Learning Torah was considered as a primary value by Eliyahu (Elijah) from Vilnius. This was not something that I was aware of when I first went to yeshiva. Frankly, I don't know why I went to yeshiva. It was probably something in my subconscious, because on the conscious level it is hard to know what I saw that would attract me. At any rate, the yeshiva world in NY in those days was predicated on the axiom that learning Torah is the Prime Value in capital letters.  Even to think of using Torah as a business was anathema.
Lakewood began at that time trying to convince people that learning Torah is a valid businesses and they should be supported because they are skilled workers in Torah . I don't know why or how that started, but it definitely was not the New York approach. In the Torah world in NY, a person going for ordination was considered  to have failed in life. Torah was to be learned for its own sake alone. You did not even think what might come because you had trust in God. And when you trusted in God, God helped. And that was that.
To learn Torah not for its own sake, but for money is not a mitzvah. But one should do it anyway because there is hope he might eventually come to learn Torah properly. So we can't say Lakewood are bad people. Their claim is they are have a skilled profession, learning Torah and should be supported for this. This is a lie in order to get gullible people to give them money.
There is no mitzvah to support anyone for learning Torah that learns it for money or who says so. If they say they are learning for money, I think we can trust them. But there is a mitzvah to support those who learn Torah not for money  but for its own sake.
This might seem like a small difference but people are always conservative and strict about things they know well. To me sitting at a baseball game in the stands, the difference between a curve ball and the other many varieties of pitches seems imperceptible. But to the person up to bat, the difference is like day and night.
Outside of the Yeshiva would you find many people that have had bad experiences in yeshiva and think the trouble is yeshiva itself. But it never is. The places they went to were always places that were learning Torah for money.
My suggestion is to start a new type of yeshiva--along the lines of the great yeshivas in Europe, Mir, Volloshin, Slobadka, etc. where Torah was learned the way it is supposed to be learned.

I might erase the above essay because I really wanted to talk about the positive aspects of learning Torah.
But for now I will leave it.

What I wanted to say was how the idea of the primary value learning Torah comes from the Torah and Talmud.
And also I wanted to show how in the Yeshiva world in NY it in fact was treated as the prime value.
And I also wanted to show that when Torah is treated as the prime value there is a kind of Divine presence that settles on people. Well, OK this last thing would be hard to show. You really have to experience it yourself.

In the USA, public school used to be a decent option for people. But sadly it has become propaganda centerers indoctrination centers for politically correct thinking. This is what makes me think the Mir yeshiva approach is best where teen agers go to the high school in th afternoon and do their Torah studies in the morning. But normal private schools are probably not that different from public schools nowadays. What people need according to my way of thinking is Torah. An where there is Torah, then everything else becomes right.
What people need to do that have no choice but to send their children to public school is at least after school to give them a religious education. That should be short, but sweet. That would be Torah [the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew], Mishna, Talmud, and Tosphot. [Learning Torah is not to make people religious but to give people Torah values.] That is for week days. For weekends I suggest "Talk with God" camping trips.
That is to go to a forest with supplies. Set up base camp. And then to have to whole day available to wander by yourself and  talk with God. The idea of talking with God is to talk with Him as one talks with a friend or  parents and tell him all ones problems and all that is happening to him or her and ask for help. And also not to forget to thank him for all the good.

How does one go about thanking God?

 How does one go about thanking God? The best way that I can see is to go to a place where no one else is, and to talk with God as one talks with a close friend and to thank him for the good one has in life.  This can be hard to do in a big city. If one is walking alone in the street and talking to God it looks like one is talking to himself. And to get out into the wildness is not always practical. For this reason I suggest a kind of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts camping trips that would include time for solitary  prayer and individual connection with God.
When I was in the Mir Yeshiva in New York, I was surrounded by people all the time. Even though learning Torah was an amazing thing, and something I am very grateful to God that he granted to me to do for the several years I was there, I definitely needed time alone. I had a prayer book written by Reb Natan-- a student of Nachman from Uman, and I used to go up to the forth floor of the yeshiva --a tiny space -- and say the prayers there.
The idea of time alone to talk with God was something Nachman did himself. It is something that that he did not talk about much in most of the Lekutai Moharan [his magnum opus] until the second volume. But as time went on it looks like he was thinking of this ''time alone'' idea as being good for lots of people, not just himself.
When he was a child he would go to a near by river where there was a small boat and he would take it out into the river to a place that was surrounded by marsh and talk with God.


Left wing politics has an element of emotion. Just think of the word "Marx." It gets your blood rushing as you clench your fists and scream out: "Let's take down the exploiters! All power to the Proletariat!"
Just think of the word "John Locke." It calms you down. It is not war cry, but a lullaby.
My feeling about this is that capitalism has lost its "punch."
The way I would look at this would be to go back to the intellectual sources of left wing politics in support of the collective (Rousseau,  Hegel) and the sources of right wing politics in support of the individual and individual rights (John Locke). But because all these sources have problems (note 1) I thought to myself to take a Kantian approach. (Kant is similar to John Locke in terms of individual rights. And he lacks the flaws of the pure empiricism of John Locke.)
But Kant is more like a puzzle than a solution. So you do need some kind of modification. The sad thing about Kant is much of the modification that was done became the neo-Kant schools. A pretty miserable lot they are. (I mean here that they deny the existence of the "dinge an sich" the thing in itself.-unlike Kant) Some people simply went straight out against Kant--the intuitionists. [Prichard] Ann Rand apparently thought that Kant said what she learned about him in school (which was not Kant at all, but neo Kant). So she is not much of an authority.
My feeling is it is best to go with Kelly Ross from California in modifying Kant.
See: (note 2) [Kelly Ross has the ability to see into the fallacies of most modern philosophers which does not make him popular. It also means he simply crosses out almost all twentieth century philosophy. כל הכבוד. All the better.]
20th century philosophy is usually divided into the British/USA and Continental areas.
"Indeed, to cop a line from John Searle, one he applied to Jacques Derrida, Continental philosophy gives bullshit a bad name. " (Maverick Philosopher)

 (note 1) Rousseau has the problem that his idea of natural man being noble  by nature and it is just civilization which has made him savage is wrong.  The other thing that is wrong is that nature is loving. And his system depends on these two axioms.  And not even left wing people believe in them, or they would go some country where people live close to nature like the Sudan or Somalia. Ever try to manage one day in nature with no tools?
  Hegel is very impressive when it comes to metaphysics. That seems to be his forte. But when he gets into politics he gets into problems. [At least that is how he looks to me. Some people like Schopenhauer had a negative opinion of Hegel even concerning his metaphysics.]
John Locke also has a few problems but in general is impressive. But not rigorous enough for my taste.

The thing with Kelly Ross that I maybe should mention is that it is a return in Plato in some important ways.--not to Neo-Plato but to Plato himself. And that works well with Maimonides who seems to be a forerunner of the Kelly Ross approach. [I should mention  that the Rambam/Maimonides is not at all as radical an Aristotelean as people think. He does have an approach somewhere between Aristotle and Plato and so in that respect looks like Plotinus. But it is different than regular Neo-Platonic thought.]

 (note 2) Transcendental in Kant means beyond the limits of experience. But Torah does not assume God is beyond the limits of experience. And in another point Hegel and the intuitionists are right that reason does a lot more than perceive contradictions. But it would be enough that they perceive self contradictions in Hume


With Nachman from Uman, Torah is everywhere and is the life-force of everything in the universe.
he means that there are different levels of the revelation of Torah. And he also means not everyone can accept it like it is.
[1] Shalom Sharabi--the Reshash- holds the Torah is the [pinimiut] inner part of the worlds just like Reb Nachman.
But how do you define Torah?
[2] Maimonides held that Torah is only the Written and Oral law. But one of the commandments of the Torah is to love and fear God and this Maimonides held was only possible by learning Physics and Metaphysics. [He was referring to the two sets of books by Aristotle called the Physics and the other called the Metaphysics].
So the actual Torah is only the actual text of the Old Testament and the oral interpretation of it--the Talmud.
And he wrote: "Just like you can't add or subtract from the written law so you can't add or subtract from the oral law." כמו שאין תוספת וגירעון שתורה שבכתב כן אין תוספת וגירעון בתורה שבעל פה
[3] But there are different levels of revelation of Torah.
The world was sustained by the Ten Statements (עשרה מאמרות) before the Torah was given [ten times it says ''And God said'']
But these statements were hidden. then the ten trials of Abraham were a first step towards the revelation of Torah. The ten plagues on Egypt were the next step to make it possible to reveal the Torah. Then the ten commandments were the actual revelation of Torah. [The idea of the plagues was that one has to get rid of evil before the good can be revealed.]
[4] But because the Torah is in everything, it is possible to serve God with everything.
[5] Knowledge of this sub-level comes not by sense perception and not by logical deductions but by non intuitive immediate knowledge. [See The Proceedings of the Friesian School, based on Kant, Fries and Popper.]
[6] So what this means in short is that Western Civilization could only come about because of Torah-- the hidden sub-level of objective moral principles in side of everything.

In the above essay, I am looking at Maimonides's idea and though I realize it has a simple explanation I am trying to find a deeper justification for it. The way it looks from the Rambam is learning Physics and Meta Physics is to inspire one and awaken him to the deepness and beauty of God's creation. What I am looking for here is the idea that the Physics and Metaphysics themselves are a kind of revelation of one aspect of of God's wisdom contained in his creation.
I am also saying that Torah is a sub-level of natural law, not that it is identified with natural law.
At least this is the way I conceive of these things. Other people probably have different ideas, but that is my approach. It is basically Neo-Platonic but I am using it to justify Maimonides more Aristotelean approach.

What I am saying here has a practical consequence for young people that need to decide whether to go to a Lithuanian Yeshiva or to go to a collage. I want to suggest a balanced approach. That is we can see  from the Rambam that the natural sciences are important to learn and not at all ביטול תורה they are not bitul Torah wasting time from learning Torah.
But this does not take the place of learning Torah. One still has to learn Torah and the Talmud --not for money, but because learning Torah is the greatest mitzvah. כנגד כולם.
You don't in general hear this in Israel because the State of Israel supports the yeshivas. It is possible to sit and learn ones whole life and never work a single day.
It has been common in the religious world to recommend to young people to do teshuva repentance. That means in a nut shell to turn ones back to ones parents and family and friends and to join a yeshiva. It means to cease university and becomes frum. The adults that recommend this path rarely have anything to lose from telling young people to throw away their families and means to an honest living, and depend on the fickle  kindness of the frum world.

But the people that were recommending a yeshiva education alone were people of great stature. Bava Sali. Rav Shach. Even in my own yeshiva--the Mir in NY had a policy that if you were in the yeshiva you could not go to university at the same time. That is at least what I heard. Later I asked Reb Shmuel [Berenbaum] about it and he said going to university was allowed if it is for learning an honest profession.
If you go into Torah with trust in God, then I believe He helps. If you go to learn Torah with this in mind I have to agree it is the best approach. But depending on the frum orthodox world is a mistake. This learning Torah alone approach with trusting in charity works for them because of the social network they are plugged into. But as for new comers, many people try to scam them to drop everything and join their yeshivas for gain and then when  the Baal Teshuva [new comer] is down on his luck, they turn their back.
So again if you learn Torah with trust in God, then this is best. Trust in the frum world though is a mistake.
But you can't blame them for trying. People in kollel have no marketable skill. It is natural for them to try to create a market. Supply and demand. So they try to lure baali teshuva [newly religious young people] with promises of a rosy future. But they know that yeshiva will give them no skill. Even in the Orthodox world it gives them nothing. All shiduchim and positions are determined by family connections and have nothing to do with Torah learning.
If they would not be doing what they are doing for money it would be different. But they don't ask for money unless they want money. So they end up after all those years in yeshiva with a skill like a degree in women's studies. The purpose of said degree is to create more teachers of womens studies. So is yeshiva this kind of circle--a system to create teachers  of Torah that really no one wants. So they have to create artificial demand which they hope to supply. This demand they try to create by telling baali teshiva how necessary it is for them to go to yeshiva. In spite of the Torah itself saying the contrary. Pirkei Avot: One is not allowed to make the Torah into a shovel to dig with--a means to making  money.
What people should do is to learn skills that people will pay cold hard cash for; and also learn Torah. But not learn Torah for money, nor to turn it into a profession. And as per the Rambam people should learn Physics and metaphysics--not for a profession, but to come to love and fear of God. [Love and fear of God are considered good things in the Torah. ]


On one hand I feel I should talk about some of the amazing things I discovered in yeshiva.One of the most amazing things was Musar, the movement of Israel Salanter for self improvement. But what holds me back for talking about it is that I think the Dark Side has gotten mixed up inside of Orthodox Judaism. I am afraid if I talk about the good things, then people might be attracted to it, and then come into it unaware of the traps and the Sitra Achra's (Dark Side  סיטרא אחרא) disguises. It is this same consideration that makes me hesitant in talking about Nachman from Uman. There is something quite amazing about him and his teachings. Yet  in the groups that follow him, the Dark Side has gotten mixed in. And I would rather not spend my time being critical or sounding like a sour puss.
The problem with the Dark Side I have mentioned before. How it got mixed into Torah thought since the time of Shabati Tzvi. But I don't mean just teachings of the Shabatians that are nowadays presented as straight Torah in the world of Orthodox Judaism by unsuspecting people. I mean actual energies of the Sitra Achra (סיטרא אחרא). Miracles from the Sitra Achara by supposed tzadikim. Orthodox Judaism has become pagan. It has a whole Pantheon of gods called tzadikim (saints).
Some people don't care about that. Why should they care? After all what does it bother me if my neighbor worships one god or twenty? But the Torah does care.  And it is the  most important theme that comes up in the Torah from the beginning until the end of the  last book of Chronicles. This means that Reform and Conservative Judaism are actually more kosher than Orthodox, because no matter what else they may advocate, they do not do idolatry. (note 1)

  I am not saying I am clean. I am aware that when there is some need, I wish there was some tzadik around to get a blessing from. Sometimes people find a tzadik (a righteous person a saint) to make into an idol. Sometimes it is a wicked person with charisma. And there probably is a difference. But in any case neither seems very kosher.
  But because Reform and Conservative synagogues do not learn Musar (Ethics) or Reb Nachman's  books I recommend that they a start to do so, and also I think the original idea of Israel Salanter of making houses of Musar/ethics learning is a good step in the right direction.

  A house of Musar is a place that has only first order ethics in it. It is not for prayers, nor for learning Talmud or Halacha. It is only for learning ethics. There are about thirty classical books of ethics that such a place should have. Like the Duties of the Heart and the Nefesh Hachaim from Reb Chaim from Voloshin [the disciple of the Gra]. It is not for second order ethics--justification of ethics even though I think it should have these there also--like the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam.
If people would want to do something for the benefit of the public, my feeling is they should put their money into building a house of Musar. (בית מוסר) [Not kollels. Kollels started out a good idea. But have become an organization for people that think it is their business to collect charity for themselves their whole lives.]
[I saw a good example of a house of Musar in Netivot in Israel.]
[Gentiles could also benefit from building houses of Musar. But they already started something like that with the Boy Scouts, an organization make specifically for the purpose of teaching people good character by doing and by learning. But I have heard that they are going downhill. At any rate, everyone needs first order ethics every day. Boy Scouts included. (I once mentioned the Boy Scouts on the Internet and someone said that in New York there is a Jewish observant branch of the Boy Scouts. This seems rather important to me.)

(note 1) The idea is that there is a gap between monotheism and polytheism that is more than the number of gods. Monotheism  is a concept of God that unlimited in power. And he is not the world and the world is not him. By polytheism there is a real fluid boundary between the divine and human realms. But  in Torah thought God is completely different--completely other. He shares no characteristic with anything in this world at all. He has no substance and no form, and this world is not his form nor his substance. But you can find things in the Torah that seem to point to the need for intersession and tzadikm but that is because the Torah is trying to lead people to pure monotheism as the Rambam points out in the Guide for the Perplexed many times. The Torah has vector towards God. And this is what real tzadikim  were trying to point out.


My father, Philip Rosten had a remarkable balance between Jewish values and the life of a scientist and husband and a father. Born in the USA at a time when there were no yeshivas, he knew he had to make his way on his own with no help from anyone but his own parents to help him get started. The brother of his father and his wife were the first to arrive in the USA from Poland and started a bakery on the lower east side of Manhattan. Next came the younger brother Yaakov. His sister in law told him that she has a sister also in Poland that he would like. He agreed to meet her so they sent for her. When she arrived from Poland they married and thus my father and his brother and sister were born. Yaakov also worked in the bakery and sent his children to public school. Philip was interested in the violin and also science but in the end he decided to go into mechanical engineering. He applied to Cal Tech and the University of Michigan. But in the end decided to go to the university of Michigan because it was $100 cheaper than Cal Tech. He went to Cal Tech later for his masters degree. And then World War Two interrupted, he became a captain in the United States Air Force (USAF). [His uniform was covered in medals, but I never found out what they were for.]
After the war, he invented a telescope that could see through fog and clouds many miles away. It was the first successful attempt to focus infra-red light to make a coherent image, and was the beginning of night vision. He got a whole write up about it in Life Magazine. His sister said just to see his picture in Life, his mother would have given ten years of her life. [Later he invented an x ray copy machine and after that the government recruited him for some highly secretive work at Hychon and to make the camera for the U-2 project, and then for the SDI project.]
But all  this is just background. What was unique about him and my mother was their home life, and their relationship towards their children. There was some kind of amazing intuition they had about their children.
Jewish values were very important to them and we went every Shabat to Hebrew School. But Torah values were more expressed in their home than in the synagogue. There was a kind of peace and love that permeated our home that was unearthly. My brothers and I fought and played like normal kids, but when ever we walked in the front door of our home we felt a kind of peace and light. We never ceased to marvel at it. Not that we were religious at all. It was just a kind of  light and peace and spirit of wholesomeness that permeated everything.

But I was missing Torah. When I discovered the [abridged] Kitzur Shuchlan Aruch it was like someone had lit a fuse under me. The actual Shulchan Aruch was written by Joseph Karo 400 years ago and its major commentaries are printed in most editions. The commentaries uniformly disagree with it, and show from the Gemara and Talmud and what they call the "poskim" (by which they mean Medieval Authorities) different conclusions. If they don't disagree, they don't write anything. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was written by Shelomo Ganzfried from Hungary to give a practical guide to Jewish law. It is a masterpiece. It is a short version of two books written by a disciple of the Geon from Villna  called the Chayee Adam and Chachmat Adam. [חיי אדם וחכמת אדם]
But when I went into this I dove in head first without looking first. That is sad to say I was a fanatic--just the opposite of my Dad. In terms of Torah learning, there was no argument that Torah is important. But as for ignoring the need to make a honest living, he was upset with my decision. Being self sufficient and working for an honest living were of foremost importance to him.--especially the magic words "to be self sufficient." The more I told him yeshiva is not about becoming a rabbi but about learning Torah lishma (for its own sake) the more he felt, "Well if it not for making a living, then you need to learn a honest profession."
It was only after I discovered Nachman from Uman  a few years later that I was able to start bringing some balance into things. Because Nachman from Uman has what could be termed a polynomic theory of value which you would not see in Torah with his showing it.
 (Today is his Yarzeit which turns out to be the same as Reb Aaron Kotler. I had actually wanted to go to Lakewood but they did not accept Baali Teshuva so I went to the Mir instead.) Reb Aaron was a great Torah Sage, but it seems to me I learned more "how to learn" in the Mir. That is even though at the Mir I was involved a lot in the Pnei Yehoshua and the Maharsha but just being there and talking with the Rosh yeshiva Reb Shmuel Berenbaum   a lot I got my osmosis an idea of his kind of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik kind of approach.  I was accepted into Reb Shmuel's class which was highest level in the yeshiva, and I used to go to him for Shabat also.

What the Torah means when it refers to not doing sin.

The main reason to learn the Talmud and Mishna is to get a decent idea of what the Torah means when it refers to not doing sin. That is to say that one can read the Torah (Old Testament) where it says, "Don't do such and such a  thing" as meaning, "It is not advisable to do such and such." But this is not what it means. It means, "Don't do it," and it gives lists of penalties if one does do it. In fact, it is not all that different from the New York code of  civil and criminal law. It says, "Don't steal, and if you do you will be put into prison." (I am paraphrasing.) You could I imagine interpret that also as saying it is not advisable to steal. But in fact it is a command. "Don't steal" means one must not. This is the meaning of everyplace in the Torah where it says God spoke to Moses saying command the children of Israel to do thus and thus. If someone would interpret such a thing as option if written in a novel and they had to hand in a an assignment analyzing the novel they would get a failing mark.
I think the reason people tend to look at commandments of the Torah as being optional is that many Jews live in Christian societies. And disparagement of the Law is ingrained in Christianity. It is either looked at as a "shadow of things to come" (i.e. not real and not important) or as something no longer relevant since it was fulfilled once, or as a positively bad thing as per the Book of Hebrews.  [note 1]
Another part of the problem is an idea of Martin Luther that the Torah should be understood by each individual as the "spirit" guides him or her. This got to be in places influenced by him to mean ,"If you don't feel like it, don't do it." But it is not an accurate interpretation of what the Torah means when it says, "Thou must not do such and such, or you will be stoned to death." There it means, "Don't do such and such unless you want to be stoned to death."

This is not tolerant. And it is not supposed to be. And I think that tolerance his developed the status of a religion doctrine because I don't think it can be defended by reason. Let say for example we would want  moral values to be subjective and dependent on the observer or the norms of society.
 That implies that if our attitudes were to change in certain ways, then the moral facts would change in ways that are counter-intuitive.  Then it will follow that if we all took an attitude of approval towards Adolf Hitler, then Adolf Hitler would be good.
A similar argument shows that in theory, all the world's problems would be solved if only we could get most people to approve of everything that is presently bad. The bad things would not cease to exist; they would just become good. For example, it is at present bad that there are people starving to death in some parts of the world. But if we could get enough people to approve of famine and the attendant suffering and death, then the world would be improved, since one of the major problems would be solved. Yet this consequence is hard to accept.

The motivation for relativism among  intellectuals is the appeal to the virtue of tolerance. The argument is this: objectivism leads to intolerance because it makes us think that we are right and other people who disagree with us are wrong. This causes conflict, chauvinism, and subjugation of some people by others, which is bad. The only way to ensure a desirable attitude of toleration on our part is to posit relativism as a moral postulate, which will reconcile us to the equal legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of all value systems and thereby enable people with different values to live in harmony, provided they accept the postulate.

 The reply to this political argument is that it is a non sequitur - that is, even if true, all it shows is that it would be advantageous to somehow convince people to believe relativism; but it does not show that relativism is actually true.

 There are both theoretical and empirical grounds for believing that the opposite relation between objectivism and toleration from the one urged would exist - that is to say, it is objectivism that leads to toleration and subjectivism that leads to intolerance,  whereas subjectivism naturally tends towards an unreasoned and arbitrary approach , and it certainly seems that reason would counsel us to avoid destructive conflicts and respect the rights of others, whereas, for example, a purely emotional value system might lead, as it usually has in the past, to fanaticism, xenophobia, etc. If only we could get warring peoples around the world to listen to reason, one is inclined to hope, perhaps they could be convinced to resolve their disputes through negotiation rather than violence - but not if they are convinced that rational argumentation about whatever issues they disagree about is inherently futile.

 The connection is supported by examples: John Locke's political theories, which have probably led more than any others to democracy and respect for universal human rights, are a good example of the kind of conclusions that a serious attempt to identify objective moral values usually leads to. In contrast, the ideologies associated with the two major forms of tyranny of the twentieth century - namely, communism and fascism - have hardly exemplified objectivism. Orthodox Marxism holds that moral values are not objective but are mere fictions invented by the ruling class to further its class interests. The German Nazis held that all values are determined by one's race, that the right was just what accorded with the will of the people, and that moral values thus had no objectivity. It scarcely need be pointed out that the subjectivism that these ideologies embraced did not induce toleration on the part of their followers. Instead, it carried the implication that since reason was inapplicable to moral questions, conflicts of values could not be resolved except by the conflicting groups fighting it out.
 [note 1] Contrary to The Book of Hebrews, Jews do not look at the Torah as an unbearable burden. and we don't consider it  to be from any archangel . We consider the Torah as the greatest gift we have from God. Though we have lots of disagreements about how to go about keeping the Law we still agree that the Law of God is good and life and the light and the truth.
And so anyone who wants the truth and the light and life  and the good ought to learn and keep the Law of God--the Five Books of Moses. And this is repeated constantly throughout the entire Old Testament.
Hey if you don't want the truth and the light just say so, but don't claim the Torah doe snot say what it does say. [If you have even bothered to read it.]