Isaac Luria

In the Torah every ''vav''in front of a verb is a ואו מהפך. It turns the tense from future to past and visa versa. This usage stopped by the time psalms and Ecclesiastes were written.  The reason modern Hebrew does not use the reversing vav is because it goes by later sources. That is they assume the Torah was written in a special way because it was given by inspiration from God, and does not tell us about the normal usage.
So what I think is the Torah means it both ways. Everything that did happen will happen. So when it says ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור it means just like the literal meaning-- and God will say let there be light.  And so on for the whole Torah. When it says ייוצא השם ישראל ממצרים It means in the future God will save Israel from every troubling  times.

 What I am getting at is the idea that you have in the Isaiah "את השמים החדשים ואת הארץ החדשה אשר אני עושה the new heavens and the new earth that I am making."  and the idea that Israel goes through lots of periods of trouble. and you see in the book of Judges that God often sends some kind of person to help. So I think that these kinds of events in the Torah were not one time types of things but rather things that will continue to be repeated.

If you read Isaac Luria  this kind of idea might resonate a little more with you. It is kind of mystical. I don't mean that I am expecting a new earth. Rather a kind of spiritual light  and understanding that I think will come.
I found a lot of life and inspiration  in Torah. The way I see Torah is it teaches how to connect to the Life and the Good. That is after all what its says in Deuteronomy. "Behold I have put before you the Life and the Good (i.e. the Torah)." There is a deal you can't turn down. And to some degree I can justify this. But I do not deny there are people of the highest caliber that can defend other paths. There is Edward Feser (a Catholic), and Kelley Ross  and John Searle [all in California]. All these and more can defend different systems. Edward Feser defends Catholicism not just from an intellectual viewpoint but also from a deep kind of spirituality.

There have been only a few times in  my life I was desperate enough to spend time begging God for help. This is one of them. I am in a situation in which I do not know whether to move or not. The downstair's  neighbor is a kelipa [the dark side has taken over inside of him, and it seems to be spreading.] Even though I learn Torah and go to shul [synagogue] every day, the local pastor has said I could stay in a guest room he made. What makes this difficult is that usually when I have moved in the past I was making things worse rather than better. So even though this situation has been going on like this for two years still I have tried to depend on God in this way: I say to myself if He wanted me to move then he would make it happen. If He does not force the issue then He does not want it.

There have been other time when I was absolutely in need of some kind of salvation and I was answered. And sometimes not. When I was growing up there was a time of great turmoil in the USA. The idea of seeking the truth was in the air. This was in Southern California. And once on a vacation with a friend of my mothers we were up in the mountains [maybe Big Bear]. I asked God then while alone in some forest area to guide me towards Truth. [With a Capital "T"]. I think to some degree this prayer was answered. Afterwards I began to study Torah more what we were doing our home. After  a few years  I believe God guided my steps to two very great yeshivas --Shar Yashuv and the Mir in NY.


.Without the context of Musar [Ethics] you can't really learn  how to live according to the Torah from him.
I should mention that the excommunication of the Gra I hold to be valid according to law.  But as far as the groups that the excommunication was intended for I think the Gra was right. They are teaching the teachings of the Shatz {Shabatai Tzvi}  and so I avoid them as much as possible.

I meant to explain the social aspect of the yeshiva world a few essays back.
And the marriage aspect if the yeshiva world is a major factor.

But this does not mean this works without belief in the importance of learning Torah.

You cant recreate the yeshiva environment without this basic belief. The attempt to do so is why there are so many cults out there.

While is true that just a drop of learning Torah does not seem to help,  still  if  I had been part of the yeshiva world, then I would  be happily married today. I took myself out of the yeshiva world.  But that does not mean to door back is open.  I can't rejoin the yeshiva world in any realistic way. 
Rejoining the yeshiva world is impossible,  I myself try to learn a little Torah every day and I also pray a little asking God for his help in my own words. And this is about all I can advice others also. Learn a little Torah every day, and try to tell God in your own words how sad you are that you have fallen and you can't find  help anywhere and everyone you know has rejected you. Tell this to God every day and ask him for forgiveness and guidance every day for as long as you live. I believe someday you will start to see things change for the better.

I have no idea why you are going through your problems. My best suggestion is to learn Torah and Musar and go to a Litvak yeshiva in order to learn in a Litvak yeshiva environment. The Torah I believe can take you out of your problems 

I do not do this much I admit. But still every word of Torah I manage to learn I consider to be worth more that all the gold in the Federal Reserve.
Yeshivas that are legitimate have no reason to be friendly because they are not trying to make a cult. In order to learn Torah, you do have to overcome the initial ignition obstacles.

An added related idea to the above idea:

My reasoning about the Musar (Ethics) aspect of Lithuanian yeshivas is based on a few things. First Reasoning from the Old Testament and the Talmud I think Musar [Ethics written during the Middle Ages] gives an accurate description of Torah Morality more than any other writings.
This is you might think a weak justification. But for myself when I think of how to repent on my sins I think automatically about Musar. I don't think about any alternatives because all the alternatives seem to me to be intellectually dishonest.  The great thing about Musar is it does not claim to be divinely revealed. It is simply telling over in the basic path of Torah. People that learn it for other reasons than fining out what the Torah tells us will not be good people. Musar is mainly just information. And people can do with information whatever they want and in fact often use it in bad ways.  Still for those who want to know what the Torah tells us there is nothing as accurate as Musar.

Later movements like the one the Gra put into excommunication have the outer form of Torah with lots of rituals but they change the inner essence to be worship of human beings. So it can't be used as a source of information about what the Torah requires of us.

Christians often help others in time of need with no thought of personal reward but rather because of their belief that this is what God requires. This is certainly a major tenet of Torah law which believing Christians certainly put into practice. The trouble is the ביטול המצוות (nullification of the commandments) and the problem of worship of  a person. So that does not seem like much of an option.

 So to know what the Torah [Old Testament] requires of me I feel I need to go to books of Jewish Ethics of the Middle Ages. I should mention my older brother David agreed with me on this issue. I had seen in a book that Fear of God is good for length of days. I understood that to mean Musar. And so when my older brother had a health issue recently I told him this. I mentioned specifically the book Duties of the Heart. I said to him that this book I had seen my friends of our parents as being a basic introduction to what Torah requires of us. And I said that I thought learning it would help him. He said he agrees 100%. (I should mention that all Jewish homes in those days had a least one book explaining the basic ideas of the Torah. In our home was the Old Testament in English and Hebrew plus This is my God  by Herman Wouk

Talmud Bava Metzia Shavuot

In the Talmud in Shavuot [page 44a]

 The question is that the Gemara concludes like Rav  Joseph and that is how the Rambam decides. The question is what does the Rambam do with the Gemara in Bava Metzia in which Rav Nachman says about a משכון [collateral for  a loan] that even though one can use it he is not liable in אונסים [armed robbers].

I also wanted to point out why the Rif in our Gemara in Shavuot says the law straightforwards that the lender that loses the pledge is like a שומר שכר paid guard, and in a case of armed robbers, he loses only the amount of the collateral not the whole loan. The reason is quite elegant. It comes out of the steady progression of the Gemara itself to reach that point.
The Mishna says in an argument about a case when the pledge was lost  that the lender loses only the amount the pledge was worth. Shmuel said he loses the whole loan. [he was talking about when the borrower said so openly.] R Eliezer says the lender does not lose anything and R Akiva says he loses the loan. If the pledge is worth the entire amount then why would R Eliezer disagree? So everyone disagrees with Shmuel. Their argument is about R. Isaac that the lender owns the pledge. But if it was taken not at the time of the loan everyone agrees with R Isaac. So it is at the time of the loan and the disagreement is if a guard of a lost object is considered to be paid or not. But that is only if he needs to pledge. If you follow the logic of the Gemara here you can see why the Rif (Isaac Alfasi) says that nothing matters the lender that loses the pledge loses only the amount it was worth. I can't go into it this minute but by following the logic of the Talmud you can see how he was led to this conslution step by step.

The key is to remember that if we don't hold by Shmuel then it does not matter if the borrower said it is against the  loan or not. And if it is at the time of the loan of not also makes no difference since we go by R Akiva against R Eliezer. And even if the lender needs the pledge we still consider he is doing a mitzvah and so gets the coin of Rav Joseph and so is  a שומר שכר

There is one question I have even though I have not even gotten to learn Tosphot properly yet. The Rif does as I say take all the divisions and throws them out, and most of this you can see in the Gemara itself. The last division though I find difficult. If they all hold by R. Isaac that the pledge is owned when it was taken not at the time of the loan, and their argument is at the time of the loan and it goes by the debate between Raba and Rav Joseph, then there is a difference! A pledge taken not at the time of the loan  is owned, and for a pledge taken at the time of the loan, the lender is only a שומר שכר [paid guard]. So why does the Rif say for a pledge taken even not at the time of the loan he is a שומר שכר. He should say if taken not at time of loan he owns it and if taken at time of loan he is a paid guard.

From what I can tell Rashi answers this question in Bava Metzia. [That is he explains the Gemara there in a way that can help us understand the Rif in Shavuot--that is we can say perhaps the Rif was learning like Rashi.] He says on pg 84 that the pledge is owned completely only until the loan is paid. He says openly that what Rabbi Isaac means is that the lender is not a paid nor unpaid guard. He is an owner. But the ownership only exists until the second the borrower comes to pay back the loan. So this is not what I wrote in my ideas in Bava Metzia and I am sad to say I have to go back and correct my mistake. I was thinking around page that the lender owns the object completely.

Does this help us? Maybe. But still it looks like we still end up that for the pledge taken not at the time of the loan he is more than a paid guard--he owns it and thus is liable even in a case it was stolen by force. That is  a case the paid guard would not have to  pay for. So we still are in a mess concerning the Rif.  And we still have to figure out how all this applies to the case of  pledge in chapter 9 of Bava Metzia.


Though learning Torah is important I do not think it is the only area of value.
It is also important to have  good hobbies even if not for the sake of  a vocation.  Start to learn ham radio and computers and also a trade like being a locksmith. 

The main reason I say this is because my parents were against the idea of using Torah as a vocation. This was not their idea alone but it is in the Torah itself. כל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה סופה בטילה וגוררת עוון. All Torah that does not have work with it is in the end worthless. 

And though I have heard people make an excuse like the Torah is their vocation. But that is even worse than using Torah for money. It is lying about what the Torah says for the sake of money. It does not get any lower than that.
Concerning the presidential debates I don't have a lot to say. Mainly my feeling is that people have  a right to their own money.  I don't see the idea of the Democrats that everyone should have the same amount of money as being a worthy goal. Thus any Republican candidate I am for. It does not matter who it is.
But I realize that I lot of people don't share this view. I encountered this growing up in Southern. California. Then in NY I was there during the time there was a Democratic mayor during which time Jews felt under siege as in a time of the pogroms. Then I was in Israel during the rule of the Left wing Labor party in which I loaned someone 100 shekels and they returned my loan of 100 shekels which at the time [about 6 months later] they returned it to me was worth ten shekels. That is when ever the Left is in Power, they destroy society.

someone asked me, "Why do we need society?" I realized right then and there what the cognitive problem is. It is Rousseau. It is the idea that Nature is loving and benign. Without Society, we would all be living in paradise.

This is needless to say not like the picture we have from the Oral and Written Law. In the Torah people are not considered to be automatically good. Rather we have a good inclination and a Yetzer HaRa--an evil inclination. Not all of our desires are good and should be fulfilled. People can do evil. And not just because of not having as much material goods as the next guy.

I should not really have to explain this to anyone who has every learned even one page of Bava Metzia. But sadly Rousseau has gotten into everyone's nonthinking.

I should mention that any Republican has values that are much close to the Torah than the Democratic party. To vote Republican is not just a statement of Torah values. It also can prove to be the first step to get out of the low and terrible place that the USA has come to. The world of family values and wholesome society is so far gone that some people have even forgotten that that was once what the USA was like.

I have good deal of mixed feelings about Musar Lithuanian kind of Yeshivas. In one way they are palaces of Torah. One can go to one of these kind of places and gain the type of thing that people come to expect in a character building environment. [It is not the Jewish equivalent of the Boy Scouts because it concentrates on Talmud and Musar learning.--not outdoor skills.] But it still in very close to the Boy Scouts in its basic goals of creating moral decent people.
But it has a higher objective beyond this. It intends to create  kind of community around it. One of the most essential aspects of a Litvak Yeshiva is the "Shiduch."[The marriage offer].
There is no Constitution but still there is a set of unspoken rules. On one hand I would like to advocate this kind of thing for all peoples. But as all human institution it has flaws and is no better than the people that run it.  So while as a concept it is a worthy thing still everything depends on the men and women in charge of running it.
The first generation after Europe had some very great people--Shmuel Berenbaum, Rav Hutner, Aaron Kotler and Moshe Feinstein. But that just goes to prove my point. It was the presence of great and dedicated people that made the yeshiva world in the USA what it was.

Just for background information. The basic idea is you have a study hall in which people study Talmud in pairs or alone. Then at around 12 PM is one class given by a "rosh yeshiva". If it is good yeshiva it is  a class on his own new ideas developed over about 20 years of studying the same material in depth. A lower level is  a rosh yeshiva that reads the ideas of others [like Reb Chaim or the Ketzot etc.] and says them over.  This later type is not a very high level but it also is legitimate.
Then there is "Musar Seder" for learning ethics. The best student is in general offered the hand of the Rosh Yeshiva's Daughter. And often he becomes the next Rosh Yeshiva. The other students are offered the hands of the daughters of other people in the community. How they would make a living after getting married is usually a difficult issue. This I have written about before. But in spite of the drawbacks this is a workable system and as  a rule it produces people of high moral character.

[I am myself in Uman right now which is not a yeshiva kind of environment. But I do try to hold on to learning Torah by the skin of my teeth. It is not easy. That is why I suggest learning in a yeshiva environment if possible.]

The Rambam has an idea that people can worship a false representation of God. [He is a kind of predecessor to Kant in that way.] I forget the exact context. But once Muslims stopped worshiping the God of the Universe and instead started worship the god of the Koran then it is idolatry because it is a false representation.


The son of the Rambam against Pantheism.

The son of the Rambam [Rav Avraham ] wrote a short book called מלחמות השם  concerning the  attacks on his father, the Rambam. A large part of the book deals with the problems of pantheism. People were unhappy with the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam because it states clearly that the world was created by God and it is not God. It is not made of His Divine substance and has no pieces of Him inside. A lot of people at the time had pantheistic beliefs about the Torah just as all the religious world does today and they were upset that the Rambam was attacking their beliefs.

Nowadays the strategy has changed from attacking the Rambam to claiming that he agrees with their pantheism.

The Rambam held that God made the world and he is not the world. Instead of the idea "everything is Godliness" the Rambam held that only God is God, and everything else is not God.

There has been an attempt to finagle pantheism into Torah by Rav Shick [Moharosh]. And he was doing this because did not read the Guide of the Rambam. So instead of gaining his ideas about Torah from the Rambam, he got his ideas elsewhere.
[I am not happy about criticizing Rav Shick. But still when he is wrong, he is wrong. If he wanted to present the Bahavagad Gita, the Upanishads or Spinoza, then I would not have anything to complain about. But when he presents pantheism as the faith of the Torah I have to object.]

In any case the book goes into the events surrounding the person the Guide was written for, Joseph Aknin. There was a Daniel who had written a lots of questions about the Mishne Torah and the Guide and sent them to Rav Avraham in a respectful manner. And Rav Avraham wrote back answering him. Then after some years this same Daniel wrote a commentary on Kohelet and in a veiled way attacked the Rambam.
At this same time, the people in  France had signed an excommunication against the Guide and the Ramban (Nachmanides) wrote his famous letter pleading with them to rescind their excommunication. Rav Avraham was apparently aware of the events going on in France also.


New songs for the glory of the God of Israel q86 q84 q83  q82  q81  q80  q78  i am not saying any of these are so great. It is just I put on this blog the better pieces from NY and Uman and CA a long time ago. These are just the newer ones and I did not really get them into any kind of decent form. I am sure they all need editing. q77 q76 q75  e67 exodus10  q85 g2  q74  q73  q72 q71  q70
Islam A nice video from England.

This explains some of the problems that England is facing because of letting in Muslims.

It seems to me to bring out some very important points and I listened to it from start to finish. It seems very relevant to what is happening in the USA and in Europe and it also shows why Muslims in Israel are violent. I highly recommend this video.

What some refugees carried with them.

Someone asked me if I would teach them Talmud. I said how could I refuse such a question. even if the Dali Lama would ask me I would have to oblige. Still it is best to put yourself in a environment of people that are good at it  and to whom what the Talmud says matters. It is in a way like an apprenticeship. That is during the Middle ages there was a thing as an apprentice that would be given to a guild at the age of five and all he would do for years would be to sweep and cook and clean. But just by hanging around with experts something would get absorbed. Then after some time like that they would start to teach him. And after some time he would in fact become an expert. Talmud is like that. There is something going on inside that you just will not be able to see by just reading the words. You need to learn from an expert.

1) Trust in God I want to decouple from faith in God. That is I want to get to trust in God but when things don't go the way I want them to I do not what my faith weakened. I what to retain faith that there is  a first cause and that he is not the world, but that he made the world something from nothing and he does run it in a way that has a purpose.  I do not want that faith to be weakened even if nothing would go my way.

2) But if I could get to this point in which my faith is secure, I would like to add trust in God to it. This is a more difficult issue than the first. It means to have trust also when things don't go my way. I still would like to believe that even when everything goes wrong this still is his will either as punishment for things I do wrong or as a warning or because of some good that will arise from it.

3) If then I could get to step two I would like to find some kind of aspect of trust where I in fact believe in God enough and strongly in the way that the Madragat Haadam was talking about "from here we learn that one needs no effort at all but what is decreed from Heaven will come to one automatically without any effort at all."

For this kind of thing see מדרגת האדם The Levels of Man, by the Alter of Navardok a disciple of Israel Salanter

Saadia Gaon was the first to write specifically on Jewish philosophy and set the stage forever after for Jewish philosophy to be neo Platonic.

  Saadia Gaon was the first to write specifically on Jewish philosophy and set the stage forever after for Jewish philosophy to be neo Platonic. Even though the Rambam did move into the orbit of Aristotle still the later people like Crescas and Albo try to move the pendulum back to Plato. [Even  mystic people like Avraham Abulafia and the Ari were building on a Neo Platonic framework.]

This is relevant for me because out of my own reading of philosophy I came out with a  Kantian (of Kelley Ross) which is really a modification of Platonic thought.   I wrote in some essay what brought me to this approach. Mainly it was experience plus seeing some of the problems in other approaches.  [There was a lot of time that I spent on Hegel and Spinoza and the Intuitionists, and some time on John Locke. ] I am not saying I am any kind of philosopher myself. Rather I was just looking for a coherent world view to be able to deal with reality.

I mean that even though I have a neo Platonic point of view there are significant modifications and improvements that this needs. That is I don't think everything in Kant and Kelley Ross is automatically included in the Jewsih Philosophers of the Middle Ages. This is unlike Dr. Feser who I believe holds that all true insights of later people were included in the Scholastics. 


The Sidur of Saadia Gaon tells us some things that we might not know. I thought for a long time the basic blessing in the morning before the Shema was  elongated. But I was not sure about what part. The reason is that it seemed to me there was something in it that was essential besides the first sentence and last. That is I did not think it was like a simple Bore nefashot with a חתימה
[ending]. Someone showed me that in the sidur of Saadia Gaon, the first blessing is, in fact, just the first sentence, then the one sentence after that, and then the last חתימה [ending].

At any rate, my opinion is that the writings of Saadia Gaon are important because Yidishkeit has gone way off the path already for too long.
Democracy was criticized by Herodotus. He said in it the wicked make strong alliances to destroy society, but the good simple people are suspicious of each other. Thus it is destroyed from within. This is clearly what is going on in the USA. This is a reason that the founding fathers of the USA said it can not survive unless the people are moral. Thus the constant attacks on Christianity and attempts to covertly turn it to Sharia rule I see as ways of undermining the very existence of the USA.

Though the type of system that Herodotus critiqued was a pure democracy, still the same applies to a republic as we can see from Rome.

So what I suggest is a strengthening of Jewish and Christian values --mainly by study --but also by action. That would be by support towards the institutions that promote these values.
But not all organizations that claim to support these values do so in fact. It takes a certain amount of discernment to tell the difference.

Appendix: Just so my opinion should be clear--I see the attempts to undermine the Constitution of the USA  and the attacks on Christianity and on Torah  in an alarming way.  To me the rise of the Dark Side seems real and horrifying.

My learning partner is allergic to Musar. [Books of Medieval Ethics and of Israel Salanter's disciples] He thinks it is painting by the numbers.To some degree you can see this in things like the small Musar book of the Rosh "(1)To go away from pride as much as possible (2) Also from lying (3) also from ... (4) also from ..."

My opinion is Musar is important and I think that I can see the results of not learning it.  You certainly do not see anything like the moral standards of places that do learn Musar. This is a s clear as the sun at high noon. 

Once you walk away from some aspect of holiness you can never return. You can try to go through the motions but the inner essence never returns.
 I walked out of the Mir in order to go to Israel. Though I succeed and even did well in some ways--still  the essence of the Mir --the light of inner holiness of learning Talmud in depth I was never able to catch up with again.  Even the fact that God granted to me a few ideas in Talmud here and there only came about because of my learning partner. Same thing when I left Israel. Though I tried to return but I never could and that light and holiness that was part of my first stay there also never returned. The lesson is: if you have something good, hold onto it with all your might. Don't think it will follow you around. [That is at least the lesson for my kind of soul. There are several different types --so my advice here might only apply to me and similar kinds of people.]
Avraham Abulafia [a mystic who wrote many kabalistic books in the Middle Ages] held Jesus was Messiah ben Joseph.  The issue of Messiah son of Joseph is a totally different issue than Messiah son of David as we see in the end of the Talmud Tractate Suka, the Ramchal and many other sources.

The main idea is that messiah son of Joseph is a kind of preparation for the redemption in which there will be the Temple in Jerusalem rebuilt and the sacrifices of the Torah will be brought again. This later stage has not happened.
Still being Messiah son of Joseph according to Rav Abulafia is not a bad thing. In theory it is good to believe in a great person and bad to follow or believe in wicked people. So if some people believe in a tzadik --even if they overdo it--why complain?

Merry Christmas

So for one day I suggest we all lay down our hatreds and animosity. Let's have the equivalent of the 1914 Christmas truce between the allies and the Germans. Sure we all have good reasons to hate each other. Christians have doctrines and beliefs we can't accept. Many Christians have beliefs about Jews that makes them think us bad people. Let's for one day forget all this. We all believe in One God, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob,  though we worship Him differently. We all believe in the Ten Commandments. So for one day, let's aspire for peace on earth and good will unto men. If we can manage that for one day, who knows? Maybe we will be able to manage it for two? Or three?

Post script: This is not to imply anything in terms of theology. Just it is information for the record.
Clearly Rav Abulafia disagreed with Catholic theology. He went to debate the pope. The pope ordered him arrested when he reached the gates of Rome. The story is mysterious but it seems that no one could touch him.

Plus I might add that Chaim Vital borrowed the unifications of Avraham Abulfia in the last vol of Shaari HaKedusha. And his works were translated completely for the first time in history the 1990's until 2005. [Before that I read some of the microfilm copies in the basement of HU]

 I must add than none of this has anything to do with our basic obligations in the Oral or Written Law. Nor does it have anything to do with theology.] That is because of reasons I have not understood some people think that there is no reason to keep mitzvot plus  they think a messiah must have something to do with theology. None of that makes sense to me. Mitzvot are still mitzvot and Monotheism is still monotheism.

The whole issue is a Midrashic kind of thing. Still the basic sources for the messiah son of Joseph type of issue are in the Talmud at the end of Suka, the Tikunim Chadashim of the Ramchal. the Kol HaTor of the Gra.]

Appendix the problem with all this is this gives to Jews for Jesus or any of their different varieties an excuse to try to convert Jews to Christianity. And that is not my intent. The reason is that Jews for Jesus exaggerate the importance of  the issue of the messiah. They think that if one accept a particular person as their "lord and messiah" that that means they are going to heaven. They accept the Trinity. These doctrines are mistaken. But not necessarily bad. The best thing is to be a simple Jew and learn the Oral and Written law and not follow any person but God alone. Judaism is not about worship of any person but worship of God according to the Written and Oral Law, {Old Testament, and two Talmuds}

The positive side is that everyone needs some picture of human perfection to aspire to. If they don't have Jesus, they  find often someone that is evil, or a mixture of good and evil. So following Jesus as Christians do is a lot better option than what the vast majority of what people do and whom they follow. Still in my opinion it is best to sit and learn Talmud and have  a kosher vocation and be a simple Jew. If I have any ideal of human perfection, it is my two parents

I mentioned the basic idea of the above essay to my learning partner and he opened up the Rambam in the 13 principles of faith and after that the last two halachot in Mishne Torah. On most of the above he wrote the exact same thing that I wrote. That is even if one would believe in Jesus as a Messiah son of Joseph   that would not be any reason to worship him nor would it have anything to do with keeping the commandments of the Torah. However he does have  negative opinion about Jesus himself. And I am sure most rishonim would agree with the Rambam. However on the opposite side there is Rav Abulfia and Yaakov Emden.
There is a practical side to all this. I often find that when I need help, Believing Christians are the only ones that will help me. Others of my own people ignore me or throw me from the top of the staircase and then there are Muslims who try to kill me.  I am certainly not the only one with these kinds of experiences.


Concerning an idea of Isaac Luria.

See the beginning of the Eitz Chaim and the ארבע מאות שקל כסף of Rabbainu the Ari.

The tzimtzum (condensation of the infinite light) was in all the traits.

That can help understand the problem of evil, and the existence of free will.
Thus: the problem of evil to some degree can be understood as Mark Friedman said that for there to exist a moral realm at all there must be free will.
So what we have is this: the traits of God, each one was infinite before the condensation. Then he condensed his light and removed his presence from a certain area in order to create all the worlds.
So he also contracted his compassion and his knowledge. One he contacted his compassion evil and cruelty can exist. But evil could not exist unless there is free will. For there to be free will he also contacted his knowledge.

This relates to Kant's idea of the critique of pure reason. There are unconditioned realities where reason can't go.  God contracted pure reason. The Gra said a similar thing that everything has a hidden and an open aspect where reason can not penetrate.


The tzimtzum is really a modified idea of Anaximenes and comes with a basic Neo Platonic background. I personally have no trouble in fitting the Ari into the regular kind of neo Platonic approach Saadia Gaon, Ibn Gavirol,  Abravenal, and Joseph Albo.


Feser thinks that everything good about Kant and later people can all be found in scholastic philosophers. This is true to some degree. [Especially with Scotus]. The trouble for Jewish people is that they were defending Christianity . What has been my suggestion  is to take the Jewish equivalent of the Scholastic philosophers. That is Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, Aberbnal, Albo. Ibn Gavirol.  [But not that alone. I say to learn both Musar (Ethics) and the Jewish Scholastics. That is I do not think to separate Jewish Philosophy from action. One needs both Musar (Ethics) and also the great Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages. There is no substitution for Musar, Everyone who has tried to substitute something else in place of Musar fell flat on their face.
There are people that think one does not need to learn Ethics. If one has great parents like I had that might be true. But in general I think it is an  error. Maybe Musar itself has gone off in fanatical directions but the basic idea of Israel Salanter is still valid.

This might even have the advantage that  you don't have to defend the Trinity.

To make a synthesis of the Jewish scholastics and Kant is a worthwhile endeavor in any case.

You might say that this is the equivalent of identity politics. That is a true critique, but in any case the Jewish scholastics have  a lot to teach us anyway (as the Christian scholastics noticed anyway).

To Feser philosophy after the Middle Ages has been devoted to repeating mistakes. That much is true. 

Philosophically, the Yeshiva approach is the equivalent of hiding one's head in the sand to save oneself from danger. If it would work, then by all means, do it. But it is an illusion. Philosophically what happens is that by not engaging with philosophy people pick up their world view from post modernism and think that they see it in Torah.  Joseph Soloveitchik picked up existentialism from Kierkegaard and Sartre.. Rav Shick picked up Pantheism from the Bahavagad Gita. Most of the people that we were expecting would teach us Torah values instead taught us false gods and idols.  But they were doing lots of  important rituals and dressing in black coats so they must have been OK.

Appendix: 1) I am not sure that everything in Kant was in the scholastics. Individual autonomy  and the whole Kant  approach seems to me to be new, and even an improvement. But this is based on my first impressions. I have sadly not had the time to do a thorough study of Kant, Fries, Aquinas or Scotus. Not that I would not like to. It is just I have not yet merited to do so. I after all have to do my regular Talmud and natural science studies. After that, I just can't seem to find the energy or time.
 2) My idea about Musar {Jewish Ethics} from the Middle Ages is based on the idea that in the next world what matters is a person's actions in this world.  And I believe there is a close connection between the way a person acts in this world and where they end up in the next world. So building up political movements or religious movements I see as the work of the Devil that is meant to distract a person from what really matters--menchlichkeit.--being a decent human being. Not lying or cheating and working honestly for a living and not depending on charity. If a person's actions in this world are not decent, then I do not think that they are going anywhere but to hell surrounded by demons created by his actions, no matter what his beliefs were.

Feser thinks that everything good about Kant and later people can all be found in scholastic philosophers. This is true to some degree. [Especially with Scotus]. The trouble for Jewish people is that they were defending Christianity . What has been my suggestion  is to take the Jewish equivalent of the Scholastic philosophers. That is Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, Aberbnal, Albo. Ibn Gavirol.  [But not that alone. I say to learn both Musar (Ethics) and the Jewish Scholastics. That is I do not think to separate Jewish Philosophy from action. One needs both Musar (Ethics) and also the great Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages. There is no substitution for Musar, Everyone who has tried to substitute something else in place of Musar fell flat on their face.
There are people that think one does not need to learn Ethics. If one has great parents like I had that might be true. But in general I think it is an  error. Maybe Musar itself has gone off in fanatical directions but the basic idea of Israel Salanter is still valid.

This might even have the advantage that  you don't have to defend the Trinity.

To make a synthesis of the Jewish scholastics and Kant is a worthwhile endeavor in any case.

You might say that this is the equivalent of identity politics. That is a true critique, but in any case the Jewish scholastics have  a lot to teach us anyway (as the Christian scholastics noticed anyway).

To Feser philosophy after the Middle Ages has been devoted to repeating mistakes. That much is true. But I think to make an exception for Kant and Kelley Ross.

Philosophically, the Yeshiva approach is the equivalent of hiding one's head in the sand to save oneself from danger. If it would work, then by all means, do it. But it is an illusion. Philosophically what happens is that by not engaging with philosophy people pick up their world view from post modernism and think that they see it in Torah.  Joseph Soloveitchik picked up existentialism from Kierkegaard and Sartre..Most of the people that we were expecting would teach us Torah values instead taught us false gods and idols.  But they were doing lots of  important rituals and dressing in black coats so they must have been OK.

Appendix: 1) I am not sure that everything in Kant was in the scholastics. Individual autonomy  seems to me to be new, and even an improvement. But this is based on my first impressions. I have sadly not had the time to do a thorough study of Kant,  Aquinas or Scotus. Not that I would not like to. It is just I have not yet merited to do so. I after all have to do my regular Talmud and natural science studies. After that, I just can't seem to find the energy or time.
 2) My idea about Musar {Jewish Ethics} from the Middle Ages is based on the idea that in the next world what matters is a person's actions in this world.  And I believe there is a close connection between the way a person acts in this world and where they end up in the next world. So building up political movements or religious movements I see as the work of the Devil that is meant to distract a person from what really matters--menchlichkeit.--being a decent human being. Not lying or cheating and working honestly for a living and not depending on charity. If a person's actions in this world are not decent, then I do not think that they are going anywhere but to hell surrounded by demons created by his actions, no matter what his beliefs were.

One of the main ways I have learned about life is by making mistakes.
This you might think is not terribly efficient. After all would it not be better not to sin at all in the first place? You are probably right. But I have found this method to be more effective.
The reason I am not sure of. Maybe I just do not have enough Daat [common sense] without experience.
But also you can say that with just pure reasoning one can justify anything. And in physics we know the only way to decide between a infinite number of possible theories is by testing and falsifying the opposing theories. This was after all the only way to decide between newton and Einstein.

Thus I was not sure what t think about the State of Israel until I was there and then by going with the Satmer opinion I left it in order not to have anything to do with it. Then the Moral Realm opposed me. That is I discovered that the results of my opposition were so disastrous that i had to rethink my position.

The same applies to my parents who advocated Torah with a vocation. That is they held not to learn Torah in such a way that you end up having to depend on a kollel check which is charity and which is against the Torah. I learned again by experience that my parents were right. This is in spite of the fact that arguing from pure reason you can justify the kollel check.

I am not saying this is the best way to go about making life decisions. But what else is there? How else will you make life decisions? By Reason? By T.V.? By what your "friends" tell you? Is not experience the best thing after all? But once we come to this realization is it not also a good idea to learn from one's parents? To learn from their experience? After all they are not  suspected of lying to you for their own benefit. They may be flawed people but they will not lie to you on purpose in order to get some benefit out of you are your "friends" will do. Even your teachers will lie to you for the benefit of some mass movement they are promoting. But not your parents.

There are I admit bad parents--especially parents that have become involved in some lunatic cult. And there are many like that nowadays which is why we do not think parents can override commandments of God.


1) I think you have to consider the Gra as a revolution. And I mean this only in the most positive way.

2) The two questions I want to ask are was he original and did his ideas effect things that came later.

3) Even though it was of great importance to Reb Chaim from Voloshin to downplay the revolutionary aspect of the Gra I think you have to say it was  revolution in Jewish thought.
In the religious world it is not considered a plus to come up with new ideas. You have to show your ideas have a basis in what came before for your ideas to be accepted. Still the way the Gra considered learning Torah as the prime service towards God has to be unique.

4) Furthermore he did effect everything that came later. Not just the yeshivas built on his path. But also defining what it means to be a kosher Yid. That the essence of a kosher yid is the oral law.

6) I am trying to evaluate the Gra without reference to whether I think any particular yeshiva or group is great or not. I am just looking at the aspect of originality and the general effect he had.
You might not think much of any particular yeshiva. But Brisk, Mir, Ponovitch, and all the other great yeshivas in Europe were all following the path he blazed.

7) The Gra : "Learn Torah." I have seen plenty of people base their lives chasidic ideas. They don't usually come out very good.
As a part of a regimen of Torah learning they are good. But outside of that context they are disastrous.  

I hold a lot from the approach of learning fast, (except for the time when I am learning in depth on purpose) this is the way I learn and recommend to others.  But in the book Binyan Olam and Orchot Tzadikim I saw that this is in fact the Talmudic approach. [לעולם ליגרס אינש אע''ג דמשכח ואע''ג ולא ידע מאי קאמר] So when it comes to Torah learning and also natural sciences that is how I go about it.
That is one should go through the Talmud Bavli once straight  page by page. If possible with every Rashi and Tosphot on the page. Just say the words and go on. [If at first you don't understand you will after rereading  the book again.] A lot of information is absorbed subliminally. And the same goes for Halacha. Read the Rambam with as many of the commentaries on teh page as you can. every day one page [1/2 a daf]. Then do the Tur in the same way. And then the Shulchan Aruch, page by page. This is how I learned for years and it was only recently that I started doing a bit more in depth learning.
Also this is how I did Physics and Math. Stefan Forest, a Professor of Physics, in Munich told me this is also how he knew another very great physicist used to learn.

 Talmud Torah outweighs all the other commandments. תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם}. Sometimes good ideas are used by some groups as consciousness traps and that seems to be the case here. So what I recommend is to learn Torah in a regular Lithuanian yeshiva environment


The Devil has a hard time doing all the dirty work on his own so he set up two groups as his messengers and agents. Doctors to kill people physically and religious teachers to kill people spiritually.  Obviously he was not talking about responsible doctors or people that learn and teach the Oral and Written Law exactly as it says.But I think we can still learn a lot by what he said.

 [I saw similar ideas in the Even Shelema which is quotes from the Gra but I forget where and I don't have the book anymore.]
[In other words,-- the Gra was aware that the Sitra Achra the Dark Side had penetrated into the world of Torah and tried to warn people before the disease spread into teh highest echelons but his warnings have gone unheeded until this very day.]

But so as not to dwell on the negative, let me just say for the record that there were a few people that were religious people  that I have  a great deal of respect for. The Reconstructionist religious teacher,  Roth in Los Angeles that was always there when my family needed him. He bar mitzvaed my brother Keith. And on many other occasions he was there for us. He never tried to cause family problems as the entire religious community did in Los Angeles and in NY.
There were and still are good ones: There is was Reb Shmuel Berenbaum of the Mir in NY and there is Shimon Buso in Netivot. That is to say there are religious teachers that are good and sincere. Pretty much the run of the mill average Litvak who is sitting and learning Torah is good. Just the ones in L.A. are particularly evil for some reason.

The bad religious teachers in general are leaders of cults. Their main targets are young people with middle class parents so they have access to money. They make a song and dance around  young people and make this show about how we are all one happy family. That is how they build their cults. It is supposedly all for Torah, but in the end whom is it that gets all the benefit? It is the religious teachers. These types of religious teachers are all too common and the problem is there is no outcry against them. Anyone who has suffered from them is always blamed. Never the real villains.

There is no good answer for these problems that I am aware of. But we can see why people opt out. All they are looking for is a little love. A little compassion. And can't find it anywhere. The approach of Reb Shmuel Berenbaum when encountering these kinds of problems had only one piece of advice: "Learn Torah." And that seems to me to be the best idea. After all it is the pretense of keeping Torah that is the problem. The psudo Torah. But the authentic Torah is still available for whom ever wants it.

Music for the glory of God

q81 e67 e33 e36 e69  q83 BL m  e43 this might need some editing. g3 e34   b105

e55  s7 G major


How to learn Poskim [legal authorities]. At the Mir there was an official session of Halacha at 915 before the regular morning session started at 10 AM.
What I suggest is to learn first the Mishne Torah of the Rambam with the Keseph Mishna  and the Avi Ezri of Rav Elazar Menachem Shach. After finishing the Rambam in that way then to do the whole Tur with the Beit Yoseph. And after that the Shulchan Aruch of Joseph Karo with the Beer Heiteiv.[There are very few achronim that I think are any good when it comes to almost anything and especially Halacha. The best is the Aruch HaShulchan and the basic school of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, Baruch Ber, Shimon Shkop and Rav Shach. ]

That is to take one עמוד (page) of the Rambam and just read from the top to the bottom straight and then do the Keseph Mishna in the same way.

The shiur in the Avi Ezri is best to do in the afternoon or evening as part of the Rambam learning but it does not have to be together with each halacha in the Rambam. Rather the way to do the Avi Ezri is straight from cover to cover.

If you have only an hour to learn I think the Avi Ezri is the best thing. It is Halacha, and deep learning and shows how to learn in a an amazing simple way all together.

[After I wrote the above last night, it occurred to me that I needed to make clear I am talking about learning fast. Just say the words and go on. See Sichot HaRan chapter 76. And also Biyan Olam [a book about learning Torah, that used to be around in yeshivas but I doubt of it is in print anymore.]

Th same goes for Rav Shach's book teh Avi Ezri. I think the first time around just to say the words and go on. However I am nowadays learning it with my learning partner and we are going slow, but that is because we are using it as a kind of tool for learning in depth.

Bava Sali had in his house the picture only one tzadik. That was a picture of the Chafetz Chaim.
And from what I could understand from his daughter, the reason was that he wanted to be reminded about not speaking Lashon Hara.
Lashon Hara I should mention is talking about others. But there are a few points about it I ought to go into.

First of all we all have heard of Hillel who say what you don't want people to do to you you should not do to them.

So what I wanted to deal with is Lashon Hara about true things.  This is an argument between the Rambam and Rabbainu Yona. To R.Y. it is forbidden only because of the things that will result from it. To the Rambam it is forbidden from its own self except in Beit Din.

The places and people I saw that were successful in learning Torah were always the places that keep this idea of Lashon Hara foremost in their minds.

But I admit I was not able to do this. At some point I saw that my whole world had turned upside down and my very existence was a statement of Lashon Hara about people I thought were good and turned how to be horribly evil. It was not that I did not want to be careful about this. But instead I decided to stick to just one thing--to speak the truth at all costs. I figured that the power of truth would help me through the mess I had gotten myself in.

[I should mention that the worship of tzadikim has gone over the line already. So while we should learn from them but not worship them. Even if these people would be perfect still idolatry is idolatry. And all the more so when in fact even a true tzadik has something negative in them. And when one worships him he gets attached to the negative side of the tzadik.]
Edward Witten's brief essay about String Theory

I am no one to comment about this. But if you like me find this essay difficult  would like to suggest learning in chronological order. This was not always possible for me. But I found it helpful when it came to Physics and Math. That is I would start out with Calculus. Then I would work up into the 1700's with Laplace and Fourier and Lagrange. Then I would go on to Galois and the Sophus Lie.
I had done a good deal of work in Physics before I had done all this, but that was more because of lack of resources and lack of options. So I read books in Physics also, but all the time I kept in mind that I would only understand them after completing the above mentioned material.

I don't know if this is how they teach these things today but this method I found helpful for myself.

Religious extremism is not the problem. It is what kind of religious extremism  .

In any case see this interesting Utube from Pragger University

It is not religious fanaticism that is the problem. Bach was a religious fanatic. Moses was a religious fanatic.
 The Gra was a religious fanatic. Catholic nuns are religious fanatics. Mir Yeshiva students are religious fanatics. These people are not the problem. The problem is Islamic religion. Period.

I could go further. The problem is זה לעומת זה. For every true tzadik there is an equal and opposite anti Tzadik.

That is for every area of value there is an opposing area of value. And usually each area has one person that represented that area to the fullest human capacity. [Thus it is necessary to identify the people that were connected to the realm of goodness and holiness and to identify the opposite. This is because people need some guide in each realm. ]

This diagram from Dr. Kelley Ross's site might help to show what I mean


Music for the uncovering of the glory of God.

q1 q3 q4 q5 q6 q7 q8 q9 q10 exodus4 q12  q84 This is a short minuet. q82 q13 q14  e72
I wanted to explain in a simple way how to learn Talmud. This I how will be more simple than the other essay I wrote on this a long time ago.

1) Bekiut. בקיאות. That is to learn fast. What I suggest is not a Daf [a whole leaf.] Rather what is called in the USA "a page." That in Hebrew would be an עמוד a column. You start at the top of the page and just say the words in order until you get to the bottom. Then you do every Rashi and every Tosphot Maharsha and Maharam on the page. The next day to go to the next page. And you keep on going until you have finished the two Talmuds and the Sifra Sifri and Tosephta.
That is the fast session. It should not take any more than 40 min. and if you don't want to do the maharasha and maharam the first time around then it should be about 25 minutes.

2) The next session is the in depth one. עיון. For this I found the best thing is to stay on one page of Gemara for a long time. That is to do every single commentary I can get my hands on on that page and do as much as I can in one day. Then the next day I do the same. This should go on for about 40 days at least. It is what people dislike about Lithuanian yeshivas.But the Litvak yeshivas are right about this. People that think they can get the depths of the Gemara without this are usually mistaken.
[The basic commentaries  are the regular rishonim and if you can get them the best achronim are the ones coming from the school of thought of Reb Chaim Soloveitick and Rav Shach.]

Also if you are in NY then you ought to make every possible effort to get to one of the authentic Litvak yeshivas. That is if you are going to learn Torah from anyone you have to make sure it is from people that in fact know how to learn. And those kind of people are very rare. The authentic places in NY are  the Mir in Brooklyn, Chaim Berlin, and Torah VeDaat, and Shar Yashuv.
[In Israel there are  a few more. Ponovitch seems to be the best but Brisk is a close second.]

Why to go to a yeshiva? Maybe you think it is better to spend $30,000 to get a degree in gender studies? The Talmud will still be around when gender studies have been consigned to the garbage bin of history.

Appendix: I used this method for Mathematics and Physics also. But I cant talk about this since I have not made the kind of progress I had hoped. Part of the problem is that my time was limited in how much effort I could spend on these two subjects. Starting at a time when physically I was weak and there were enormous demands on my time and also the terrible problems I was going through I think limited how effective my learning method could have been. Learning Physics 20 minutes in the morning is not means I could not expect teh same results as when I spent 11 hours a day on Talmud.And learning when one is young is not the same as learning as one gets older.

What I recommend today to anyone that will listen is to divide ones time half and half between Talmud and natural science.


I wanted to mention that electricity on Shabat I dealt with along time ago in some essay. It is true that Reb Chaim Ozer did say it is forbidden when it came out. But he could not have known what it is. The electron was only discovered  later. So it was a simple case of people saying something is forbidden when they had no idea of what it was that they were talking about.

 Every person should have some ideas about his own limits. Forbidding electricity before anyone even knew what an electron is [or that it even existed] is a good example of having an uninformed opinion.
That is not the only example, but it is a good one.

Having fear of God, learning and keeping Torah is a good idea. But you can't get there by making up prohibitions. If you want fear of God you have to start out accepting what the Torah says, not trying to fit it into what some people want it to say.


A new song for the glory of God

Uncovering of the Will. Here I want to present the idea that there is not a window to to the Ding an Sich (the thing in itself, the Will) but from the Ding an Sich.

I should start with an apology or an excuse why I am not going with G.E. Moore, Michael Huemer, and Prichard.[The Intuitionist.] The reason is that Hume's critique of a priori involved more that just limiting pure reason to find things that can be derived from definitions. The idea was also that there is nothing to check a priori knowledge against.-No way of checking your homework. No measuring stick.

This essay is probably the only real new idea I have ever come up with in philosophy.
But to present it properly I would in fact have to do more background work in Schopenhauer and show why he rejected Kant's dinge an sich (things in themselves) for his ding an sich (the thing in itself)--the Will. Also I would have to present an argument to show it can be revealed-and  that is all too much for a single essay.

Kant and Ross
Here is Ross's treatment of Kant's Ethics.

My own feeling about all this really starts from Schopenhauer. That is the dinge an sich (the Thing in Itself) is the Will (that is the First Cause). Then the world is a representation of this Will. That is Schopenhauer in a nut shell. What I think to add to this is that the Dinge an Sich needs to be uncovered.  But I also see graduations of Being [note 1.]. And the good self is a representation of the Dinge an Sich. [Not the bad self which is a representation of the opposite.] And that good self needs to be uncovered. [note 2]

[note 1.] I am building here on Aristotle and also on an idea I had a few years ago that goes like this. modes are things that apply to substances.  That is the substance is the unchanging layer underneath that does not change. Water can be hot or cold. But water itself can go out of existence. I can boil it. What is water a mode of? What underlying substance is it a mode of?

[note 2] I am not going exactly with Kant here. I agree the Ding an Sich (the thing in itself) is covered.  We can only tell that it exists but its characteristics are only phenomena.  But I think the ding can be uncovered.

This is  different than Heidegger. What I am saying is that though to Kant there is no window to the ding an sich ((the thing in itself)) still I hold the Will reveals itself. And that we can participate in its revelation by morality. That is the the representation or emanation of the will is half subject and half object.


1)  איה מקום כבודו. "Where is the place of his glory?"  The graduations of being are from Aristotle.  [I relate very much to this idea of searching for God. Where is the place of his glory? מלא כל הארץ גבודו.

2) And this is a teleological approach to morality. But also deontological ethics -the rules are what brings to revelation of the Will. This I am basing on Maimonides {Rambam}. That is natural law was the first revelation to Abraham. Then came the later revelation of Mount Sinai that was not independent of natural law but built on it and also is in fact deontogical. We can see this in the Talmud itself. דורשין טעמה דקרא. We go by the reason for the law--not by the law according to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. The Sages disagree -and say we go by the law, not by its reason. But they agree there are reasons and that they are known. As we see in the end of chapter 9 in Bava Metzia,.
The Rambam goes into all this in the Guide and here I am giving just a quick sketch of my ideas based on the Rambam. Dr Ross also has an essay on his site which goes into the Rambam and gives some details I have left out here.

3) What I left out from the above essay is that both natural law and Mount Sinai Law needed and need revelation. They are both uncovering of the Will. To Maimonides neither is accessible to human reason.

 the whole creation is to reveal the glory of God based on the verse כל הנקרא בשמי ולכבודי בראתיו יצרתיו אף עשיתיו everything that is called by my name I have created for my glory and also formed it and made it. And it was all made by ten statements and so every part of creation reveals some different aspect of the ten statements. Now even though "the whole world is full of his glory" still there are places where his glory can't spread to--that is bad places. So how do they exist? By the hidden statement. That is the highest of all the statements. So when a person seeks God from there he returns to the highest level.

4) The self is to Kant also what we call the ding an sich. This is important for his transcendental deduction.  the self can be connected with the Will by speaking truth always the truth which is the light of God is contained inside of one.

5) The dinge an sich of Schopenhauer and Kant are not the same thing. What I meant to show up above is that they are related. The Dinge an sich is contained in the smaller dinge an sichs


I saw and experienced something unique and amazing at the Mir yeshiva in NY. That was a combination of character development along with fear of God. But this was not in words. I have heard people that can talk the talk about having good character but do not walk the walk. The Mir was different. It was like the basic combination of learning Torah along with Musar accomplished something that each one could not do on it own.

Where things go wrong in the religious world is when rituals become primary or group identity instead of character. It is when activism to make movements takes the place of character development.

So within the context of the Jewish world I can see clearly what can help- because I was a part of something very special. {That is the Mir Yeshiva}. And I can see all the cults that claim to have this special energy of Torah how much in delusion they are.  But outside this horizon, I can't see very far. That is, I can't really tell what could be a tikun [correction] for all mankind, because my vision simply does not extend that far out. I can only report on the things that I saw that were amazing and good and helpful for everyone that got involved in them, and I can warn people to stay away from everything else that I saw is evil and corrupts everyone that touches it. But outside the Jewish world I can't see very well. Mainly, I can tell  that Christians have some very good and important points, but I can see that some of the doctrines are a bit off. But of what is out there, I can definitely say they are better than anyone else. [It is common with me to have one view point but to see the merits in an opposing view. I have a Kantian world view but I can still see the good points of the intuitionists like G.E. Moore, and Prichard]

Appendix: Musar refers to two very short sessions at the Mir of learning books about character improvement and Fear of God. The idea is very similar to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts before the boy scouts fell into the trash. In fact before the downfall of the boy-scouts they even had a few points that were not contained in Musar like outdoor skills and teamwork ethics.

I should mention that neither the Mir nor Shar Yashuv my first yeshiva was into group identity as a form of worship. They were into Torah. But not oblivious to the great minds of history. There was a time I was frequent by Reb Freifeld  and played there my repertoire of Mozart, Bach, and other  music geniuses. I did this also in Reb Shmuel Berenbaum's home.  And Reb Freifeld made sure I continued my philosophy studies on my own and it was while I was there that I rounded out my education with a good deal of western literature,

Talking with God as one talks with a friend.

This is I think very important advice because without it one loses his center. It is not just that one can get caught up with secular activities.  Even learning Torah can put layers and layers of ideas between oneself and his own center--(the dinge an sich - the self in itself).

Dennis Prager has an idea about the difference between left and right.

How do you judge America

My basic idea of how to improve the USA is by learning Torah. That means the Oral and Written Law [Old Testament and Talmud].  For Christians I recommend learning The Torah [Old Testament], plus Augustine and Aquinas.

This was Reb Shmuel Berenbaum's idea. Whenever he was asked a question about almost any issue in society his answer was to learn Torah and not to speak Lashon Hara [slander].

In my first yeshiva I gained two important ideas. Bitul Torah --that is bitul Torah is a bad thing. [That means not learning Torah when one can is a sin. This idea actually comes from the Talmud itself. In the Talmud Yerushalmi it says that Bitul Torah [not learning when one has time to learn] is equal to three   other sins of the Torah that are the most serious. Also I learned there the idea that every word of Torah is a mitzvah in itself.


I  have a learning partner that I have been learning the Avi Ezri of Rav Elazar Menachem Shach with. Sometimes the discussion goes into other areas but in general we have been plowing through Rav Shach's book on the Mishne Torah of the Rambam. This is a little different from the Gemara session we were doing before but at some point it seems natural to go over to Rav Shach because in his essays on the Rambam he is dealing with and bringing clarity to many of the issues that we were dealing with in the Gemara.

You can see that I was dealing with issues in sin offerings when we were doing Sanhedrin and and before that we were doing Shabat and now looking at Rav Shach we are seeing an amazing degree of clarity and depth he brings to these issues.
But I am not sure if someone would see this if they had not done the preliminary homework in the Gemara itself. In any case, the Avi Ezri is in my opinion the most important Torah book to come to print within the last hundred years.
I highly recommend it to anyone that can find it. 

I know people will say but what about the Chidushei HaRambam of Reb Chaim? My answer is that the Chidushei HaRambam is a great book in the it opens up the infinite layers of depth in the Rambam that had previously been hidden but when I would finish an essay in it I usually came out with the feeling that things were even more confusing than when I had started. I never feel that way with Rav Shach. When I finish an essay by him I feel like the whole subject has been magically been made clear and light.


I was in  position to know Rav Shick {Moharosh} fairly well   But I think he got way too much into his pantheism thing.  This same process happens often with religious leaders. At some point they start getting absorbed into some kind of archetype. [Or they just get too much caught up with themselves.]

 I think I gained a great deal by learning the basic path of Rav Shick.
Still the Intermediate Zone has too many problems, and people that get caught in it seem to lose some aspect of their humanness.
The Gra accurately identified this problem, and thus came to be the basic approach of the Litvaks that tends to be straightforward--learn Torah  --and don't get into spiritual trips.

The best long and involved treatment of this problem was given by Arubindo, a Hindu saint. And his extended treatment of this problem seems to me to be as accurate as one can get. [What often happens is when people hear about the Intermediate zone and powers that come from the Dark Side they think that is only for those other groups but not our group--because we are on the path of truth. This is in it self usually a delusion.]

Litvaks --if anything simply don't have enough faith in the Gra to realize how accurate he was. Philosophy does not seem to have any way of dealing with the problem of delusion nor have any way of discerning between the different zones. Some people simply dismiss all spiritual phenomena as delusions and this seems to me to be based on scientism--a belief that only what science knows can be true--which is a highly non scientific attitude.

How to learn? Fast or slow?

I  remember Reb Freifeld suggesting to learn every chapter of Talmud ten times. I did not do this as I wanted to make progress. I also had seen the musar book The Paths of the Righteous  which said to learn fast.
Still I remember that I did chapter 5 in Ketubot a a bunch of times. But I was learning with the group of Naphtali Yeager at the time and he was concentrating on the first chapter of Ketuboth mainly from page 9 until page 13. He was doing it with the שב שמעתתא and I was just a beginner at the time. Still he was kind enough to show me the ropes and showed to me the depths of Talmud and Tosphot and I have not forgotten that amazing lesson. I think most people that I have encountered are simply unaware of this depth in the Gemara.

This tension between review and fast learning is part and parcel of the yeshiva experience.

Yeshivas began to deal with this issue in this way. The morning hours were spent in preparation of the Rosh yeshiva's class which would be given a hour before Mincha.  The afternoon was meant for fast learning--meaning some Tosphot but not necessarily every single one.

In conclusion I want to suggest to divide ones time equally between in depth learning and review time of learning. This was the eventual conclusion of the great yeshivas and it seems to me that it must have been based on experience.


 Kelley Ross understands rights as being derived from the natural law doctrine. He also mentions the Torah origin of this idea. [See the link.] That is he understands rights to be derived from things like "Thou shalt not steal." Since there are further commandments relating to human affairs that would make rights more extensive.

I think Kelley Ross might not have put all his ideas in one essay. So I might as well say the basic idea as fast as I can. Natural Law had some origin in the Stoics but was articulated clearly by Saadia Gaon חוקים שכליים. That is many of the commandments are simply morality that God already put into the basic fabric of nature. The Torah simply reveals what is already objectively out there. This was developed later by Maimonides and Aquinas. The idea of Rights of John Locke was simply the expression of this in a way that makes it more clear from a legal perceptive. Thou Shalt not Steal is Divine and Natural law. The way this is defined legally is that people have a right to their own property. No one has a right to take from anyone their property no person and no government.
John Locke was simply a natural continuation of the ideas of Aquinas in this regard. But he added the idea that legitimate governments are formed to preserve these rights.

The idea is that people give up a certain amount of their rights that they would have in nature, in order to preserve the government they live under. Otherwise it would be war of all against all. That was John Locke's idea of how it is legitimate to tax. But the idea was that government can't take what it wants. Only what powers given to it under a constitution are legitimate-nothing further.

This is related mainly to the fact that I noticed some people do not have a very clear idea of exactly what John Locke meant by rights the meaning of the American Constitution. So when Donald Trump suggests that the job of government is not to let in Muslims but rather to protect Americans he is absolutely correct. The only job of government is to protect its citizens from foreign invasion and from crime.

Ideas in Bava Metzia chapters 8-9 updated   Title page of Ideas in Bava Metzia

Ideas in Talmud  Title page for Ideas in Talmud

I was reading Bava Metzia page 81 and noticed that Tosphot did not seem to hold by my ideas on Bava Metzia page 104. Then when I read page 82 I realized that Tosphot was definitely against me. So I thought to salvage my ideas with Rashi. Then when I read Shavuot page 43 I realized that Rashi was not going to help me. So I had to correct my ideas on Page 104. While clearly it is true the lender owns the guarantee, but the document does not turn the whole thing into a sale. [You could say I was half right.He does own the guarantee but he cant keep it when the money is repaid.] In any case up above are the corrected versions.

I also see that the beginning on chap. 9 needs work. One idea was that David noticed the difference between the Rambam and Rashi about what is required on the worker. But that whole idea I think needs to be re written. 
I see that the issue of the Enlightenment in the Jewish world [i.e. the 1700's until the 1800's] was  related to the original Enlightenment. And at least in one issue they were identical--Secular Learning. Allen Bloom makes a good point that the original Enlightenment had a political agenda also. But that was clearly not all there was to it.

My experience is such that I have a good deal of sympathy towards authentic sciences  and have a great deal of antipathy towards pseudo sciences.

For example I have seen that where you find supposedly rigorous application of Torah principles with complete exclusion of  anything secular does anything but help people be moral or decent in any sense. In fact, just the opposite. Yet opening the door to the secular in the Torah world always leads directly to pseudo sciences and never towards the real thing.

So the quandary remains and I have to go and learn Talmud because I am already late, and I don't think this 600 year question is going to be solved on this blog this minute. Or rather I don't think I will solve it any better than my own patents and grandparents who held from  balanced approach--Torah with wisdom.

If we go back further to the argument about the Rambam's Guide we can see the issue of secular learning also was raised.
In any case, I hold learning authentic natural science is important and learning a kosher vocation also. But I also believe that there is something one gains by learning Torah that the secular world has not touched. There was some kind of amazing energy in the Mir Yeshiva in NY and also in Shar Yashuv. But i realize today that that energy can't be harnessed at will. It takes a very special kind of individual to make an authentic yeshiva.  The authentic yeshivas I can count on two hands. Three in NY and two in Israel. [That is in NY: Mir, Chaim Berlin, Torah VaDaat, Shar Yashuv. Israel: Ponovitch, Brisk.