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17.12.14

I wanted to ask people in New York to go to the Mir Yeshiva on Ocean Parkway and tell them to print the classes of   Shmuel Berenbaum. Even if it is too hard to translate them at this point in Hebrew, still they should be made available to the general public because they are an important extension of the  path of Brisk.[They are in Yiddish. The last decade of his life they started taping them.]

The reason why this is important is thus:
Before Reb Chaim from Brisk people were worried about "How?" After Reb Chaim people became worried about "Why?"[Why does the gemara say what it says and on what kind  reasoning do the rambam and raavad disagree?]
Now today lots of people in Israel go into "yesodot"  (foundational reasons) for the arguments in the Talmud or between the rishonim in ways that are similar to Reb Chaim, but without rigorous logic.
And while I can see why people do not think this is important, because after all we have the books of Rav Shach and the disciples of Chaim from Brisk. We have the recently published books of Reb Moshe the Dibrot Moshe and Reb Aaron Kotler. But Reb Aaron was not doing what Brisk is doing. Nor is Reb Moshe. They are not dealing with "Why?"
For the general public let me try to make it clear what I am saying here.
When we look at the Rambam we generally see the first problem is to find from where he brings his laws. That can help to understand what he is saying. Without that his laws are often understood in ways opposite to what they mean in the Gemara itself as has been noted by the Beit Yoseph.
So now we know from where the law comes and we have some idea of why he might decide the law in that way. Though there could be dozens of ways. The first person to bring some logical rigor to the study of the Rambam was the mishna lamelch. And later the Or Sameach. But Reb Chaim Soloveitchik's Chidushei HaRambam is his Pieta, his 9th symphony. it is the first time the Jewish people were able to see the logical rigor inside Maimonides instead of just believing it is there. and that process was left incomplete so Shimon Shkop and Baruch Ber and Rav Eliezer Menachem Shach continued this process. It is this reason that Reb Shmuel Berenbaum is much more important to the Jewish people than is known. because he was not just a continuation of this brisk approach but also was very exacting in its application.

16.12.14

In the Torah there is no mitzvah to believe in people.

1) There is no mitzvah to believe in a tzadik (saint).
In the thirteen principles of faith of the Rambam there is a mitzvah to believe that there will come a  messiah who will usher in a period of peace and good will, and there will be rebuilt the holy temple and the Jewish people will be able to live in peace.

He has a job to do, and if he does his job, well fine. No one needs to believe in a him or any person. In the Torah there is no mitzvah to believe in people. There is mitzvah to believe in God--that he exists and he is not a composite, he is not made of parts, and he is not the world. Rather he made the world out of nothing. He is not space or time and he is not in space or time. Space and time are his creations.
We have in the Torah many commandments from God. The major ones are in the Ten Commandments. But there are many more that deal with laws of the Temple in Jerusalem and civil law. But none of them say to believe in a tzadik. There is no mitzvah from the Torah or words of the scribes or any  decree of later sages to believe in any tzadik. [That is in Hebrew: there is no such Mitzvah דאורייתא from the Torah nor a Mitzvah דרבנן ] And you can't add such a mitzvah because the Torah itself says you must not add or subtract from the Mitvahs of the Torah.

2) This has been a troubling issue for me because there are many people I believe are better and more righteous than me and have important messages for all mankind. For example the prophets. Another important example is Nachman from Uman.

3)  Nachman did say that if one would come to his grave and say the ten psalms that he specified  that he would go to all lengths necessary to help him.  But that has nothing to do with belief in a tzadik.
He never said there is a mitzvah to believe in him.
We have rather an obligation to keep the Torah.

4) There was a king that was ruling over the Jews and he set up an image and asked the Jews to worship this idol. Some Jews went along with it and some refused. Yochanan killed a priest that was worshiping that idol and started a war that he could scarcely have thought he could win. Five Jews against the Greek Empire. Not an even fight. But he won. And they went into the Temple and found a jar of oil that had not be desecrated and lit the menorah; and it stayed lit--for eight days.

5) Jews are asked by God not to worship any beings besides God. And that includes tzadikim.

6) We are asked to keep the Torah and its פירוש המקובלת [its accepted explanation] which is the Oral Torah; that is two Talmuds, one Tosephta and the Sifri and Sifra. (That is from Maimonides)
And Nachman and many other sages tell us that we are not to read "outside books (ספרים חיצוניים)." People think "outside books" are philosophy  and science, but that is not how the Talmud uses this term. In the Talmud  (right smack at the beginning of chapter "Chelek" in Sanhedrin) the Talmud says (according to the Rif} "outside books" are books that explain the Torah in a way other than the Oral Law has already explained it. And this would include books that say it is a mitzvah to believe in a tzadik.

7) This is a subject which I think is worth going into because I think there is much valuable advice Nachman has. But tzadik worship should be rejected.
 People  use deception to get you to think that belief in some tzadik is an obligation and they use all kinds of means of persuasion. From that they get involved in other kinds of idolatry and certainly drop learning Torah like a hot latke.

8) I am hesitate to write this because on this night of Hanuka, I discovered some amazing advice of Nachman that gave me strength to get to the Land of Israel and later I discovered much more invaluable idea from him. But in spite of this, I can't condone tzadik worship. In fact, I would like to suggest that we breakdown and destroy all the idols and their images, One after the other. Every last one.

9) The truth be told I was years ago that I was reading the book of Daniel that some of these ideas occurred to me. And it has taken a long  time for me to be able to formulate my thoughts about this difficult topic. Also the previous essay about finishing Shas (the whole Oral Law) took me a very long time to be able to articulate.

10) Now most of the ideas here are not dealing with what is a tzadik. Maybe he is a soul from Atzilut. Maybe he is a Divine Incarnation. Maybe he is a deified being.  Maybe there are lots of variations of this that I have not heard of. And there is nothing wrong with any of that.  But don't claim there is a mitzvah to believe in him, and don't worship him with any of the four services nor in the way he is usually worshiped. All these are considered idolatry in the Torah. And that includes tzadikim that are in fact tzadikim.
11) But the fact that some people go a little overboard with Reb Nachman, I still feel it is important to get to his grave and say the ten psalms as he asked people to do. There is nothing bad about asking a tzadik to pray for you as we find this in the Torah itself. Avimelech was asked by God to go to Abraham the patriarch to ask him to pray for him.You could notice that if Avimelech was already in communication with God then why not ask him right then and there? But instead God told him to go to Abraham.
12) There are different ways that people try to entice you into idolatry. I tend to think that it is hard not to fall into some kind of cult. Everyone wants to be part of some group. and the closer knit it is the better. Who cares if they are doing idolatry as long as one is accepted and loved. Right? I can't really answer that. It would be nice if keeping the Torah was lovey dovey, and people around were really sincere. But if they aren't, so what? Even if you were alone in the world, you still should keep Torah. And even if everyone hated you for doing so, you would still have to keep Torah. No now you have people that pretend to keep Torah around. All that is is another test of your faith. Why is it any different from the other times when people try to stop you from Torah more directly? All this is is that the Satan has found another way of enticing people away from Torah.
13) Sorry if this sounds a bit excited. You really have to start out with confidence in the Torah in the first place for this essay to make sense. And to defend the Torah I have tried to do on other occasions. This essay is just starting after one has confidence in Torah. And at that point I try to show what the basic idea of the Torah concerning this issue.
14) On a different issue I should mention that everyone needs some example of human excellence to look up to and to model themselves upon. And it is better that that model should be  atzadik and not a rasha{wicked}. It is not just that it is human nature to need to find some model or perfection but also this model provides a social meme to form a society upon. And every group does this and every group has this one person or model that they consider perfect and try to model themselves upon. Some people take this model of human perfection beyond kosher limits and start to worship that person. That is not good and it is idolatry. But independently of that it is clearly better that people should have a true model of perfection than a wicked person. And that is why it is OK and even good to have Nachman as a model of how to learn Torah and to pray and to do his talking with God approach in a forest or mountain.













When I say that it is easy to go through Shas and the entire Oral Law I mean you need a  decent idea of what the Oral Law is. I mean the actual texts that compromise that actual Oral law. That is only five texts--(1) The Babylonian Talmud, (2) the Jerusalem Talmud,  (3) Tosephta, (4) Sifri and (5) Sifra. It is possible to do this only if you have a clear idea of what you are doing. Also you need  certain degree of confidence in the idea of saying the words and going on. It is in fact something stated already in the Talmud--לגמור והדר ליסבר. But even this simple knowledge is easy to get distracted from.  And many people make fun of this kind of learning and it is easy to lose confidence in it.

I usually repeat to myself the small statement of Nachman about this kind of learning before I get started. Sichot HaRan chapter 76. But I saw a lot of great people learned this way in the book Binyan Olam that you used to see around in the yeshiva world. And Reb Shmuel Berenbaum (the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir in New York) definitely did this. I would walk by his shtender on the way to my seat in the afternoon seder session. I remember he was doing tractate Chulin that year. I would walk by and he would be on page 60. A few hours  later I would walk by again and he would be on page 76. He was packing it away at a rate much faster than what I am describing here.
In this way you can easily go through the entire Talmud with Rashi, Tosphot, and the Maharsha. Every single last word. And the entire Jerusalem Talmud with the Pnei Moshe, and the two other commentaries on the page. And the entire Tosephta with the Chazon Yechekeil and the entire Sifri and Sifra. And all you need to 20 minutes per day. That simple easy twenty minutes is enough to get you through one whole page of Gemara with Rashi and Tosphot and the Maharsha. And the same goes with the other books I mentioned above. But it is best to do this at home where people will not distract you. Nachman said people are more of a  hindrance than the evil inclination. Unless you are in an authentic Litvak (Lithuanian) yeshiva people will definitely try to stop you from doing this.
Some people just can't stand to see someone learning Torah with energy and joy. It annoys the hell out of them. Literally.



And anyway you need a real and authentic Lithuanian yeshiva in any case just to be able to do the more in depth type of learning that is either with a learning partner, or by working on one Tosphot for  along period until it starts to open up before you. And this type of learning is also important. This should not have to take the whole day. You still have plenty of time to get your Ph.D in Physics and Mathematics and your Eagle Scout badge. And also you can do the "talking to God" thing (Hitbodadut) on the weekends. Go on a camping trip with your family and while up in the woods take some time to go and talk to God alone.


Appendix:
1)The basic idea in Sichot HaRan  is that Nachman used to learn very fast. And he also said that this is not for him alone but it is  good for everyone. He said when one stats to learn it often happens that he gets discouraged because he does not understand right away so he or she drop the subject completely.
But if one gets used to learning fast then he will merit to finish these books he needs to be doing and to learn them again and again three and four and more times and everything that he did not understand at first he or he will eventually understand. And even if there remain a few things one still does not get--so what? For the greatness of a lot of learning goes above everything else. And eventually he will know a lot more than if he got stuck on ever little thing.
2) If this is hard to do on your own then I suggest you make a yeshiva in your neighborhood along these lines.--The Beit Midrash is for learning the Written and Oral Law only. Nothing else allowed.
(There can be a small Musar seder.)










It is possible to learn through the entire Oral Law in a fairly easy way. First you need a clear idea of what is the Oral Law, that is the two Talmuds (Babylonian and Yerushalmi), the Tosephta, the Sifri and Sifra. One needs confidence in the idea that one needs in learning only to say the words and automatically he will understand.  And even if he does not understand right away he will understand when he reviews the material a second and a third time.

It is important not to get distracted from this so that at least once in your life you will have completed the entire Shas  [Talmud] with Rashi, Tosphot and the Maharsha. And the Yerushalmi with the Pnei Moshe and the other commentaries on the page, the Tosephta with the Chazon Yechezkeil, and the Sifri and Sifra.

Also   it is in fact important to come to Uman to say the ten psalms, and also for Rosh Hashanah. After all the world to come is an important issue--when one gets there that is. I mean who wants to burn in hell for eternity? Not me. So it is worthwhile to have a tzadik up there batting for your team.

So while Nachman is an important tzadik, it is necessary to learn in a Lithuanian yeshiva. Because the Torah is with the Geon from Vilna, and tikun (correction) of souls is by Nachman. These are two separate areas of value.
I think if possible it is best to try to do this learning in a Beit Midrash, or a Lithuanian yeshiva. But not an orthodox synagogue. If there is no Lithuainain  yeshiva then do it at home.

15.12.14

Sanhedrin 62a

Rav Zakai said if one does idolatry in four separate ways he bring four separate sin offerings. [This is a she goat only. It is different from a normal sin offering which usually can be a sheep or a goat. And it comes for 42 types of sin.]
Rabbi Yochanan said one for all.
Rabbi Aba said this depends on an argument between sages of the Mishna. 
R Natan said fire comes to divide, R. Josi said it comes to say it is only a prohibition.
R Aba suggests that they would have the same argument with the word "bowing" when it comes to idolatry in Deuteronomy 17. "And he will go and serve and bow." וילך ויעבוד וישתחווה



And Rav Joseph said no. Because we find R Josi also says on Shabat that there is division of work.


I wanted here to bring up three issues. 
1) Rav Joseph effectively refuted R. Aba by simply showing that the sages of the Mishna agree that on the Sabbath day there is division of work. At that point it makes no difference why they hold it.
Why bring up the fact that R Josi can learn division of services from bowing?
2) The Gemara towards the  end suggest the verse and he will do one of them to tell us division of work by idolatry. but then pushes off that idea says these verse are not written by idolatry. Where the these verses? There is only one!
3) Abyee brought all this to prove his point that serving an idol from fear of love is liable.
Thus: "This serving idols accidentally is what? Did he bow to a house of idols thinking it is a synagogue. then his heart is towards heaven.
So that can't be the case. Rather he bowed to a statute not knowing that it is an idol. If he accepted it as his god then he did it on purpose. If not then it is nothing."
The question here is why is this nothing? Why is it any different from lighting a furnace on Shabat? He lights the furnace because he thought it is not Shabat or he did not know it is forbidden. that is an accident. so here too he bows to the idol but he does not know it is an idol. It is an accident. Why is it nothing?
Now this is my possible answer for this last question:
Lets look at two pieces of fat that are in front of a person. He thinks they are permitted fat but one is (chelev) non permitted fat. And he eats the non permitted fat. Then someone comes and tell him what he ate was (chelev) non permitted fat. he has to bring a sin offering. But he did not know anything?! The pleasure takes the place of knowledge.
So what I think is that by idolatry he does not know anything and he has no pleasure and so it is only a mitasekמתעסק  and not enough intention to make it an accident






רב זכאי אמר זיבח וקיטר וניסך והשתחווה בהעלם אחד חייב על כל אחת ואחת. ורבי יוחנן אמר הוא חייב אחת. רבי אבא אמר שזה תלוי במחלוקת תנאים. רבי נתן אמר אש בא לחלק, ורבי יוסי אמר ללאו יצאה. רבי אבא אומר שיש פה אותה מחלוקת לגבי השתחווייה-וילך ויעבוד וישתחווה. רב יוסף אמר שיכול להיות שרבי יוסי יאמר פה שיש חילוק עבודות כמו שאמר בשבת מפסוק אחר-ועשה אחת מהנה. ורב יוסף הוסיף לומר שרבי יוסי יכול ללמוד חילוק עבודות גם כן מהשתחווייה. שאלה אחת רב יוסף שיבר את טענת רבי אבא על ידי זה שהראה שרבי יוסי אוחז מחילוק מלאכות בשבת. למה היה צריך לומר מאיפה היה יכול ללמוד את זה?שאלה שנייה.הגמרא מציעה אולי אפשר ללמוד חילוק עבודות מן הפסוק ועשה אחת מהנה. והיא דוחה את זה ואומרת שהני קראי לא נכתבו לגבי עבודה זרה. יש רק פסוק אחד. מה כוונת הגמרא "הפסוקים האלו"?
שאלה שלישית. אביי הביא את הסוגיא הזאת לראיה לשיטתו שהעובד עבודת כוכבים מאהבה ומיראה חייב. וכך הוא אמר,שגגת עבודת כוכבים היכי דמי(איך היא)? אם השתחווה לבית עבודה זרה וחשב שהוא בית הכנסת, אז ליבו לשמיים.אלא שהשתחווה לאנדרטא שהיה נעבד. אם קבלו עליו כאלוה אז מזיד הוא. אם לא קבלו אז לא כלום הוא. לנה זה אינו כלום. מה החילוק בין זה ושבת? בשבת אם אחד הדליק מדורה כדי לעשות פחמים ושכח ששבת היום או את המלאכה , אז זה שוגג. זה אינו לא כלום. ואי אפשר לומר ששבת הוא שוגג בגלל שהוא שכח, ופה הוא לא ידע שהאנדרטא נעבד.  הסיבה לכך היא זאת. יש שתי חתיכות לפניו שהוא חושב שהן שומן. אכל אחת. ואז בא אחד ושאל איפה החלב (בצירי)? והתברר שמה שאכל היה חלב. אז הוא חייב קרבן שהנאה במקום כוונה עומדת.ולכן רואים שגם המצב הזה נחשב לשגגה. זה שהנאה נחשבת לכוונה זה רק לעשות שהאכילה אינה נחשבת למתעסק, אלא לשוגג. אבל אולי ששבת היא שוגג בגלל שהוא שכח וגם אין הנאה, והאכילה שוגג בגלל ההנאה. ולכן עבודה זרה אינה כלום בגלל שלא ידע שום דבר וגם אין הנאה








"One was Abraham." [That is an actual verse.]That means Abraham served God only by the fact that he thought he was alone, and he did not look at anyone that tried to dissuade him. And similarly no one can come to the service of God without this aspect of thinking he or she is alone and to to not pay any attention to anyone who tries to hold them back. [Nachman from Uman LM Vol. II in the left out portion from Volume I.]

I have modified this idea for myself based on the idea that ones family is an intimate part of ones soul. So at one time I did not pay attention to my parents  who wanted me to go to collage. Now I think I was wrong. Now I believe that what they were saying made a lot more sense that what I was saying. I just could not hear them. They wanted balance between going to collage and going to yeshiva. All I could hear is that they were unhappy with my going to yeshiva. Only now, years later, do I understand they were not trying to prevent me from learning Torah, but rather they were trying to tell me to keep the Torah like the Torah says.--Torah and Derech Ertez (the way of the Earth.)

The issue is not about trust. It is about what the Torah requires. And so since we find two kinds of trust in Torah thought, it makes sense for a person to go completely with trust if that is in fact what he is doing. But if in fact he is--or I was- actually trusting in the system, then we have to conclude that that is not the same thing as trusting in God, and then it is required to go find a honest profession rather than using the Torah to make money.

As for myself--I can honestly say I was trusting in the system and therefore my parents were right.

14.12.14

. In the world of Torah there are two kinds of trust. One with effort and one without. So the story of King Asa is interpreted according to which opinion you go with. If you go with Navardok and the Gra, then the sin of Asa was to go to doctors. Period. If you hold with the Chovot Levavot and the Ramban then the sin was to go to doctors without trusting in God also.
The confusing thing is Navardok brings some Ramban that is supposed to be going like the Gra. And no one knows where it is. There is one Ramban (that my learning partner mentioned to me in an unrelated vein) about the name El Shadai which seems to suggest this. My opinion about this is that trust in God is applicable to transcendence. It is the world that if you use logic to understand it, it generates contradictions. It is classical Kant.
What we really need is a way to make different levels of "dinge an sich's". That is plural things in themselves as Kant originally conceived of them. Not just Schopenhauer's singular thing in itself which is the "Will." But we don't want the aspect of the thing in itself of regular object to be the same as Schopenhauer's either. We want at every level from all form and no numinous content all the way up to no form and all numinous content to have different levels of transcendence. What we would get from that is some kind of essence of trust that is transcendent but not the same degree o transcendence as God himself. And that would go a long way to solve this dilemma between the Gra and the Chovot levavot.






And I think this is clear. Only the individual can feel if the present situation he is in requires action according to the Torah or not. If the Torah itself requires action, then clearly trust is not a reason not to act. But sometimes logic or reason requires action, but not the Torah; and then it is best not to act but to trust.
 To see for yourself  get the book Madragat HaAdam and look up the Gate of Trust. Or more accurately let me say: look up the Gra he brings  there on the book of Proverbs where it say trust in God with all your heart and do not depend on your intelligence.