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31.10.14

Some people might like to know the names of the basic achronim (later people written after the time of the Shulchan Aruch) that people learn in yeshivas.
I probably should go into the pluses and minuses about them. But just for public information I think I should at least give a brief rundown. Rabbi Aikiva Eiger. [There is a great full edition of everything he wrote in one big set.] The Ketzot Hachoshen  and the Netivot Hamishpat both found in the big Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik and his disciples (Baruch Ber and Shimon Shkopf). Also there is Naftali Troup. At least for reference every home needs these books in them. Because of the time factor I can't go into the ins and outs of how to go about learning these people. I am sure everyone is getting ready for Shabat. But at least I wrote the list for people that need to know what to look up in the achronim.

It is important to realize that these people define the continuation of classical Torah learning. But learning them is very different from learning the page of the Gemara you are on with the Tosphot. I would love to go into this but time is limited because of Shabat.


The first group of achronim are not usually concerned with the same issues that Tosphot is concerned with. Nonetheless they are important. The later ones beginning with Reb Chaim are getting back into the Tosphot itself.

Here in Hebrew is the idea I wrote down in the Talmudic Tractate Sanhedrin for those that read Hebrew.

א)סנהדרין סא. תוספות ד''ה "איכה יעבדו". החברותא שלי, דוד, הציעה סיבה אפשרית למה שהמאור הגדול לא פירש כמו תוספות.תוספות מבינים את שאלת הגמרא להיות אם יש לנו השתחווייה למה צריכים את איכה יעבדו? היינו בשלב הזה הגמרא לא יכולה למצוא דבר שאיכה יעבדו אוסרת שהשתחווייה כבר אסרה. וזה בגלל שלפי תוספות השתחווייה אוסרת את הכול [היינו כדרכה, שלא כדרכה, דרך כבוד, דרך בזיון]. וזה טוב. אבל הגמרא ממשיכה, אולי איכה יעבדו בא למעט (היינו לפטור) פוער לזובחים(דרך בזיון לאלילים שעובדים אותם דרך כבוד). אבל השתווייה כבר מיעטה את זה. (והגמרא נותנת סיבה לכך: כמו שהשתחווייה היא דרך כבוד אף כול דרך כבוד).אלא צריך לומר שאיכה יעבדו בא למעט פוער למרקוליס. אבל נסתכל למה שהגמרא אמרה. היא צימצמה איכה יעבדו לדרך כבוד. והתוצאה מכך צריכה להיות שיש לנו עכשיו דבר שאיכה יעבדו יכולה לאסור, היינו כדרכה דרך בזיון. תוספות יודעים שיש הקושיה הזאת, והם מתרצים שעדיין השתחייווה הייתה אוסרת כדרכה דרך בזיון. והם מביאים ראיה (הוכחה) לזה, שזה מובנת ממה שהגמרא אמרה אחר כך שהשתחווייה הייתה אוסרת פוער למרקוליס אם לא הייתה איכה יעבדו. השאלה של החברותא פה היא שאין לנו סיבה לחלק בשלב הזה בין כדרכה ושלא כדרכה.אם מצמצמים את השתחווייה לדרך כבוד אז המשמעות היא שזה כדרכה ושלא כדרכה. ולכן יש לנו צורך באיכה יעבדו לאסור את כדרכה דרך בזיון. זו שאלה טובה. והיא יכולה להיות הסיבה שבעל המאור דרך דרך אחרת. והשאלה שלי הייתה שאפילו שתניח שתוספות צודקים שהיינו אוסרים כדרכה בזיון למרקוליס, זה לא אומר שהיינו אוסרים כדרכה דרך בזיון לזובחים. והחברותא ענה שאין כזה דבר. דרך בזיון לזובחים על ידי פירוש המילים אינה כדרכה.


This is only dealing with Tosphot. I think a few weeks ago I had something to say about the commentary called the Meor Hagadol on the Rif (Isaac Alfasi). But that was really a completely different approach than Tosphot so I don't think I should bring it down here right now.


30.10.14

Sanhedrin 61a I wanted to take the time today to give the answer to my question on Tosphot that I asked yesterday on this blog .
Remember the Gemara (Talmud)  said we could learn service not like its way from "bowing" (Deuteronomy 17).

Rav Acha asked on this: Then what would we do with "How do they serve?" (Deuteronomy 12)?

Tosphot asked on this: Why he did not ask this when we were learning from "sacrifice?"(He who sacrifices to false gods will be destroyed Exodus 22:19).

Tosphot answers: because bowing tells us everything.

Yesterday I asked: Then when the Gemara continues and limits "bowing" to a way of honor, then why did it not jump right away on the simple answer: So now we know what we could do with "How do they serve?" That is to forbid quadrant IV, service its way and dishonor.

Tosphot actually deals with this last question and suggested that that area quadrant IV would have remained forbidden under bowing. And his proof of this is that the Gemara anyway suggest that it would forbid a way of dishonor like exposing oneself to Markulis [an idol one usually throws stones at to worship].
There were yesterday two questions on this. One of my learning partner and one of mine. That of my learning partner is the best So far we have no reason to distinguish between its way and not. So if we limit "bowing" to honor then that should be that. And peace on Israel. Period.
But my question was different. I asked: all we know is dishonor to markulis that is not its way.  And so all we know in its way is the same thing.[It is an all the more so.] But a way of dishonor to idols one usually sacrifices to might still be permitted if done in a way of honor and then we have something for "How do they serve"? to forbid.
I asked my learning partner this today and he said an unbelievably simple answer. "There cant be any such thing." Think about it. It is an idol one worships in a way of honor and you are serving it in its way  by an act of dishonor.  Clearly there cant be any such thing. If One is serving it in its way he is by definition serving it in  away of honor. I can't imagine why I did not notice this. It is an obvious mistake on my part.






29.10.14

Talmud Sanhedrin 61a.

Tosphot, first words "How do they serve?"(Deuteronomy 12) my learning partner suggested today a possible reason why the Meor Hagadol [on the Ri'f] did not choose to go on the path of Tosphot.
The thing you need to do to see this is to take the idea of Tosphot that is how he wants to read the Gemara and just go with it. Tosphot is understanding the Gemara's (Talmud) original question to be if we have "bowing"(Deuteronomy 17) then what do you need "How do they serve?" (Deuteronomy 12) That is Tosphot understands that the Gemara can't find anything that "How do they serve?" forbids that "bowing"(Deuteronomy 17) does not already forbid--because to Tosphot "bowing" forbids everything, [the way of the idol and not the way of the idol and in a way of honor and not in a way of honor]. Okay. So far so good.
But then the Gemara continues: Well. perhaps "How do they serve?" tells us to allow service in a way of dishonor towards idols one usually honors. It answers: "That can't be because that is already allowed because of 'bowing.'" And it gives a reason for this. Just like bowing is in a way of honor so also any service you want to forbid has to be in a way of honor.

So at this point the Gemara has confined "bowing" to a way of honor. Then it suggests that "How do they serve?" comes to allow a way of dishonor towards idols one usually serves in a way of dishonor  but that not being their usual way.
But let us take a look at what the Gemara has said. It has now confined bowing to a way of honor. That means we now have an easy use for How do they serve--all of quadrant IV which is the intersection of its way and the way of dishonor. So then why does the Gemar after that have to find something else that "How do they serve?" come to permit. Did not we say originally that we are looking for any use of "How do they serve?" Now we have a use for it. service in its way that is dishonorable.Quadrant IV.
Now Tosphot does deal with this question. He says that the Gemara still wants to use bowing to forbid a way of dishonor towards idols one usually serves in a different way of dishonor. After all that is exactly want it says we would forbid  if not for how do they serve. so all the more so would we forbid its way in a way of dishonor. That is we do assume bowing forbids part of quadrant III {intersection of dishonor and not its way}that deals with Markulis. [Markulis is an idol one serves by throwing stones at it] so all the more so quadrant IV. But in fact that would only forbid quadrant IV
In other words I am not sure that the answer of Tosphot works well here. Because all you see in the Gemara is dishonor to Markulis is permitted by "How do they serve?" And that would have been forbidden by "bowing." But what does that tell us about "bowing" in quadrant IV--only things relevant to Markulis. Also what have we said about "bowing?" That is forbids only things that are honorable. So at this point we have limited greatly what "bowing" can forbid.

So what comes out is that the  Hameor HaGadol may have had a good reason not to walk in this path. We see Tosphot is right that he has support from the Gemara itself. If you forbid dishonor to Markulis it seems a fortiori you would forbid all kinds of service in its way. But how would you get this distinction from the verse? That you forbid everything by bowing and only allow dishonor to idols one usually honors and use how do they serve to permit dishonor to idols one usually serves with dishonor. Does not this seem like a stretch? We can see why the  Hameor HaGadol went a different path here.

Appendix: My question on Tosphot and my learning partner's question are two different things. And now that I think of it it seems to me my question needs a little more thinking. Because even though it seems like a good point but what would you gain from my question? You would have to move the boundaries a little and that is all. Bowing would still forbid certain most things and how do they serve still permits things that bowing would have forbidden. But so what? That does not seem right now to me to be  a big deal. Rather my learning partner's question seems much more powerful.

A possible approach to understanding Isaac Luria: (1) External and internal worlds refer to subject and object. (2) Light and vessel mean the essence of existence and characteristics.

A possible approach to understanding Isaac Luria: (1) External and internal worlds refer to subject and object. (2) Light and vessel mean the essence of existence  and characteristics.

This is different from Ashlag [note 2] who wanted to interpreted the Ari as advocating a basically communistic system


In philosophy  there is one area which deals with how we know things.{note 1} And there is another area which deal with what things actually are. This later area is called Metaphysics. [The name comes from the set of books called the Metaphysics by Aristotle which deals with the question of what things actually are as distinct from their characteristics. ] And this Metaphysics also got to be divided into different areas. One is the nature of things and the other is the existence of things. And both these later areas got divided up into the question of the person looking at stuff. He is called the subject. And the objects he is looking at are called the objects.
The divisions are divided between Kant, Hegel, Berkley, and Descartes.
Kant holds characteristics of objects depend on the subject. But their existence is independent.
That is transcendental [independent of experience] idealism (dependent on my existence). This is the exact opposite of Hegel who holds from empirical realism

Kant was against mystics and thought mysticism is impossible. Fries answered Kant's question how is synthetic knowledge possible? Answer: With non intuitive a priori knowledge. This opens the door to Isaac Luria

My suggestion here is to understand the Ari [Isaac Luria] and the Reshash in this way of transcendental idealism. That is not to say that this is the only level on which the Ari can be understood. Rather I have alway understood him to be referring to many (maybe infinite) sub-levels.

The basic idea here is that with Kant we have the existence of the subjects that is you and me and of objects being transcendent, i.e., independent of experience. But not in terms of characteristics. We can see such a thing in an electron who knows to act differently when he sees two slits in front of him or one slit.  He know that is there is one slit he is supposed to act like a particle. If two slits he know to act like a wave and to interfere with himself if there are no other electrons present. This fits perfectly with Kant.



In Isaac Luria we also have these sub-divisions. The light is the essence of the thing. and the vessel is its characteristics. And the worlds are divided into inner and outer, [subject and object.].  This you can see best in diagram the Reshash has in the regular Eitz Chaim that is somehow missing in the Ashlag edition.

Now in terms of knowledge of stuff we have the exact same divisions: Kant, Hegel, Berkley, and Descartes. And that also you can see in the famous Drush Hadaat of the Reshash.

For further reading see
(1) http://www.friesian.com/kant.htm
 (2) And also the regular Eitz Chaim [Tree of Life] by Isaac Luria and Chaim Vital.
Also the Eitz Chaim printed by the Ashlag group]
(3) The only things to read in Kant are the three Critiques. The area of Moral theory which is teh only thing they teach to university students is the weakest of all of Kant's writings and anyway cant be understood without the three Critiques.



(Note 1) This area is not very interesting. It gives us "the Fundamental Fallacy of Philosophy: the idea that the limitations of our minds tell us anything about the nature of reality. What we can call The Fundamental Fallacy of Modern Philosophy might be defined as the idea that it makes sense to study structure divorced from content. This is the idea that has given us businessmen who think they can "manage" without knowing anything about what they manage, critics who claim that only the technical excellence of a work of art matters, not its content, and sociologists of science." (Steven Dutch)
(Note 2). Ashlag was influenced by Hegel and thought Communism and/or Socialism is the ideal goal.
I can't But this political position does not show up in his commentaries on the Kabalah except in rare places. At any rate, I am thinking that it is first not true that Socialism represents the ideal society. 100 million victims of Stalin, Lenin, and Communistic China would seem to prove this last point. Also, I think that Ashlag did not take into account that the Torah is highly capitalistic. How can you read the Torah and not realize private property is an essential part of it.?

I should add perhaps that Kabalah is not usually understood as an alternative to Torah but as a deeper understanding of Torah. At least that is what we get with the Zohar and the Ari  and the Gra. No question people that get into it tend to start to make up their own religions. That is a sad tendency but it is I think contrary to the spirit of the authentic kabalists. I am trying to concentrate on the good aspects of Kabalah here. But I am aware of the pitfalls. If you want to avoid the pitfalls, then learn it in the general context of a Lithuanian yeshiva that goes by the approach of the Geon from Vilnius.





28.10.14

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/nyregion/ebola-new-york-hazmat-workers.html?_r=1

After Ebola got to NY I am wondering why it would not have been simpler to place a ban on all incoming flights from Africa? Perhaps I would not have been politically correct? Maybe even perhaps seen as racist? But does the fear of being perceived as being racist triumph over human life?

How far does it go this fear of being perceived as racist? Apparently it runs so deep that it cancels the desire for self preservation in NY.


At any rate I can say that in this case there is another factor that is working against NY. It is the need of people not to be seen in anything but their best image. In other parts of the world like in the Ukraine or Russia when there is news of some outbreak people go to work waring surgical masks over their mouths and noses. It looks funny. And it is highly embarrassing. But these people figure that their own lives are worth a little embarrassment

It seems to have the same basic effects as the Black Plague http://www.sciencemag.org/site/extra/ebola/

Some accurate information about Ebola from the hard science is that it is highly contagious and highly deadly. It seems to have the same basic effects as the Black Plague. I would have thought that New York would have suspended all incoming flights from Africa. But no. They now have it is NY also.