Translate

30.11.14

 there is outer service towards God and inner service. Inner service is learning Torah, and prayer. Outer service is physical labor for a living.
if God would always bring plenty into the world people could learn Torah with no work. And this he sees as being the best option. But sometimes the flow of blessing is held up at one end, so people have to work. And that work itself is serve of God. It is however outer service. And it is considered inferior.
But it still brings blessing because the 39 types of labor awaken the 39 types of work that went into creating the universe. The dew of light-טל אורות טליך
this  clears up for me  the idea of Trust in God.


 And I had been reading the Madragat HaAdam מדרגת האדם by  Joseph Horowitz. And it was confusing to me how he could emphasize trust in God without doing any effort on one hand, and my seeing lots of statements in the Talmud about the importance of work.


In fact, for a couple of years I had been reading the ethical works of the Gra [Eliyahu from Vilnius], and Israel Salanter also, and I could not make sense of it all. On one hand I knew the decision  of the Rambam/Maimonides and the general approach of the Talmud about combining work with Torah. On the other hand with the Gra the emphasis is with learning Torah.


Appendix:
1) The Madragat HaAdam says that:
מכאן שאין האדם צריך לשום השתדלות, אלא מה שנגזר על האדם יבוא ממילא, בלי שום סיבה כלל
"From here we learn that a person does not need to do anything, but what is decreed on him will come automatically without any effort on his part at all."

  That means--that one can learn Torah and does not have to work--because (1) you are trusting in God and when one trusts in God God will fulfill that trust,   and (2) one is doing what is obligatory on him by learning Torah.

  But this does not leave room for times when ones prayers are not answered. . There are times when God simply does not answer, and then one does have to work.The blessings can be held up because of all kinds of different reasons.


) The story about  Joseph Horwitz was that he was a student of Israel Salanter [the founder of the movement geared to tell people to learn Musar/Ethics]. He practiced this idea of trust in God  in Russia and his son in law was in Ponovitch (before Rav Menachem Shach) The Stipler. [Author of the Kehilat Yaakov ]

 I hope it is clear I am not implying in any way I have succeeded in reaching anything like these high levels. I am merely discussing goals which I wish I would have. I am the scum of the universe.
On the other hand there was a time I was trying to do this trust thing. And it did in fact work. It is just I think that once one has left the door closes behind him. But if someone could start out fresh, just learning Torah straight and not using it for money in any way but only to trust in Divine providence I think that things would work out.






29.11.14

. But embedded in the very nature of things are solutions to these problems. For we find that a lot of times of Torah refers to the idea that a judgment is made in heaven against some person of group of persons. For example we have Sodom where there was a decree to destroy it. And yet a discussion God had with Abraham weakened the decree and in fact resulted in the coming into the world of Ruth [from the book of Ruth]-- the grandmother of King David.
Naaman the Syrian general had leprosy. He went to Elisha the prophet. Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan river.
  He laughed at that and said "Are not the rivers of Asshur greater the little stream of the Jordan?"
  But his servant said, "What would you lose to try it?"
  He went and tried it and was cured.

The idea is sometimes there is a little thing one can do to turn around his whole life. One small mitzvah. Something that seems insignificant.

The Gra (Eliyahu from Vilnius) also refers to this idea in a few places. But he concludes that it was only in the time of the prophets that one could go to a prophet and find out what what particular good deed should he emphasize in order to lessen the judgments from on high.


But the idea that one can lessen judgments by doing some right action is a powerful idea. Especially if you think there actually is such a thing as a way to lessen judgments.
Sometimes in older books you find similar things. The Ari has a certain number of fasts one should do for certain sins. and he would also tell people to concentrate on certain Divine names during those fasts.
To some degree you might think this is an idea that can be abused and you are right.  But chemistry also can be misused, and auto repair manuals also.

My basic feeling is that the best way of lessening judgment is to learn Torah for its own sake. [That is the Oral Law and the Written Law.


Learning Torah in this sense does not mean you have to be doing it all day. What I am asking for is an hour every day of Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot with a learning partner. After that, go to school, or go to work, or go to the beach and pray for waves and surf. [But don't speak Lashon Hara, gosip]
I do not think that God is automatically interested in human good. [See Schopenhauer.] I think that most of the time it is just the moral laws embedded in nature that act to reward and punish people. And there is no reason to think the First Cause has to be concerned with humans. But I also think that when humans decide to turn to Him in truth, then he is concerned.
So the logical thing to do would be to turn to Him, by Torah, prayer, and marriage

 But there was a time that my idea of service towards God was really that of the Gra-. That anything you do beside learning Torah is step down. It was understood that there are lots of mitzvahs one must do in situations when no one else can do them like the law is decide din the Talmud, but still mitzvahs are not considered as precious as learning Torah. And I can't disagree with this because to  a large degree I think it did help me in quite amazing ways. When I learned Torah in such a fashion and with that type of commitment, I got married, had children, had a kosher means of living, went to Israel etc. Everything was working just like it was supposed to in theory. Theory and experiment matched perfectly. I did my end of the bargain-- I learned Torah and God kept his end of the bargain. "Anyone who accepts on themselves the yoke of Torah they take away from him the yoke of government and the yoke of making a living." [Mishna in Pirkei Avot.]

If you have more than an hour to learn, the my feeling is  to learn the Mishna, Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, the Tosephta and Sifri and Sifra and all the writings of the Ari. ''a little is also good.'' and learn every day a little bit of each book. and just open a Talmud and learn a page of Gemara Rashi and Tosphot and put in a place marker and the next day go to the next page. etc. and similarly with all the above sessions. And also all the books of Musar/ethics in the same way.
Don't worry if you do not understand at first. Just say the words in order and you will automatically understand. And if you don't understand right away you will eventually understand. And even if eventually you do not understand--so what? For the greatness of a lot of learning goes above everything else.
















The people determined to keep the Torah away from your children, and have destroyed once and for all the American family the enemies of morality, and decency, and the Bible.

There are groups  of people that are dedicated to the overthrow of the USA. Many are in the USA itself. This is not remarkable to see. You can ask them yourself and they will tell you as much straight out. I did that in the 1970's and people said to me openly and exactly what their plans were.' 'We are going to take down America." Quote, unquote.
I claim that this was predicted in 1800 by a  short story about the seven beggars in which there was a  utopia (like the USA used to be), and there was an evil king that wanted to destroy it. But he could not destroy it from without, so he sent in his slaves. The taste and flavor of everything was ruined.  Then a person came along to correct it, and discovered how the slaves had managed to destroy it. By lewd speech, by making a vocation of bringing law suits and one other thing I forget. [Maybe I will look up the story.] [Later note: I might be wrong, but it occurs to me the third thing was dealing with non kosher sexual relations.] The only solution in the story was to send the evil king's slaves away. And when the slaves left, everything returned to normal.

Note: The short stories come in a volume of 13 stories that he said and Reb Natan wrote down. If you only read English I think the "Na Nach" people have a good translation.-- The story I refer to here is the last one.
But here, I think, it makes sense to say over who these slaves are. The present occupant of the White House would be one example.  In a nut shell the evil king's slaves today are the Democrats. The people determined to keep the Torah away from your children, that turned NASA into an outreach program for Muslims instead of getting to space, and have destroyed once and for all the American family, the enemies of morality and decency and the Bible. They are also people that pretend to be keeping the Torah, but using it in fact to destroy Jewish families.



I think there is some support from the Geon Eliyahu from Vilnius concerning this idea also. \" They are (the Zohar says) the "Erev Rav/the mixed multitude" that penetrated the Jewish people from the inside to try to destroy us.



I am not happy to be using the word rabbi for them because rabbi is in fact a legitimate idea. It is the term the Talmud uses for people that had ordination by an unbroken link from Moses and onward. this position ceased to exist pretty soon after the beginning of  the Talmudic period. We say for example Rabbi Yochanan to indicate he had this ordination. He may have been one of the last to get it. Also we have Rabbi Yehuda Ben Levi. Both sages that were right at the beginning of the Talmud period.
People of the Talmud that did not have it are called Rav. A kind of fake ordination was started during the Middle ages and this fraud has continued until this very day among Ashkenazim.  Sefardim on the other hand always called their scholars "Chacham."{wise man or sage} This has the great advantage of not being  a scam.





28.11.14

The best approach to Torah as far as I can tell is that of my father Philip Rosten (and mother, Leila). [Rosenbloom was the original family name.] That would be Torah with the Way of Men.  In Hebrew that is תורה עם דרך ארץ. This might be hard for me to describe because I don't think I ever got the lesson down pat. But because there could be people out there that might understand it better than me so I will give the idea over as well as I can.
If you know Yiddish the best way of expressing this is "to be a mensch." [He was an US Air-force captain, a scientist, and inventor of laser communication between satellites for NASA, etc.]
To be a mensch is actually on one one hand is not hard to describe. It really means going to school learning an honest profession, learning Torah after school. And not using Torah to make money. It means being self sufficient. It is being honest, reliable, loyal and never telling a lie except under extreme circumstances. In fact the Boy Scout motto pretty much covers it.

It is a highly balanced approach. So on one hand we see the Geon from Vilnius emphasizing learning Torah and Reb Israel Salanter emphasizing learning the books of ethics that were written to explain the moral aspects of Torah. And we have  the path of Navardok of Trusting in God with no effort. And all this would be considered important aspects of Torah to my Dad. But it would just be aspects of Torah. Not Torah itself. And it should all be taken with balance and equilibrium.
On the other hand he would see lots of aspects of Torah not covered by the aforementioned approaches.
Truth, Honor, Justice, self reliance, never letting down and friend. Never lying. Working for a living with an honest and clean profession. These are all parts and aspects of Torah. I can't say I followed this very well.

The world was created and sustained by the ten statements of Creation [chapter one of Genesis]. That is the Torah is the essence of everything. So it is possible to serve God through everything. This would go with the Rambam that hold the mitzvas have a purpose, and they are not ends in themselves. And to reach that end Rabbi Shimon holds the actual halacha itself changes. Rabbi Yehuda holds it does not. But all agree that the is a knowable purpose to the mitzvot except for the red heifer.

27.11.14

Learning Torah was considered as a primary value by Eliyahu (Elijah) from Vilnius.


There is no mitzvah to support anyone for learning Torah that learns it for money or who says so. If they say they are learning for money, I think we can trust them. But there is a mitzvah to support those who learn Torah not for money  but for its own sake.
This might seem like a small difference but people are always conservative and strict about things they know well. To me sitting at a baseball game in the stands, the difference between a curve ball and the other many varieties of pitches seems imperceptible. But to the person up to bat, the difference is like day and night.

What I wanted to say was how the idea of the primary value learning Torah comes from the Torah and Talmud.



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






How does one go about thanking God?

 How does one go about thanking God? The best way that I can see is to go to a place where no one else is, and to talk with God as one talks with a close friend and to thank him for the good one has in life.  This can be hard to do in a big city. If one is walking alone in the street and talking to God it looks like one is talking to himself. And to get out into the wildness is not always practical. For this reason I suggest a kind of  camping trips that would include time for solitary  prayer and individual connection with God.
 Even though learning Torah was an amazing thing, and something I am very grateful to God that he granted to me to do for the several years I was there, I definitely needed time alone.







26.11.14

Left wing politics has an element of emotion. Just think of the word "Marx." It gets your blood rushing as you clench your fists and scream out: "Let's take down the exploiters! All power to the Proletariat!"
Just think of the word "John Locke." It calms you down. It is not war cry, but a lullaby.
My feeling about this is that capitalism has lost its "punch."
The way I would look at this would be to go back to the intellectual sources of left wing politics in support of the collective (Rousseau,  Hegel) and the sources of right wing politics in support of the individual and individual rights (John Locke). But because all these sources have problems (note 1) I thought to myself to take a Kantian approach. (Kant is similar to John Locke in terms of individual rights. And he lacks the flaws of the pure empiricism of John Locke.)
But Kant is more like a puzzle than a solution. So you do need some kind of modification. The sad thing about Kant is much of the modification that was done became the neo-Kant schools. A pretty miserable lot they are. (I mean here that they deny the existence of the "dinge an sich" the thing in itself.-unlike Kant) Some people simply went straight out against Kant--the intuitionists. [Prichard] Ann Rand apparently thought that Kant said what she learned about him in school (which was not Kant at all, but neo Kant). So she is not much of an authority.


20th century philosophy is usually divided into the British/USA and Continental areas.
"Indeed, to cop a line from John Searle, one he applied to Jacques Derrida, Continental philosophy gives bullshit a bad name. " (Maverick Philosopher)



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

A return  Plato in some important ways.--. And that works well with Maimonides. [I should mention  that the Rambam/Maimonides is not at all as radical an Aristotelean as people think. He does have an approach somewhere between Aristotle and Plato and so in that respect looks like Plotinus. But it is different than regular Neo-Platonic thought.]

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




25.11.14

Torah is everywhere and is the life-force of everything in the universe

 Torah is everywhere and is the life-force of everything in the universe.
There are different levels of the revelation of Torah. And he also means not everyone can accept it like it is.
His idea  is mystical. But it has the advantage being able to serve God through everything. When people becomes religious they often join some cult. But one can stay home and serve God where ever one is and with ones own family and friends.



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



In the above essay, I am looking at Maimonides's idea and though I realize it has a simple explanation I am trying to find a deeper justification for it. The way it looks from the Rambam is learning Physics and Meta Physics is to inspire one and awaken him to the deepness and beauty of God's creation. What I am looking for here is the idea that the Physics and Metaphysics themselves are a kind of revelation of one aspect of of God's wisdom contained in his creation.
I am also saying that Torah is a sub-level of natural law, not that it is identified with natural law.
At least this is the way I conceive of these things. Other people probably have different ideas, but that is my approach. It is basically Neo-Platonic but I am using it to justify Maimonides more Aristotelian approach.
I want to suggest a balanced approach. That is we can see  from the Rambam that the natural sciences are important to learn and not at all ביטול תורה they are not bitul Torah wasting time from learning Torah.
But this does not take the place of learning Torah. One still has to learn Torah and the Talmud --not for money, but because learning Torah is the greatest mitzvah. כנגד כולם.
It has been common in the religious world to recommend to young people to do teshuva repentance.


If you go into Torah with trust in God, then I believe He helps. If you go to learn Torah with this in mind I have to agree it is the best approach. But depending on the frum religious world is a mistake. This learning Torah alone approach with trusting in charity works for them because of the social network they are plugged into.
So again if you learn Torah with trust in God, then this is best. Trust in the frum world though is a mistake.




 Pirkei Avot: One is not allowed to make the Torah into a shovel to dig with--a means to making  money.
What people should do is to learn skills that people will pay cold hard cash for; and also learn Torah. But not learn Torah for money, nor to turn it into a profession. And as per the Rambam people should learn Physics and metaphysics--not for a profession, but to come to love and fear of God. [Love and fear of God are considered good things in the Torah. ]







24.11.14

On one hand I feel I should talk about some of the amazing things I discovered.
One of the most amazing things was Musar, the movement of Israel Salanter for self improvement.


The problem with the Dark Side I have mentioned before. How it got mixed into Torah thought since the time of Shabati Tzvi. But I don't mean just teachings of the Shabatians that are nowadays presented as straight Torah in the world of Orthodox Judaism by unsuspecting people. I mean actual energies of the Sitra Achra (סיטרא אחרא). Miracles from the Sitra Achara by supposed tzadikim. Orthodox Judaism has become pagan. It has a whole Pantheon of gods called tzadikim (saints).
Some people don't care about that. Why should they care? After all what does it bother me if my neighbor worships one god or twenty? But the Torah does care.  And it is the  most important theme that comes up in the Torah from the beginning until the end of the  last book of Chronicles. This means that Reform and Conservative Judaism are actually more kosher than Orthodox, because no matter what else they may advocate, they do not do idolatry. (note 1)


 But because Reform and Conservative synagogues do not learn Musar (Ethics)  I recommend that they a start to do so, and also I think the original idea of Israel Salanter of making houses of Musar/ethics learning is a good step in the right direction.

  A house of Musar is a place that has only first order ethics in it. It is not for prayers, nor for learning Talmud or Halacha. It is only for learning ethics. There are about thirty classical books of ethics that such a place should have. Like the Duties of the Heart and the Nefesh Hachaim from Reb Chaim from Voloshin [the disciple of the Gra]. It is not for second order ethics--justification of ethics even though I think it should have these there also--like the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam.
If people would want to do something for the benefit of the public, my feeling is they should put their money into building a house of Musar. (בית מוסר)




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


23.11.14

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

But I was missing Torah. When I discovered the [abridged] Kitzur Shuchlan Aruch it was like someone had lit a fuse under me. The actual Shulchan Aruch was written by Joseph Karo 400 years ago and its major commentaries are printed in most editions. The commentaries uniformly disagree with it, and show from the Gemara and Talmud and what they call the "poskim" (by which they mean Medieval Authorities) different conclusions. If they don't disagree, they don't write anything. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was written by Shelomo Ganzfried from Hungary to give a practical guide to Jewish law.  It is a short version of two books written by a disciple of the Geon from Villna  called the Chayee Adam and Chachmat Adam. [חיי אדם וחכמת אדם]
But when I went into this I dove in head first without looking first. That is sad to say I was a fanatic--just the opposite of my Dad. In terms of Torah learning, there was no argument that Torah is important. But as for ignoring the need to make a honest living, he was upset with my decision. Being self sufficient and working for an honest living were of foremost importance to him.--especially the magic words "to be self sufficient."


A few years later that I was able to start bringing some balance into things. Because I found a polynomic theory of value   That is even though at the Mir I was involved a lot in the Pnei Yehoshua and the Maharsha but just being there and talking with  Reb Shmuel Berenbaum   a lot I got by osmosis an idea of his kind of approach.  I was accepted into Reb Shmuel's class which was highest level , and I used to go to him for Shabat also.

























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

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



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

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

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


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

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







22.11.14

Why do people vote for politicians that are liars? Why does Breslov seem to have a problem with famous people that are liars. מפורסמים של שקר We know there seems to be some kind of trouble when it comes to finding decent leaders. This is such a  sore subject that some people just turn the channel when they hear about it.


 But where do you get fear of God from? Well one thing people complain about the Musar (Ethics) movement of Israel Salanter is that it is all about a highly negative emotion-- fear of God. If you heard everyone complaining about a certain university is it is no fun and all they do all day is math, then you know you are talking about a good university. So if everyone is complain about the ethics books of Israel Salanter and the Musar movement is all they do is give you fear of God, well then you know where to go for fear of God.

So in theory we have a good solution for the USA--make homes of ethics. (בתי מוסר) This would be the same approach to Breslov also. And in fact just about anywhere.
But what is Musar? It is divided into three parts, (1) Medieval books of Ethics, (2) Renaissance books of Ethics that combine Ethics with Kabalah. I am not so thrilled with these but the are a legitimate part of Musar (3) Disciples of Israel Salanter.

Now perhaps I should make clear to people that in secular society there are several  organizations that attempt to do what Musar does. Obviously the Boy Scouts  and Girl Scouts are the first and closest approximation. That is because they deal with one essential part of Musar and that is charter building.
Also  Conservative synagogues and Evangelical Churches try to work on the fear of God aspect. [Reform temples don't work on fear of God much. Other types of churches outside Evangelicals don't seem to work on fear on god much or character improvement. Maybe the Catholics do to some degree]. In any case I think the first and best choice is to build a new Musar movement based on Israel Salantar.

In any case other organizations that already exist and should be teaching fear of God but don't ought to get back on track.
 People worried about the Western world should get a few books of Musar. The books that I liked most were the Stars of Light by Isaac Blazer [disciple of Israel Salanter]. [It is in Hebrew only. Sorry.] Some good books in English: Duties of the Heart,  Paths of the Righteous {Orchot Tzadikim},   Mesilat Yesharim [That is by Moshe Lutzato a Renaissance Mystic]. Don't read them for information. They wont tell you anything new. Read them to work on your character and to build your fear of God.

The main idea here is that people are not automatically moral.There is a two step process that brings people to being decent human beings. One is reason. The other is Torah. That is some Divine inflow from above. With this Divine inflow people recognize what is common sense morality. Without it what is common sense is no longer common sense but highly doubtful.  Musar books from the Middle Ages tend to be very well thought out and combine reason with Torah. It is a powerful mix which helps people become decent human beings which is more of a feat that most people are willing to admit















The Gra however did like the idea of people standing and learning Torah all day. [Not sitting and learning.]] And as far as is possible for me to see he did like the idea of these people being supported.


Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers) everyone reads. Hillel said right in the first chapter, "Don't make the Torah into a shovel to dig with." And in a later chapter when this saying is repeated, Maimonides has a long comment. That little juicy paragraph won a bitter and stinging crusade against him during his lifetime.

The only people I ever discovered that I could talk to about Trust in God and found that we were on the same wavelength were Reform and Conservative Jews.[ They usually coupled it with working, but the concept was clearly central to their way of thinking. ]


Trust in God was a major theme with the Gra. He said one that trust in God even if he does extremely major sins is better than one who is completely religious and does all the Torah and mitzvot but without trust-- because all his mitzvot are for honor and power.
And it is from the Gra that the idea of trust in God without doing anything gets a clear expression. Later the Madragat HaAdam brings it from him in his commentary on Mishlei. [That is the central position of the school of Navardok]

The Gra however did like the idea of people standing and learning Torah all day. [Not sitting and learning.]]
And as far as is possible for me to see, he did like the idea of these people being supported.  So we have two things from the Gra-one is the learning Torah thing. The other is the trust thing. So what I suggest is to change the paradigm from that of learning Torah being a kosher way of making money [It is not.], to that of trust in God that if one learns Torah, then God will find a way to send to him his means of a living or someone to support him, but not that it is permissible to go out and seek such a thing.


21.11.14

Judge people favorably

Judge people favorably.




  I should  mention that the original idea comes from the Mishna, Tractate Avot, " Judge every person favorably."

  I wanted to point out that Reb Chaim from Voloshin--the prime disciple of the Gra also emphasized this idea.
Reb Chaim said, "It is a tested fact that when one has enemies, and he judges them on the scales of merit, i.e. he thinks of them as absolute saints [tzadikim], immediately their hearts will be turned to love him."


 Reb Chaim said to think of the bad person as a saint.  And it reflects something about the\ Lithuanian Jewish mentality. It is black or white. No shades of gray. But Reb Chaim has a point. I can't count how many times I have heard people judge others not nicely and then when countered said "Well, they have a big evil inclination." That is not called judging favorably. That is judging not nicely and then trying to ind some excuse for doing so. With Reb Chaim that possibility is excluded. He says point blank :"You have an enemy think of them as a saint. Period."


) The ten statements by which the world was created form the life force that makes everything exist
There are actually nine statements "God said there shall be ..." The tenth is the first statement, "In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth." In this statement it does not say "God said..." so it is called  hidden statement. In the Tikunai HaZohar it says it is this statement which corresponds to the highest energy of the Crown of God. And it gives the life force for places where God's open glory can't go. For even though God's glory fills the world, there are places it can't go because God's glory and his honor are hidden there. So how do those places survive? How can they exist without the life force from God's energy? The answer is the get their life force from the Hidden Statement. And that Statement can go there because God's glory is not revealed there openly. And since that statement is the highest holiness--of the crown of God, when it turns towards God it goes to the highest heights. So when one has fallen to dirty places where God's glory is not revealed and from there one seeks God and calls out "where is the place of His Glory?" he turns to the highest holiness.
[See the Eitz Chaim of Isaac Luria in the later chapters where you see this. Also see the Remak [Moshe Cordovaro in his Pardes and Or Areiv.]















20.11.14




"So modern Israel is not supposed to defend itself against those whose serious, deadly, stated goal is to destroy them corporately and individually? Then why were they commanded to fight for it under Joshua?
Why did God help them in the seven wars since their founding to survive? Why shouldn't they use all the land they liberated in these wars they did not start or provoke? Beautiful thoughts about Christ's eventual reign over ALL does nothing to answer today's dilemmas. HE will prevail, and perhaps we in the West should attend to our own house rather than attempt to direct Israel. Certainly we need to make a lot of changes!"


The  blog itself  said  this: "It is for this reason that Paul would have scratched his head over the current Evangelical fascination with the modern secular state of Israel and its supposedly Bible-mandated right to do what it pleases with Palestine and its inhabitants. This way of reading the Bible misses the whole point of the story; it robs the biblical narrative of its climax."
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/11/what-would-the-apostle-paul-think-about-evangelicals-and-the-conflict-in-palestine/

That is to say since the Torah predicts a future time of peace in the world Jews should let themselves be slaughtered.  The conclusion does not follow from the premise. Unless  people's idea of universal peace is: "No Jews"



In other words when Christians talk about learning the Bible they usually mean not the Old Testament, but the New Testament. And when they talk about the NT they mean Paul. And when they talk about Paul they mean the Book of Hebrews (not by Paul and highly anti-Torah. And being anti-Torah makes it anti-Jew because all we Jews have is Torah. Torah is not a burden to us. It is the greatest gift we have from God). On one hand it is nice they accept the Old Testament, but they get into theological difficulties trying to get Paul and the Torah to correspond. Some people however did a fairly decent job putting it all together like Aquinas and Anselm and a few writers  from the end of the Roman Empire.]
Sometimes I get the impression that some Christians would be happier if Jews all would just disappear. And then they would Gan Eden right here on Earth. And of course with no Palestinian problem then they Muslims would be their best friends.

But this should not be understood to mean they have nothing. They have  a lot. And the way I see it what they have that is good comes from the Torah.  For I think all good comes from the Torah. So when they learn Torah and take to heart the commandments of God they do well. There are no favorites in this respect.
But it is not just reading the Torah. Rather I think the Torah is contained in everything. It is the hidden light of God. This is an idea that makes sense to me from my neo Platonic point of view. That is the real reality is up "there". "Here" is just some imperfect reflection.

And now that I am on a role about the Torah I would like to quote an important subject--the land of Israel.

We all know the disagreement between the Ramban and the Rambam if living in Israel is counted as one of the  613 commandments. But I wanted to point out that in the verse that the Rambam is bring as proof that it is it says, "If you get rid of the inhabitants, then you will be able to be  in the Land of Canaan. And if you don't get rid of them, you will not be able to stay. I am just paraphrasing it. But the idea is fairly simple even though it must offend some people. But since when is the word of God suppose to be politically correct?
_____________________________________________

I am thinking of deleting this essay because I think some people might see it as an attack on Christianity. I might have meant it more as a critique on the Book of Hebrews and to some degree on Paul also. To some people Paul is the very essence of Christianity. So they might be offended.  Now sometimes it is good to criticize people and sometimes not. Sometimes it is effective.  It seems to me it all depends on  a guess if the person one is talking to can accept it.  Since here I think  there are a significant number of Christians who are sincerely trying to be good people as the Torah defines good I might think twice about criticizing them.
 But it is a surprised to me that when the West is systematically being invaded by barbarian hordes from Africa and Muslims-- Christians can't find any problem except for the Jews.
I know Israel treats Muslims very well.  They have complete and equal right as anyone in Israel. But don't think Israel gets any credit for that. And the way I see it, Israel in fact gets no credit.  Why leave these murderous monsters in the midst of Jews. I say ship them all off to the Sudan. And why should the West get upset at Israel? If the West would be smart it would do exactly the same thing. Right now the West is being systematically destroyed by an invasion of Muslims








Abyee holds that one that serves a idol  from fear or love is liable. To the Rambam that means fear the idol might hurt him if he does not serve it. Love means love of its beauty. Rashi says it means fear or love of  a person. In any case the idea is that he is not accepting the idol as his god and still he is liable. Abyee go straight to the case of the high priest that has to bring a she goat if he serves an idol by accident. And Rabbi Yehua the Prince says it even if he serves the idol by accident without relying on a faulty legal decision. Abyee asks what kind of accident is this? If he bowed to a house of idols thinking it was synagogue his heart is towards heaven. If it is a statue then if he he does not know it is an idol and accepted it is he is liable the death penalty--not just a sin offering.
If he did not accept it then it is nothing. So he must have known. So if he knew then why is it an accident? It must be because he served it from fear or love an thought that that was allowed.
Why does Abyee go to Rabbi Yehuda the Prince and not the sages? Because They could say there is no such thing as accidental idolatry except in a case of relying on a faulty legal decision. That is the point I was trying to say yesterday. That is not only do they say the high priest only brings a she goat when he relies on a faulty legal decision but the individual also. I wanted to bring a proof for my idea from the beginning of tracate Horayot. There we have an argument if a individual depends on the decision of the great Sanhedrin [of 71 elders] to serve idols the he is liable to bring a sin offering [also a she goat]. [And the Rambam decided the law like the sages.] It is Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi that says he is not liable.
So what we have in the end of all this is that Abyee can't go to the Sages to get his proof. They could say there is no such thing as accidental idolatry {except relying on a bad legal advice}. What I mean is they probably don't say this. In fact I think it is true they do believe there is such a thing.
But we can't prove it. So Abyee has to go to Rabbi Yehuda.

Since I brought up idols my learning partner mentioned an interesting Meshech Chachmah
משך חכמה

That is the person Meir Simcha Hakohen that wrote the Or Sameiach on the Rambam. This is a book that is the final stage of Jewish thought until Reb Chaim Soloveitchik brought things to a climax in his Magnum Opus Chidushei HaRambam.
Reb Meir Simcha Hakohen  says that with all the miracles that happened because of Moses people might have attributed those miracles to Moses instead of to God. That is how he explains the sin of the spies.
Eldad and Medad had prophesied before that time that Moses would die and Joshua would lead the people to the Land of Israel. [Those were the two people that the spirit of God descended upon when Moshe appointed the Sanhedrin of 70 elders ].  That happened right before the incident of the spies. The spies knew this. They knew that Moses would not take them into the promised land. So they said without Moses it is impossible to enter the land of Israel "because the people there are more might than us." If they thought Moses would be with them this would not have made a difference. They attributed the miracles to Moses







Rabbi Israel Salanter intended there to be a House of Ethics [in every city] that would have books of ethics only, and that people could go into when ever they felt the need for character improvement.


But the books we are talking about here are not Meta Ethics--philosophical ideas about ethics. It is a very specific set of books. It is a two part cannon. Books from the Middle Ages which provide the backbone and intellectual framework. The next part of the set are the books from the direct disciples of Israel Salanter.




The focus of the movement was originally character improvement along with fear of God. [Or perhaps that is just my own interpretation of this movement based on one of the disciples of Rav Israel, Isaac Blazer]. Clearly Navardok thought the main thing is trust in God--along with learning Torah. Slabodka was the "greatness of man." Simcha Zissel had his own take which I never could figure out. [I tried to read his book  Chachma and Musar and could never make out a word.] Ponovicth in Bnei Brak can be considered to some degree to be an offshoot of Navardok ).

The nice thing for me about Musar was in terms of world view issues.

What I am suggesting here is The Musar Movement Act II. Or the Neo Musar Movement. And the idea would in fact be like the original idea of Houses of Ethics that would be open for everyone.
 Now the only time I ever saw an actual House of Ethics was in Netivot in Israel. That was in fact a separate room where people went to learn Musar, and I think in fact it did help people be better that they would otherwise have been.

Another nice thing about a House of Ethics is it is non-denominational. It is not Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. It is just plain traditional Jewish ethics. 

19.11.14

Sanhedrin 61

Abyee goes to the case of a high priest to prove his point that if one serves idols from love or fear, not because he accepts the idol as his god (מקבל עליה כאלוה), then he is liable.
That is he goes to a teaching which says that if you have a high priest that served an idol  by accident then he brings a sin offering only if he depended on his own legal decision or the legal decision of the Sanhedrin. (שגגת מעשה עם העלם דבר) Yehuda the Prince says you only need that he did the act by accident.שגגת מעשה What type of accident is this?
Abyee goes through the logical possibilities and arrives at the conclusion it can only be he know it was an idol but he served it from fear or love.
I wrote about this on the other blog wine women and transcendence but for now I wanted to focus on some thought I had today about this.
First I should mention that the proof of Abyee depends on Yehuda the prince. He can't go to the sages because they have an obvious case of mistake--the priest depended on a faulty legal decision.
At first, I thought to myself that this might explain why we don't go with Abyee in this case. After all the Gemara says openly that we only go with Abyee in six decisions, and this case is not one of them. So I thought "OK this is good to the Gemara [Talmud] and to the Rambam (who decided like Rava here as we all know has to be the case anyway.) [But not to Rava in the Gemara who disagrees even with the idea that Abyee proved his point from R. Yehuda. He says R. Yehuda means by "accidental" that he says "It is  allowed.] That is because Abyee only proved his point to Yehuda, not the sages. The sages could easily say there is not such case as serving idols by accident and the only time someone brings a sin offering for idolatry by accident is when they depended on a faulty decision.

I brought this up with my learning partner and he said my idea is wrong. He focused on the fact that an individual also brings a sin offering for idolatry (Numbers 15) even without depending on a faulty legal decision. [It does not say anything there about a mistaken decision]
[So the sages have to agree that there is such a thing.]

So I asked, "Then why focus on the high priest? Let Abyee go to the simple case of an individual?"

He suggested,  "The Sages might say the individual might bring a sin offering if he depended on a faulty legal decision but not all the conditions were fulfilled for example there was lacking one of the 71 elders."

  But I am confused at this point. It seems to me the sages hold that a individual that depends on a decision of the Sanhedrin even with full conditions is liable. That is what you have in Tractate Horayot page 2 side b.



 So the way I see things [and this is the point I was trying to get to throughout this essay] is that the sages cant be useful for Abyee for they have a simple way for the individual to be liable and the high priest also. It is specifically R. Yehuda the Prince that says an individual that depends on a legal decision is not liable.

Appendix:

1. Rava hold one who serves an idol is only liable if he accepts the idol as his god.
2. The sin offering here is a she goat whether for the high priest or for an individual. The Sanhedrin would have to bring 12 oxen and 12 goats if they made  faulty legal  decision that some idolatry is allowed and the people acted on it.
It is this fact that makes the high priest unique. Because the verse in Leviticus compares him to the people "to cause the people to sin" לאשמת העם. And when the people sin we need two things. One is they depend on a faulty legal decision. the next is that there be an act. And so when the Torah compares the priest to the people we also need these two things












Sleep-walking into World War. Russia and Ukraine



Avoiding  war with Russia is a good idea. I have several reason for saying this. Besides the fact that war between Russia and NATO and the USA would simply morph into WWIII. But there is another reason also.  Donesk  is already part of Russia at least in spirit. And why would anyone think that borders that have been fluid throughout the centuries be worth starting a war for?
 Besides that the USA and Europe already have enough enemies inside them (Muslims).  Who needs more enemies? I think that Europe and the USA have their heart in the right place wanting to stick up for the Ukraine. And that is admirable. But I think the situation on the ground calls for people to step back and let Donsek decide its own fate. And it has already done so.

Also Ukraine and Russia are brothers. Tempers are high right now. this is family feud which if left alone will just work itself out. For other people to get involve dis not polite and could cost the live of millions more.
Maybe I could put this in a different way. I can't stress strongly enough how important it is for all mankind for Russia, Europe and the USA to work together. Not just for the sake of Western Civilization but the very future of humanity

18.11.14



For example lets say you have a p group where every element of the group eventually gets to 1 if you multiply it by itself enough times. This is called a "p to the n" if n is the number of times you are doing this.
Did you know that every subgroup of this p^n that is all the p^n-1, p^n-2, etc are all normal? (normal means gx=xg) I did not know that until I read about p groups in Russian. I also I wanted to share  a way to show how this is true. We will call all the elements of the big group g (i.e. g1 g2 g3 etc) and all the elements of the small group x (i.e. x1 x2 x3  etc.) So what you have is a long string of gx's all lined up with xg's on the opposite side of your equation.
and they all cancel because if you take that many gs with that many x's you get e*e=e*e. What is left on the left side is just one g. and what is left on the right side? Also just one g.

17.11.14

People have heard of Kant's question, "How is synthetic a priori possible?"


First we know that when Kant says "synthetic" he is referring to Leibniz's division of knowledge into analytic and synthetic. But he also means it in a deeper way. He is thinking that some objects are given to the mind. and he is thinking some a priori cognitions are also given to the mind. But then he thinks that the mind does something with them. It combines them into one cognition. [That he calls the metaphysical deduction.]
 This seems to me to just what the Rambam was thinking about acquired understanding שכל הנקנה in LM vol I ch. 25

 That is we have "sechel hanikne" acquired understanding from the Guide for the Perplexed of the Ramabm as meaning knowledge metaphysics- -the unchanging realities in reference to Plato's forms. And to the Rambam it is this acquired knowledge that last for eternity in the next world.

 He modifies this to knowing many things with one knowing. Then he brings the idea that this is what is left of a person in the next world. and then he expands it to knowing everything a human being can know.








My feeling is that it is urgent not to go to war with Russia.

.

My feeling is that it is urgent not to go to war with Russia. True they are sending troops into the Ukraine. And that is not nice. But for this we want to go to nuclear war? I mean that is how wars start. They start with some small incident. And then one party replies. And then other party replies. etc. and tempers grow short. And before you know it bombs are falling all over the place. We don't need a war between NATO and Russia.
Plus consider the Russian position. True the two provinces are on Ukrainian territory. But the people consider themselves Russian.  And in fact most of them probably are Russian. And so Russia sees itself as simply protecting its own people. But even if this were not so, I still think that under no circumstances is a war with Russia justified.

Let us say that Kiev would let these two provinces go to Russia. What would anyone lose?

I might mention that sending military aid is not usually considered a declaration of war. There are lots of levels between sending equipment and advisors as the USA did in Vietnam and  higher levels called small wars. When the USA sends equipment and military aid to different nations, the opposing nations do not usually think that they are justified in attacking the USA. And if they would, the people in the USA would be outraged. There is also such a thing called small wars in which American troops are sent in surgical strikes. You should read about this in the manual of the USA Marine corp, The Small Wars Manual. In any case, I think Russia and Europe and the USA should get along. We are not enemies. And under our noses is growing the most serious enemy to the continued existence of the Human Race- Islam.


This blog is really supposed to be about Torah issues. But as we know human life comes first in Torah law so I thought I should transfer this small essay I wrote on my other blog, Ideas in Torah, and put it here.
I hope this essay does something to reduce tempers and get people to start thinking straight.

The USA has been decommissioning its arsenal steadily for twenty five years. The Russians have been up grading their arsenals. They have underground cities of weapons grade plutonium.

So far the Russians have done nothing except what their policy has always been even in the time of the czars--they consider it their obligation to protect Russians even on foreign soil--exactly like the policy of the USA





The school of Navardok



 But I just wanted to say something about Navardok. That was the school of thought coming after Israel Salanter that was basically about trust in God בטחון without doing anything to get ones needs.
That at least was their official approach. The idea was to sit and learn Torah and do nothing to get ones needs met, and to believe that God would provide. It was just one of the several schools that came from Israel Salanter. So I don't want to make it seem that this is the official Ethics (Jewish) doctrine.
But Navardok is definitely the most colorful of all the schools of Musar.





People would share what ever they had believing that they would get more from somehow and lo and beyond it always worked.
My feeling about this is that it works only if you accept it when you hear it and then you don't ever leave it. But when one goes out of it and says, "Well I can do some effort also as the Torah itself says, and that will not hurt anything"--then it stops working. And then even if one tries to get back inside, the door remains closed.
The problem is  hypocrisy is what you get when you mix Torah with money. It starts out for the sake of heaven but once money gets into the mix it loses it numinous aspect. This is a conundrum that the Jewish people have tried to deal with for ages. On one hand we want to support people that are learning Torah Lishma--for its own sake and not for money. But once we give them money it starts rapidly to decay into being all about the money. The Rambam tried to solve this problem simply. Don't give them money. Tell them "Get a job" and he made it clear you cant accept money for learning Torah. It is not a business. That is how the Rambam was. He has his perfect system all worked out the the zillionth detail and he did not see any questions.






16.11.14

I wrote about the high priest כהן גדול the other blog Wine Women and Transcendence.
I might try to bring some of the information here. But for now I wanted to concentrate on the fact that the sages of the Talmud use the verse ''to cause the people to sin" (לאשמת העם) to make the high priest equal in status to the people in terms of his needing to have not just sinned accidentally but also he needs to have made a mistaken decision in order for him to bring a sin offering. שגגת מעשה עם העלם דבר. עיין מסכת הוריות דף ז ע''ב וסנהדרין סא ע''ב I hope this is clear. That is we have an normal individual. If he sins accidentally he brings a sin offering. That is simple. We have the representatives of the people -the Sanhedrin. If they make a faulty legal decision and the people act on it  the need to bring a sin offering. So in the case of the whole people we have two separate things. A sin and a faulty legal decision. If we compare the high priest to the people then he will also need both these things. And according to the sages of the Talmud he in fact needs both things.

They way they learn this is that we could logically think he is like a king because he brings a guilt offering on doubt  like a king. We could also compare him to the Sanhedrin because he brings a ox for  like the Sanhedrin. And so the verse in the Bible Leviticus 4 tells us he is like the people in order to solve this conundrum.

Now I asked on my other blog what do they do with idolatry? [In Numbers 15 there is a sin offering  for idolatry.] By idolatry there is no mention of  a high priest. and there the sages still say he is like the people that need both conditions in order to bring a sin offering. My learning partner suggested that there is no where to put such a verse. That is, there is no mention of a high priest, so where could the Torah have written "to cause the people to sin?"לאשמת העם.

  I said "So what? The Torah makes him like an individual by idolatry in that he also brings a single she goat. So why no make the comparison complete?"

  He answered: "Because as far as the Torah is concerned,  it already told you everything you need to know about the high priest. That fact that he brings a she goat is just one particular thing. As far as the Torah in concerned everything else about the high priest stays the same."
 This brings me to the subject of sin and guilt. I would like to suggest there is natural moral order. That is a Platonic plane of existence where there are moral laws. And this plane of existence intersects this physical world. To go into reason why I think this plane exist you have to go to the essay of Michael Huemer (defending objective morality). But bear with me for arguments sake. So I ask what happens if one has sinned against this moral plane? I claim that there is guilt. And I believe this guilt is real. And I think nature uses this guilt to propagate the species, just like she uses anything at her disposal to gain her ends. It is why guys prefer to have sex rather than masturbate. It is because of this guilt that nature makes sure guys feel if they don't listen to her. And I claim that nature uses guilt is lots of ways -in ant colonies and in bee colonies. But what happens if one has guilt?




 But if one has already sinned and has guilt what then? Nachman from Uman devoted his life to answering this question. He worked to find ways of absolution for sin after it has been done. He discovered ten psalms that he said take away the guilt of sin after it has been done. Not that one is allowed to sin. But after the fact he said these ten psalms take away objective guilt They are: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 79, 90, 105, 137, 150. But you have to know that if you are a Russian and you want to say them, the numbering of the Russians is different. The reason is because they put psalm 9 and 10 together. But then at the very end the numbers begin to match again. 
When I asked Reb Shmuel Berenabum [of the Mir in NY] about learning Kabalah he did not seem very enthusiastic.
This was after I had returned from Israel to NY. By that time I had been learning kabalah anyway fro some time.
His answer was finish Shas first. I said I already did. He said do it again.
[Finishing Shas means to have completed the Babylonian Talmud once].
My point is that whether it was Kabalah or even Hashkafa (world view) issues the Mir was interested only in Talmud.


Rav Hutner wrote the well known book the Fear of Isaac on world view issues. And Rav Freifed also had a lot of interest in those subjects. The closest you got at the Mir to anyone with some knowledge in those areas was Don Segel the mashgiach of Ponovitch who was brought over to the Mir during the years that I was there. It is not like they were against the Kabalah. They had the entire set of the writings of the Ari in the library. But the considered kabalah "hoiche zachin" high things not for everyone.

But today I would have to agree that the balanced approach is best. I regret not doing more work on the Gemara in the years I was in Israel. It does seem to me today that not just in order to understand the Kabalah but even to get into the essence of it one does in fact need to have learned Shas well a couple of times. Without that it does seem to create delusions in people that learn it without proper preparation

15.11.14

Communism says property is theft. I say communism is theft. The anti establishment hippies were out to take down the system. Until they became the system.

 And in spite of the USA being built on the John Locke idea, still the idea of loving mother nature was definitely in the air in the 60's and people wanted to get away from the rat race to nature. and what American family did not have its weekend camping trips and vacations? And part of this back to Nature ideal is the mysticism of the 60's. The idea that there is more to man than rational man. And this hippie back to nature and love of mysticism is what drove the 60's and it is what drives people today to get involved with Breslov


This tension. Locke versus Rousseau. The hippies versus the establishment. Ultimately was the same as the USSR (the system built of the revolutionary ideas and the General Will of the people )  against the USA (the system built on John Locke and individual rights). Yet in American home everyone became a back to nature freak on the weekends and a John Locke working guy on Monday morning. I just could not make the transfer to Monday mornings very well. . Ultimately Rousseau was not right. Nature is not benign. But John Locke was wrong also about some important matters. "Tabla raca"-give me a break! Neither were right but both were right about some things.

Appendix:
The difference between a John Locke society and a Rousseau type is the first is a set and the later is a group with some type of group operation between the members. But if that was all there was to it then the John Locke approach does not seem to have anything going for it. Just a bunch of isolated members? What is is so great about that? Well nothing on its own. But one thing we do get in a John Locke society is "ought" not "must." Morality and human relationship boil down to their true essence--"ought" not "must." In a society based on Rousseau all there is is "must." And this is not just in theory but in practice also.
So I have to side with John Locke all the same. Since the essence of morality is "ought" and the attempted forcing of people to give to others is not moral.
And with Rousseau the individual has no rights. The only authority is the collective will of the masses. And the collective will of the masses is a monster, not a pleasant puppy.

Communism says property is theft. I say communism is theft.
The anti establishment hippies were out to take down the system. Until they became the system.











14.11.14

An amazing amount of ideas from Natan the false prophet of Shabatai Tzvi found their way into Orthodox Judaism. Rav Ovadia Joseph was aware of this and tried to protect the Sephardi world from the most pernicious aspects of it. But for the most part people reading mystical Ashenazic books from Orthodox Judaism get enough and too much of it.  The best advice is anything that smacks of mysticism in Ashkenazic books written after Reb Chaim Vital--don't go anywhere near them. [The exceptions to this would be the Gra (Eliyahu from Vilnius and his disciple Reb Chaim) and the Ramchal (Moshe Chaim Lutzato),]
But if you want verification you could check out some of the research into this being done at Hebrew University. I discovered this independently but apparently the professors over there have written a few papers on this subject. I think Joseph Dan, but I forget.
The new book of collected writings of Gershom Sholem has some references to these newer papers in the back.
This is a sensitive problem because there are saints/tzadikim that might borrow unknowingly some motifs, but still be actual tzadikim. It is not an accusation you want to be throwing around when ever something looks a little weird. In fact, the more normal some group seems on the outside, the more suspicious I am. An extra emphasis on rituals make me wonder what are they hiding underneath the facade.
___________________________________________________________________________








 Talking with God where ever you are. Not in any formal way but as one talks with his friend.
) Learning fast. To have short sessions every day in Torah in this manner. That is to take the Old Testament and read it word for word -a few pages in one session- out loud.  Then take a Mishna and start from Brachot and say it word for word -also a few pages. And then take the Gemara and say it also word for word a few pages. And the same with the writings of the Ari. Then [based on the ideas of Maimonides] i say to learn then the work of creation -Physics, Mathematics,  Chemistry (What the Rambam calls  Physics includes Chemistry).

) When one has fallen and wants to come back into wholesomeness, they place a person that  fears G-d in the door to prevent him from coming back into holiness. This applies to Breslov itself which is the most difficult obstacle to overcome. Just when one has discovered some amazing advice and wants to start doing it, there will always be Breslov Hasid there to tell him that he does not really understand or that he should run to some grave of some tzadik --or other things. Like the Litvaks used to say about Breslov "Anything but Torah."


13.11.14

  There was once a  student of Rav Isaac Hutner in Israel.
Rav Isaac Hutner had already started  Chaim Berlin in N.Y.

  This student got involved in Breslov.
Rav Hutner called him into his office and told him it is one or the other,  "If you are going to be Breslov, you can't learn here."
When he was called in Rav Hutner had a Guide For The Perplexed on his desk. In Breslov that is equivalent to having the most offensive book possible in front of your face.

  I have a reason for bringing this story here. It is not what one would think. This student was showing up for the regular two sessions of the --morning and afternoon but he would go to Breslov [Rechov Salant] to pray at night. Rav Hutner did not have a problem with that.
Nor did he have a problem with Nachman from Breslov and Uman. He said if it would happen that someone would find  a book of  Nachman that had been hidden, he would not sleep until he got a copy of it. And for a whole year his main learning besides Gemara was the Lekutai Moharan of  Nachman of Breslov. (In Chaim Berlin it was on his learning shtender [desk] a entire year.)
  The point is rather that Brelsov is a cult. They use the greatness of  Nachman and his advice to draw people into their cult.  And the cult of Breslov has nothing to do with Torah or with  Nachman.
The advice and ideas of  Nachman are used as conscious  traps to lure people in.

   A few months went by a the student was a wandering American student  in Israel in a time when there was no such entity. Lost and forlorn. Eventually Rav Freifeld called Rav Hunter and begged him to let him back in.
  The thing to understand here that you do not see on the surface level of this story is that Rav Hutner was building a kind of Noah's Ark. Not before the flood (the world outside of Torah), but after the flood is already here. And this student was part of the inner circle. He was being groomed for greatness you might say. I can relate to this because I had a similar type of relationship with Rav Freifeld until I too upset the boat.


  There is a lot to discuss here and I have made this essay to short. I hope to fill in some gaps for people but I have had  along day and I had plenty of other things I wanted to discuss on the Internet like the offering the high priest has to bring in he does idolatry by accident. Also the subject of Israel Salanter. Also the Aristotelian approach of the Rambam and the Neo-Platonic of the Ramban (Nachmanides, רמב''ן).The way to differentiate when you are talking is to say "Ramban" with the accent on the last syllable, and Rambam with emphasis on the first.












12.11.14

Belief in a Tzadik



In terms of the status of a tzadik [saint] and how important it is to be close to him or her in order to achieve the Garden of Eden (or be saved from eternal damnation) seems to be an argument among different people. That is not only do they argue about whom is the tzadik that one should believe in, but even if you get a whole group of people that believe in one particular tzadik, it is difficult to get them to agree on how much one should believe in that tzadik. 


Some would suggest a strong position. That believing in chasidut is everything and one who does not believe is damned. Others might take weak position. That it is good to believe, but not so essential as the more radical opinion.
Then,  is the question: "What exactly is it one is supposed to believe about the tzadik?" Or who could be considered a valid line of tradition coming from him? Or who is a valid disciple, and who is a bad disciple?

But if we look at the Torah itself, we do not find that believing in any tzadik is essential.
The Torah itself looks like a very radical kind of Monotheism.


If we look in the Rambam/Maimonides it seems clear that the Torah was willing to make concessions for people in order to bring them to radical monotheism. (E.g, service in the Temple was so people don't go and offer sacrifices to idols instead.) It looks like the opinion of the Torah is pure unadulterated Monotheism and yet she is willing to make allowances for human frailty.
There is a debate in fact about this. Some people hold that the Torah is already radical monotheism. Others hold the Torah is intending to lead people to radical monotheism  but  that she is willing to make allowances for people that need help to get there. You can probably think of plenty of examples on your own but let me just mention one that comes to mind right now. Elimelech was the king of the Philishtim (Phoenicians) and he was visited by God in a dream and told to go to Avraham [Abraham] to ask Avraham to pray for him. You could say that it would have been better for him to pray to God directly but God knew he was not going to do so, so he told him to ask Avraham. Jacob said "The angel that has saved me from all my troubles should bless the children." Who was this angel? And would not this count as praying to a Mediator? [And the Rambam considered praying to a mediator is the very essence of idolatry]





 










11.11.14

When the Sanhedrin makes a mistake and allows idolatry [or any other of the 42 types of sin for which one brings a sin offering] and there is a person תלמיד שהגיע להוראה that knows they made  a mistake and depends on their decision, then he has to bring his own sacrifice.  [That is the first teaching (Mishna משנה) in tractate Horayot הוריות] But if he actually knows it is forbidden is not he doing it on purpose? (You can't bring a sacrifice for doing a sin on  purpose). The Gemara says it means he thought mistakenly that there is mitzvah to listen to the Sanhedrin even when you know they are wrong. But since there is no such mitzvah, he must bring a sin offering. This is not what you hear in Shabat table Judaism.


But also this brings up the interesting subject of what  the Mishna means by a disciple that has reaches the ability to make a decision [תלמיד שהגיע להוראה]. The Gemara explains this means he has finished Shas [Talmud] and understands it (גמיר וסביר).


At any rate to get to the one point I have been trying to get to through this essay. the two points of Reb Chaim from Voloshin. [Disciple of the Gra]. No favoritism  in decision making. And the law of the Gemara.
This came up in a letter he wrote to a famous rabbi who had made a halacha decision Reb Chaim knew was wrong. He points out in the\ letter he is only interested in the law Gemara. And also that he does not care who makes a halacha decision not like the Gemara. They are wrong period. And this relates to what I was saying at the beginning of this essay. Ordination stopped after Yehuda the prince and Ravina and Rav Ashi were the end of horah the end of the period of decision making (סוף הוראה)
The Maharshal quotes the Rambam about this idea that the period of decision making ended with the last amoraim. And this gives this idea extra weight since the Maharshal was no fan of the Mishna Torah of the Rambam. The fact that people today can claim halachic authority going back to Sinai and are not laughed out of town shows how far we have fallen.

Now here is where this essay should have started-on the question of how to determine a  particular law based on the Talmud and poskim. But I have had a long day. In short what responsible people do is  learn the Gemara with the Rosh and then the Tur with the Beit Yoseph. And that seems in fact to the best way in a practical sense. But to go into the whole topic right now is difficult.

 Basically the Gemara gives the rules for how the decision is reached when you are in a Mishna. Also there are a few rules in the Gemara itself to decide between Amoraim. The commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch  almost always disagree with the decision of the Shulchan Aruch ( שלחן ערוך) based on the Gemara itself or what they call the "poskim" which in their terminology means Rishonim [medieval authorities]. The term was misappropriated for Achronim and is now used as a weasel word.






10.11.14

Doing idolatry by accident

Doing idolatry or any of 42 types of sin by accident means one has to bring a sin offering

There are 43 types of sin for which one brings a sin offering. Six of them one brings a offering that goes up and down.[קרבן עולה ויורד] A rich person brings a goat. A poor person brings two turtle doves. a dirt poor person brings a flour offering. The others not so. The others for people like you and me we would have to bring either  a female from goats or  sheep. But idolatry is different. Everyone has to bring a she goat.Even the high priest. and even the king. but there is a difference between a high priest and the average person. The high priest has to have both a mistaken decision about the law and also be accidental.  העלם דבר עם שגגת מעשה
Abyee uses this fact to show that there can be such a thing an accidental idolatry.
 For if idolatry needs intention then how could there ever be such a thing as doing it by accident.? If you do it by accident without intention you did nothing at all!
[To see this in the Torah [the Old Testament] you have to go to the beginning of Leviticus where it talks about sin offerings and divides the subject into the congregation and the high priest and the individual. And then you have to go to the Book of Numbers [ch. 15] where it discuss the sacrifices for transgressing the sin of idolatry for the individual and the entire congregation, and it leaves out the high priest]





I want to go into all these issues. But I also want to go into  a side issue about the idea of a mistaken decision.  No everyone agrees that the high priest has to make a mistaken decision in order to bring a sin offering for idolatry. Yehuda the Prince says all he needs is to do it by accident. But the Sanhedrin definitely needs to make a mistaken decision in order to bring a sacrifice.
That is: for the Sanhedrin to bring a sin offering they have to rule about some aspect of one of the 43 types of sin that it is allowed and the majority of the Jewish people living in Israel have to follow that decision and act on it. Then they bring twelve oxen and twelve goats.
But if there is an individual who knows that the Sanhedrin made  a mistake and he acts on their decision thinking mistakenly that it is a mitzvah to listen to the sages, then he has to bring his own sacrifice.

The first thing you will ask is the Rashi "Even if they tell you left is right and right is left." That Rashi is brought in the subject of Zaken Mamre. There a person goes publicly against the Sanhedrin.
So now everything is clear. When you know the Sanhedrin made  a mistake you are not allowed to listen to them. But also you are not allowed to make a public statement against them.









9.11.14

I admit Musar (Classical ethics from the Middle Ages) is only a first order theory in ethics

I admit Musar מוסר (Classical Ethics from the Middle Ages) is only a first order theory in ethics, and that this fact is what makes it uninteresting, and perhaps even not effective. The very first Musar book,The Duties of the Heart [חובות לבבות] did however put a second order theory in the beginning of his book. It is a modification of neo-Platonism. But Musar was not meant to be second order (Meta-Musar). But there were people that went through the trouble to give a second order theory, e.g, Saadia Geon, Maimonides (the Rambam). . [ But his basic focus is to find justification for the commandments of God.] A kind of preliminary approach can be found for the commandments based on a mystic approach can be found in the writings of Isaac Luria, but he is dealing with connections in higher worlds and has not brought his ideas down to the human level. But to accept any part of the mystic approach you have to get over the hurdle that Kant made.(note 1) Or you could dispense with the mystic approach completely and settle for the Metaphysical Aristotelian approach of the Rambam/Maimonides or the metaphysical Neo Platonic approach of Saadia Geon and the Duties of the Heart.

My suggestion is to learn Musar with its underlying set of justifications. It is the difference between a doctor telling a person, "Don't eat  such and such" and a doctor telling the same person "Don't eat such and such a thing because you will die in three months if you do, and the reason is that you are allergic to it and it has a cumulative effect." The only problem with this idea is that it is time consuming.
(note 1) You could get over this hurdle with Schopenhauer. But if one tries to ignore it I think one will trip and fall. Just imagine you are running a four laps around the field and there are hurdles in front of you. And you decide to think positive :"there is no hurdle".
Hegal  also is a highly metaphysical system

  I tend to think of Hegel as a kind of intuitionist along the lines of Prichard. The reason I tend to trust Kelly Ross is on philosophical issues I have spend some time learning I have found him to be remarkably insightful. So I tend to trust him also on issue like Hegel in which I know little. It is the same reason that when I learn Talmud with my learning partner and we disagree that I tend to think that he is probably right --since after arguing with him I usually find out that in fact he did understand the material better than me. It is called "faith in the wise."
I think everyone can agree that Hegel has some important points. But he falls flat on his face when he discuss social issues. His best work is analysis of other philosophers and also in making his own metaphysical system.


7.11.14

Breslov Hasidm are insane

Breslov Hasidm are insane. Especially the leaders. This is in fact the case with all Hasidim. It is just other groups are insane with no redeeming features. Breslov at least has the advantage of having a true tzadik they attempt to follow

The people that get involved in the teachings of Breslov are what used to be called beatniks and hippies. But with a Jewish orientation instead of an eastern religion orientation.
This is not so different from the people that were attracted to the Baal Shem Tov. I mean if there were two parties on in town on Friday night--the local religious leader  or the Baal Shem Tov's which would you go to?  You see my point.
And this would apply also to the groups that were secretly following the Shatz. If you are a Jew in the Pale of Settlement 250 years ago, and there are two parties in town on Friday night.



There is I think a fundamental uncertainty about whether to be square or a hippie. On one hand the square Gra, Rambam thing seems to be what the Torah is getting at. On the other hand the Hippie thing seems to be open to a larger array of value.


However, I have to admit that my thoughts about Square versus Hippie is not based on some kind of rigorous analysis but on people I have know that represent both types. My parents (Philip and Leila Rosten) were square in the best possible meaning of the word. Reb Shmuel Berenbaum (of the Mir  in New York) and his wife/Rebitzin were squares. They also represented a very high type of this mentality. But there was also Einstein [a Bohemian a proto type Hippie] . So I fall somewhere in the middle. I am not however thinking taking down the rich is the solution to todays problematic world and I have noticed a remarkable tendency of the Hippies (whether Jewish or Eastern Religion) to fall into idolatry of some persona and become short order zombies.) So my tendency is to lean towards the square side.



No one who had gone through the 60's was immune. Spiritual awakening was in the air. But it was a certain kind of spiritual awakening. An anti establishment awakening. People became baali teshuva because it was against traditional middle class values. It was not an expression of valuing the Torah. But rather  a rebellion against the values of the parents and establishment. And to a large degree this still classifies and describes well the general baal teshuva. And these are the people that became the leaders of Breslov. Just like the anti establishment hippies became the establishment today in the USA. and are in fact busy taking down America with the rest of the world cheering.