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1.9.14

I have seen three Guides for the Perplexed of Maimonides.One was printed by the Rav Kook institute, one was printed by Kapach. And the other was the traditional one you would see in yeshivas with the commentary of Joseph Albo.

The first two looked very interesting but I only bought the last one when I was in Israel in Netivot.

But none of them did i ever make a major point to study.



I should perhaps mention that the books about philosophy of the Rambam are not leaned in yeshivas in general. The reason is that traditional yeshivas learn Talmud --Gemara rashi and Tosphot. it took a major battle in the Lithuanian yeshiva would to even introduce Musar which are books devoted to self improvement of ones character.
Philosophy of Torah books simply had no place in the curriculum.

I know that many people think that Jewish philosophy and theology are known and studied by rabbis but this is simply not the case.

And when you get involved in the world of chasidut the tables are tuned complete over the rambam.

The general principles of belief in chasidut tend to be based on the Zohar. The Rambam is used to give a cloak of respectability but the actual world view of chasidut is highly anti Rambam.








31.8.14


I see in the world today several causes for alarm. War between Russia and the Ukraine. The threat of a Muslim Atom Bomb in the hands of a fanatic Muslim State that sees jihad  and suicide in the cause of Allah as the highest mitzvah. The  fact that the USA seems to be in the hands of a Socialist.

These are all cause of worry. My solution is to repent. But repentance in my way of thinking means to find out what the Torah requires of me and to do it.   We can’t assume that what our preconceived ideas of repentance are actually correspond to what the Torah thinks repentance requires. For one thing the Torah has several areas of value which almost by definition have to conflict.  And you can see this problem when ever you try to go about actually keeping the Torah. A good solution in my mind is to create in every city something along the lines of the Mir Yeshiva.  A place devoted to learning Torah and keeping it. Not to Kiruv (Kiruv means making people into Orthodox Jews). Kiruv has the problem that it takes people away from one area of Torah value--honoring ones parents and other areas of human relations and places them in another area--like keeping Shabat. So Kiruv is not what is needed. Nor are Lakewood Kollels which have the goal of convincing people that they ought to be given money because they are geniuses and supermen that uphold the universe in their awesome power and might.
That also is not what is needed. What we need is simply places devoted to the idea that everyone should learn Torah and do what it says. Period.



 The problem today is that there are too many yeshivas that are not yeshivas. They are paces devoted to all types of goals--  anything but learning Torah. Examples--Kirov clubhouses,  a way to get a exception form serving in the IDF-- that is all chasidic yeshivas and so on.
 That sad fact is most people have not felt the magic and power of a real yeshiva and place where you walk in  the spirit of the Torah grabs you.


Today I wanted to post on the Internet the answer to both questions i asked on the Meor Hagadol last week.

The answer to both of these questions is the difference between potential and action. Bowing means in action  that kissing an idol that one hugs is liable. Therefore it makes sense to ask then what does how do the gentiles serve their idols come to permit. but sacrifice only means that would in potential could enlarge the field of forbidden-ness and therefore how do they serve come to tell us that we do not do so. So the Baal HaMeor makes perfect sense.

  

29.8.14

Part of the reason I think it is important to open a branch of the Mir yeshiva in Uman is that there does seem to be a tendency of people that come to Rebbi Nachman to forget about the importance of learning Musar [e.g. chovot levavot] and the Talmud. I mean that numinosity, when it decays, decays into its opposite.

For example when music decays it decays into anti-music --it does not just drop a few levels in value.

The same goes with pseudo science.

And the same goes with Torah.

The type of deep connection with the Creator that comes from hitbodadut [talking with God]  can decay. And when it does it turns into its opposite.

So my feeling is that the approach of Rebbi Nachman only works when it is in connection with learning Torah i.e. Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot along with the five original basic texts of Musar.
And in fact I think that the idea of the Mir yeshiva would be good to implement in every town and hamlet.--Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot along with Musar. My basic reasoning is I admit to some degree based on an not so well known statement of Rebbi Nachman that connects length of days with fear of God. When i think of the lengths people go thorough to get to length of days, I wonder why not also take this idea of rebbi nachman and learn Musar?



I thought that sometimes it is easier to understand things in the Talmud if you learn them in Hebrew rather than in English translation. So with that in mind I decided to place here my ideas on the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin page 61 in Hebrew. And after that an English translation.

סנהדרין ס: אני רוצה קודם כל להציע את הגמרא בקצרה ואחר כך מחלוקת תוספות עם בעל המאור, ואחר כל זה להציע שתי קושיות על בעל המאור. הברייתא אומרת שלומדים עבודה שלא כדרכה מזביחה (היינו מן הפסוק "זובח לאלהים יחרם") [שמות כב].
רבא בר רב חנן שואל,"למה אין יכולים ללמוד את זה מהשתחוויה ("וילך וישתחווה") [דברים יז]. רב אחא מדפתי שאל על רבא בר רב חנן, "אם היינו לומדים מהשתחוייה, אז מה היה 'איכה יעבדו הגויים את אלהיהם' בא למעט? [היינו מה היה בא לפטור?]
תוספות ובעל המאור שואלים על רב אחא, למה הוא שאל רק על השתחווייה? למה הוא לא שאל גם על זביחה? היינו, אם לומדים שלא כדרכה מזביחה, מה בא "איכה יעבדו" למעט? תוספות עונים ששואלים רק על השתחווייה בגלל שאם משתמשים עם השתחווייה אז שייך לשאול מה בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו. זה בגלל שמהשתחווייה אפשר ללמוד את הכול, אפילו עבודה כדרכה. האופן לראות את זה הוא לדגש שבשלב הזה הגמרא חושבת שהשתחווייה כוללת גם עבודה של בזיון. רואים את זה מן התירוץ לשאלת רב אחא שהשתחווייה לא כוללת עבודה של בזיון. אבל מזביחה לא היינו כוללים עבודה של בזיון, ולכן שייך לא לשאול למה בא "איכה יעבדו"? הוא בא לומר עבודה כדרכה חייבת. אבל בעל המאור הולך בכיוון אחר. הוא ראה ששאלת הגמרא היא מה איכה יעבדו בא למעט (לפטור). היינו שהיא בא לרבות מה שהוא ולמעט מה שהוא. ובהמשך הגמרא משתדלת למצוא דבר ש"איכה יעבדו" יכול לפטור. לפי ההקדמה הזאת הוא אומר שמן זביחה היינו מחייבים נשיקה למגפפים[עבודה זרה שדרכה בחיבוק]. ואז בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו שאינו חייב.
שתי שאלות יש לי פה על שיטת המאור. אם זה נכון ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפטור נושק למגפפים, אז למה לשאול על השתחווייה? תגיד שהשתחוייה בא לחייב נושק למגפפים. ותגיד ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפתור אותו.



שאלה שנייה איך התירוץ עובד? איך היינו חושבים שזביחה בא לחייב נושק למגגפים מראש? אין סיבה לחשוב שזביחה היה כולל נשיקה למגפפים. אפשר לראות את זה על ידי זה שנזכרים שמשתמשים עם זביחה בשביל להרבות עבודות פנים. אין שום הווה אמינא שזביחה היה כולל שום דבר אחר. רק השתחווייה חשבנו שהיא באה לרבות כל דרך כבוד.



Sanhedrin 60b and 61a.

I put this on the Internet so here I am just going to put down the gemara in brief and then two questions I have on the Meor and also to mention one clearly invalid question.
 First of all the Braita says you learn service not according to the way from sacrifice. Rava Bar Rav Chanan asks, "Why can't we learn that from "bowing" and use "sacrifice" for something else?
Rav Acha from Diphti objects to this question of Rava bar rav Chanan and says how could we use "bowing" (Deuteronomy chapter 17, parshat Shophtim)? If we would use "bowing" (to include other types of service) then what would "How do the nations serve their gods?" come to exclude? (That is what would it come to permit?) Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor both ask on Rav Acha: Why does he make this objection only on Rava Bar Rav Chanan when he tries to use "bowing" to include? [To forbid] Why does he not ask also on the braita that uses 'sacrifice' (exodus 22)(mishpatim)? [To include other types of serve no according to it way] That is if we use "sacrifice" to be inclusive, then what does, "How do they serve?" come to exclude?
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Tosphot answers to this that we only ask on bowing because if we used "bowing" then we could ask, "What does "how do they serve" come to tell us? Since from bowing we could include everything [even service according to it way]. The way to see this is to note that at this point the gemara is thinking that "bowing" includes also all service that is not honorable. You can see this from the way the Gemara answers the question of Rav Acaha by saying that "bowing" would not include dishonorable service. So we see that up to that point we thought it did include dishonorable service. But from "sacrifice" we would not include service that is not dishonorable whether according to it way or not, so we could not ask, "what do we use 'how do the nations serve?" We use it for all service that is according to its way that is dishonorable.
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But the Baal Hameor takes a different approach. He notices that the the question of the gemara is what does the verse, "how do the nations serve their gods?" come to exclude? That is, it has to include something and exclude something else. And in fact you can see this from the way the gemara continues. It tries to find what does "How do they serve?" come to allow?
He says that from "sacrifice" alone we would forbid kissing idols that one usually hugs or visa versa. And that "how do they serve" come to tell us that this area is not liable.


The basic two questions on the Baal HaMeor are these. If you are right that "How do they serve?" is coming to allow the in between areas of quadrant II [kissing idols that one usually hugs] then why ask on bowing? I.e., you say that if we would learn from "sacrifice" then we would not ask what do we use how do they serve for because we have something we would use it for [to absolve from guilt]: the in between areas of quadrant II.
But then why not say the same thing with bowing? Also there say that "how do they serve?" is coming to allow the in between areas of quadrant II.


Question 2: how does the answer of the Meor work? How would we use sacrifice to forbid those things in order to need how do they serve in order to allow them? There is no reason to assume that sacrifice would include kissing things that you hug. We can see this by the fact that when we do use sacrifice to include things it only come to include inner services. No one has the slightest idea that it would include anything more. It was only for bowing that we thought it could include more.


The answer to both of these questions is the difference between potential and action. Bowing means in action  that kissing an idol that one hugs is liable. Therefore it makes sense to ask then what does how do the gentiles serve their idols come to permit. but sacrifice only means that would in potential could enlarge the field of forbidden-ness and therefore how do they serve come to tell us that we do not do so. So the Baal HaMeor makes perfect sense.

  










27.8.14

I have had an unusual experience with Tosphot.


Even a few years ago when I started learning Gemara the depth of Tosphot was never apparent to me until someone at the yeshiva revealed it to me. And that has remained my experience since then. I start out thinking that what Tosphot is saying is either trivial or incomprehensible or downright incoherent. But then either because of my original experience or else because of my learning partner, I start noticing what is really going on. This has happened once again on the issue of idolatry.
In Sanhedrin [page 60b] we find a braita [Mishnaic teaching that was not incorporated into the Mishna] that says we learn  from the word "sacrifice" to tell us also pouring and burning. The reason is that sacrifice was in the set of idolatry and cam out of the set . And we know that in that case it comes out to teach us something about the whole set. Rava bar Rav Chanan asked why not learn from, "he will bow down?" Rav Acha asked, “How is that a good question? If we would learn from ‘bowing’ then what would “how do the nations serve their idols’ come to tell us?”
The Gemara concludes that it teaches us about service not according to its way of idols that are not served in an honorable way.
Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor [that is the book called the Meor Hagadol on the Rif (Isaac Alfasi) in the back of the Gemara] both ask, “Why not ask on “sacrifice” also what does ‘how do the nations serve their gods’ come to tell us?

Now I have not had a chance yet to learn this with my learning partner but let me say that at first I though the answer of the Meor was not just better than tosphot but I fell  into my old trap of thinking that topshot did not make sense. This has been my pitfall for my whole life.

So let me share first what the baal Hemeor says. He says that we could not ask what do we learn from how do they serve because we learn something from it-- kissing idols that one usually hugs.

Tosphot takes a different approach. He says something very deep. He considers that fact that at the point of the question the Gemara is thinking that bowing tell us even not in an honorable way. We see this from the fact that the answer of the Talmud is that it does not in fact include service in a dishonorable way.
This fact is the key to understanding Tosphot. Tosphot is saying that when the Gemara asks what do we need how do they serve it means it literally-- that we would learning everything from bowing. And if that is the case then the answer of Topshot is common sense--if we would be learning from sacrifice then there is a large area that we would need “how do  they serve?” for that is service according to its way that is dishonorable.

Now once we understand Tosphot then we can see its advantage over the Baal HaMeor. Just think about the fact that in fact we do learn from "Sacrifice!" Not from Bowing. So according to the Baal HaMeor how do we know that kissing an idol that one usually hugs is liable?
 I noticed the Maharsha asks some question on the Baal HaMeor and answers it also. I am not sure if it is the above question because I have not had a chance yet to look into it. But I think at this point we can all agree that the Tosphot approach is prima facie better since it gets everything right  with no complications.

























24.8.14

I noticed yesterday the story of Israel Odessaer getting involved in Breslov.  This story as long as it was did conform what I had suspected for a long time. That the people that are considered "tzadikim" (saints) in breslov tend to be unsuccessful yeshiva students. They are miserable and lonely, and then find something which gives them strength and hope--the books of Rebbi Nachman.  And then after a few years they forget their origins, and become "tzadikim". And then naive Baali Teshuva [Newly religious people] start laying the groundwork to claim that they are hidden tzdikim (saints) that know the whole Shas (Talmud) and Poskim [one word that includes the whole set of Rif, Rosh, Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch].


And people that follow the Petak [the letter reb Isael Odessar believed he had to received from rebbi Nachman that contained the phrase NaNach Nachm Nachman from Uman] tend to be claiming deep kabalistic secrets for the petak when they have barely learned a page of the Zohar and certainly not Arizal.


"Ain Am HaaretzChasid".  The set of all intersections between hasidim and ignoramuses is empty.

You cant claim to be a hasid and also to be ignorant of the Talmud. But you can serve God simply. But not claim knowledge you don't have.