I would like to take the opportunity here to discuss Evil. [Not "evil" with a lower case e, but rather Evil with a capital E.]  I know where I want to get to in this discussion but the track is long. It takes us through Plotinus, Schopenhauer, Job, Kant,, Israel Salanter,  and Isaac Luria.
The most thorough analysis of this problem is in Isaac Luria.

1) The first place to start from is clearly Plotinus. He has  identified the Good with the One of Plato. And in his framework it is easy to get to the idea that the farther one is from the One, he is closer to evil. This make physical desires closer to evil than is generally understood in the U.S.A.. At least with Plotinus we do not get the fulfillment of ones physical desires to be identified with the good. That is something Plato already knocked clear out of the water. Isaac Luria does us all a great favor by putting Plotinus together with the pre-Socratics to have a highly powerful self consistent system.(Its flaw is it is dressed in highly mystical terminology. But as a philosophical system it is as sophisticated as Hegel and maybe more so. And I think Luria avoids many of the pitfalls that Hegel fell into.)

 So with Luria we get what looks much more like a realistic account of evil that the simple physicality approach of Plotinus which frankly is a powerful system but does not take into account that Platonic forms might also account for evil.

  At any rate, with Isaac Luria at least we are finally getting somewhere. We have got the Tzimum [(צמצום) contraction of the Infinite Light] plus the Kelipot ("shells" forces of evil) caused by the breaking of the vessels [of nekudim (נקודים)][which as part of the correction eventually became Emanation (אצילות).]
This results in two separate types of evil, one from the contraction [tzimtzum] and the other from the kelipot. [Kelipot are basically when the light hit the vessels of emanation and broke them and the pieces of the  vessels fell.]  three major groups of evil: Dimion [delusion], physical animal desires that have not be absorbed into holiness.  [Desire for honor is also an animal desires as we see by all groups of primates] (3) Evil that stems from the original contraction of the Light.

The there is the holy angel [Satan] which in this scheme seems to stem basically from the world of the Kelipot.

 the higher one goes in spiritual growth, the stronger is the evil inclination.

[Schopenhauer has a different account, but I did not find the time here to go into his account. Schopenhauer in any case is best as a modification of Kant. They both ought to be learned together.

In any case, Schopenhauer puts evil right smack into the Will. And only in a latter letter admits that in the final analysis the will itself has a higher aspect of the Good like Plato thought..

  At any rate, this brings me to the end of this discussion and the question of how to deal with evil. \ the higher one grows in spirituality the stronger and more subtle his evil inclination becomes, he can't give much of a solution except to go to a a wise man and get advice. [Now this might sound like a "cop out" but it is not. . To him, getting advice from people that are not themselves holy is the cause of  evil in the world.]

But how does this help us? We already know people that claim to be holy or whom their followers claim to be holy are often the exact opposite.

Israel Salanter's idea might be more practical.

But Israel Salanter may have hit upon the germ of an idea that can answer this question. He noticed something unique about books concerning fear of God that were written during the Middle Ages. Books concerning philosophy during the Middle Ages have something that books written  do not have. They avoid circular reasoning. Circular reasoning seems to be a plague affecting all  philosophy from David Hume  and onward. [Hume excelled in circular reasoning. (Taking apart Hume) Not only does it affect all is major ideas but he seems intent on putting it into every single chapter that he writes.] On the other hand Medieval books do have a problem of accepting as axioms things that today we would consider not  true.

Now gaining Fear of God is not directly related to the question of evil since we know Satan disguises himself in mitzvot. He never comes and says lest do something wrong. When Satan wants to trap a person in some scheme he comes and says lets do a mitzvah and then shows you why it is a mitzvah.
However Medieval books about the fear of God do one very important service- -the issue of world view. and we already know that world view issues are even more important that issues about physical pleasures.


 I think one needs the Torah to open up ones soul to the objective moral universe. And when I say Torah I mean the Written and Oral law [Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot]. I do not mean the many many books that were written after the Talmud that people claim they also are Torah. It is not the right of any individual to write some book and then claim it is Torah.

Central contrast is between knowledge and life: the study of  knowledge concerned with the collection of data is opposed to the study of the Torah as a tool for promoting life.

Every person have have a direct connection with God by going to a place where no one else is like a forest or some other place in nature an talking with God as one talks with close friend.
Sex as something very holy and precious when between a man and his wife, but something bad when not so.
If one sees his days have become short and full of wasted time, he ought to try to gain fear of God.  books of ethics written during the Middle Ages --i.e. the standard Musar books.


But before I could reject empiricism and or rationalism, I needed to spend plenty of time going as deep as I could into both approaches and to see if there were any flaws. Well, to some degree with Spinoza it was easy to see the flaws, since some were obvious and some were pointed out by later philosophers. Leibniz was more difficult to deal with. There are no flaws but it just does not click.

The problems with John Locke are the same flaws that are a part of any of the empirical schools like Hume. Obviously I was going to need some kind of Kantian approach --- or Hegel. Later I learned about the intuitionist school of thought. There is something good to be learned from all these schools of thought.

 But my conclusion is that learning Torah, Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot has universal objective value for all human beings.  I have to conclude that learning Torah and private conversation with God are better than democracy and capitalism and communism and pretty much beat every other proposed solution

But back to my original questions. This is complex. There are reasons to think that this question is complex.
First question "Test". Are you worthy of learning Torah? Perhaps some person has joined some cult that tries to turn people to a evil path and by that has come into the category of those that are not allowed to repent and are prevented from repenting from Heaven.


Talmudic Wisdom

What people have looked for in Talmud sages  is wisdom.
--not Talmudic ingenious ideas, and not moral lessons.

The Hebrew sages were all monotheists who held that God fashioned the world, but remained outside it [God and the world are two radically different things]

  When people ceased to find wisdom Jewish teachers there began the mass movement of psychology which dressed itself in the respectable garments and academic gowns of Science.

When people today look for  sound and serene judgment regarding the conduct of life they can't find it anywhere  except among charlatans that claim this knowledge.

Some people still make good money by pretense to this deep knowledge, though they have no idea about the truth in human life.

This creates a sense of outrage in people that feel they have been defrauded.

[1] Learning Torah is important. The main thing is Rav Shach's Avi Ezri which combines all aspects of Torah and  puts them into a simple to swallow pill form.
The reason the Avi Ezri (אבי עזרי) of Rav Shach is important is the same as when you do math you look at the proofs. You see how it is derived and then you get a true understanding of what is going on. It is like when I read the Handbook of Mathematics which gave me a general picture of the theorems, but not an understanding of any one theorem thoroughly. You need to learn how the law is derived.  

The final result of Torah is as it relates to actions and being a mensch. Get  Musar [Ethics]. 

(Torah in this context means the Old Testament (תנ''ך) and Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot). It is a gateway into the real reality hidden outside the cave.
You have to learn Talmud at home. There are exceptions to this rule. There are sometimes places [like Ponoviz in Bnei Brak and the great Litvak yeshivas of NY] where people have no agenda, and are just there to learn Torah. But these places are rare. In general, it is best to play it safe, and stay home and do your learning without bad influences around. [It is a problem today that the Sitra Achra (סטרא אחרא Dark Side) has penetrated most places of pretended Torah. Torah of the Dark Side/Sitra Akra.]

[2] One aspect of my wisdom for the world are ideas about the conduct of life that I received from my parents. One is "Balance." That is that even though it is true that we all need to sit and learn Gemara, but this needs to be done with balance. You still need to go to a technical collage or university and learn an honest profession.
You still need to go to the  learn survival skills and learn how to work together with others.

You need to be self sufficient. and self reliant. It is nice if you have  a community around you to support you, but self reliance was the first commandment of my Dad.

[3] Musar. Ethical books written during the Middle Ages concerning the acquiring of fear of God. The Middle Ages  was a time when fear of God was a primary topic, and the books concerning this aspect of life written during that period are better than anything written later. [Simply because it mattered more, -and because logical reasoning was more valued. Medieval books  never have the problems of circular reasoning that all philosophy and theology books have after that period.] And fear of God is an essential ingredient for human life.

[4] Natural Sciences.  Learning of natural sciences was an important part of life to Maimonides and my parents. I can't account for why they thought this to be so. [Physics is the hidden Torah inside of the world.

That is to say: There is no reason for anyone to say they can't learn Physics or Math. All you need to do is to say the words in order (see the Talmud Tractate Shabat page 63a that says to learn like this. לעולם לגריס אף על גב דמשכח ואף על גב דלא ידע מאי קאמר) and go on until you have finished the whole book four times. The ideas will automatically be absorbed into your subconsciousness. And then they will grow and one day you will wake up and discover that you understood all the material you thought you did not understand. I hold that learning Physics and Math is as important as the Oral and Written Law. When it comes to learning Torah we do not make a difference whether one is good at it or not. We say everyone is required to learn Torah. Once the Rambam included Physics in the category of the Oral Law, the same idea applies. We do not make a distinction whether one is good at it or not. Therefore my idea of saying the words and going on is important because it is the only way for some people to get an idea of Physics at all.

[5] Stay away from cults and false leaders that sprout up like mushrooms. Especially the world of Religious Judaism today is filled with them. And they never go away even when they die. They just get stronger.
[6] Outdoor and survival skills.
[7] I am a fan of sit-ups. There is something about sit ups that helps me concentrate afterwards that no other form of exercise can do.
[8] Hydrogen peroxide with toothpaste for brushing.
[9] Iodine  for wounds and cuts. This was well known in the USA and the USSR. The reason is it stays there and continues its anti bacterial action for longer periods than other kinds of medication.
[10] Boric acid for bacteria on feet or fungus.
[11] Obesity? Have a coffee [or tea] first thing in the morning with one whole raw egg mixed in. Beets with black bread in the morning for breakfast. [These are just my own ideas but based on the Talmudic idea of פת שחרית bread first thing in the morning.]
[12] I used to jog. I found that not convenient any more but I still think it is the best. I think for me sit-ups are important also. At least these are things that do not need a gym.
[13] The Talmud warns us about people that make a show of being religious. Especially people that put themselves forward to show they are teachers of Torah. The Talmud derives this warning from a verse in Tenach. The basic subject in in tractate Shabat "When ever you see troubles come on a generation check out the judges of Israel for all the trouble that come into the world only come because of the judges of Israel." In short that means the religious world is to be avoided at all cost. There is there some kind of unspeakable evil that parades itself as Torah.

() The Gra went did a kind of repentance called "Galut" that is wandering from place to place where people do not recognize you and not to spend much time in  any one place. This kind of teshuva has the aspect to it that it is not good to always be hidden from the way the world really is. people can get disconnected with reality when they are too sheltered. And a lot of the world revolves on status. You can't get married or get a job without status. but too much status tends to be harmful. One forgets his own faults and failings. Thus this idea of Galut is very important.


Torah stands at the door: The Will To Torah. or The Tragic Torah

The Tragic Torah

Torah Tragedy.

In the Torah and Gemara Rashi and Tosphot [Talmud] we find  Tragedy at every turn. We find the lonely individual Moses in the wilderness took the wrong step in life and hit the rock instead of speaking to it , abruptly finding himself cut off from the land of Israel forever. David after being anointed king finds himself a hunted fugitive. in the life of every Talmudic sage we find some tragic event and inexplicable mysteries.

 For Torah, the truth about life is in tragedy. True Torah, must reveal the essence of life [the ten statements by which the world was created] and thus be amoral, because life in its very core is not moral.
We know the Rambam [Maimonides] was not a particularistic. We know he held that behind every law of the Torah there is a principle at work that are  life, love, and natural law.

And as the Torah is not moral guidance but rather primal natural laws, through which the Torah both creates and destroys lesser life such as human beings and animals, Torah must be regarded as "anti-life" to morally condemn natural things such as death, pain or tragedy.

Torah life unconditionally and captures its essence of existence without flinching or defending itself with morality but with natural principles.

For the truth of Torah we need not look into historical documents but into the Platonic realm of myth and magic. and  without a strong and rich life of myths and magic , the people slowly decay from within.

 Torah is not  is not created from moral or rational principles, but from the depth of the soul of a people. The myth is the expression of that unique soul, but as soon we try to "objectify" or rationally explain its relevance, we slowly kill our cultural life and replace it with a clinic, materialist worldview. This worldview is the modern one, where we have literally killed the belief in religion, passion, magic and myth, because we no longer understand their function. We search for "objective" answers to the myth itself and unsurprisingly we find none, because the truth about life,  does not lie in the Torah  itself, but in its metaphorical expression of life.

 There is a correlation between Torah and perception of reality. We cannot gain direct access to any "dinge an sich"  objective truth, the "thing in itself"; instead, we interpret it through Torah symbolism


The Nefesh HaHaim puts learning Torah on a level that was unprecedented.

The Tragic Torah

Torah Tragedy.

In the Torah and Gemara Rashi and Tosphot [Talmud] we find  Tragedy at every turn. We find the lonely individual Moses in the wilderness took the wrong step in life and hit the rock instead of speaking to it , abruptly finding himself cut off from the land of Israel forever. David after being anointed king finds himself a hunted fugitive. In the life of every Talmudic sage we find some tragic event and inexplicable mysteries.

 For Torah, the truth about life is in tragedy. True Torah, must reveal the essence of life [the ten statements by which the world was created] and thus be amoral, because life in its very core is not moral.
We know the Rambam [Maimonides] was not a particularistic. We know he held that behind every law of the Torah there is a principle at work that are  life, love, and natural law.

Torah life unconditionally and captures its essence of existence without flinching or defending itself with morality, but with natural principles.

 Torah is not  is not created from moral or rational principles, but from the depth. The myth is the expression of that unique soul, but as soon we try to "objectify" or rationally explain its relevance, we slowly kill our cultural life and replace it with a clinic, materialist worldview. This worldview is the modern one, where we have literally killed the belief in religion, passion, and myth, because we no longer understand their function.

 There is a correlation between Torah and perception of reality. We cannot gain direct access to any "dinge an sich"  objective truth, the "thing in itself"; instead, we interpret it through Torah symbolism

The path to the dinge an sich, the Will, the real reality is through the long arduous process of finishing Shas [Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot.]


[1] There is a reason that people resist have their belief system interfered with. The reason is that they do not want to become schizophrenic.
It works like this. People absorb their basic world view and belief system at young ages. Very few people make up their own value system. Most get their worldview from friends in school, from parents, from television, from the movies, from collage professors,  etc. This is all along the lines of putting the circuits into a circuit board. As long as you have not put the circuit board into the oven, you can still correct wires that have the wrong alignment. Once the circuit board has been solidified, there is nothing to do with it. If you find a faulty connection and try to correct it, you end up shorting out the entire circuit board. Similarly if a person tries to correct beliefs that he finds evidence against later in life after his belief system has become hard wired, then he goes crazy--literally.

This also explains why the Orthodox world is especially wary of baali teshuva [newcomers]. They may be brilliant, and also perhaps have accepted full heartily the belief system of the Torah and Talmud, but if done after ones teenage years, then it is all just software that can easily be deleted and replaced with a highly lethal program or even a virus. Soft-ware can be hacked. Hard-ware can't be hacked.

The other reason people do not like their beliefs tampered with is because their circuit board is not alone. It is part of a supercomputer. People need to be part of a super-organism. If you tamper with their circuit board after it has been put into the oven, not only does it get an electric short circuit, but it also becomes useless for the super-organism and has to be thrown out.

Extreme examples of this are: Muslims that find themselves in an airplane driving into a building in order to murder people and themselves. Though at some point human instinct for self preservation kicks in, but it is overwhelmed by the more powerful human need to not tamper with their world view and to remain good Muslims.

The most common example is people in their first few years of college who get indoctrinated into left wing doctrines and then later in life when they see the fallacy if their beliefs simply can't let them go.

 A famous college professor expressed this thus: "Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students ... When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank... You have to be educated in order to be ... a participant in our conversation ... So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable."[sic]


One of the major ways that universities fail when it comes to subjects concerning Jews is that they do not teach Torah, but they teach peripheral issues about Torah. They teach about Jewish history or about Jewish philosophy [which was always of minor interest to Jews].
Even when they teach Talmud, they do not teach Talmud, but they teach about the Talmud.

Even in first class places like Hebrew University,  they also do not teach Kabalah but about Kabalah.

  If you go to university to learn mathematics you want to learn Math right? You don't want to spend all your time learning about mathematics or the lives of mathematicians!

  The way to understand Talmud for university students is not to learn a lot of Talmud but to learn how to examine one subject. This is like when you learn poetry. You learn how to examine one single poem. Having read lots of poetry does not make one capable of examining a single poem.

  The way to understand one single page of Gemara is by Rabbi Akiva Eigger, the Pnei Yehoshua and R. Chaim Soloveithick [i.e. Chidushie HaRambam (חידושי הרמב''ם)] If you can understand these three people on one single page of Gemara then you already know how to learn. If you do not understand them then you ought to start working on them.

  Halacha also has this in common with Talmud. Knowing a lot does not count. The question is are you capable of understanding even one single Halacah properly.
  It is also like Mathematics in this respect. I don't care if you have learned lots of mathematics. I care if you can solve the one single problem that is being proposed. It does not matter if it is a simple Algebraic equation or a problem in Algebraic Topology. You need to be able to solve the problem properly.
  And in spite of what you may have heard there are no two ways of doing Halacha properly. There is only one way. It is to learn the actual Halacha in the Talmud itself and then trace the development of the Halacha down through the Beit Yoseph and then the Shulchan Aruch with the Shach and the Taz.
If you can do that with one single Halachah, then you understand Halacha; and if you can't do this, then you have no business discussing Halacha at all. It does not matter how much Kitzur Shulchan Aruch or Mishna Brura you think you know.

And Kabalah is the same thing. I don't care if you know the history of kabalah or can decipher medieval script.

If you can't discuss intelligently one single paragraph of the Etiz Chaim of the Ari then you don't know Kabalah.

Just a quick example for this last thing. Atik (עתיק) has circles-(עיגולים)-even after the breaking of the vessels(שבירת הכלים). In Mavo Shearim by Reb Chaim Vital vol 2, section 3, chap 4 the Ari says from Keter of Yosher of Atik (כתר דיושר דעתיק) is drawn inner light (אור פנימי) to all the circles of Atik. However he also says that because of the time elapse between the creation of his circles to his yosher, the light of his yosher does not reach his circles! This is a simple thing and yet it would be hard to find a kabalaist who can answer this except in the usual way of evasion which is meant to cover up ignorance.


The God of the Torah is the God of light and reason, and as a life- and form-giving force, characterized by measured restraint and detachment, which reinforces a strong sense of self. But also the  God of wine and music, and  frenzy of self-forgetting in which the self gives way to a primal unity where individuals are at one with others and with nature.

The modern world has inherited philosophy's’ rationalistic stance at the expense of losing the human. We now see knowledge as worth pursuing for its own sake and believe that all truths can be discovered and explained with enough insight. In essence, the modern,  rational, scientific world view treats the world as something under the command of reason rather than something greater than what our rational powers can comprehend. We inhabit a world dominated by words and logic, which can only see the surfaces of things, while shunning the real world  which cuts to the heart of things.  We belong to a culture that’s bound for self-destruction.

The only way to rescue modern world from self-destruction is to resuscitate the spirit of Torah.

We have no direct understanding of Torah anymore, but we always mediate the power of Torah through various rationalistic concepts, such as morality, justice, and history.

 ecstasy stands as a counterbalance to the thoroughgoing rationality that is so prominent in Orthodox Judaism. In most Torah investigations, the importance of truth and knowledge are taken as givens, and thinkers trouble themselves only over questions of how best to achieve truth and knowledge.

 questions where this drive for truth and knowledge come from and answers that they are products of a particular, wrong view of the world. Deeper than this impulse for truth is the impulse to lose oneself in ecstatic frenzy.

He criticizes his own age (though his words apply equally to the present day) for being overly rationalistic, for assuming that it is best to treat existence and the world primarily as objects of knowledge. this stance makes life meaningless because knowledge and rationality in themselves do nothing to justify existence and the world. Life finds meaning,  only through prayer while alone is a forest or a mountain top. Art, music,   bring us to a deeper level of experience than philosophy and rationality. Existence and the world become meaningful not as objects of knowledge but as ecstatic frenzy  experiences. ecstatic frenzy does not find a role in the larger context of life, but rather life takes on meaning and significance only as it is expressed in ecstatic frenzy .

 Ecstatic frenzy  gains its strength from exposing the depths that lie beneath our rational surface, whereas
Western philosophy insists that we become fully human only by becoming fully rational.
 rational methods cannot reach to the depths of human experience. that philosophy is a shallow pursuit. True wisdom is not the kind that can be processed by the thinking mind, We find true wisdom in the dissolution of the self that we find in Torah and the Talmud, and music.

a purified  Torah culture can rescue  civilization from the deadening influence of  rationalism.

This process however starts in a highly counter intuitive way.The way to ecstasy finds its basis in Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot.
The thing that makes Gemara Rashi and Tosphot interesting is not the intellectual aspect of it.

Rather it seems to be part of a process that leads a person into ecstasy and fulfillment. But  ecstasy --it would seem can come from God or from the Dark Side. So I think that one of the major advantages in learning Talmud is that it directs one's vector in the right direction.The basic process seems to be learning Talmud for a few years with Musar [medieval books on ethics]-- while trying to improve ones character.  And then Kaballah seems to come in. I can't explain what it is about kabalah [Issac Luria specifically] that does this, but it seems to me that when one learns it after proper preparation [Talmud], it has the effect of attaching ones soul to God. I mean specifically the writings of Isaac Luria. At that point if one is properly prepared and comes to Israel, even for a short visit, the Divine ecstasy seems to take effect.


I would here like to defend the idea of sitting and learning Torah [i.e Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot].
I would like to approach this from a few different angles. The first would be philosophy. From the standpoint of philosophy of Plato there are objective moral values that can be perceived by reason. While this should be taken in the larger platonic context of the question of universals at least as far as right living is concerned it is a clear tradition in Plato and Aristotle  and the later rationalist school that moral values can be perceived by reason. Though certainly Nietzsche was right that most of what people call moral values is their Id projecting itself onto their consciousness. But that only proved that it is hard to reason correctly and we knew that before Nietzsche.Even the intuitionist school does not claim we can easily perceive moral values. [well actually it does look like Prichard did hold that but the modern Intuitionist school headed by Michael Huemer does not hold that way.]

Well if we have gotten this far then we have already closed the gap between reason and Torah to a large degree. We know now that there are objective moral vales but these values are hard to see. We agree we can be distracted by our Id. [The Id is an discovery of Nietzsche, not Freud incidentally.]
 We know that according to the Rambam [Maimonides ] that Saadia Geon that the ground and basis of all Torah law is in reason, not divine decree. Both the Rambam and Saadia Geon reject the ground of Divine decree for Torah and say rather it needs to be ground in reason. [The reason they both do this is they did not want the laws of the Torah to be arbitrary].

So far we have now got philosophy and the Torah to be rather close.We know that the project of the Gemara [Talmud]] is to use reason to understand the Divine Will as expressed in the Torah. And the Torah was given as the Rambam says because not everyone is smart enough to start from scratch and find a moral path.

Part of the reasoning here is also based on the idea that morality is hard to decipher and also that there is no mathematical algorithm to decide any issue in moral at all. that means we are all left with the arduous task on using reason the decide what objective morality would have to say about any given issue. this is exactly what the Talmud is trying to do.

It is also possible to defend the idea of sitting and learning Torah from Bava Sali.
The existence of people that did this and did succeed in some way to come to some kind of spiritual levels in which they no only gained wisdom in life for themselves but for others also is powerful recommendation of following the path of Torah.
In this essay I am not dealing with specific question that must arise in people minds when they hear this--in fact the major question that people have on this is an ad hominum argument and not worthy of discussion in the  first place. So not all people that are in their exterior dress are following the path of Torah in their deeds? Is that supposed to be a kashe [question ]on the Torah??


People will automatically use any system they are a part of to get ahead and use it for money, and power.

 People will automatically use any system they are a part of to get ahead and use it for  money, and power. . If we would complain about this, then we would have to complain about Capitalism and Communism and every other system that exists.

But people also have another trait--they want things to make sense. The Love of truth may be the weakest of human  passions, but it still exists.

Because of this last trait, it seems to me that I should show how Torah is justifiable. [That means classical Torah--The Old Testament [Tenach], the Gemara [i.e. the Talmud Bavli].] But to justify Torah we have to go out of Torah into philosophy. This is how the Rambam/Maimonides did it, and Saadia Geon. You can't justify Torah on its own terms. To find a ground of justification, you need an external ground.
Since Reason has been in retreat in the Western World since the rise of Post Modern Philosophy, most people do not think that philosophy can justify Torah, and they also think they do not need Reason to justify it.

Now I should admit that my intention here is not to teach philosophy, but rather to explain why it is justifiable to sit and learn Torah [Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot.]
To do this I can't use Aristotle like the Rambam did. I have to go to a modified Neo Platonic approach like Saadia Geon and the Chovot Levavot [Duties of the Heart] .

The intuitionist school of G.E.  Morse and Prichard is close Kant school is better.
The Intuitionists are I think ignoring some of the real problems posed by Kant.

Now I get to the meat and potatoes of this discussion.
Frege wanted to expand the "a priori." [Things knowable by reason].  He wanted this to include all possible traits that can be derived from reason about objects of reason. The critique of Wittgenstein on this was true. But it was used by later incompetent philosophers to  backfire on Kant himself and to deny the existence of the a priori and of metaphysics all together.

One example of a priori I would like to suggest is in mathematics. It is the number two. You don't literally stumble over the number two when you walk in the street. But few people would be inclined to deny its existence altogether. At least to deny it it would seem you should have some strong proof. At least strong enough to deny common sense. And it does not seem that my knowledge of the number two is dependent on chemical reactions in my brain. Let me ask you to complete this sequence: 2 is to four as 4 is to eight. Eight is to 16 as 16 is to 32. Then 32 is to 64 as ... fill in the blank. Is this dependent on what I ate for breakfast this morning? If so, then you, my dear reader who ate something different [I had  eggs] would have to come up with a different answer.

[I should mention that one of the major ways that people that learn Torah think of it is as something that is applicable to Jews only. But this is clearly a mistake. Because objective values  are by definition applicable to everyone and perceivable by everyone. And Torah does claim that it is objective.
And though many commandments are addressed specifically to Jews. still the value system of the Torah is universal. and in fact the Rambam says the Torah is for "anyone that wants it." [In the Laws of Gerut. keeping Torah in no way depends on getting other people to accept oneself. This is an open halachah in the Rambam.

Some people keep Torah as a means of social identity. And this is lamentable. Torah should be kept because it is true.


a philosophy program at universities that deals with Metaphysics

I would like to suggest a philosophy program at universities that deals with Metaphysics.

And in particular I am thinking about the nature and origin of Evil.

This is something barely noticed by Western Philosophy up until Schopenhauer.  
But to deal with Evil in a philosophical way my suggestion would be to have a university course that would deal first with the pre-Socratics  and Schopenhauer.

This suggestion could not be made while British and American philosophy departments were still in the Dark ages. Recently the fallacies of post Modern Philosophy have become apparent even to school children and it is high time for some real philosophy to be done. John Searle wrote that L/A linguistic analytic philosophy of the twentieth century  is "obviously false."

Obviously the actual Book of Aristotle, "Metaphysics", would have to be tackled also but that it seems would require it s own separate course.
Obviously Schopenhauer is very important for this issue, but one does need a little background in Kant to understand his basic thesis.
In fact without Schopenhauer it is hard to find any philosophical justification for the existence of evil at all. 

I agree --but I think in a university course, you should need only a few introductory lectures to get the orientation right and then you can go to the actual material after a few weeks. After all you don't need to have learned all of Kant to understand Schopenhauer.]

prohibitions that are from the sages דרבנן if they are intended or not.

It looks like R. Yehuda in the Gemara does not make any distinction in prohibitions that are from the sages דרבנן if they are intended or not.
[This subject is part of a large Tosphot in Yoma. I just wanted to bring up one little point that I think is interesting.]

This approach of R. Yehuda seems to be contrary to the way the Rambam understands Rabbinical law.
To the Rambam, the Torah gives permission to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (or people with what the Torah considers ordination--not the ordination that is common today) to interpret the law based on the thirteen principles of how to derive laws from verses and also to make a fence around prohibitions. [Also, they had some traditions of what is considered work on Shabat and other oral traditions that they have to hand down.] This we see in the verse in Deuteronomy "you shall listen to all they teach you." [The whole verse says basically when you have cases in Torah Law that come up, and you can't decide, you shall go to the supreme court in Jerusalem and follow all that they teach you.]

The Rambam makes it clear that it is not up to every individual to decided how to interpret the the law. This is clearly stated in the Torah itself.
But the law to listen to the Sanhedrin is specially a law to not ignore them. And this can't apply to an unintended act. When one forgets the law he is not ignoring anything.

The resolution to this is that the Rambam  in fact decided in a "thing not intended" like R. Shimon and not like R. Yehuda.

I hope it is clear what I am trying to say. We have two arguments between R. Yehuda and R. Shimon. One about work not intended. The other about work done  for a different than purpose the work was done in the tabernacle in the desert. The question here is on R Yehuda. If we understand a rabbinical decree in the way the Rambam does, then how does the opinion of R. Yehuda make sense? That is the question I intend to answer in this short essay.

The big issue I have not addressed here is if there is in fact any authority to make extra decrees not in the Torah and from the commentary on Pirkei Avot from the amoraim it seems there is no such authority. This book is called אבות דר' נתן and it is included in every edition of the Vilna Shas. The basic idea there is on the Mishna "Make a fence around the Torah" and the general approach there is to say that Adam HaRishon added to the command of God [don't eat and do not touch] and that  caused him to fall. R.Yose said there "Better ten hand-breaths high that stand rather than 100 yards high that fall." There the Gra makes a few corrections to the text. I showed this to Rav Eliyahu Silverman the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva that goes by the path of the Gra in the Old City of Jerusalem and he agreed with me that that is the meaning of that commentary on the Mishna

The basic issue is that often there is a dilemma, Keeping some decree might interfere with some more serous obligation. Or with דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה--the way of the earth. I have in fact found this to be the case often. Instances abound. Being careful about things one is not obligated in often turns out to cause one to ignore real obligation. Just take for instance the morning prayer that is a decree. Though a great thing in itself, it can take time from learning Physics. And to the Rambam learning Physics is in itself the fulfillment of the command to Fear God which is one of the most important commands in the Torah


 I think that the Torah itself is in need of some kind of interpretation in many places where the simple explanation just does not work--like the flood of Noah for example. [The Rambam  has already told us that Genesis chapter one is not to be taken literally. So I say well then let's see what Isaac Luria says that it means!] the female waters..

On a side note-- I have noticed that some people on their own tend to spend more time on Breslov books than on Gemara.
Now Breslov books are inspiring, but they are not the Written or the Oral Law. They have emotional appeal. worship of tzadikim is one basic problem because the Torah tells us not to do idolatry. At least Breslov is honest about this what they are doing. Most other groups put on a nice face to hide the rot under the surface. The Gra saw this and put teh whole movement into Excommunication. Which means not to go anywhere near them because when one ignores the excommunication, it goes upon the one ignoring it. See the Laws in חרםin Shulchan Aruch

As is known the Kabalah has a highly Neo Platonic approach to philosophy.
I just had one small comment on the issue of the breaking of the vessels (שבירת הכלים) today.
Even though the Ari usually does not give exact reason for this, there are a few places that he does say openly the reason[s]. One thing he always mentions is the fact that the light was only the name 52.(יוד הה וו הה) He says if it had been 52 with 45 (יוד הא ואו הא) or just 45 alone there would have been no breaking. Also he says the "breaking" happened in the circles also of the name 52. [עיגולים דב''ן] I.e. it is not just that the breaking happening in the world of "dots" [נקודים]. Even when the dots expanded and became ten circles of 52 with inner and outer light, the breaking still happened.

I mention this here because I think that metaphysics should be returned to philosophy and as far as metaphysics goes I think the Arizal [Isaac Luria] does  a good job 

Hegel actually discusses  the above aspects of the Ari. He was quite aware of Adam Kadmon where this breaking happened-- i.e. above emanation [אצילות] and in front.--if you go by the simple explanation/peshat in the Ari. You could also interpret the Ari like the Reshash-- but that is extremely complicated and for some reason when the Reshah רשש''ש (Shalom Sharabi from Yemen and later in Jerusalem) came to  Yaakov Abuchatzaira in a dream asking him why he did not learn his book the Nahar Shalom, Rav Yaakov said he had a different path. (And his path can be seen openly in all his books--it is the simplest possible way to understand the Ari.)

I had just two small ideas to talk about today. So I will put them here on the main blog. One refers to the way Reb Chaim Soloveitchik answers for a difficult Rambam. The Rambam says concerning a field that is made an apotiki אפותיקי [a thing that the lender must get paid back from if the borrower defaults]. In short the Rambam says the law of "his hand is on the bottom"(ידו על התחתונה) applies to half the improvement (חצי שבח) and concerning the expenses he says if they are less than the half improvement then the lender pays all. The thing that Reb Chaim says that I could not figure out before was that as far as the expenses are concerned the field is considered as the property of the lender and so the lender pays all. The reason is this neat חילוק-- distinction--that Reb Chaim makes. As  far as an apotiki is considered it is considered as the field is considered as owned by the lender--but this does not stop the law from Bava Batra of half improvements also coming into play because as far as improvements goes we say the obligation comes from the fact that the seller writes "I will  repay the improvements if a lender collects from the field." [I already wrote about this stuff enough on my other blog wine women and transcendence, so I will make this short here.]
the Rambam is in the laws of loans chapter 21 law one and law 6

This is already taking more time than I expected so I will try to make this next idea as short as possible.
It concerns the idea that on Shabat one can't do a work that is done for its own sake. (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) But if done not for its own sake this is subject to disagreement between R. Shimon and R. Yehuda
I have not written about this before here so I will at least be obligated to bring a little bit of the Gemara. R. Abahu says all types of work that do damage are not obligated in a sacrifice except for causing a wound and lighting a fire. (כל המקלקים פטורים חוץ מחובל ומבעיר)This is because the Torah allows one to do Brit Milah on Shabat. So obviously if the Torah had not allowed it it would have been forbidden [since both are among the 39 types of work that are not allowed on shabat] But why should Milah have been forbidden? It is causing a wound and doing damage! So we see causing a wound even in the case of doing damage is obligated in a sacrifice.That is all just the simple Gemara. The question is is it not also a work done not for its own sake? In fact Rashi says it is! So we see also that work done not for its own sake in the case of wounding is obligated.

What I am trying to bring out here is to nullify the other possibility that it is work done for its own sake. [צריכה לגופה] I can't prove this but I am at least showing how Rashi might answer this problem. For all I know Tosphot might say to R. Abahu that it is work done for its own sake and that is why the Torah has to allow it.


Joy as a prime mitzvah, i.e. not a mitzvah to bring to any goal, but being a goal in itself. As a philosophical concept I have  brought objections to this point of view. Plus there is no such mitzvah.
The other trouble is there are plenty of people for whom bringing pain to others constitutes the highest joys in life.

[4] . Bava Sali's primary principle was never to be without a wife. There was even a case where he got married on paper to a girl in Fez who he never saw or had any contact with. It was just in order not to be wifeless for even a short time.

[5] Fear of God solves the problem of short days. For instance I have found my days too short because of events which happen during the day that occupy my time and mental energy which I would have rather that had never occurred. A good solution to it: Fear of God. In my case I understood this to mean to learn books about fear of God like the "Duties of the Heart" and the Or Israel of Israel Salanter [and the Nefesh haChaim of Chaim from Voloshin--a disciple of the Geon from Villna] and I found that in fact by just spending a couple of minutes on these books per day --my entire days stated to expand and all the little things that were getting in my way disappeared.