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21.8.13

Talmud Pesachim

Rabbi Akiva says [in pesachim 5a] that the verse "make the unleavened bread rest on the first day" has to refer to the fourteenth of Nisan because other wise it would conflict with the verse that says one can't burn anything on a festival except in the case one needs to cook .


Why cant we say like we do for doing sacrifices on Shabat that this verse says that even though you can't do normal burning on Yom Tov [the festival] but in case of burning leavened bread- chametz there is an exception.

Because then we would have to split up the verse "make to rest". If the verse would only say burn unleavened bread only for need, then everything would be fine. But that can't be what the verse means. The main intention is to burn the bread not for any need but rather to get rid of it.

20.8.13

Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik] and the the Avi-Ezri

There were four people in pre World War Two Europe that had the best understanding of the Torah.
They were Reb Chaim [Soloveitchik], Reb Naphtali Troup, Reb Baruch Ber, and Reb Shimon Shkop.
I would rather not go into the issue of why expertise in Talmud makes one an expert in Torah at this point.
That is a worthy question but it is not the question I want to address right now.
[Simply the major reason is that the Talmud is a rigorous examination of the Torah in the most logical powerful way possible. Talmud does not claim Divine inspiration. It does however try to determine what the Torah requires from people,  and how to go about keeping the commandments of the Torah. It is not a conspiracy to uproot the Torah, but rather an extreme  and rigorous evaluation of the verses of the Torah in order to best understand what God wants us to do in life. It does not claim authority for itself to interpret and verses. Its sole claim is that reason alone is qualified to understand the Torah, and who ever reasons better- wins.]

But it was specifically  Chaim Soloveitchik that concentrated on understanding  the Rambam and how his opinion flows from the Talmud. [The Chidushei HaRambam of Reb Chaim is thus the kind of Tosphot that the Rambam would have written to explain how he derived his result from the Gemara.] And after him his two students worked on continuing this effort, (Baruch Ber and Shimon Shkop). This was definitely a revolution in Torah thought. After that came Elazer Menachem Shach with the incredibility deep book, the Avi-Ezri. I learned  under Shmuel Berenbaum who in some way was a continuation of this school of thought, but applied the Brisk method to the Gemara itself. I have long wondered why no one seems to have put down his classes in writing? For I think he had some very important insights into the Gemara.
[Towards the end of his life they taped his classes. But they were deep, and also in Yiddish. I can see some of the problems involved in publishing his ideas.







Appendix:
To understand the Rambam on the surface level is what the commentaries were doing before Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. For example the Rambam might say a certain Halacha, Then the Magid Mishna or Keseph Mishna will point out that he is going like the principle Shmuel in dinim (civil law) and like Rav in isurim (prohibitions). The trouble is that in Shas, there are about ten major ways of deciding Halacha. There is: (1) the order of tenaim in Eruvim. (2) We have: "Student against his rav (teacher) , the halacha is like the rav." (3) We have: "stam Mishna." [The Law goes like an anonymous Mishna.] (4) We have "majority," etc.(5) "Rav and Shmuel the law like Rav in Isurim and like Shmuel in Dinim/monetary issues. Take any principle and apply it to any halacha you will get a completely different halacha. Plus לישנא בתרא which is how the Rambam and Rif always decide is itself subject to argument. Some Rishonim hold you always go by the first לשון. Some by which ever is more strict in Torah din and less strict in derabanan. I could go on, but you get the idea.

These are vast and hard problems and the beginning of the effort to deal with them comes from Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. This effort was mainly crystallized in his book and his two students Barch Ber and Shimon Shkop and later in the Aviezri by Rav Shach. The most readable of them is Rav Shach's book, and I think it is also the best of them all.
So the best idea is the get the basic set, Rav Shach's Avi Ezri Reb Chaim's Chidushei HaRambam, plus the basic set of the classical Musar books along with Reb Israel Salanter's disciples  and you are all set for launch.

[In a side note: I would suggest in terms of Halacha the Tur and Beit Joseph as the best halacha book out there.]










15.8.13

Jewish Ethical works written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Musar retreat.

I would like to suggest a school program for Musar [Ethics books written during the Middle Ages]. This would be a school that would learn some Talmud abut the main subject would be Musar.


The idea would be to read for one or two semesters all the thirty major works of Musar.
And I do not mean this as academic program but rather as a character improvement program.


But the major books of Musar say what they have to say with no regard to political correctness.

 Instead of LSD I recommend Gemara Rashi and Tosphot which is a much greater high. (It is not a drug high but a numinous high). Instead of random sex with fear and frustration, you get a wholesome happy marriage and good children.


The best way to go about this is in a Musar retreat. You go into the mountains with a few Musar books and spend the whole day talking with God as a friend while walking and hiking and then when you rest you learn Medieval Ethics.


It is not so much back to nature when you are in NY city . I had come from an environment in which I was always close to nature. two minutes outside my home I would be in a wildness. [Both in Newport beach was it was developing and also in Beverly Hills. --A ten minute walk away was the reservoir a tremendous lake and wildness preserve with no one around. --The only person anywhere near there was the warden or guard of the reservoir. NY was nothing like that




Concerning work on Shabat I am having a debate with my learning partner about what Tosphot means in Tractate Shabat page 94.

He is convinced that the base level of all work is it needs to be for the subject (the does) and the object (the thing he acts on) except for carrying.

My opinion is that it needs to be for the (1) object alone for all work except for (2) carrying and (3) works that are destructive in order to build. [מקלקל על מנת לתקן]
So the way I see it carrying needs to be for the subject. All other normal types of work need to be for the object. And destructive types need to be for the subject and object both.

I would not bother writing this down except for the fact that I have almost never discovered my learning partner to be wrong about anything.
So I am anxiously waiting for our next learning session.

14.8.13

The Talmud is synthetic a priori knowledge. It is not straightforward analytic a priori. It take  a set of principles that are perceived by reason.--the Ten Commandments and the other set of mitzvas that are in order to support the  Ten and it derives principles based on that set.


In this way it is like mathematics.  Mathematical theorems are not derived from definitions as Kant saw, as opposed to Hume. The Talmud is the same in this respect.
But because it is a priori does not make it immune from criticism. Though in general we know that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is" and the whole Talmud is only about "ought;"--still it is not a logical fallacy to determine how well you logical deductions have been based on an "is."
It looks to me that Conservative Judaism is a much closer approximation to the Torah and Talmud than any other branch.


[I asked Kelley Ross about objective morality. I put his answer on my other blog. I was wondering about the proof of Michael Huemer. [together with this ] [and this]He still thought that Plato's proof was more simple and straightforward.] John Searle has a refutation of relativism here


Dr Kelley Ross's answer is worded in a way that might be not understood. What he means in his essay on moral relativism  is it is logically incoherent since it can not deny its opposite. That is is has no meaning but is just a play on words.



9.8.13

Two ways of learning Talmud

I was exposed to two ways of learning Talmud. One was the "calculation of the subject" approach. This I learned in Far Rockaway with R. Naphtali Yeager. The other was the Brisk approach at the Mir  in N.Y. with Reb Shmuel [Berenbaum].
 I realize that both approaches are in need of each other. For a few years I  ignored the Brisk method, and focusing all my energy on the calculation of Tosphot. While this in it self seems to me to be highly lacking in today's world, still I see the flaw now--that people when they read my ideas in Talmud will be wondering how do the insights of Reb Naphtali Troup, Reb Chaim relate to the material.
Today this seems to me to be like writing a Ph.D thesis while simultaneously ignoring all previous research into a subject.
If all this seems abstract let me rephrase what I am saying.
You should have the full set of Brisk for reference. That is Chaim Solovietchik' Chidushei HaRambam, Baruch Ber, Shimon Skopf,  Rav Eliezer Menachem Shach's Aviezri. [No one has printed Reb Shmuel Berenbaum's classes which would be a fifth addition to Brisk if they were available.] But that does not take the place of calculating the sugia [subject].
While people can be doing the Brisk approach without fully have done the "calculation of the subject," still the calculation does not take the place of Brisk. You really need both.

[This tirade mainly comes from the fact that you find people that can tell over a kind of Brisk idea-sometimes valid, and sometimes not, but is often not related to the actual logic of the sugia at hand. They might know what Reb Chaim says, but not what Tosphot says, or sometimes not even what the Gemara says. ] So now I claim that both Brisk and the more basic type of learning that I usually try to do are both necessary.
I should admit that when I was in Shar Yashu, I did not really grasp what Naphtali Yegear was doing. I saw he was plummeting the the infinite depths of the Talmud and Tosphot, but I certainly had no idea of how to do it myself. And this also goes for later at the Mir. I saw what Shmuel Berenbaum was doing with the "Brisk method." And I think I could have spent time grasping it. But at the time I was gungho (zealous) on learning the basic text of Gemara with Tosphot and the Pnei Yehoshua and Maharsha. It was I think that I wanted understand what earlier achronim [later authorities] were doing with the Gemara before getting involved in Reb Chaim. Today I admit, I very well might have been mistaken. But also you have to understand I was new at the whole thing and simply wanted to get a larger and wider picture of what is flying inside the text. --or maybe I just don't want to admit I wasn't up to the level of the Mir.--and that could be true.















2.8.13

Chaim Soloveitchik and Shabat.

I wanted to mention a point concerning Chaim Soloveitchik and Shabat.
His basic thesis is clear.
He considers piercing a boil and capturing a snake as being a work that is not intended (אינו מכווין) [and must happen and the doer does not want the result] (פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה). This answers the question on the Rambam that holds like Rabbi Yehuda that a work that is done not for its own sake as liable and yet permits piercing a boil. [That is put simply: Reb Chaim is saying the Rambam holds by the opinion of the Aruch ערוך.]

What I wanted to mention today is the fact that Reb Chaims brings the Talmud in Pesachim page 25. The most obvious reasons that Reb Chaim brings that Gemara [Talmud] are clear. If you are just skimming the Reb Chaim you can see he is trying to show a different place where the Rambam holds by the Aruch that a work not intended,  and is not pleasing to him but what must happen is permitted (פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה). You can also see how by this he is showing how the option open to the Rambam was not open to Tosphot. So in fact we do find that when Tosphot has to answer the same question on Shmuel that there is on the Rambam [because Shmuel and the Rambam hold the same concerning work on Shabat] that Tosphot is forced into a real unsatisfying answer.

But the deeper reason Reb Chaim brings that Gemara is to show an important point. That to the Rambam there is such a thing as pleasure that is not intended that must happen that becomes not pleasing when he intellectually does not want it. It is the idea of pleasure reaching him that is against his will that Reb Chaim is concentrating on. This shows that the will nullifies the pleasure. And this is why Reb Chaim mentions the fact that work on Shabat is different from other type of prohibitions. It is Melechet Machshevet (מלאכת מחשבת)-- it has to be thought. Because by this Reb Chaim is able to show that on Shabat even Rava would agree with Abyee.


When I was learning this with my learning partner, he noticed the Rambam at the beginning of laws of Shabat. That Rambam explains what the words "not intended" and "not needed for its own sake" mean. And that is the place that makes Reb Chaim's idea difficult. It seems to me that from what I remember that this was also the question of the Chazon Ish on Reb Chaim. So what I have done here is to answer the questions on Reb Chaim and by means of that to answer the questions on the Rambam.[I hope.] You have to see the edition of Reb Chaim with the comments of the Chazon Ish in the back. I think that once when I glance at it I noticed the Chazon Ish asking the same question as my learning partner on the particular Reb Chaim. I think I have gained some insight into Reb Chaim in this above essay.
[I don't have the Rambam or Reb Chaim here but it seems to me the major question that Reb Chaim was trying to answer on his thesis is that capturing a snake simply does not fit into the regular way the Rambam understands the meaning of not intended. What is not intended about putting the thing into a trap? So you have to answer my above given answer.]
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In any case what does Tosphot hold? Either that work not needed for its own sake and work not intended are completely independent, or that if intended it has to be for its own sake.(I.e not completely independent.) That is in the area of not intended it can for its on sake or not. I am not sure.

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Later on I read what  Rav Elazar Menachem Shach wrote about this Rambam and he actually answers the Rambam much better than Reb Chaim. I forget what it was but take a look yourself. Mainly I think he was saying the same thing I said originally about that Rambam--certain kinds of work have intention as part of the definition. So צידת נחש is nothing. It is not even a דבר שאינו מתכווין. And the piercing of the boil is not כדרך הרופאים so it too is nothing.

In any case  this is no surprise to me. Rav Shach definitely surpassed Reb Chaim. If yeshivas would be smart they would all run to get the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach.


It seems every Shabat someone looks at this essay thinking I will say something about electricity. If it would be fire then it would be work done not for its own sake. We see in Kritut that fire for its own sake is to make coals. And so if electricity was fire it would be liable to the Rambam who says work done not for its own sake is liable.  But it is not fire so that is that. Anyway besides the Rambam all rishonim hold מלאכה שאנה צריכה לגופה פטורה
And besides this I do not believe in looking for new חומרות--restrictions that are not in the Torah..
The path of the Torah is to keep what it says, not make up new stuff. Being anti-Israel is not just common in the religious world but even raised to the level of the most important Mitzvah. I often have trouble distinguishing between the Ultra religious people and Nazis. This is just one of many examples of the infinite distance between the religious and the Torah. I should mention that the yeshiva of Ponovitch raises the flag of Israel on the Israel  Independence Day.










1.8.13


The groups that I feel the most affinity with are people that served in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). The people I have the least affinity with are the black coated, fanatic Hasidim and Americans that come there with an attitude.


But even the secular Israeli types I often have a hard time relating to. They are often on a spiritual "trip" and have little background in Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot which is a prerequisite for having any opinions about Torah.


The problem as far as I see it is that the Lekutai Moharan was written in a certain context. Without that context, people can read into it whatever New Age or psycho babble they want. Religious Fanatics  insist on reading into it Pantheism.

This is all related to conversation I had yesterday with one fellow who serving in the IDF in Tzomet HaGolan and another who was in MaGav [Border Patrol.]


The MaGav fellow was mentioning an old Israeli tune about how the Jews are the best. I frankly am sick of this tune. So I mentioned that we did a lot of borrowing from gentiles. He raised a point that Hasidut was not borrowed from the gentiles. I then answered, "The pantheism of Hasidim was borrowed from the Russian Orthodox Church, and it is not the opinion of Maimonides, Saadia Geon or even the Ari (Isaac Luria)."