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1.2.15

Saturday is the day of the week one is supposed to rest from labor. We know what "labor" means because the Bible tells us to build the Temple, but not to do so on Saturday.
So we know that the types of labor that went into building the Temple are the types of labor you are not supposed to do on Saturday.
If one forgot that today is Saturday and did some kind of work, then he brings a sin offering (Leviticus chapter 4);-- a she sheep or a she goat. It is best not to forget because this can get to be expensive.
There are other kinds things for which one brings a sin offering. One example is eating fat that is over the stomach of a cow. [That is called chelev in Hebrew]. But that is indistinguishable from fat from other areas of the animal. So lets say Joe is at his table and eats a piece of fat he things is allowed.
Then Mr Smith comes in and asks, "Where is the chelev I left on the table?" Joe brings a sin offering. But he would also bring a sin offering if he thought chelev is permitted.
That is: there are two kinds of accident for which one brings a sin offering; (1) a mistake in material facts, or (2) a mistake in law.



If you forget it is Shabat is that the same as a mistake in material facts or in law?
What I am getting at is this.
One bows to an idol and he did not know it is an idol. He is not liable.
But if he thought it is not an idol because it is made of clay, not silver or gold, then he is liable a sin offering [a she goat].[The Book of Numbers 15] Rambam שגגות ז:א
So he made a mistake in law and he is liable. And that is what we find in laws of Shabat also. If he did not know something is forbidden, he is liable a sin offering. But what if he forgot? You would say it is the same thing. Then in idolatry why in Sanhedrin (62b) does Abyee not say שגגת עבודה זרה [accidental idolatry] is when he forgot?
I answered once that Shabat he is required to remember so forgetting it is close to doing something on purpose.(To me today this seems ad hoc, or a Pollyana kind of making an unwarranted exception for one thing.)
But today it occurred to me that idolatry might not be like Shabat. My learning partner has suggested that you can't say someone is liable for idolatry unless there is a physical object involved.
Let's say someone bows to Apollo. Without a physical statue in front of him, you can't say he is liable
So what I suggest is forgetting Shabat where there is no physical object involved is forgetting a law, and thus he is liable. But forgetting an idol is an idol is forgetting material facts, and thus he is not liable.
Appendix: I am probably not writing this in the proper order.
In any case, you can ask: if the Rambam is right (that serving the idol he thought was allowed because it was clay), then why did not Abyee and Rava jump on that example?  Answer: They did. Rava certainly did when he says "אומר מותר". [H says it is allowed.] And Abyee is also doing the same. He is saying a case of mistake in law is a שגגה accident.
 יש ארבעים ושלשה חטאים שבשבילם אדם מביא קורבן חטאת. יש שני מיני שגגה בהרבה מהם, שגגת מציאות ושגגת דין. החברותא שלי רוצה לומר שרק כשיש הנאה יש שגגת מציאות. למשל אדם אכל חלב ולא ידע שהוא חלב ואחר כך אמרו לו. הוא חייב חטאת. אבל אדם שהרים ירק בשבת בחשבו שהוא תלוש, והתברר שהיה מחובר, הוא פטור בגלל שהיה מתעסק. לפי זה אפשר להבין אביי בסנהדרין סב: אביי אמר שאם אדם השתחווה לאנדרטא (ורש''י מוסיף ולא ידע שפעם היתה נעבדת והתברר שהיתה נעבדת), לא כלום הוא
אני שאלתי על זה מהרמב''ם הלכות שגגות ז:א' וב'. זדון עבודות ושגגת עבודה זרה חייב רק חטאת אחת. אבל החברותא הראה לי שהרמב''ם מסיים שהוא חשב שאינו עבודה זרה בגלל שלא נעשה מכסף או זהב. משמע שטעה בדין.

הבעיה כאן היא זאת. כשהרמב''ם רוצה למצוא שגגת עבודה זרה הוא הולך לטעות בדין ואז הבן אדם חייב קרבן. וכשהגמרא רצתה למצוא שגגה שהוא פטור בשבילו היא הלכה לטעות במציאות. איפה הדיון הפשוט? שהוא שכח שהצורה הזאת היא עבודה זרה??
  רואים מזה שהגמרא והרמב''ם מדקדקים לומר דווקא טעות בהוראה
לא כמו שבת שבמצב שאדם שכח שהיום שבת כן הוא חייב קרבן.
אני חשבתי לתרץ שבן אדם חייב לזכור את השבת ולכן כשהוא שכח זה קרוב למזיד והוא חייב חטאת, מה שאין כן בעבודה זרה. אבל היום חשבתי שיכול להיות שע''ז אינה כמו שבת. דוד אמר לי שאי אפשר לחייב בן אדם על ע''ז אלא אם כן יש חפץ גשמי. בלי זה אין על מה לחייבו. מזה אני בא להציע ששגגת שבת איפה ששכח את השבת אין שום חפץ גשמי. זו היא טעות בדין, ולכן הוא חייב חטאת. אבל כששכח שאיזו צורה היא ע''ז זה שכחת מציאות ולכן הוא פטור.
עכשיו אפשר לשאול אם הרמב''ם צודק למה אביי ורבא לא תפסו את הדוגמה שלו--שחשב מותר בגלל שנעשית מן חומר לא כסף ולא זהב? תירוץ: זה כן שבם אומרים. רבא אמר שגגת ע''ז היא כשהוא אומר מותר. אביי גם אמר ששגגת ע''ז היא כשעשה טעות בדין וחשב מאהבה ומיראה מותר.






Individuality is known to be an important principle for Reb Nachman. It is famous his explanation of the verse "One was Abraham" That abraham served God only by thinking that he was alone in the world and not looking at people that tried to stop him from serving God in the way he knew he was right.  They were trying to tell him the only way of getting to God is by intermediates. And Also anyone who wants to come close to God can do so only in this same way--by not looking at the people that want to distract him.
But it is less known that the Gra said a similar thing.on Proverbs 14 verse 2.
We know from the Rambam that for a person to correct his own character flaws h has to do things that are wrong in the eyes of people. [This we know from Maimonides in the eight chapter introduction to Pirkei Avot.]

The Gra says one who succumbs to social pressure to do what is right in the eyes of people but which he knows is wrong in terms of his own need for character correction, God despises him.

In other words there is no mitzvah to follow social norms. There is only a mitzvah to follow the Torah. And the Torah does require of people to have good character. Good character is one of the 613 mitzvot.  מה הוא רחום אף אתה תהיה רחום מה הוא חנון אף אתה תהיה חנון as god is compassionate so must you be compassionate, as God is kind so you too should be kind. and this is listed in the list of the 613 by the Rambam.
I have to say this because some people think the Torah require conformity with the group. But clearly only stupid people can think that because it is self contradicting. Even so I have heard it from many people who have clearly not thought out their position.





31.1.15

The Gra, Eliyahu from Vilnius says that every word of Torah is a mitzvah that outweighs all the other mitzvahs.
In this context he is talking about the Oral and Written Law. You need to be careful about this because nowadays many people think any ideas that any jerk says in Hebrew is called Torah. Some go further and say that anything  some idiot with a paper of ordination from three other idiots says is a halacha. [The Oral Law is the two Talmuds, Mechilta, Sifra, Sifri, Tosephta. Five books. Nothing more or less. ]

In any case, the Gra is getting this from a Mishna and a statement in the Jerusalem Talmud.
And that is important because it has become customary to change what the Torah's view is on things in order to make it more compatible with some delusional idiots ideas of what Torah ought to say.

So this idea is money in the bank. We can count on this idea as being accurate, that every word of Torah outweighs all the other mitzvahs.
And when the Talmud says when a mitzvah comes along that can't be done by others one stops learning, the Gra says that means one is allowed to stop learning to do the mitzvah, not that he has to.


And here the Gra is making a lot of sense. For one who is occupied in one mitzvah does not have to do any other mitzvah even if the other mizvah is greater. So it makes sense that one can go and do the other mitzvah if he wants to, but he does not have to.

This is all in the way of introduction. I know the Rambam holds from learning Physics and MetaPhysics as the fulfillment of the command to love and fear God because of how it inspires a person. And we find Reb Nachman holds from an array of values. How to deal with all that I am not sure at the moment. I just wanted to bring the idea of the Gra as a first axiom and then to see how Reb Nachman and the Rambam might fit in with it. Reb Nachman himself is no question because Reb Nathan already addressed this issue at length. But to me it seems simple that Reb Nachman thought without Hitbodadut [private conversation with God] one can't learn Torah for its own sake. It is always for some reason not for the sake of heaven like making money. And learning Torah is like sacrifices that need to be for the sake of heaven for them to have any value. A sacrifice that is offered with intention to eat it after its time allotted is not just not a mitzvah, but karet [cutting of from ones people].
And the Rambam I have already dealt with how to explain him by different ideas I found in the LM.

I am not one to try to decide between these people. But what I would suggest is that if we can't be learning Torah with the kind of התמדה constancy as the Gra was advocating, at least we can put in a couple of hours per day. [For people just starting that would be the written law that is to go through the Old Testament word by word from beginning to end, and the Mishna. upon which the Talmud is based. Also one session with Talmud in depth to begin to get an idea of the depths of the Talmud because that is important at the very beginning of ones learning. If you don't get that right away, you never get it. You find lots of people that think learning Talmud in depth means memorizing lots of commentaries  or other nonsense.

29.1.15

One of the most powerful Torah lessons for me in the LM is 78 vol II. (LM means Lekutai Mohran by Nachman from Uman. Printed by Breslov.)
It does provide support for the idea of the Rambam that learning Physics and Metaphysics brings to fear and love of God which are the major goals of the Torah.
Let me try to be short.
The Torah is clothed in the Creation. So when you learn about God's creation you are learning God's wisdom. That is the short idea.
But you could in theory go into this in detail with bringing different places where the Rambam and Reb Nachman go into this in more detail. This is probably a worthwhile project also since for some reason people tend to go away from physics when they start learning Torah thinking there is some kind of contradiction.

Major sources:

LM II:39; LM II:12; LM I:1; Rambam beginning of the Guide, beginning of Mishna Torah, end of vol III or (vol II) in the Guide in the story about the palace of the King, Sefer Hamidot of Nachman Ot Daat.
 To put this all together you have to start with the idea that the goal of Torah is to come to love and fear of God. Then you need the idea that the the world was created by the ten statements of Genesis, and thus those statements are the life force of all that is in the world. And that those ten statements are the clothing of the Ten Commandments. And the highest statement is the first one "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" in which it does not say openly God said. It is the hidden statement which is the life force of everything and everywhere where God's glory is hidden.
Thus Torah is God's revealed wisdom and Physics and Metaphysics is his hidden wisdom.

That is the short and simple of it.
Also you could add LM I:69. There are people that if exposed to straight Torah will not be able to accept it. So Nachman said over stories in which there was hidden secret Torah lessons. This explains also how often it is better for people to learn the natural sciences rather than open Torah, because זכה נעשית סם חיים, לא זכה נעשית לו סם מוות. By being exposed to open Torah one can become worse. And in fact this often happens before our very eyes.
Also seeing the wisdom inside ever aspect of creation binds ones soul to the purpose of that individual creation which in it s higher source is close to the purpose of all creation which is God's glory.




____________________________________________________
Appendix:
1) I want to suggest that this learning should be coupled with regular books of Fear of God. Mainly books from the Middle Ages. The world after the Middle Ages lost a lot of Fear of God and so to be inspired in that direction one needs books from that period. Also Musar books after the Middle Ages have a lot of Kabalah and that tends to side track people from good charter into religious fanaticism.
This is why I think the original Musar Movement of Israel Salanter was based on Medieval books of Fear of God and not books based on Kabalah.
I was in fact in a place once that was following this approach of Israel Salanter (Musar),  and the effect was electric. (That was the Mir in Brooklyn, NY.)








to the Gra that learning Torah means the Oral and Written Law.
That is the two Talmuds and the Mechilta, Sifra Sifri and Tosephta.
You can see this even more clearly in his disciple Chaim from Voloshin. In one letter he says אין לנו אלא דינא דגמרא. we only have the law of the Talmud when he is arguing with some rav about some decision of his. I could try to find some quote from Reb Chaim  but take my word for it for now.
But learning Halacha was not on the agenda of the Gra. The Gra wanted people to learn the Oral and written Torah and after that kabalah after that had finished the Oral Law.

This is just an introduction to what I wanted to say. It is this: Did you ever notice that Reb Nachman seems to be leaving out the Rambam on purpose? When he talks about learning Halacah why does he never mention the Rambam? Even in places where you would expect it would be the first thing on the list? Sicha 76 (Sichot HaRan) skips the Rambam completely, even though he is going through the whole list of everything in Torah he said one should finish, including the Rif and Rosh.]

Reb Nachman recommended learning and finishing the full Shulchan Aruch every year. That means the books called Shulchan Aruch by Joseph Karo, not the fakes and scams that go by the same name. [Avoid the fakes like you would avoid the Black Plague.]

Now Reb Nachman's idea seems at first good. But did you ever try it? Try to learn Shulchan Aruch on its own with no knowledge of the Gemara it is based on. Either you will understand nothing, or just be fooling yourself.
 Try doing it with the Taz and Shach and the result will be worse.

What I am suggesting  is to learn like the Litvaks: Gemara Rashi Tosphot with the Rambam and Chaim Soloveitchik.
 On the side I would have a Halacha session in Rambam, Tur Beit Yoseph, Shulchan Aruch. But I would not make halacha into the main thing. In the Mir in NY halacha was a half hour in the morning compared to four hours of depth Gemara until Mincha and the 4 hours of fast Gemara in the afternoon.




28.1.15

What does trust in God mean?

Do you  go after your own needs but also trust in God?
Or do you need to sit and learn Torah and assume that what is decreed for you will come automatically?

The Gra said this issue is addressed in the Gemara Rosh HaShanah 26b.
The actual text of the Gemara is just about two lines. It says the people in the local study hall did not understand a strange word in a verse in Psalms יהבך. Cast on God your יהבך and he will support you. And then they saw Raba Bar Bar Chana walking with a merchant and the merchant used that word  and said put your יהבך on my camel; and so then they understood it.
The Gra said that is not what is going on in that Gemara. He said rather they thought that one should do השתדלות, one should take actions to get his needs meet, but also trust in God. But because of that they did not understand the verse. They thought it should say צרכיך, cast on God your needs and he will support you. So now after they saw that their original assumption was faulty, and that rather one should just sit and learn and then what one is supposed to have will come automatically, then they understood the verse.


This above approach was clearly what people were saying or implying in Far Rockaway and later in Flatbush. The idea was in incredibly simple and straightforward. Learn Torah and God will do the rest.  [Though if you actually try to pin me down I could not tell you if anyone actually put it in such basic fundamental terms.]

Nowadays for myself I would have to say I have a modified version of this idea. For myself I feel there is a gate of repentance by which I feel I need to approach God. That is there are things which I feel are obligations upon me that it would not be right to shirk. And when there are actual obligations that the Torah puts upon me I would say I need to do them. The cases where one should trust I think in things that are not actual obligations.









What ever people say about the Ukraine, they are hospitable to Jews coming for Rosh Hashanah. I have heard complaints but in general it is clear that they make a great effort be hospitable. I don't know why people accuse the Ukraine of antisemitism, but that seems to me to untrue. Very untrue.
There is every Rosh Hashanah a massive national effort to make sure people coming to Uman have a good time. The Ukraine sends in every type of police and military force  force to safeguard Jews. I have rarely seen such a massive effort to safeguard Jewish people. What you see on Lag BeOmer in Meron [a festival in Northern Israel] does not even come close.
[To safeguard Jews, the Ukraine brings in every division of their military and police force--to make sure there is no trouble on Rosh Hashanah. Not just the Ukraine version of special forces, the Berekt, but many other branches of their military and special expert units. The Israeli police also come. And the local people bend over backwards to make sure Rosh Hashanah is nice. To accuse these people of Antisemitism is the height of absurdity. I have never met nicer people.]

And this is important to me because I think Rosh Hashanah in Uman is important.
From perceptive I was definite going down until I got to my first Rosh Hashanah.  My world had turned into a surrealistic nightmare.  My world had turned into a Faustian fall, more distorted and nauseating than portrait by Picasso.
One Rosh Hashanah was enough to turn that all around.

Appendix
This post is based on an idea I learned from Reb Shelomo Friefeld  and my first year teacher in Gemara in Far Rockaway. That  is the lesson about gratitude. Since Ukraine has been in fact hospitable to Jews it seems to me to be the height of ingratitude to deny it or to be silent about it in a case when the Ukraine needs someone to tell the truth about how it has been treating Jews for the last twenty years since it gained independence.
In any case I urge the governments of the Ukraine and Russia to settle. The Russian and Ukrainian people are good people and there is no reason for this conflict to continue. As for the eastern provinces I know there was a referendum twenty years ago but I think the eastern areas  should have a degree of autonomy. In that way they remain a part of the Ukraine, but have their own system of education--like Quebec in Canada. In that way Russia is happy, and the Ukraine is happy.
Russia is not trying to annex the East of the Ukraine. They are simply supporting people that want closer ties with Russia. But this can be done without a war.