>    of the wicked, although the word "hakheh" is not used in these
>    sources. One example is Psalm 58... Psalm 112 ... Psalm 37 ...
>    Psalms 35:16...
> Before moving on to his proposal, let me add another, rather creative
> one. (Meaning, nice thought, but I doubt it reflects original intent.)
> /KHH/ is a shoresh chazal use when speaking of a pregnant woman feeling
> weak from cravings. (Eg Y-mi Sheviis, bottom of vilna 12a.) So, this
> suggestion, "make him crave his learning" -- going back to shein -
> veshinantam.
> Anyway, now on to RAZZ's proposal:
>    All of the above explanations ring true, but it is unlikely that
>    they reflect the original intent of the compiler of the Haggada.
>    There is much more hidden within the unusual word "hakheh" that is
>    used to describe blunting the teeth. Indeed, the entire response to
>    the rasha presents an integrated message about Judaism's system of
>    reward and punishment. The anonymous compiler of the Haggada cleverly
>    inserted this message, assuming a knowledgeable readership that would
>    recognize it via particular words and phrases that would serve as
>    hints or "hyper-links" to broader concepts.[18]
>    The word "hakheh" is extremely rare in Biblical and liturgical
>    literature. It is not the common word [hakeh], which means "hit,"
>    but is rather [haqheh], from the root H.Q.H. It appears in only three
>    places in the Bible, Yirmiyahu 31:28-30, Yechezkel 18:2, and Kohelet
>    10:10, and all three citations are relevant to the Haggada's usage.
>    The verse in Kohelet notes that if one desires to chop wood with an
>    ax that has a dull blade, he will have to apply additional muscle
>    in order to accomplish his goal: "Im kaha ([qahah]) ha-barzel." From
>    this verse, we can deduce an unequivocal definition; in the context
>    of an ax, "kaha" clearly means "blunt."
>    Indeed, Metzudot Tzion uses the meaning of ka'ha in Kohelet to derive
>    its meaning in the less clear context of Yirmiyahu 31:28, where the
>    word describes teeth. He explains that this refers to the "weakening
>    of the teeth's ability to cut food, just like the iron [of the ax]
>    is weakened in its ability to cut wood," i.e., a blunting of the teeth.
>    The contexts of the word's appearance in Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel
>    both address the culpability of one generation for the sins of
>    another, an issue that appears to have conflicting sources in the
>    Torah. Devarim 24:16 states, "Fathers shall not be put to death for the
>    [sins of] children and the children shall not be put to death for the
>    [sins of] fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin."
>    This seems to clearly dissociate the actions of one generation from the
>    responsibility of another, be it previous or subsequent. A seemingly
>    contradictory statement is found in both versions of the Ten
>    Commandments (Shemot 20:5; Devarim 5:9) and in the Thirteen Attributes
>    with which Moshe pleaded with God to forgive the Jews after their sin
>    with the Golden Calf (Shemot 34:7) and after the sin of the spies
>    (Devarim 14:17-18). For example, Shemot 20:5 describes God as "visiting
>    the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and
>    upon the fourth generation of those that hate Me." While the first
>    source appears to state that Divine punishment does not cross
>    generational lines, the others imply that it does. Many resolutions to
>    this apparent contradiction have been suggested.[19]
>    This same apparent contradiction is found in Nakh as well.
>    Yirmiyahu 32:18 presents an example of intergenerational merit and
>    culpability along with the associated reward and punishment: "And who
>    recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their
>    children after them."[20] Additionally, Yirmiyahu 36:31 states:
>    "And I will visit their iniquity upon him and his seed and his
>    servants." However, the contrary notion of personal responsibility, as
>    expressed in Deuteronomy 24:16, is also found in the prophets.
>    Yechezkel expresses it in a number of places, most prominently in
>    chapter 18, where he states: "(v.17)... he shall not die for the
>    iniquity of his father... (v.20) the son shall not bear the iniquity of
>    the father... neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son ...
>    (v.26) for his iniquity that he has done shall he die."
>    One of the clearest statements of individual accountability
>    is a proverb found in almost identical form in Yirmiyahu 31:28-29
>    and Yechezkel 18:2-4, and it is in that context that the uncommon
>    word "hakheh" appears. Yirmiyahu states: "In those days, they shall
>    say no more: `The fathers have eaten unripe (sour) grapes,[21]
>    and the children's teeth are set on edge (tik'hena).' But everyone
>    shall die for his own iniquity; every man that eats the sour grapes,
>    his teeth shall be set on edge (tik'hena)." In Yechezkel, the proverb
>    is formulated as a question: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
>    and the children's teeth are set on edge (tik'hena)?" Thus, in the
>    Bible, this unusual word appears as part of a parable to teach that
>    there is no intergenerational accountability.
>    It seems that the word "hakheh" in the response to the rasha is
>    designed to recall for the reader the verses and parables from
>    Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel. Seeing that unusual word is supposed to be
>    like a hyperlink that reflexively brings to mind the rare Biblical
>    occurrences of its use and its meaning in that context. Certainly for
>    Rashi, this association is self-evident. In Ta'anit 7b (s.v. kaha
>    ha-barzel), Rashi explains the word "kaha" in the verse in Kohelet
>    by citing the verse from Yirmiyahu 31 and by quoting the response to
>    the rasha from the Passover Haggada!
>    The message of the parables is clear - there is no cross-generational
>    reward or punishment. Merit and culpability are individually accrued
>    and do not get passed down from previous generations, nor is the next
>    generation burdened or rewarded with them: "Every man that eats the
>    sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge." That is the message
>    transmitted to the rasha in the Haggada.
>    As noted above, the passage about the four sons in the Haggada is
>    taken from the Mekhilta. This is the only occurrence of the root
>    Q.H.H. in the Mekhilta and, indeed, it is rare in all of Rabbinic
>    literature. The root sometimes refers to its plain meaning of "blunted"
>    or "bitter." However, it seems that it is more often summoned from
>    obscurity by the rabbis to link the reader to the Biblical parables
>    and hint at an intergenerational context, or, more precisely, an
>    unsuccessful transfer from one generation to another.
>    In Avot 4:2, R. Yossi bar Yehuda compares the disadvantages of
>    learning from a young person to eating unripe grapes ("anavim keihot")
>    and drinking freshly squeezed wine from the winepress. There are
>    many other ways to say unripe grapes that are used throughout the
>    Mishna, but the word of choice here is "keha," in the context of an
>    unsuccessful intergenerational transfer.
>    In Sota 48b-49a, the Gemara analyzes Zekharia 4:10 and suggests that
>    the verse refers to the young children of the wicked who died for the
>    sins of their fathers. The bereavement over their deaths would spare
>    the wicked fathers additional punishment in the World to Come. The
>    children petition God that if His intent was to exact punishment from
>    the wicked in the future, why did He "blunt their teeth" ("hek'heita
>    shineihem")? Here, children being killed for the sins of their fathers,
>    i.e., intergenerational transfer of guilt, is termed "blunting teeth."
>    Later on the same page, the Gemara relates that R. Huna found a
>    special type of date, which he proudly gave to his son Rabba after
>    he had established the latter's spiritual purity. Rabba's son Abba
>    soon arrived, and Rabba gave the date to him without ascertaining
>    his spiritual level. To this show of generosity, R. Huna responded
>    that Rabba had blunted his teeth ("hikeita et shinai"), indicating an
>    attempt at intergenerational transfer of merit. Generally, however,
>    there is no intergenerational transfer of guilt or merit.
>    The Gemara in Sanhedrin 109b engages in exegetical analysis of Korach's
>    name, as the Torah refers to him as Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehat. As
>    he was a descendent of Kehat,[22] the Gemara explains that his
>    name characterizes him as a son who set the teeth of his ancestors on
>    edge by embarrassing them through his actions. Again, the word is not
>    merely used as an expression of upset or disappointment, but rather
>    in the context of a perceived intergenerational relationship.[23]
>    The Ramban suggests that this same root is actually found in several
>    other Biblical verses. Commenting on Bereishit 49:10, "ve-lo yik'hat
>    amim," the Ramban understands the word "yik'hat" differently than
>    Rashi, connecting it to Yirmiyahu 31:29,where it means weakness or
>    breaking. The Ramban explains the verse to mean that the scepter
>    of kingship will not leave Yehuda until his son (i.e., the messiah)
>    comes and defeats the nations. This understanding of "yik'hat" adds
>    a multi-generational component that is not explicit in the verse.
>    The Ramban does not explicitly explain the appearance of the root
>    ?.?.?. in Mishlei 30:17, "tavus lik'hat eim," but he alludes to the
>    same explanation as Menachem ben Saruk (s.v. kuf heh), writing that
>    the phrase means something like "He scorns the mother when she is
>    weakened," i.e., in her old age. In this case, the verse itself uses
>    the word "keheh" to describe an intergenerational process.
>    What is the significance of this association between the word "keheh"
>    and intergenerational relationships in the Haggada? Possibly this:
>    The rasha excludes himself from all of the Passover rituals, yet he
>    is seemingly not concerned about his fate. Surely, he thinks, if all
>    of the ritual that he rejects is truly required, he has no cause for
>    worry. After all, the people around him are his family, and they are
>    all engaged in performing God's commandments. In his way of thinking,
>    some of that merit would transfer to him.
>    The compiler of the Haggada therefore instructs, "Blunt his teeth!" In
>    other words, remind him of the "sour grape" verses. Remind him of the
>    message of those parables. Neither guilt nor merit crosses generational
>    lines. The code-word "hakheh" reminds him (and us) of the Biblical
>    parables that teach that there is no intergenerational transfer.
>    Based on this, the logical conclusion is exactly what the compiler
>    of the Haggada writes next. If the rasha were in Egypt and had not
>    behaved properly, he would not have been redeemed. The merit of his
>    family would not have helped. The universal message is that there is
>    no transfer of merit.
>    The prophets in the books of Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel stressed personal
>    accountability. Each person is responsible for his own deeds and is
>    capable of teshuva. The burden of one's sins and the suffering that
>    one might endure as a result of them cannot be attributed to previous
>    generations. Neither can one sin in the anticipation that the burden
>    of guilt will be borne by subsequent generations or that he will get a
>    free ride on the backs of meritorious previous generations. Jews cannot
>    rest on the laurels of righteous ancestors; rather, each generation
>    must establish its own merits and legacy. This is the meaning of the
>    keyword "hakheh" and the Biblical parallels associated with it.
>    It might be suggested that there is one exception to the rule
>    of individual accountability - the concept of community zekhut,
>    merit. That is why, for example, tefilla be-tzibbur is so important.
>    Someone who falters can continue to be supported by the community
>    that surrounds him. This is why we stress to the rasha that this
>    merit will be of no avail to him, because he has removed himself from
>    the community.
>    In 1985, I was fortunate to spend the Passover seders in
>    Odessa, Ukraine at the home of some real Jewish heroes, the
>    Nepomnaschys. Yehudit, a courageous young woman whose father and
>    fiance were both rotting in Soviet prisons, explained to me and
>    Baruch Sterman, my traveling partner, what was an important concept
>    for these returning Jews of the Soviet Union. Although they were
>    now practicing Jews, many of their close friends and relatives
>    were not. She emphatically stated that in Judaism, almost no one is
>    beyond the pale of hope. At the seder, one of the sons is labeled a
>    rasha, an evil son, which is not a trivial designation. And yet he
>    is given a seat at the table and even dignified with an answer to
>    his insolence! We invite all "children" to the table and respond to
>    their questions in an appropriate manner.
>    The new understanding of the blunting of the rasha's teeth makes
>    Yehudit's insight even more meaningful. We answer the rasha in a
>    seemingly harsh manner. However, in reality, it is a subtle yet
>    powerful reminder of his personal responsibility. This individual
>    accountability has the potential to doom him, as he is explicitly
>    told, but it can just as readily rescue him, because he is judged on
>    his actions alone. We tell him that he is not beyond hope, but it is
>    up to him to rescue himself.
>    The message to the rasha is a powerful message to us as well - each
>    person is given free choice and sinks or swims on his own merit.
>    _______________________
>    [13] For support for this theory, see the Be'er Miriam commentary in
>    the Haggada of R. Reuven Margoliot. This also may be what the 18^th
>    century Moroccan paytan R. David ben Chasin (1727-1792) had in mind
>    when he wrote, "It is the Pesach, and the teeth of the resha'im will
>    be blunted when they do not have a portion in it."
>    [14] The Ramban cites a similar explanation from Shir Ha-Shirim Rabba
>    (1:12).
>    [15] I originally heard this idea many years ago from my good friend,
>    R. Reuven Halpern.
>    [16] See Sefer Ha-Chinukh, mitzva 16 (the prohibition to break bones of
>    the korban Pesach), where he first presents his important principle of
>    "adam nifal kefi pe'ulatav" - people behave based on their actions. In
>    other words, a person develops a certain personality and attitude based
>    on the activities that he engages in. The Sefer Ha-Chinukh reiterates
>    this fundamental tenet again in mitzva 40 (not to cut the stones for
>    the altar with metal), mitzva 95 (to build the Beit Hamikdash, albeit
>    with a slight change in the phrase), mitzva 99 (the special garments
>    for the priests), mitzva 263 (the obligation for a Kohen to become
>    tamei for relatives), mitzva 266 (a korban must be unblemished),
>    mitzva 270 (korban musaf on Pesach), and mitzva 285 (lulav). In
>    mitzva 264, he suggests that observing the rules of mourning leads
>    to the emotion of tza'ar, pain, once again invoking the principle
>    of adam nifal kefi pe'ulotav. The Sefer Ha-Chinukh emphasizes the
>    idea that humans require physical activities via other principles as
>    well. For example, in mitzva 265 (the Kohen Gadol must marry a betula,
>    virgin), he writes, "acharei ha-machshavot yimshakh ma'aseh ha-gufot,"
>    and in mitzva 275 (prohibition of a Kohen with a blemish performing
>    the avoda), he explains that a person is influenced by external
>    actions, "lefi she-rov pe'ulot bnei adam retzuyot el lev ro'eihem
>    lefi chashivut oseihen." This idea, which is beyond the scope of
>    our present discussion, is central to the Torah view of mitzvot.
>    Rather than actions that express existing emotions, mitzvot are
>    intended to instill within us proper ideas. Thus, for example, Chazal
>    instituted the recitation of Asher Yatzar not because every time one
>    says it, he feels inspired to acknowledge the wonders of the creation,
>    but rather because that is an opportune moment in which to remind the
>    person who has just relieved himself that he should now be aware of
>    God's magnificent world.
>    [17] Note that the root used here, ?.?.?., is relatively rare,
>    appearing in only 5 places in Tanakh: 3 times in the psalms cited here,
>    in Iyov 16:9, and in Eikha 2:16.
>    [18] It is unclear whether the Haggada's author expected a similar
>    familiarity with Rabbinic literature. For example, is a phrase such as
>    "kol dikhfin" meant to trigger an association with a similar phrase
>    found in the last line on Ta'anit 20b? There, one of the praises of R.
>    Huna is that when he would sit down to eat, he would open his door
>    and declare, "whoever is in need, let him come and eat." Regardless,
>    it is fairly certain that the Haggada assumes familiarity with Tanakh.
>    [19] For a survey, see Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, "Inter-Generational
>    Accountability in the Torah Judicial System," Young Israel of Cleveland
>    Torah Journal, vol. 2 (May 1995).
>    [20] This verse is a paraphrase (with some important variations) of
>    Exodus 20:6: "Who shows mercy to the thousands and pays the iniquity
>    of the fathers into the bosom of their children."
>    [21] See Rashi, Sanhedrin 39a.
>    [22] The Torah Temima (Bemidbar 16:1, note 2) similarly notes that
>    the verse that states that Korach was ben Kehat, the son of Kehat,
>    means that with his actions he blunted the teeth of his parents.
>    Note that in later generations, the word may have lost its Biblical
>    and Talmudic meaning. Hence, the Shela posits that the names of Levi's
>    three sons are intended to show the empathy that the Levites felt
>    for their oppressed brethren. Gershon indicated that they felt like
>    strangers, Merari that their lives were embittered, and Kehat that
>    their teeth were blunted (kehot) by the misery of the exile. (Cited
>    in Torah Lodaas, vol. 4, p. 156, commenting on Shemos 6:14-16.)
>    [23] The Gemara (Ta'anit 7b) analyzes Kohelet 10:10, where the
>    word "keheh" appears, but none of the suggested exegeses relate to
>    intergenerational issues. Rather, it explains that the verse is either
>    ascribing lack of rain to a degenerate generation, as describing
>    a student who struggles because he has not organized his studies,
>    or as referring to a student having difficulty because his teacher
>    does not encourage him.
> Tir'u baTov!
> -Micha
> --
> Micha Berger             "I think, therefore I am." - Renne Descartes
> mi...@aishdas.org        "I am thought about, therefore I am -
> http://www.aishdas.org   my existence depends upon the thought of a
> Fax: (270) 514-1507      Supreme Being Who thinks me." - R' SR Hirsch
> _______________________________________________
> Avodah mailing list
> Avo...@lists.aishdas.org
> http://lists.aishdas.org/listinfo.cgi/avodah-aishdas.org
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Message: 2
From: Joshua Meisner
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 12:32:16 -0400
Re: [Avodah] lifestyle choices

On Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 1:07 AM Rich, Joel wrote:
> Siman 231 in S"A O"C is one sif long ("buried" between hilchot brachot and
> tfilat mincha) which covers all human endeavor. Worth some very detailed
> discussion but I'll just mention two points 1.) His "psak" (and I assume
> it's psak since it's included in S"A) seems to demand an ascetic lifestyle
> (ex. His comments on attitude towards onnah).

I'm not sure all agree on this conclusion

In the Hakdama to the Shaarei Yosher, R' Shimon Shkop notes the absurdity
of thinking that the command kedoshim tihyu/perushim tihyu ki kadosh Ani
means asceticism as a goal within itself. Would it even be coherent to
suggest that Hashem does not eat too much, does not sleep too much, etc.?
Instead, he redefines/redirects ascetism to altruism. Which, of course,
only changes the goal posts of the original question.

[This discussion can be found on the 2nd page (pg #46) of the PDF at
http://www.aishdas.org/asp/ShaareiYosher.pdf#page=2 That PDF is the
haqdamah with translation in the form of ch 1 of "Widen Your Tent"
<https://amzn.to/2VPsoqd>. My own discussion of this section of the
haqdamah, and what it means about qedushah and perishus, is the
first half of ch. 3, some 25 pages or so.

[And now back from overstepping my bounds. -micha]

> (and is this truly an area for psak or is there a range where each of us
> must figure out for ourselves?)

Both. The gemara provides a set of values in the aggadeta, but unlike
in the halacha where we can state that everyone (with a few global
exceptions) must eat a kezayis of matzah, the avodah of the other
7 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes of Pesach is much more open-ended.
Some people may eat a kortov of these values and others may eat a kor,
but the sugya cannot simply be waved away without personal introspection.

> 2.) The general rule of evaluating each action based on a goal of service
> to HKB"H seems right on to me but I also perceive that people who actually
> do this or articulate it as an aspiration, are thought of as somewhat odd,
> at least in the MO community. Thoughts?

Everything looks odd when you attempt to break it down into pieces,
zoom in on them, and try to give them names. L'havdil, you can open up a
grammar book if you want to learn how to speak perfect English, but trying
to apply the rules on the fly will probably make you look odd unless
you have a sufficient (native?) fluency in the language that enables
you to apply them naturally. The way that a speech therapist helps
correct a speech impediment or how a physical therapist teaches someone
to walk again is also bizarre compared to the way that a regular person
engages in these daily activities. The children of a number of gedolim,
whom we would generally use as a rough model for applying these values,
have commented that the greatest characteristic of their father's house
was its normalcy. Getting there, though, may require a phase of oddness.

Chag kasher v'samei'ach,


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