It is natural for people to wonder about the meaning of life. Some feel the need more than others, but it is fairly common. [Some people however could not care less.] The Talmud does not deal with meaning of life issues, so it is natural for people to look into the Zohar.  The elephant in the room is the problem that the Zohar is a forgery. It is not what it claims to be. If from the start it had been made clear that  saying over the ideas in the name of R Shimon ben Yohai was just a literary device, that is no big deal. But presenting it as actually being from R Shimon ben Yohai I think has to be considered less than honest.
The thing that makes it clear to me is עם כל דא a translation of עם כל זה. And עם כל זה is a phrase invented by the Ibn Tibon family of translators to take the place of "although". Before that ''although'' was אף על פי or אף על גב

[ I have however confidence that the Ari and Rav Yaakov Abuhaziera and Shalom Sharabi had important insights. Much of their ideas come from other sources --their own personal service towards God and other mystic books that came before the Zohar for example Sefer Yezira. There were plenty of mystics around during the Middle Ages.

[In any case , did you ever see anyone improve in their traits after learning the Zohar?]]


Litvak yeshivas on השקפה world view issues

There is little or no emphasis in Litvak yeshivas on השקפה world view issues. The accepted approach is  simple: whatever the Torah says, that is what we believe.
The emphasis is on learning Torah. This goes along well with the idea expressed in Bava Batra ברא יצר הרע ברא תורה תבלין.[God created the Evil Inclination but he also created Torah as a cure for it.] As R.Gershom explains there. Everyone has an opportunity to be delivered from the hands of the evil inclination. ילמד תורה ויהיה צדיק Learn Torah and you will be a righteous person.

[My own interest in world view issues is mainly personal. I realize not a lot of people share this interest with me. Still it seems important to get it right.]

 The basic Mir Yeshiva approach "Learn Torah" seems a lot more important to me than world view issues. Just for clarity I should add "Learning Torah" means basically to take one tracatate of Gemara and to do to thoroughly for about a year with every single Tosphot. The "later on" people like the Pnei Yehoshua and Maharsha also seem very important to me even though neither one is emphasized in yeshivas. [I do not want to give the idea that I understood the Maharsha or Pnei Yehoshua. I would try to review the particular paragraph each about ten times  or more and still only get a vague idea of what they meant.]

The Gemara is not "Politically Correct".

To say in the Gemara Bava Batra pg 14b that "Moses wrote his book and the section on Bilaam and the Book of Job," seems to imply that he did not write the rest. This is just one example of many things I noticed in the Gemara and Rishonim that are not sensitive to people's sensibilities. The Gemara is not "Politically Correct".

The Rambam's high recommendation of Aristotle also is  not PC [politically correct].  It seems to fly in the face of the Gemara itself.

Natural Law and Natural Rights

I did not realize that Dr Kelley Ross had written a letter to the NY Post about an article attacking the Second Amendment. I did not even know he reads the NY Post -- being a Californian like myself.

And there also he brings this idea of John Locke about "natural rights"that do not depend on the will of the Majority. Natural rights is mostly traced to Aquinas who deals with "natural law" in great detail and at great length. But the idea natural  law was also brought  by Saadia Gaon in his Doctrines and Views אמונות ודעות and the Rambam in the Guide.

[The view of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson I think is that the state is created to secure natural rights and that one gives up no rights in order to live within a state. I had seen once a different view -that one gives up certain rights to live in a state  but later I noticed that that view does not appear in the Two Treaties on Government. Also in Dr Kelley Ross's treatment of natural rights, it also doe not appear. And  would have to say that in the Declaration of Independence the view is that the entire purpose of a state is to secure natural rights. So I think that in no sense is the existence of  the state thought to conflict with natural rights.]
The obvious question then is to trace this all back to Saadia Gaon and the Rambam {Maimonides}. Natural Law they both have and natural rights is simply a statement of the laws of Torah as applied. [That is "Thou Shalt not Steal" etc. Meaning one has a right to his own possessions. But what about a state?]

In term of a state I think it is clear that the Rambam holds from a consequence theory--that is you need a state because  no human good is possible without it. As he explains in the Guide, that many laws of the Torah are for the sake of peace of the state.
[As for the kind of government, it seems to me that the Torah requires a king only when the people ask for a king. Look at the actual verse. And that in itself explains why Samuel the prophet was upset with Israel for asking for a king.]


Should there be any such thing as a yeshiva? That is an independent institution--not just a local lace where people gather together to learn Torah or pray. This question was asked of the Gra by Reb Haim of Voloshin. It is unclear if the Gra ever gave any answer.

Clearly people would gather in a local building to learn Torah. But that was never an institution. People would simply learn Torah wherever it was convenient. The whole idea of an institution that you give money to certainly not in the Gemara.

This is related to the question should there be a state. Even if the answer is yes that does not mean that any state is legitimate and only acts within its legitimate range of powers. In fact the likelihood is that even a legitimate state will deteriorate into one that is not legitimate because of the kinds of people that desire power.

At one time during my life I would have answered the question with a booming "YES!" if by a yeshiva one meant a Lithuanian kind of place like Shar Yashuv or the Mir in NY. Today as you can guess my answer is far from affirmative because of the exact same reason why even legitimate states deteriorate. It is the people that are the problem, not the institution.

The Rif learned in fact in something that is almost the exact equivalent of a modern day Litvak yeshiva. It was not connected with the community, but rather was a private institution owned by a particular person.

In any case, the situation today seems to be that most so called yeshivas are private country clubs that one ought to run away from because of the fraud and scams. That is unless we would be discussing the Mir in NY or Ponoviz in Bnei Brak.