In many Jewish homes you could find, besides the Old Testament, some book that would describe Judaism in a plain way. One such book I recall was the Duties of the Heart [by Ibn Pekuda] which is considered part of the set of Musar [Ethics] books. The Reform Shul we went to [Temple Israel of Hollywood] had the Star of Redemption by Rosenzweig. [I tried to read it with no luck.]
My mother gave me a book called The Ten Commandments which was a good introduction.
I wanted to suggest here the Horev of Shimshon Raphael Hirsch which I think gives a little more detail. [He tends to emphasize Torah with work.]
Also the books of Avraham Kook [like the Lights of Repentance] I think are good as an introduction and an orientation.[He does think settling in Israel is a good thing;-- which is clearly the approach of the Torah.]

I should mention that in my first yeshiva [Shar Yashuv in Far Rockaway. Reb Shelomo Friefeld's place.] they did not believe in orientation at all. They threw me into the raging sea of Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot, [Talmud] the second I walked in the door. Sink or swim. And I tend to agree with this later approach. But I have come to see that some people are working or in university, and so need some kind of orientation.
And at some point myself felt some need for Musar. My first yeshiva did not learn Musar [Ethics] at all. That was a good degree of my motivation for going to the Mirrer Yeshiva which is a Musar yeshiva.

The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides was written for this express purpose of orientation for people and so was the book by Saadia Geon, the Emunot VeDeot, but I found them both to be difficult. But  both are written by the greatest sages since the time of the Talmud, so both are worthwhile looking at. 

I would recommend avoiding books written by cults that tend to be mental traps. And you don't need me to explain to you what a cult is. You can tell at one glance. Mainly they will present themselves as teaching some mysticism.There are groups who have insane doctrines that are not Torah but try to convince others that they are legitimate. I can't even begin to describe how damaging these groups are. And I recommend doing everything possible to stay as far away from them as from a ticking time bomb. Even more so, I would like to see them disappear because of the damage they cause to the unsuspecting.

I am just dirt under the feet of the Rambam. But I have to call it like I see it.

The new moon would seem to be the time to make rosh chodesh. This is at least the opinion of Tosphot in Sanhedrin 10 along with how Rashi explains the opinion of Rava and Rav Ashi. That is I am saying Rosh Chodesh does not depend on when the new moon is seen but when it actually is. This is how I have celebrated the festivals for a few years. And it makes a difference in how you set the dates. From what I can tell this puts Passover this year on April 3. This is counting from when the actual second of the new moon occurs.
Th Rambam would obviously disagree with this. But this is how the Gemara in Sanhedrin looks to me. The Rambam is probably based on the Gemara in Rosh HaShanah which clearly goes with the idea that when the new moon can be seen is what determines Rosh Chodesh. And even in Sanhedrin the Tosphot does not go with the opinion that the second of the molad determines it. So the only thing that makes my opinion interesting here is the fact that there is no Sanhedrin to sanctify the new moon and Hillel II never did so either. The fact is the Talmud never claims that he did and this is a big omission.  And there are dates during the period of the geonim which are not like the present day calender showing this calender was not known even by the geonim themselves.
The idea of basing ones view of halacha on the Talmud mainly comes from the halacha authorities themselves. For example when the Shach and Taz disagree with the Shulchan Aruch as they do most of the time, they always base themselves on the Talmud. This is the universal approach of every single halacha authority from the Rif until the achronim like the Chazon Ish.  The place this is stated openly is by  Chaim from Voloshin.

Sanhedrin 63a The Tosphot at  the top of the page.

My learning partner noticed that the Rashi in front of Tosphot is significantly different than our Rashi. And he was suggesting that if Tosphot had had our Rashi his questions on Rashi might disappear. I tried to convince him that there is one possible way to look at Rashi to make him make sense but he did not like it. But what I suggested that if this is the case then perhaps Rashi would in fact agree with Rabbainu Tam and everything will be good.

So it seems to me right now to try to explain RT  (Rabbainu Tam) and maybe Rashi at some further date.
Rabbi Ami says if one sacrifices, burns, or pours in front of an idol (in one space of time where he forgot that idolatry is forbidden) he is liable only one sin offering (a she goat).
Abyee explains Rabbi Ami that his idea comes from the verse not to serve other gods--it put all services into one group.

Rabbi Zakei one page back [62a] said the same thing but added bowing according to our Gemara.

RT thinks that the word bowing appears in the statement of Rabbi Zakei but not in the statement of Rabbi Ami. And this makes sense because we have a verse in the Ten Commandments that says not to do service and not to bow to other gods. So what we have is  a verse that puts all service into one category and then takes bowing and pulls it out. So it makes sense to say that all three inner services [the three that were done in the Temple in Jerusalem] are considered as one and bowing would be separate. After all the verse itself separates them. In what way would bowing be separate? In that it has its own sin offering. So if one does all four kinds of service (in one space of time where he forgot that idolatry is forbidden) to an idol, then he would be required to bring two female goats to the Temple in Jerusalem.
And Rabbi Zakei would have said that in that case he would bring only one goat. And that would be why Rabbi Yochanan to Rabbi Zakei "Get out of here!" Because Rabbi Yochanan  certainly considers all four services to be separate. But he would be happy to concede that, "Do not serve other gods" could conceivably put all three services together;-  but not bowing. It is the fact that Rabbi Zakei put in "bowing" that made Rabbi Yochanan upset.
[We already know that Rabbi Yochanan separate all four services from one page back and he learns it from bowing. For bowing was in the category of serve and yet was mentioned separately and we have a general principle that whatever was in a category and yet came out of the category to be mentioned separately comes to teach something about the whole category.
There are no new ideas here. I am just saying over the end of Tosphot where he explains Rabbainu Tam. To deal with the beginning of Tosphot I am not sure how to do right now. I had a way of explaining it a little bit but my learning partner did not like it much.

Here is this basic idea in Hebrew.

סנהדרין סג. ר. אמי אמר שמי שזבח קיטר וניסך בהעלם אחד חייב אחת. אביי פירשו שטעמו בא מן הפסוק לא תעבדם. הכתוב עשה כולן עבודה אחת. בדף סב. רבי זכי אמר אותו דבר אלא שהוסיף השתטחות. ר. תם אמר שמילת השתטחות מופיע במשפטו של ר. זכי לא במשפטו של ר. אמי. הסיבה לכך היא שיש פסוק בעשרת הדברות לא תשתחווה להם ולא תעבדם.  הפסוק אסר כול מין עבודה  והוציא השתטחות להזכר בפני עצמה. ולכן כל עבודות פנימיות נחשבות עבודה אחת, והשתטחות נחשבת בפני עצמה ואם עשה כולן בהעלם אחד חייב שתיים. אחת בשביל השלש ואחת בשביל השתטחות. ועכשיו מסתבר למה ר. יוחנן אמר לר. זכאי פוק תני לברא שיש סברה לומר שלשת  עבודות פנימיות אחת אבל לא השתטחות

If you are curious to what is the argument between my learning partner and me is that Tosphot is understanding Rashi to mean that of bowing has come out of service then it can come only for two things--to divide or as a mere prohibition like fire on the Sabbath day.
So with Rabbi Ami we see it is not coming to divide so it must be for a mere prohibition. To me this makes sense. We have at least one example of something that gets the death penalty [murder] but that does not bring a sin offering. To my partner, this makes no sense or as he puts it "It is untenable." He actually have some harsher language for this idea, but I would rather not mention it in public.

Just to let you know the problem here that I mentioned at the beginning about Rashi:
The version of Rashi that the author of Tosphot had in front of him  says that the word bowing does not appear by R Ami and therefore does not appear in the statement of Rabbi Zakei. (Tosphot is going to be bothered with this because if so then what was Rabbi Yochanan bothered with?) But that particular Rashi tries to defend this idea with saying that since bowing is not a service and it can't be coming to divide, therefore it must be coming for a mere prohibition.  Those are the words in Rashi that my learning partner, David, and I are arguing about. I say it can mean there is no sin offering even though there is the death penalty. And David says that is untenable.

David thinks that there might be some way to get the Two Rashis to correspond, the one in front of us does in fact say that to R Ami bowing is not coming to divide. And he says bowing does come out of the three services. This might very well be as Tosphot understands him to be saying that then bowing comes to tell us a prohibition alone. Or not. It could be like Rabbainu Tam also.

In any case we got into a discussion about what is in the category of serve before you take out bowing? He suggested serve according to its way and the three inner services. I suggested maybe on serve according to its way and sacrifice and the other two come from the fact that sacrifice was mentioned separately. This gets into a whole discussion of how to apply the 13 principles of the Braita we say in shacharit.


In straight Litvak (Lithuanian) yeshivas there is a period devoted to halacha. Jewish law.
And I have an idea of how to go about halacha. I was confused about this issue for some time for the same reasons that most people have problems about halacha.

  But I think I have come to a kind of solution or resolution of the matter that I would like to share.
I suggest starting with the Tur and Beit Joseph. And then the regular Shulchan Aruch written by the Beit Yoseph with the commentaries on the page. Then, if you have time, the Aruch HaShulchan- which I think is very great Halacha book.

  I wanted to mention why my idea is important. The idea here is that the Shulchan Aruch was never written to a represent a decision. It was written as a short reminder of what Joseph Karo wrote in the Tur. And the Beit Joseph on the Tur was also does not represent the actual opinion of the Beit Yoseph. He wrote in his introduction that he would not be writing his actual opinion but instead would say over the ideas of the rishonim and conclude with telling people what the majority opinion between the Rif, Rambam, and Rosh was. This was his idea of a feasible compromise but not his actual opinion of the halacha. The Mishna Torah itself needs the background of Talmud as the Rambam wrote at the beginning of the Mishna Torah that it  is what one should learn after finishing the Old Testament. "One needs no book between reading the Old Testament and this book." But the actual authority resides in the Talmud Bavli and he writes that that is the final court of law--not his book but the actual decisions of the Talmud. When questioned about his decisions by the wise men of Luniel, he never claimed divine spirit but rather showed how his decision flowed naturally from the treatment of the Talmud. And he admitted a mistake when confronted with it as brought in his letters.

I can't see much good in  cults. To me they seem negative. Not just are they enemies of Israel but the worship of human beings instead of the worship of God seems to me to be trickery.
I mean if they want to worship some human beings then fine, let them. But why try to trick people and claim that they are following Torah. To me it seems like fraud.

I hope this does not count as anything negative towards any true tzadik. For true tzaddikim [saints] are important. But in general  tzadikim are not true tzaddikim. It might all have started out well with the Baal Shem Tov but it did not take long to deteriorate.  

The Gra saw it is kelipat Noga the kelipa of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That is in modern terms the intermediate zone. Mainly  tzadikim get caught up in this zone which they interpret as enlightenment. This realm gives them powers and miracles. But it is all seduction to give them power to seduce others and pull them in. 
In fact this all boils down to the argument between the 'Rambam and the Ramban' about idolatry. To the 'Rambam there is nothing there. The Torah forbids it because it is dumb. To the Ramban' there is something there--very powerful forces. But the Torah forbids this because it is wrong. And furthermore the Ramban's approach is not dependent on whether those forces are good or evil. He divides idolatry into different parts. Worship of forces of evil. Worship of angels. Worship of humans. But all still come under the prohibition.  


How to understand the Torah. Most people reading the Torah are not Jewish.
So how does one with limited background understand Torah? Simple. Sefer Hachinuch, and the Horev from Shimshon Refael Hirsch. Also Rav Kook, if you can find his books.
These three people give a good idea of what the Old Testament is about in an accurate way that is not watered down, and yet understandable. And they deal directly with the question of "How to live according to the Torah?" and show this from the Torah itself.
They also are far from cultist doctrines that are so much a part of the world of the insane religious world  today.

The first step towards understanding Torah is to run away from anything that smells like a cult where people are long practiced at falsifying Torah. Things that smell like cults as a rule are cults.[And I am unhappy with cults. Jewish or not. My recommendation is to get rid of them with as much force as necessary. I could make a list but I am sure no one needs one. What is a cult is only too abundantly clear,]

"Scripture alone" and or individual interpretation is not  a principle in understanding Torah.  

In the Christian world this, in fact, was a principle. The only authority for the radical reformers was scripture, sola scriptura, scripture only. Then they start realizing that different people can interpret scripture differently. They were very familiar with medieval Christian ways of interpreting scripture to have several different meanings and layers of meanings. And so they say, well the predominant guide of scripture isn't going to be just scripture; it's going to be one particular meaning of scripture. And that's sensus literalis.

Now it's rather debatable what they meant by "the literal sense" because some of these reformers said that the literal sense of scripture could even be a prophetic sense, so they still said that the literal sense of scripture could be in a Psalm when the Psalm says, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand.'" Well they knew that the text if you're interested in an ancient text would be referring to the Davidic King, but they also said that Psalm also could refer to Jesus, even in its literal sense. The literal sense that they were talking about in the Reformation was not necessarily what we would call the historical critical sense. It was what they took it to be the most fundamental plain sense meaning of the text. So that was the literal sense. Then again they realized the more they did this that Protestant churches started splitting all over the place. Presbyterians and Calvinists split off from the Lutherans, the Anabaptists split off from the Reformation. And then you have a rise of so many Protestant movements that the idea that scripture alone could settle debates and give you a foundation started becoming questionable.

There is a lot to talk about here but the advantage of Rav Kook and Rav Shimshon Hirsch is there is a basic idea that the laws of the Torah were meant to be obeyed. That is a good step in understanding Torah. And they don't read into it what they want. No eisegesis.

On the other hand there still has not come any book that deals with the problem of cults in a Jewish context. The reason being that the insane religious world  as it exists today is a large cult with lots of sub cults within. Many of these sub cults in the insane religious world  are utterly and clinically insane. even though they have vast sums of money with which to scam people.

  Furthermore most are enemies of Israel.


(1) To understand Torah in a more detailed way if you have finished the books of the Old Testament, Shimshon Refael Hirsch, and Rav Kook. then it is time to do the Oral Law.
That means to do a 1/2 page of Talmud in order every day with Rashi and Tosphot. [This should take no more than ten minutes per day.] You should just say the words and go on. If you don't understand at first, don't worry because eventually you will understand when you review the material again. And if  there remain some things you don't understand, so what? For the greatness of a lot of learning goes above and beyond everything else.
And what you don't understand in this world you will merit to understand in the next world.
Then at that point you should start the Jerusalem Talmud. After that then the Sifra, Sifi, Tosefta and Midrashim. In this way you will have finished the entire Oral Law after a couple of years. All in an easy simple way that leaves you time for your other important activities. [And in fact, if you could expand on your learning Torah time, that might be recommended as Torah is above everything.]
(2) The idea in this essay is how to understand Torah. I am not dealing here with how to answer questions on Torah after you have understood it.  Reason perceives universals. Universals as applied to the human realm are moral values. But desire for social acceptance and other things makes that people ignore reason when it comes to moral values. So we need some kind of non intuitive immediate knowledge in order to maintain any kind of moral standard. That is what Torah is.
But to defend Torah in more detail I think would take a larger process than  a short essay. And to do so I would have to trace my own thought in this matter over  several years.
Mainly I came to Torah by means of two things. One is I was raised Jewish. But of course that is not enough. I was also something I saw in my parent's home that impressed me. Some kind of wholesomeness and love and purity. Something amazing. And then there was a certain amount of philosophical reading outside my regular courses in school. Buddhism, Dante, Spinoza, Plato, Karl Marx, Sartre, Camus, Herman Hesse and the little known 1001 Chinese philosophies.  After all that there was something about Torah.  

White Anglo Saxon Protestants.

If there is  a kind of hatred towards Wasps, is it justified? In any case in America there seems to be a  visceral bias against White Anglo Saxon Protestants.
Is this justified? To me it seems not. While I can hope that everyone would just keep the Written and Oral Law, I don't think harboring  a grudge against people that are at least trying to keep Torah to the  best of their understanding is very good.
I find an attitude towards Wasps that is hostile and toward Muslims as friendly to be strange. The way I see it Muslims are sweet and wonderful until that second that they decide to lock out the captain and crash the airplane, with all passengers on board. Muslims are ticking time bombs.


There is an obligation to finish all the Torah.

There is an obligation to finish all the Torah. This you can see in a few statements from the Talmud and the Gra brings them down. You might have noticed them all brought in books of Musar. The idea is when a person gets to the next world, God asks him, "Did you you learn The Old Testament? Did you learn Mishna?" If he says "Yes" he is then asked, "Did you learn Gemara?" And it gets up to the "Work of the Chariot."
It is not a hard statement of the Talmud to find because it is brought in lots of books of Musar. But the implications are almost universally ignored. It means you really have to have gone through the entire Old Testament, Talmud Yerushalimi,  and the Halachic and Agadic Midrashim. [Sifra, Sifri, Mechilta, Midrash Raba.]
I heard Rav Shick from Yavniel say once that without the path of learning of Sichot Haran 76 it is impossible to do this. [Lithuanians Jews in fact do this. Rav Kinyevski from Ponovitch finishes this material every year.]
He said he has students learning by him that have learned and finished rishonim that most people have never even heard of like Sefer Haegoz. He had one student I remember that used to finish the Talmud every month.
[Lithuanians Jews in fact do this. Rav Kinyevski from Ponovitch finishes this material every year.]

Since according to this statement of the Sages the obligation includes the work of Creation which to the Rambam means Physics  I decided to do the same with Physics. That is to go through the basic material. Even though there are great books out there I took Joos's Theoretical Physics and then Quantum Theory,  Quantum Field Theory, and a couple of  books on String Theory. And I tried the same with Math.That was a little harder. But I tried to at least go through Algebraic Topology by Allen Hatcher.

Trust in God as it was translated at the Mir yeshiva in Brooklyn

Trust in God as it was translated at the Mir yeshiva in Brooklyn meant to learn Torah and not to worry about what will come in the future.
Or to be more explicate it meant as a unmarried student just to learn Torah according to the regular four year program at the yeshiva.

The idea was that after one would be married somehow things would work out if one trusts in God.
[The concept of God here is more than the First Cause. It is the First cause that made Nature, but sometimes interacts with  the world in a way above Nature. Also there are intermediate realms, like a moral plane that interacts with the world.]

Now according to the view of the Torah, we have two kinds of trust: One of the Duties of the Heart חובות לבבות that is trust with effort. That is to do what is necessary but also to trust that God will make things work out in the way that he wants.

The other kind is of the Gra that one needs no effort and in fact it is better not to do any effort to get things, but to put everything into God's hands. [This idea is attributed to the Ramban also by Israel Salanter.]

[When I  saw the Torah being used a   means to make money, I got turned off.
But that is just abuse of a high ideal--and a good ideal. People should learn Torah and trust in God. Abusus non tollit usum. Abuse does not cancel use.

Steven Dutch:
Whether religion or unbelief have been sources of good or evil are absolutely irrelevant to anything. The only issue of any significance is whether a position is true. If it's also good, that's a side benefit. I would like nothing better than to find ways around the speed of light and the laws of thermodynamics, but they are still true even if I don't like how they affect things I'd like to do. If something is true but evil, then that's something we have to deal with. Is it at all possible that the Universe was not designed by Walt Disney? Is it possible that our current prejudices  ... may be more based on sentimentality than reason?

And another idea from Steven Dutch which I think applies to Judaism: A lot of people will misunderstand the religion and stress trivial issues, ignore or downplay significant ones, or garble concepts. In extreme cases people who disagree with the established religion will attempt to redirect it into a form very different from the original, or take it over entirely. The Gnostics of the early Christian era who cast Persian mystery religions in Christian terms are a good example. Many people will use the religion to rationalize other motives; they will use it as a pretext for prejudice, or dominating others, or lashing out at authority.
Some will adhere to the established religion out of inertia. They feel a need for some kind of spiritual activity, and the established religion is the best (or only) game in town. Some will adhere to the established religion out of fear. They may not really believe in the established religion, but are afraid of misfortune or damnation if they abandon it. Some will adhere to the established religion primarily as a means of securing good fortune, as a security blanket, or as a means of easing guilt feelings. Often they will select elements of the religion for emphasis and ignore other elements.
 Many will adhere to the established religion for social acceptance. They may like participating in special occasions, or may value the religion as a symbol of national or group identity. Some will adhere to the established religion for cynical reasons. They may secretly disbelieve everything about the religion but go through the motions for personal advantage, reputation, or social standing or, in really intolerant societies, merely to stay out of trouble.
Once a religion becomes really established, the religion itself can be a route to power, prestige, and privilege. Not only will some people adhere to the religion for cynical reasons, they will become entrenched at its very center.

   All the above Professor Dutch says is dishonest. The only honest approaches are these: Some will sincerely believe in the established religion, will critically evaluate its teachings, and will attempt seriously to model their lives on its tenets. Some will decide they do not believe in the religion at all. If the society is reasonably open, they may either become nonreligious or convert to something else. In intolerant societies, they may go through the motions of belief merely to stay out of trouble. Some will reject the religion to the point of revolt and active opposition. Some will adhere to the established religion out of sincere conviction but will disagree with important tenets. They will attempt to recast the religion in more personally palatable terms, or possibly work to redirect the religion itself into more agreeable lines. The changes may be real reforms or merely redefinition into something more palatable.

Appendix: "Trust in God" was a major issue at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn. The reason for this in part was that it was a Musar Yeshiva. That means a yeshiva that introduced Ethics (Musar) into part of the daily sessions of learning.  "Ethics" here does not mean worldview issue or what is called hashkafa. It means simple books about ethical behaviour. Now part of the reason I think this was important at the Mir is that the students there were not learning Yore Deah for ordination. The entire yeshiva was learning Torah  because one is supposed to learn Torah. So people needed a kind of justification for what they were doing. 
Later on I noticed that this emphasis on trust in God was much less in other places. Sometimes it was completely absent. But at the Mir it was definitely a part of what was going on  and that affected my own worldview since then. [Just to prove my point there was a whole shelf at the yeshiva (in the Musar section) of about 15 volumes of the מדרגת  האדם  The Sum of Man the book by Joseph Yozel Horwitz. The major theme there is trust in God.

It should be noted that the trust in God at the Mir Yeshiva in NY was in order to learn Torah. That is the idea was you trust in God so that you will not have obstacles towards learning Torah.  It is directed towards removing obstacles from learning. The Gra has this in the opposite way. He says the entire purpose of Torah is to come to trust in God.


Reform Judaism

There are positions of Reform Judaism that I disagree with. Judaism is really about Torah. The Oral and Written Torah.
(Judaism is not equal to  liberal politics. Everything in Left wing politics is against Israel and the Torah.  Democrats are definitely the worst enemies of Israel since the Nazis.)

But idolatry  has become part and parcel of the insane religious world .
So my position is that we all need to keep Torah, but that no one is really doing it.
The closest I have seen is in Lithuanian kind of yeshivas. The best of them is Ponovitch. And in fact the best of all Torah books has come out of Ponovitch, the Avi Ezri on the Rambam and the Kehilat Yaakov.

While the Litvak world is not perfect, I saw enough horrifying stuff in the rest of the insane religious world  to make me feel the insane religious world  is been absorbed into the Sitra Achra. I know I am not the only one who has experienced this but I also know people would rather no discuss their unpleasant experiences. I any case I have to tell and warn people of the truth. I expect no one will listen but at least I have fulfilled my obligation to warn people to stay away from a  bad thing.


A conversation about race in Starbucks

Race is the beginning when Nature starts to make one species into two species. And once this process starts there is no stopping it. You can't fight biology. And if you try, then biology fights back.

For an example you have one species in one area. Then for some reason part of the group gets separated. At first the two species will develop different characteristics based on female choice and environment. For some time they will remain one species, but with different characteristics. That is called "race."  After some time they will become two different species. So race is simply the beginning of when Nature divides one species into two.
Any disagreement between Nature and political correct positions is not really a contest. Reality will win out every time.

The reason this is so difficult to say, even though it is perfectly obvious, is that there has been for some time an attempt exterminate wasps. [I would use a stronger word: a war against wasps if I could. But war might be too strong a term. Let's say at minimum there is a conspiracy to wipe out wasps.] And there is a concern that if they become aware of this attempt, they might try to prevent their extinction. So it has become P.C. to say there are no wasps. Or rather, there are no races. But, in all species, there are races. And they are always the beginning of an uncross-able divide.

My learning partner mentioned to me that the problem with Germany was not racism. He noticed that there have been  black Germans for hundreds of years. There was and still is not a bias in Germany against others races. The major problem was that they did not like Jews. That is not a issue of race. Racism and being anti-Jews are very different things. And though I realize that Germany has gone far to make amends as far as that is possible, still I think confusing the issues of WWII with racism is a smoke screen. The problem was not racism. The problem was being anti -Jews.

In fact, if we consider the idea that Esau was a brother of Yaakov, then Germans and Jews are one race.


Gra told him that to the degree one lacks any knowledge of any one of the seven wisdoms, to that degree he will lack in his understanding of the Torah.

Baruch of Shkolov wrote in his introduction to his translation of Euclid a statement of the Gra about secular knowledge. He writes that the Gra told him that to the degree one lacks any knowledge of any one of the seven wisdoms, to that degree he will lack in his understanding of the Torah.
This statement of the Gra is rarely quoted, but Litvaks are aware of it to some degree.
The significance of this is the statement of the Gra in the Shulchan Aruch about not learning secular wisdoms. The Rema and the Rambam write about the Pardes and there is a note from the Gra that is a  polemic against learning philosophy. It is very uncharacteristic of the Gra. One person wrote after that that that note in Shulchan Aruch is not from the Gra and he knows who put it there אני יודע את האיש ואת שיחו "I know the guy and his talk". Later on people claimed the note is authentic.
Since the note deals with general secular wisdoms and contradicts what we know the Gra said elsewhere it seems reasonable to say like the first opinion that it is not authentic.

We know Rav Hutner [The Rosh Yeshiva of Chaim Berlin] sent his students to learn in Brooklyn Collage in the afternoons to learn a honorable profession and not depend on using Torah as a way of getting people's charity. And Reb Shelomo Freifeld  [The student of Rav Hutner and the Rosh Yeshiva of Shar Yashuv] in fact told me to go to collage. In fact he ordered me to go to collage.
[Eventually I did listen, and  majored in Physics at the Polytechnic Institute which is connected with NYU. ] I am not a good example for this matter. My parents also wanted me to go to collage. It was the only thing that they exercised their parental authority about. And it was about the only thing I refused to listen to them. On one hand today it looks like a good thing I went to yeshiva in NY instead. Yet the way NY was I think I could very well have spent 1/2  a day in yeshiva and 1/2 in Brooklyn Collage. [But who knows? At the time it seemed to me that I needed to concentrate on just Torah alone. And at the Mir as a student you were not supposed to take time off to go to university. That practice was only at Chaim Berlin yeshiva and Torah VeDaat

The Seven Wisdoms
1) Grammar
2) Rhetoric
3) Logic
4) Arithmetic
5) Geometry
6) Music
7) Astronomy


(They want to divest from Israel. Sure go ahead. The first PC microprocessor was invented in Israel. Let them all turn off their computers. The intel 8088 was invented in Haifa )

There is a lot of  antisemitism out there. Mainly in universities.
(They want to divest from Israel. Sure go ahead. The first  PC microprocessor  was invented in Israel. Let them all turn off their computers. The intel 8088 was invented in  Haifa )

Any time a guy has his wife take away his children, and his house, and his money, who gets blamed for it? His wife? Of course not. And when blacks are making a war on white USA, who do you think gets blamed for it? Blacks? Of course not. You know who gets blamed.
This is the major characteristic of Wasps-White Anglo Saxon Protestants. They go all out for some dumb ideal like equality or some other such nonsense. And then when it turns sour, they keep on enduring it. And enduring it... and enduring it.... Until it explodes in their faces.  And then they go in the exact opposite direction. No tolerance for anyone,-- especially Jews. And in the meantime who is blamed? Jews of course. Most Jews would not consider the Feminists or Howard Stern or Wasserman to represent Torah ideals. Not even Reform Jews. No one said to make them poster boys for Jews in the first place. And no one said there is anything special about Jews except in so far as we attempt to keep the Law of God. And we are the first ones to admit we don't do a good job at that.

[And no Jew who believes in Torah voted for the anti-Semite traitor to the USA in the Black House.]

Now this was the idea of Chaim from Voloshin that Jews have the quality of combining Divine Traits. That is you find Divine traits like Power or Kindness, etc. All ten sepherot. And wasps often take hold of one trait. That is why Jews are necessary--because they have the quality of combining opposing traits to bring balance to the situation. [See the Nefesh HaChaim by Reb Chaim the disciple\ of the Gra.]

Now I am not going to put all the blame on the Wasps. It has been suggested that there was a certain amount of animosity towards Wasps even before all this. The minimum requirement today to be anyone anywhere is to have something bad to say about Wasps. [Personally I developed a good amount of respect for Wasps. All my elementary school and high school teachers were wasps and they were all very good. Some were outstanding. I had a girl friend who was a wasp and she fit all the stereotypes you see about smart girls. She was smart without even trying. I think she got, according to my memory, a  1198 on her SAT. That is she missed two points from a perfect score.]

It just goes to show we should have stayed out of the civil rights movement  which was a clear war against wasps, and now it is blowing up in our faces. I can't imagine why anyone would have thought civil rights for clear and open enemies of America could possibility be a good thing.
I any case, I  told people a long time ago that tolerance towards Jews and Asians is very different than tolerance towards people who main goal in life is the destruction of White America. But no one was listening. No one.

And if you want poster boys for Jews I can think of a lot better choices. E.G. Susskind, Gregori Pearlman, the thousand and one Jewish professors of Physics and Math all over the world, the roshei yeshivas of the Mirrer yeshiva in NY, and etc.
And I don't recommend being open or tolerant of Jewish cults. Cults are bad for everyone.
Wasps should learn  to discern. There are things they ought to be tolerant of and thing they ought to exclude.There is a golden mean.
Since tolerance became a big thing, people lost the ability to discern the difference between good and bad people.


The Oral Law is not a porous concept. It is fairly well defined

The Oral Law is not a porous concept. It is fairly well defined. The two Talmuds, the Mechilta and Sifra, Sifri, Tosephta, and the Midrashim. When the Zohar came out there was (and still is) debate if to include it in the set. But later on books are at best are commentaries, not the thing in itself.

With so many people trying to pull you into their cults, it is easy to lose focus on this.

So I suggest either plowing through this material on your own at home after work, or to find a straight Lithuanian yeshiva in your neighborhood to go after school or work to do this.

I remember when I was at the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY, there was some kind of after school program where students from the local high schools would come in the afternoon to learn Torah and get credit at school for this work. I don't know why this has to be a solely NY kind of thing. Why could it not be in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Baltimore?
However care should be taken to exclude cults. There is a significant danger level that very damaging cults could take advantage of this arrangement. For that reason I have stressed that this should be only with straight Lithuanian yeshivas. And these types of places can be hard to make. In fact in the whole world there are only a few in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Flatbush. There is something hard about making such places. I could count the sum total of legitimate Litvak yeshivas on two hands.

What makes a legitimate Lithuanian yeshiva? Certainly lack of "shtick" games plays a role. Schedule also. But I think the main component is the Rosh Yeshiva. The Rosh Yeshiva has been learning for about twenty years before he became a rosh yeshiva. He is not a novice. He has not been spending his time making money for the yeshiva. he has been learning. He is like a doctor who did his time in pre med and then in med school. Without that period of training he is not a doctor but a dangerous quake.
[Most roshei yeshivas are in dangerous quakes because of the fact that hey did not put in the time.]

The students are also a factor. If you have to pay them to learn then they are not worth money. No one ever paid students to learn in Torah VeDaat, the Mirrer yeshiva or Chaim Berlin. Frankly it is hard to know why people learn in these places but something motivates them. And what ever it is that motivates them better not be money if you want the place to be authentic.

Appendix: I did not take part of that program teaching high school students Torah. I am not sure what they were teaching the students. I assume it was not Gemara, Rashi, and Topshot. It was probably something more basic like the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew. That is my best guess. In general people go through the Five Books of Moses anyway every year but the students were secular students so I assume they were probably needing an introduction. My own background was such that in fact I did spend time on the Five Books of Moses before I got started on Talmud. That was at Beverly Hills High School and in the Reform Temple, Temple Israel of Hollywood. And even later when I got to yeshiva I spend my first year doing a lot of work on the Five Books of Moses. It was only in my second year that the Talmud studies started taking precedence.

Ramban (Nachmanides) concerning the meaning of idolatry.

In the Ten Commandments there is a verse not to have any other gods on my face. לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני. What does this mean? Later on there is a verse "I will send my angel before you". אנכי שולח את מלאכי לפניך. That verse was written before the golden calf incident. So it is not a reaction to the golden calf but rather a good thing.

 The basic idea of the Ramban seems to center on the idea (in software) of network presentation. That is there is a level of the network that is presented to the user. Behind that is a whole network of connections. There is the satellite up-link, and the hardware transistors, and many subprograms, until you get to what the user is actually seeing.
To the Ramban this is פני "my face" and Metatron and the angel that God promised he would send before the children of Israel. That is  the level of interface between God and his world. It is the interface that God chooses to be his representative.
To choose another representation is idolatry because there is nothing behind it. [or perhaps there are bad things behind it.] It is not the representation that God chose to be his representative.

Exodus XX:3 and XXIII:20, 21 would be the relevant places to look at the Ramban.

After the golden calf, God said he would send an angel to guide them, but to the Ramban that was not the angel that was promised before the event of the golden calf which was Metatron.

That means that pantheism is wrong. There is a point at which God's representation stops, and things becomes created from nothing. And not anything or everything can be a presentation of God

Now at this point my learning partner tied this in with something that Rav Nevental --the rav of the old city of Jerusalem said about their making their own representation being the major sin. But the Ramban goes even further and explains that the golden calf simply did not have the software network behind it in the first place.

1) I mean to say here that the Ramban is making a distinction between angels. He equates "my face" with Metatron, and angel of the covenant, and the statement "I will send my angel before you to lead you into the land of Israel." That angel will be an emanation of God. On the other hand there are times when angels are created beings. An example is after the golden calf when God said he would send an angel before them.
2) In any case if you want to see this in more detail then get yourself an English translation of Nachmanides by Chavel. [Or read it in Hebrew on Exodus chapter 20 verse 3.]
3) This explains to us why in yeshivas there is a lot of emotional input into understanding the Oral Torah. That is because what we see here is even if you get the presentation 99% accurate but are wrong on one small thing--that is idolatry.
4) The Ari makes the same distinction as the Ramban but put it at the bottom of Azilut. Question: does that imply a contradiction? No See the Reshash. Shalom Sharabi's Nahar Shalom. [This is printed by the Kabalah Institute at the back of the Eitz Chaim of the Ari.]


The Ramban [Nachmanides]

The Ramban [Nachmanides] has a little piece on Exodus XX:3 which relates to idolatry.

For example he seems to be saying worship of human beings is not a good thing. And it does not look like he makes a distinction whether the person is a tzadik (saint) or not.
[If you only read English, you can look in the Chavel translation.]
Now the Ramban  brings this idea about Nebuchadnezzar, but still what he says there seems to be applicable to the worship of any human being-- including even the greatest tzadik imaginable.
It seems that what he says there goes against the idea of התקשרות [binding oneself in spirit] to a tzadik.
[See the Nefesh Hachaim also in relation to this issue.]

But not only that but if you look at the little piece in the Ramban that comes right before that part, you can see in his treatment of worship of constellations that he says things that seem to not correspond with Reb Nachman.

We also see in the Ramban that people did go to Moshe to ask for a blessing or to ask him to pray for them. [That is at the beginning of Parshat Yitro].

Appendix: Since some people might not have the translation of the Ramban available in their area, I would like to say over the basic idea as well as I can remember it. The Ramban says that one type of idolatry is to worship people. The idea behind it was that when they would see a great person who had great success, they thought that by binding themselves to that great person they would share in that person's spiritual powers. And the Ramban said that that was the opinion of Pharaoh.
That part seems to go against the idea of binding oneself to a tzadik.
But in the part right before that he talks about worship of stars. He says the intention was to give the constellation power by this worship and then when they would have that added power they could bestow it on its worshipers.

If this is true, (I mean the opinion of the Ramban), that can explain a lot of things.

At least it helps me understand why when people get involved with hasidim that they often seem to lose instead of gain. But maybe there is some kind of invisible line that people cross into worship of a human being and when they cross that line they lose holiness instead of gaining it.


He brings a statement from the sages of the Talmud that when there is judgment below there is no judgment above. What is judgment below? It is when a person judges himself on everything he does and says;- and asks himself, "Is it was really right what I did?"

  When a person does not judge himself below, then there is judgment above in Heaven. And when there is judgment above, then when the judgement comes down into this world, it is clothed in everything. Everything becomes a messenger to do the judgement on the person it was decreed upon. So when a person has fear of something in this world, it is because the higher judgment is clothed in that thing, like a prince,  robbers,  or thieves.

The amazing implication is that when you are afraid of something--anything, you have  a way to be saved. Learn Musar.

1) Musar means two sets of books: 1) Medieval books on ethics, 2) books written by the direct disciples of Israel Salanter.

I can give a few names if people want. חובות לבבות Duties of the Heart, אורחות צדיקים Paths of the Righteous, מדרגת האדם  Level of Man. אבן שלמה Perfect Rock.
Musar has the Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra.

The main body of  Medieval books and Israel Salanter's. Outside of that like a penumbra are books that are not that exact set but are close, like the Shelah, or the Reshit Chachma.
When I was at the Mir in my spare time I tried to go through them and I can say from my own experience that they do have a remarkable effect on people that learn them.
But if possible I think it is better to do this in a kind of Lithuanian yeshiva environment.
And it is wise to avoid cults that call themselves "yeshivas" but do not have this basic Litvak approach.
 In order to qualify as Musar a book can't be about philosophy, or kabalah, or a commentary on anything. It has to be straight Musar or else it does not have the desired effect.


The Cotton Letter made it clear that a Republican controlled Congress will never agree to any deal that allows Iran to have nuclear weapons. This is the not the intention of the Democrats. Yet here we see Jewish people complain about the Republicans who are desperately trying to stop Holocaust 2.0 They even want to indict Cotton for trying to save Jewish lives. Why did they not suggest indictment of Kerry who met with Iran officials a few weeks ago? Maybe the idea is that they simply hate Republicans and try to find any possible excuse to hurt them?

 Jews without Torah are drawn to socialism. In Russia in the early days of Lenin, Jews were drawn to Bolshevism, and then Communism. In Germany, as unbelievable as it might seem, some Jews were attracted to National Socialism. Some Jews voted for the National Socialists in 1932 which brought Hitler, their worst enemy, to power. Today, all too many Jews support the Democrat Party, and are fully behind B. Hussein 0bama; even though he is a known enemy of Jews.   American Jews, out of a sense of guilt, support Israel with their donations, yet they look down on Israel because the Jews there, are not up to "their" standards. 

 American Jews, while in love with Socialism, disdain the freedom and free enterprise  enjoyed by Israelis. Sadly, liberalism or Liberal Socialism as it actually is, would deny Israel the right to exist and would in all probability, eventually get around to once again, rounding-up Jews and concluding as their National Socialist cousins did in 1942, that there must be an answer to the "Jewish Question." The answer of course, is Holocaust 2.0. Liberal Socialists have embraced the Islamic Cause, and have deep down, latent disdain for Jews and anything Jewish.

The Cotton Letter made it clear that  a Republican controlled Congress will never agree to any deal that allows Iran to have nuclear weapons. This is not  the intention of the Democrats. Yet here we see Jewish people complain about the Republicans who are desperately trying to stop Holocaust 2.0  They even want to indict Cotton for trying to save Jewish lives.

Democrats know that people are aware of the meaning of socialism -- the ownership and control of everything by the government -- and that Americans especially have an immediate and visceral antipathy to that. Democrats think that if they talk about freedom (while promising free stuff) while in fact creating tyranny, they will be able to deceive enough people to get away with it.
The Democrats hate almost everything about Israel and America, including the very ideas of limited government, individual rights, private property, self-defense, free enterprise, free speech, etc.

The argument is in LM I:15: One must bring fear up to its root. Because when does not do so then fear is dressed in everything in this world.
The idea is that when there is judgment below there is no judgment above. So when one judges himself on everything he does then there are no judgment upon him above. But when one does not judge himself then they do judge him in heaven and then the judgments are dressed in everything  this world. and when the judgment are dressed in things in this world then he has fears. he is afraid of things because they in fact have the power to hurt him since the higher judgments are dressed in them.

Just as a side not I should mention that there are too many religious groups out there that cash in on the appearance of authenticity. And I admit it would be nice to have a gauge to measure such a thing.
My suggestion for authenticity in Torah would be to find a decent Litvak yeshiva and also go to Israel. Preferably both together. And if you want the authentic Israeli experience I recommend going into the IDF. In fact in the context of Musar there is a certain amount of opinions that are not well to my liking. The amount of people that think being against Israel is a good thing is astonishing. I am not impressed with their arguments.


A small stick of wood can lite a large one. I may be a small stick of wood, but I am sure  there is a large stick of wood out in the world somewhere that needs to hear what I have to say, and that is this: It is possible to go through the entire Oral Law. If possible, it is best to do this in a kind of Lithuanian yeshiva situation. But it is not necessary. You can do it at home. And after all what can you do if you walk into  a  or shul yeshiva and they try to convince you of some alternative doctrine that is not true and straight Torah? [the insane religious world   shuls tend to be clandestine cults.]
Not every city is blessed to have a Mirrer Yeshiva or Torah VeDaat in every neighborhood.
Last time I was in Israel I was blessed to have a nice straight Litvak Yeshiva in the neighborhood and that was a great help in my learning. That was of Rav Montag in Netivot--the city of Bava Sali.

There might be questions on yeshivas. You might have had difficult experiences in one or the other.
But I want to suggest Abusus Non Tollit Usum. [The "um" at the end of a Latin noun means it is the object.] (Abuse does not cancel use.) That is people can abuse any system even the most perfect system. So what I suggest to you is that if you have had a hard time in learning Torah you have to tweak the variables in a way that applies to your own particular situation. But not tweak variables in Torah itself. Only Torah is Torah. People commonly try to change some aspect of Torah to make it more compatible with the way they would like it to be. That advantage of the Litvak path is that there is a general understanding that only Torah is Torah and it is known that one is not allowed to change it to suit ones taste.

1) Oral Law means the two Talmuds, Sifra, Sifri, Mechilta, Tosephta and Midrash.
To go through it you need one fast session: read and words aloud and in order and go on. The slow one is like in any Lithuania yeshiva mainly to stay on one page for about a week and  keep knocking away it it until it become clear.
2) I am not implying to minimize the time needed for STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] subjects. If you are doing this in university keep it up. The time needed for Torah in such a  setting is only about two hours per day. An hour for fast learning and one hour for learning in depth with a learning partner.
As a general life plan how ever I think people should have about four years in a straight Lithuanian yeshiva anyway - at least half a day besides university.


Musar (Ethics)

I want to defend the idea of learning Musar (Ethics).
Musar is as is well known to be not the same thing as Hashkafa (world view) issues. It is also not the same as Halacha (legal) issues. It occupies its own special niche.
 It is mainly about two sub-issues--Fear of God and character improvement.

It is hard to defend because of lots of reasons. We know that Brisk never became  a Musar yeshiva. We know lots of people, even mashgichim (מנהלים רוחניים), learn Musar and there is not apparent character improvement. 

Some people have been in so called Musar yeshivas and were not happy, and perhaps were even treated not well.
Still, I think it is important for its two areas of expertise, a) Fear of God and b) character improvement.
And I think that there is nothing that can replace its utility in these two areas.
What I mean is that sometimes you hear people saying other books have Musar in them.. They in doing this mean well, but are not really interested in what Musar is about.

Musar here refers to the basic medieval set of Ethics books, plus the books of the immediate disciples of Israel Salanter. [Isaac Blazer, Joseph Horvitz, Simcha Zisel, Naphtali Amshterdam were his immediate disciples.]

1) השקפה  world view issues are dealt with in books like Saadia Geon's אמונות ודעות Faiths and Doctrines. Also in the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam. It is a solid rule that only Reform and Conservative  Jews read these books, because everything in them goes against the insane religious world 's major tenets.
2) Musar and world view issues do intersect in certain areas.  Also Musar and the LM  do intersect in some areas. But what I am suggesting is-- that there are large areas where they do not intersect.
3) At least I want to suggest having the basic books of Musar in your home. I think where Musar is there is a invincible force field that protects the place.
4) The argument that Musar is a good and important and indescribably great thing would have to be based on my own experience and on what I saw in the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY and also on my experience with people that don't learn Musar. I don't think I could defend it based on some theoretical value, or insight it gives.

One thing I know about Russia. Anything you are surprised about is planned. It is their primary strategy. If Putin disappears for a week it is because he wants people to be surprised. And even perhaps to rumor that he is not feeling well. And why would he want that? Because he does not want to waste any more time with negotiations. But also because he does not want a slow build up about the Ukraine. He sees the USA is about to send upgraded tech to the Ukraine.  And that would make it hard to retake it. To me it all points to one thing. He is about to launch a full-scaled invasion. If he wants the Ukraine, he knows he has to take it now. The president of the USA is a weak fool.

Communist strategy to weaken and demoralize America has worked thoroughly. The men are all beta males, or mentally confused cross gender nut cases. This is the perfect opportunity for Putin to launch a surprise. And he loves surprises.
But though this sounds like an alarm, I don't think it is  a big deal. Best thing at this point I say is to recognize the independence of the eastern provinces. Remove the cause of war.

It seems to me he might be using a retreat advance strategy also. First advance. Then pretend that he regrets it and is willing to make amends. then advance again.  And so on and so forth. And this applies to the USA also. Not just the Ukraine. There is still the idea of destroying the USA so that Communism can take hold of it from within.
Communism never had a goal to physically destroy the USA. Rather the idea was to morally disable it so that the USSR could take control of it. The idea is that though things like homosexuality would be against the law in Russia they would secretly promote it in the USA by clandestine means in order to erode and destroy the USA from within. And this goal has gone forward.


I had a few interesting experiences in Israel. But they were spread over different time periods.
And some are a bit personal and thus not easy to write about. And each period provides insight into what Israel is about. One period is when I was in a kollel in Safed of Rav Ernster. . That in itself was a very nice period until Baali teshuva started showing up. When they moved into Meor Chaim --and everyone knows how crazy baali teshva are- it became a nightmare.
There was another time period in Jerusalem in which I spent time with Rav Zilverman [the Rosh Yeshiva of Adert Eliyahu] and his father in law Rav Shlanger the Mashgiach of Porat Yoseph and Pertz Aurbach.

The kind of Judaism I saw in Israel is very different from what is seen in the USA.
I have mentioned on my blogs my different points of view about things but I show make clear  that a lot of my opinions are based on what I saw in Israel and it is because of my experience there that I tend to be critical of Judaism in the USA.

In any case  there was another time period in which I spent a lot of time with the family of Bava Sali in Netivot and Jerusalem. Especially the daughter of Bava Sali, Avigail Buso I found to be an amazing personality,


In any case my learning partner has been on a crusade telling me and anyone who will listen to learn the Nachmanides on the Torah.


This is an argument between the 'Rambam and the Ramban'. Maimonides and Nachmanides

The Rambam holds they are not real. Nachmanides hold they are but we are not allowed to worship them.
This came up in learning Sanhedrin. But in my own mind it helps to understand why it is that when people try to do the right thing, things go wrong.
When we understand that there are forces out there angels and otherwise--it helps to understand the irrational element of the world. That things don't make sense and the harder you try to do the right thing the more your feel forces at work against you.

When you see evil spreading in the world at an alarming rate, it is hard not to agree that there seems to be hidden forces  of evil at work. "Kelipot" so to speak. Evil gods. Can't there be some demon of homosexuality that is taking hold of people's minds in the USA?

In any case my learning partner has been on a crusade telling me and anyone who will listen to learn the Nachmanides on the Torah. [For English speakers there is the Chavel translation.]
My days are constrained so at least I am passing the message to the world in general about learning the Ramban (Nachmanides).

Russia considers  diplomacy as war by different means. To Russia diplomacy is just another way to get what they would rather get by means of war. That means that they will definitely try to take Eastern Ukraine by war. It is just they can play around with diplomacy to fool people. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Because to them power is the goal. Not peace. And NATO will definitely not put the amount of money and time and lives into this endeavor as much as Russia is willing to put into it.

If NATO and the USA and the Ukraine are willing to put up the amount of time, effort, and money,  blood and tears to hold onto Eastern Ukraine as the Russians are willing to put up to get it, then I see some purpose in a confrontation.
But they are not. The Ukraine will never be a part of NATO. Negotiations with the Russians is a joke to the Russians. To them its is just words. And words don't mean an thing.

But the way I see it this does not apply to Western Ukraine. Since all the Russians care about is power therefore the East is a good target. Once  they control it politically, then things are back to normal. But the West would be a whole different all game. The West would not buckle down and would be a liability to the Russians. People would make as much trouble as possible and the Russians would find after taking it that the battle has just begun. And they know this. I simply do not think they could care less about Western Ukraine.
 I say let Russia have the East. All Russia wants is people that want to be part of Russia anyway.

And why was it that all efforts by Ukraine to be part of the EU were ignored for the last twenty years? What ever the reason was is there any reason to think now things have changed? I suspect the reason is business ethics. Every time I have rented a place in the Ukraine the owner has always felt free to come into my apartment every day  when I am gone and steal money and what every else he thinks is useful.  There are no exceptions to this rule. The Russians are very well aware of this character flaw and thus feel that whatever good is in the Ukraine is from the after effects of being under Russian rule.

Few people are thinking ahead. Everyone one thinks if they just escalate a little bit the other side will back down. But take my word for it--Russians will never back down. All that will happen is war at the cost of billions of dollars and human life. Are a few dirt poor provinces in the East worth that?
I know no one wants to hear what I have to say. The Russians want  everyone to think they are innocent. The Ukrainians want the Eastern provinces. But to avoid war the Eastern provinces have to be let go of.
It is not that I think Russia is right for what they are doing. It is just that to avoid worse problems we have to accept that they will not stop in trying to get the Eastern provinces.

Rav Eliezer Menachem Shach definitely held excommunication of the Gra is still valid and he instilled this attitude into the vast majority of Lithuanian yeshivas in Israel.

If you consider this world to be dangerous in a spiritual way it then makes sense to come to saint  for advice.
But you would then have to be cautious about who really is a saint.
I would not mention this except for the fact that it seems to me that I have seen this kind of effect in my own life. But I have not mentioned this idea much because people in general go to people that are not saints. For example there is a whole group that comes under excommunication of the Gra. I would suggest that one should not be involved with them and that their so called tzadikim should be considered as תלמדי חכמים שדיים יהודאיים not kosher.

There is no doubt that Americans have a different approach to this than Israelis. Rav Eliezer Menachem  Shach definitely held this way and he instilled this attitude into the vast majority of Lithuanian yeshivas in Israel, even Porat Yoseph  which is Sefardi but has a Lithuanian Mashgiach, Rav Shlanger.

This is one example of the fact that you really can't know what Torah is about without being in Israel.

There is one yeshiva in Jerusalem of Rav Zilverman which goes totally with the Gra and that are many carbons copies of that yeshiva. But that is not what I mean here. I mean there is a very basic mindset in all the Lithuanian yeshivas in Israel that is fundamentally different from American Yeshivas. The first time I discovered this I admit I was shocked. But the way I see things today I would have been well advised to listen to Rav Shach. And so I advice in fact in general taking his advice in this matter.

Sanhedrin 61a. I was doing a little review on the Talmud. And it occurred to me that  both Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor consider השתחווייה  (bowing) to be inviolate.

That is: I am suggesting a possible way of understanding Tosphot along the same lines of this little piece that God granted to me to write about this Gemara.

That is to say: The Gemara suggests learning from  השתחווייה (bowing). That would mean all kinds of service of honor would be liable. Rav Acha asks; "If so then what would איכה יעבדו ("How do they serve?") come to exclude?"
Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor ask why did he not ask the same question when we were learning from זביחה sacrifice? The Meor answers in the last case, איכה יעבדו would have excluded kissing an idol one hugs. That means the Meor thinks זביחה is modifiable and השתחווייה  is not.
Tosphot in fact might be thinking this is the flaw in the reasoning of the Baal Hameor,--the fact that when we learn from one verse we think it can't be modified and when we learn from another it can be. While Tosphot  also agrees that bowing השתחווייה can't be modified, they understand the question of the Gemara differently. They think it means there is no area left to be modified. In other words the question on the Baal HaMeor that I wrote in Hebrew might very well be the reason Tosphot rejected that approach in the  first place.
I  think this is important because we find the Maharsha sticking up for the Baal Hameor and he has a very sensible reason--the language of exclude instead of to include. But that leaves us with the very strange things that Tosphot seems to have missed this. And that is impossible.  Or let's say it is possible but I have never seen anything like it anywhere in the entire Talmud. Tosphot simply does not make logical errors,-- ever. It is like think Mozart would write something not top quality.  I imagine it could be possible we we know for a fact that it is not possible. Same with Tosphot. So I think it is very important that we have seen now a reason why Tosphot had to explain it in the way they did,

סנהדרין ס: אני רוצה קודם כל להציע את הגמרא בקצרה ואחר כך מחלוקת תוספות עם בעל המאור, ואחר כל זה להציע שתי קושיות על בעל המאור. הברייתא אומרת שלומדים עבודה שלא כדרכה מזביחה (היינו מן הפסוק "זובח לאלהים יחרם") שמות כב
רבא בר רב חנן שואל, "למה אין יכולים ללמוד את זה מהשתחוויה ("וילך וישתחווה") [דברים יז]. רב אחא מדפתי שאל על רבא בר רב חנן, "אם היינו לומדים מהשתחוייה, אז מה היה  'איכה יעבדו הגויים האלה את אלהיהם' בא למעט? [היינו מה היה בא לפטור]. והגמרא מתרצת שהיא בא לרבות שלא כדרכה למבוזים

תוספות ובעל המאור שואלים על רב אחא, למה הוא שאל רק על השתחוויה (הִשְׁתַּטְּחוּת)? למה הוא לא שאל גם על זביחה? היינו, אם לומדים שלא כדרכה מזביחה, מה בא "איכה יעבדו" למעט
תוספות עונים ששואלים רק על השתחוויה בגלל שאם משתמשים עם השתחוויה, אז שייך לשאול מה בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו. זה בגלל שמהשתחוויה אפשר ללמוד את הכול, אפילו עבודה כדרכה. האופן לראות את זה הוא לדגש שבשלב הזה הגמרא חושבת שהשתחוויה מכילה גם עבודה של בזיון. רואים את זה מן התירוץ לשאלת רב אחא שהשתחוויה לא מכילה עבודה של בזיון. אבל מזביחה לא היינו מכילים עבודה של בזיון, ולכן שייך לא לשאול למה בא "איכה יעבדו"? הוא בא לומר עבודה כדרכה חייבת. אבל בעל המאור הולך בכיוון אחר. הוא ראה ששאלת הגמרא היא מה איכה יעבדו בא למעט (לפטור). היינו שהיא בא לרבות מה שהוא ולמעט מה שהוא. ובהמשך הגמרא משתדלת למצוא דבר ש"איכה יעבדו" יכול לפטור. לפי ההקדמה הזאת הוא אומר שמן זביחה היינו מחייבים נשיקה למגפפים [עבודה זרה שדרכה בחיבוק]. ואז בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו שאינו חייב
שתי שאלות יש לי כאן על שיטת המאור. אם זה נכון ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפטור נושק למגפפים, אז למה לא לשאול על השתחוויה (הִשְׁתַּטְּחוּת)? תגיד שהשתחוויה בא לחייב נושק למגפפים.  ותגיד ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפתור אותו. (תוספות והמאור שניהם אוחזים שאם לומדים מהשתחוויה אז השתחווייה היא דבר קבוע שאיכה יעבדו אינה יכולה לשנות. רק זביחה היא דבר שאיכה יעבדו יכולה לשנות. אצל שניהם יש בקושיה הזאת
שאלה שנייה איך התירוץ עובד? איך היינו חושבים שזביחה באה לחייב נושק למגגפים מראש? אין סיבה לחשוב שזביחה הייתה מכילה נשיקה למגפפים. אפשר לראות את זה על ידי זה שנזכרים שמשתמשים עם זביחה בשביל להרבות עבודות פנים. אין שום הווה אמינא שזביחה היתה מכילה שום דבר אחר. רק השתחוויה חשבנו שהיא באה לרבות כל דרך כבוד


That is the end of the quote. My take on this is that Israel is very hard to be in. But it is the essence of what it means to be Jewish. For reasons beyond my control, I have found being in Israel difficult.But I long to be there. And synagogues I am in general not very happy with.  Probably the best are Conservative or Re-constructionist. I would not go anywhere near an the insane religious world  one.
If there was a straight Lithuanian yeshiva in my area, I would spend as much time as possible there.

But when I say yeshiva I mean something along the lines of the Mirrer in NY. I have made a suggestion before to have a "Beit Midrash" on a blog I wrote a long time ago. That is a study hall which is a little less formal than a yeshiva but close enough.

In any case I am not into organized religion much. As far as I am concerned people ought to learn Torah, and I don't care much where they do it. In fact, if you can do it at home- that is the best. If you are not up to Talmud, then maybe get a Mishna. But in any case, I don't accept the idea that people can't learn on an advanced level. I think that is sheer laziness. The way I see it, everyone has to go through the entire Oral Law at least once. Do it fast or slow, - I don't care. That means Talmud Bavli, Yerushalmi, Tosephta, Sifra, Sifri, and the basic Midrash [Midrash Raba.]

The Ramban [Nachmanides],

The Ram'ban [Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanides].[When you say Ramban you stress the last syllable.]]
My learning partner thinks he is the best thing there is for understanding Torah. I think part of his reasoning is that the Ram'ban is a kind of interface between the mystical parts of Torah and the more rational aspects.

And the rational parts don't make much sense without the mystical parts and visa versa.
If you go with just the rational explanation of Torah of the 'Rambam (Maimonides) things get very awkward.
His Aristotelian explanations of Torah, just don't seem to fit.  [And to make the 'Rambam (Maimonides) make sense you have to go to the mystic Avraham Abulfia and his commentary on the Guide anyway.]
But when people go into the mystical aspects they tend to go off the deep end very quickly. They start getting involved in the ten sephotot and unifications and Adam Kadmon and not the Torah.
They think that by meditating on the ten sephirot or Adam Kadmon or something that they get somewhere. Which is clearly false. All they get from that is delusions.

Nachmanides, the Ram'ban, shows a middle path. And in his commentary on Torah he shows how things make sense.

I am not sure what to think about this. when it comes to mysticism I just go with the Ari straight. But I admit the Ram'ban might be a good interface.


How would you define white privilege?”

Simple. Everything good comes from Blacks and Muslims; every invention, every new idea. It has only been blacks and Muslims fighting for social justice for whites. If not for blacks, whites would be in some mud hole in Africa.  
Jesus we know was black,  also Moses and Plato, Newton,  Einstein,  Bach, Kant and Gauss.
And they stole their ideas from Muslims and Blacks.
So everything whites have is only because of white privilege. Whites earned nothing. All they do is sit around all day and collect welfare checks. And complain about how blacks have exploited them, and how when they get the chance, they will take down the blacks.
Name one invention of a white person! Or a medicine? Nothing. Nada. 
And you can bet that it is only because of affirmative action that whites are accepted in any university.


To understand the Rambam's idea that learning Physics and Metaphysics brings one to Love and Fear of God. [This is stated most openly in the Guide for the Perplexed but also shows up in Mishna Torah] [The Rambam tells us what he means in different places. He says this in elliptical form as he warned us openly that he would write in that way. He defines the work of creation מעשה בראשית and work of the divine chariot מעשה מרכבה in the beginning of the Guide for the Perplexed . In the Guide itself he tells us what is the purpose he sees in these--the Work of Creation to come to fear, and the Work of the Divine Chariot to come to love. And this approach of the Rambam is quoted virtually verbatim in all later books of Musar.]

To justify this approach of the Rambam I would like to bring together a few ideas:

[1]  we find that God's glory does not extend everywhere. That is even though His glory fills the whole world, there are places where his glory does not reach. וכבודי לאחר לא אתן. Now we find that it says in a verse that God created the whole world for his glory. לכבודי בראתיו יצרתיו אף עשיתיו. So his glory is the root and life force of everything that exists. So what about those places where his glory does not extend? They get life force from the hidden statement (מאמר הסתום). "In the beginning God created heaven and earth."  That is hidden because it does not say "He said." [In nine other acts of creation it says, "He said."]

So the areas  the most hidden from God get their life force from the highest levels of holiness.

And when one turns to God from those areas and calls out "where is the place of his glory?" Then he returns to the highest statement of creation.

In Math and Physics there is no open numinosity. But there is the hidden statement by which the world was created. So when one turns to God there, and learns for the sake of Heaven, he brings up all the creation to God.

[2] Maimonides held that Torah is only the Written and Oral law. But two of the commandments of the Torah are to love and fear God, and these Maimonides held were 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]. [In Hebrew University I studied both to see if what Aristotle was doing intersected with modern Physics. My conclusion was yes.]

[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.

In the above, 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 Metaphysics 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.
[Same as what the Rambam says about the idea of natural law that preceded Torah law. But that is a different discussion.]

I am also saying that Torah is a super 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. [The Rambam was not pure Aristotelian either, but as Plotinus himself a kind of mid point between Plato and Aristotle.]

[7] In this world is hidden holiness; and even in the lowest regions in spirituality is hidden the highest holiness that comes from the hidden statement of creation. [In the first statement of Creation there is no "He said"]

[8] Where do you see that "truth is in the ground?" In physical matter? Why is it that the Rambam insists on seeing in facts about physics the highest truths? He probably saw it in a Midrash. God wanted to create Man. The angel of truth came and asked, "How can you create Man when he is full of lies?" God took the angel of truth and threw him on the ground, as the verse says, "He threw truth to the ground.."

[9]  The Rambam holds learning Physics and Metaphysics (of Aristotle) is higher than learning Torah. Rambam beginning of the Guide, beginning of Mishna Torah, end of vol III or (vol II) in the Guide in the parable about the palace of the King,
See also LM II:39; LM II:12; LM I:1;
Sefer Hamidot of Nachman Ot Daat.

 To put this all together you have to start with the idea that the goal of Torah is to come to love and fear of God. Then you need the idea that the the world was created by the Ten Statements of Genesis, and thus those statements are the life force of all that is in the world. And that those Ten Statements are the clothing of the Ten Commandments. And the highest statement is the first one "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" in which it does not say openly God said. It is the hidden statement which is the life force of everything and everywhere where God's glory is hidden.
Thus Torah is God's revealed wisdom, and Physics and Metaphysics is his hidden wisdom.

[10]  There are people that if exposed to straight Torah will not be able to accept it. Often it is better for people to learn the natural sciences rather than open Torah, because זכה נעשית סם חיים, לא זכה נעשית לו סם מוות. By being exposed to open Torah, one can become worse. And in fact this often happens before our very eyes.

Appendix: It is my hope that people will understand that learning Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot is also important. I would hope that people can find a balance in which they spend part of their time on the Physics and the rest of the day on straight Torah.