The evil inclination does not come to a person saying to do a sin. Rather it comes saying "Let's go and do some good deed."

Reb Nahman had a whole set of lessons that he said over on the statements of Raba in Bava Batra. The very first lesson of his book deals with the events that Raba said over about how he was once on a sea voyage and the sailors told him about the nature of the kind of wave that sinks ships. "They seem," they said "like a streak of white lightening at the top. But if one hits them with a stick on which the names of God are written,  that causes them to calm down."
From this Reb Nahman derived the idea that the evil inclination usually does not come to a person saying to do a sin. Rather it comes saying "Let's go and do some good deed." That is the evil inclination wants to seem white and pure.

The first time I saw this idea was in the commentary of the Gra on Mishlei on the verse זבחי שלמים עלי היום שילמתי נדרי "Today I sacrificed peace offerings. I fulfilled my vows." That is: the evil inclination starts out asking one to do a good deed.

The exact details however are not clear to me--that is how to go about evaluating the situation. As a general rule, I think the best idea is that of Rav Israel Salanter--to learn the basic set of Musar books to get a clear idea of what the Torah actually requires of one--in a practical day to day sense.

My father [Philip Rosten (Rosenbloom)]

My father [Philip Rosten (Rosenbloom)] was a hard act to follow. As his sister put it, "He was the 'Golden Boy.'" No matter what he did, he was great at it. It did not matter what it was. Being a father, a husband, a scientist working to put satellites with laser communications into orbit, violinist, etc.--Even business and the stock market.
My own interests were more in music and philosophy. But I still had an unconscious desire to do as well as him and/or better.
Now I realize that he had specific talents--not just over-all talents. I mean to say he had two kinds of talent. One kind was a general ability to excel at anything. The other kind was talent in specific areas.

[I realize also that people have made intelligence tests more sophisticated in that they do seem to be able to measure general intelligence better than they used to.]
[So it is likely that they can measure intelligence, but not specific areas of intelligence very well.]

What I mean to bring here is the idea of walking in the path of one's parents is a good idea unless the parents were on a prima facie (obviously)  evil path.

I my own case,following his footsteps  going to Cal Tech did not seem much of a possibility. But there were other areas where he had excelled in that I think I might have tried.

[You however do not see this idea mentioned much in the Gemara I think because the Gemara is thinking that many times one's parents are not very worthy of emulation..]
Robert Sapolsky {Stanford} brings the idea that overwhelming religious interest is the sign of  schizoid personality.

This seems to account for a common-place observation about the unreliability and general lack of sanity among such groups.

The issue is not the importance of religious value. Let's take it for granted that closeness with God is important. Rather the issue is that for every area of value there is an equal and opposite area of value. And since this world is mostly evil as the Ari (Isaac Luria) says, therefore the tendency is for religious people to fall into the Sitra Achra even if their intentions are pure.

[The idea here I think I did not state clearly.  Let me rephrase this: There is a spectrum of values. When or if they decay, they decay into their opposite. When some area of value is not so great, then it decays into something not so bad. But when a holy area of value decays, it becomes something really horrific.  ]

Thus learning Torah and trust in God are important, however self reliance also is--that is not to be relying on other people's handouts.

People that make their living off of Torah are often of this schizoid type. To add to the problem they also desire power and demand others pay their way.


U-51 D Flat Major

This is more or less a rough draft.


U-47 E Minor

I think the secular world does not make much distinction between religious values. From the secular view it is all the same. Not much more than a waste of time. [Except for the Kant Fries school and Hegel to whom religious value is highly significant.]
But in the Old Testament a distinction is made between different kinds of religious value.
For example in Deuteronomy we find [Perek 13] the paragraph concerning the מסית ומדיח one who suggests the worship of another being that is not the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

The verse says that if one person, even a close family member says to you "Let's go and serve some other god," then that person must be put to death.

I did about a year's amount of work on the Gemara in Sanhedrin which deals with the issue of idolatry in order to get the subject straightened out in my mind and I pretty much came to the conclusion  that worship of human beings counts as idolatry just as much as worship of sticks and stones.
So cults that worship people I think should be avoided. This obviously was the point of the Gra when he put his signature on the letter of excommunication.


Philosophy is relevant because of politics and economics and morals. Getting philosophy wrong means that one will get each of these other three things wrong. And if enough people get all those three things wrong things can get really off.

The major problem in Philosophy today I think is really concentrated in deciding between three areas. One is Dr Kelley Ross (CA) of the Kant-Fries School. Another is Hegel and the third is the intuitionsts people like Dr Huemer in Colorado and Brian Caplan [which stems from Thomas Reid, and G.E Moore].
The rest of twentieth century so called philosophy [Linguistic and or so called analytic] is definitely defunct and as Dr John Searle {Berkley} puts it so eloquently:  "It is obviously false."

The Medieval development of Plato and Aristotle as we see in the Rambam, Anselem, and Aquinas seems also important and highly relevant [as Dr Edward  Feser (CA) makes note of].

There is a lot I need to learn here. But just off hand it seems to me that Hegel, Dr Ross are not so far apart.  But Hegel was in fact hijacked so some like Karl Popper blamed him for totalitarian systems that used his name.--Marx for example. But I think a close look at Hegel will show he was much closer to the American political system than is known.

Philosophy is relevant because of politics and economics and morals. Getting philosophy wrong means that one will get each of these other three things wrong. And if enough people get all those three things wrong things can get really off. 

So getting it right is important even if one does not have a natural interest in it. 
The Middles Ages --the age of faith pretty much ended with the Black Plague and religion seemed useless against it. The Enlightenment had many aspects but one was to find non religious justification for values  and non religious solutions to human problems.
In part this had the great result in advancement in the hard sciences. But it also gave credibility to obvious pseudo sciences--anything that could tack the word "science" onto its ending syllable.

So I ask is that all there is? Just religious solutions to human problems or pseudo sciences?

In the Kant-Friesian School of thought of Dr Kelley Ross we find a spectrum of values. Thus numinous values are found in all areas of the spectrum. Thus in plain English that means "balance."
That is when one tries to have a balance of values each area of value reinforces other areas.

This you find in the sages in many places, One place is the more well known idea "דרך ארץ קדנה לתורה" "The way of the Earth comes before Torah."  The idea is also expressed by the Gra: Proportional to the lack of knowledge in the Seven Wisdoms [Quadrivium, Trivium] one will lack knowledge of Torah.

The exact quote from the Gra is that proportional to the lack of knowledge of the seven wisdoms one will lack in knowledge of Torah a hundred fold. That is he sees a kind of causality in that relation.


The big problem with Torah scholars that are demons is they pretend to be friends, but because they are demons they actually try to cause harm when they are able; and at least never help.
I mean to say that though the subject of Torah scholars that are demons is not well defined in the Zohar and the Ari, still in the writings of the Ran from Breslov it is easy to see what the terminology means.
For example in the stories of the Ran [from Breslov and Uman] you can see he uses the term as in מזיקי עלמא or what is called "mazikim." that go around trying to cause harm.

One important point that Rav Nahman brings is in his major book vol 1. 61 where he says the major blame is on people that give to these demonic Torah scholars a kind of pseudo ordination.
True ordination stopped in the middle of the Talmudic period. This is the reason Amoraim from Iraq were called "Rav" [as in Rav Yehuda etc.]

The trouble is it is just too easy to ignore this problem. But that just aggravates the situation. To me it seems best to deal with the issue decisively.

To me it seems that this comes under the category of rebuke that one knows will not be accepted. Still in some kinds of cases one is required to give rebuke anyway. I saw this in the אבן שלמה of the Gra where it is brought down that there are situations where one must give rebuke even where there is no chance of it being listened to.
It seems that this is one of those cases, because without at least someone making the problem known, too many innocent people fall into the trap.
[I do not mean that one should always give rebuke as the Ran from Uman makes clear in Vol II:8. Still, there are times when a situation has gotten so out of hand that one must make it known. ]

The problem of Torah scholars that are demons

The problem of Torah scholars that are demons which comes up in the writings of the Ran from Uman and Breslov is not just concerning the issue to avoid certain people. The problem is that from the teachers the decay sets into the whole thing. That is it makes it hard to keep the rules of the Torah at all when the people that you would expect are there to help turn out to be demons.
That makes the entire project of learning and keeping the Torah to be difficult.

Before the time of the Gra I think things were more simple. But after his time and his letter of excommunication was ignored, I think the rot became pervasive throughout the entire structure. And this is the cause of the formation of the Reform Movement that was intended to be able to be true to the principle of Torah without the rot that had set into the religious world.

[Reform however went too far left, and so the Conservative movement started. But it is interesting to note that the formation of the State of Israel come solely from secular Jews.]

[It is obvious that Reb Israel Salanter held that the best approach would be an emphasis on learning Musar [Mediaeval Ethics] and to some degree I have to agree. But just from simple observation or the state of people that do in fact learn Musar I think I have to conclude that that solution is highly limited in effect. Even my learning partner said "I am allergic to Musar." In other words, he also noticed the same thing that I saw. The gap between learning Musar and doing Musar seems too great to be easily crossed.] What I  mean is that often people that represent and are involved in Musar do not seem to have much in the way of human decency. That raises a question on the whole Musar project. So the only solution I can see is to serve God individually at home.

The big problem with Torah scholars that are demons is they pretend to be friends, but because they are demons they actually try to cause harm when they are able and at least never help. 


Even though numinous value is important, it does not replace other areas of value.

There is a tendency in religious circles to imagine themselves superior to others in all possible ways. That is in mental ability, in moral actions etc. And in areas that it is clear they are not any better than others the tendency is to minimize the significance of those areas.

The only way I have been able to make sense of this is  by Dr Kelley Ross's Polynomic Theory of Value where he builds on the insights of Kant and Schopenhauer. That is to say: even though numinous value is important, it does not replace other areas of value.

[It is basically a Neo Platonic system which works well for me as that is the basic world view of the Rishonim and Geonim like Saadia Gaon and the Rambam. I mean that even though the Rambam leans towards Aristotle he still is pretty firmly in the Neo Platonic School.]

[For some reason Dr. Ross has not published a book on his system, but I have found his Ph.D thesis on his site to fill in the details.]

In any case, I tend to be skeptical about claims to moral superiority when actions seems to indicate the reverse.  That is to say even though numinous value is important, still in every area of value there seems to be a kind of  Dark Side that surrounds it. 

When religious groups can do something like this, then they can brag about their superiority

Image result for nasa shuttle launch pictures


Religious obsession most often turns into obsession with the Dark Side

Religious interest is often just a kelipa--force of evil. That is to say most often it is just a way to get a person off track.
Though to learn and keep Torah is important, however the area of religious value tends to decay and become its exact opposite.
That is: religious obsession most often turns into obsession with the Dark Side; - even though it started out with obsession with doing good and holy works.
This is the reason that secular Jews tend to put all religious obsessions into one basket. They tend to be justified in doing so as the Ari says that עולם הזה (this world) is mostly kelipa--sitra achra.
This also accounts for the basic nature of Litvak yeshivas to discourage religious fanaticism. Sure they learn Torah all day, but the emphasis is to do so in a balanced fashion.

The best way to understand this I think is with Dr. Kelley Ross and the Kant-Friesian School. That is at least what helped me put things into context and perspective. Even thought the Kant-Fries School does not openly deal with the problems with the Sitra Achra it does have the Polynomic theory of Value which for me helped to understand "the Big Picture." [The big picture is after all what is needed in order to understand one's place in the Big Picture. ]
[Dr. Ross is mainly ignored since the focus is far from mainstream academia.  This is I think in part because mainstream academia has been off the path of reason for  long time as John Searle himself noted about  Analytic Linguistic, [Continental versus British] philosophy of the last century. As John Searle himself puts its so eloquently, "It is obviously false."]   


ראשיה בשוחד ישפוטו וכהניה במחיר יורו
"It's [of Zion] heads judge for pay, and it's priests teach for a price."

In one of the less known later prophets, מיכה, פרק ג' פסוק י''א  is brought this verse  in which the doom of Jerusalem is predicted because Torah becoming a paid profession and judges also were getting a salary.

If you look there you can see that that is the major reason the prophet there is predicting the fall of Jerusalem.
This goes along with what we find in the Gemara  כל דיין שנוטל שכר לדון כל דיניו בטילים
"Every judge that receives a salary for judging, all his judgments are null."
The law is that this is the case even if he takes an equal amount of money from both parties.
The only allowed way is if the judge has an honest job and two people come to him for judgment and give שכר בטלה for his time שכר הניכר. Not if he [in theory] might have a job, but rather he has at present a real job that he is willing to take time off of.

The issues are divided into three: (1) judging for pay, (2)teaching Torah for pay, (3) learning Torah for pay.
The Gemara already says teaching Torah for pay is forbidden as God says מה אני בחינם אף אתם בחינם Just as I taught Torah for free so you must teach Torah for free.
Learning for pay also the Rambam deals with in Avot chapter 4 where he says one who learns Torah for money loses his portion in the next world. He repeats the same idea in Mishne Torah


A question on R. Tam in Bava Batra 45 and an answer

בבא בתרא מ''ה ע''א וע''ב.  The משנה says an artisan can not say about a certain object that he bought it. רבה says that is only when witnesses were present when the object was given to him to fix. But if there are no witnesses he is believed because he could have said it never came to him as an object to fix, but rather he bought it outright in the first place. אביי asks then even with witnesses [but we do not see the object with him now] he should be believed that he bought it, because he could have said "I gave it back to you." רבה answered this. If he received it in front of witness he has to  have had to give it back in front of witnesses. So there is no מיגו That he could have said החזרתי לך. And then ר' תם asked this. אביי should have asked after that answer of רבה even with witnesses [but not seeing it right now] he still should be believed because he could say the object was stolen or lost in some other was that was not his fault. [like lost or stolen for a non paid guard or stolen at gun point for a paid guard.] My question is this seems difficult to say. Why should we should believe him that he bought the object because  the מיגו he could have said it was stolen and then have to take an oath. The oath part of it makes the thing that מיגו "he could have said" to be not desirable to say. After I wrote this it occurred to me that the second answer in תוספות is exactly that. The second answer of the  יש מפרשים says that the intention of רבה is to say this. The משנה says an artisan can not say he bought the object. רבה says that is only if he wants to be believed without an oath, but with an oath he is believed. This is when there are witnesses but the object is not seen with him right now. Thus in fact there is this idea he could have said the object was stolen and be believed with an oath. So now also we believe him with an oath. I think that you have to say for ר' תם that the oath in the case where the object was stolen is only from the words of the scribes, not from the Torah. And therefore the fact that a plea of stolen will require an oath from the words of the scribes will not affect the law of the Holy Torah which considers both, (1) the case of the artisan that says he bought the object and (2) the case of his saying it was stolen both to be without an oath. So the oath requirement will not affect the fact that the Torah believes him because of "he could have said."

The idea here is that to ר' תם for there to be an oath in the case of a שומר there has to be two objects. One that he says was stolen and another that he admits to. Since that is not the case here, the oath he has to take in the case of אונס is מדברי סופרים

בבא בתרא מ''ה ע''א וע''ב. המשנה אומרת אומן לא יכול לומר על חפץ מסוים שהוא קנה אתו. רבה אומר כי זה רק כאשר עדים היו נוכחים כאשר האובייקט ניתן לו לתקן. אבל אם אין עדים הוא נאמן בגלל מיגו כי הוא יכול היה להגיד את זה אף פעם לא הגיע אליו כאובייקט לתקן, אלא שהוא קנה אותו על הסף מלכתחילה. אביי שואל אז אפילו עם עדים [אבל אנחנו לא רואים את האובייקט איתו עכשיו] הוא צריך להאמין שהוא קנה אתו, כי הוא יכול היה לומר "נתתי אותו בחזרה אליך." רבה ענה זה. אם הוא קיבל את זה מול עדים הוא צריך להחזיר אותו מול עדים. אז אין מיגו שהוא יכול היה לומר החזרתי לך. ואז ר' תם שאל את זו. אביי צריך לשאול אחרי התשובה של רבה אפילו עם עדים [אבל לא רואים את זה עכשיו] הוא עדיין צריך להאמין כי הוא יכול לומר את האובייקט נגנב או אבד לא באשמתו. [כמו אובדן או גניבה של שומר לא בתשלום (שומר חינם) או נגנבו באיומי נשק עבור שומר שכר.] השאלה שלי היא זו נראית קשה לומר. למה אנחנו צריכים להאמין לו כי הוא קנה את האובייקט משום מיגו, שהיה יכול לומר שזה נגנב ואז צריך להישבע. הצורך של השבועה עושה את המיגו "הוא יכול היה לומר" להיות לא רצוי לומר בשבילו. עלה בדעתי כי התשובה השנייה של תוספות אומרת בדיוק את זה. התשובה השנייה של יש מפרשים אומרת כי כוונת רבה היא זאת. המשנה אומרת אומן לא יכול להגיד שהוא קנה את האובייקט. רבה אומר כי זה רק אם הוא רוצה להיאמין בלי שבועה, אך עם שבועה הוא אמין. זהו כשיש עדים אך האובייקט לא ראה איתו עכשיו. כך שלמעשה יש רעיון זה של מיגו שהוא יכול היה לומר את האובייקט היה נגנב שיאמין בשבועה. אז עכשיו גם אנחנו מאמינים לו בשבועה. אני חושב שיש לך להגיד על ר' תם כי השבועה במקרה שבו האובייקט נגנב היא רק מדברי הסופרים, לא מן התורה. ולכן העובדה שטיעון של גנוב ידרש שבועה מדברי הסופרים לא תשפיע על החוק של התורה הקדושה שרואה במקרה של אומן שאומר שהוא קנה את האובייקט לבין המקרה שהוא אומר שזה היה נגנב שניהם להיות בלי שבועה. אז דרישת השבועה לא תשפיע על העובדה שהתורה מאמינה לו. הרעיון כאן הוא שלר' תם כדי שתהיה שבועה במקרה של שומר חייב להיות שני אובייקטים. אחד שהוא אומר נגנב ועוד אחד שהוא מודה. כיוון שזה אינו המקרה כאן, השבועה שהוא צריך לקחת (במקרה של אונס) היא מדברי סופרים

So I am thinking that the answer of R. Tam only works if you hold טענת אונס צריכה הודאה במק. This R. Tam comes up also Bava Metzia also. And in my notes over there on page 98 I discuss him in the context of Tosphot.
I should mention that I myself was totally unaware of this opinion of R. Tam until it came up in Bava Metzia pg 98.

Tractate Bava Batra pg 45b.

. The mishna says an artisan can not say about a certain object that he bought it. Rabah says that is only when witnesses were present when the object was given to him to fix. But if there are no witnesses, he is believed - because he could have said it never came to him as an object to fix, but rather he bought it outright in the first place. Abyee asks then even with witnesses [but we do not see the object with him now] he should be believed that he bought it, because he could have said "I gave it back to you." Rabah answered he would then have had to give it back in front of witnesses. [If he received it in front of witnesses, he has to give it back in front of witnesses]

R. Tam asked Abyee should have answered even with witnesses [but not seeing it right now] he still should be believed because he could say the object was stolen or lost in some other way that was not his fault [like lost or stolen for a non paid guard or stolen at gun point for a paid guard].

My question is this seems difficult to say. Why should we should believe him that he bought the object because he could have said "It was stolen" and then have to take an oath. The oath part of it makes the thing that "He could have said" to be not desirable to say.

After I wrote this it occurred to me that the second answer in Tosphot is exactly that. He says that the intention of Rabah is to say this. The Mishna says an artisan can not say he bought the object. Rabah says that is only if he wants to be believed without an oath, but with an oath he is believed. This is when there are witnesses but the object is not seen with him right now. Thus in fact there is this idea he could have said the object was stolen an be believed with an oath. So now also we believe him with an oath. [Still it is hard to understand why this is a question in the first place to the other Rishonim.]
"He could have said thus and thus and be believed so we should believe him when he says a weaker plea." actually came up with me in a case before the Israel Supreme Court when that was the exact reason they acquitted me of wrongdoing  in a certain case.

I think that you have to say for R. Tam that the oath in the case where the object was stolen is only from the words of the scribes, not from the Torah. And therefore the fact that a plea of stolen will require an oath from the words of the scribes will not affect the law of the Holy Torah which considers both the case of the artisan that says he bought the object and the case of his saying it was stolen both to be without an oath. So the oath requirement will not affect the fact that the Torah believes him because of "he could have said"
The reason the oath of a stolen object is from the words of the scribes is that to R. Tam, in order for an oath (that something was stolen) to be from the Torah it is needed that there be two objects. One that he admits to and the other the object that he claims was stolen. This you can see in Bava Batra page 70b in Tosphot and also in Bava Metzia page 98a


The subject of demons that pretend to teach Torah

The subject of demons that pretend to teach Torah is in fact a rather big subject which comes up  in the  writings of Rav Isaac Luria. Without really saying so, this is the reason that the Reform and Conservative movements got started in the first place.  Not that  I agree with the Reform and Conservative on every detail, but the basic idea is that they were reacting to a certain kind of situation.
 In any case, both the Reform and Conservative are right about a good deal of major points --for example the primary importance of laws between man and his fellow man. Clearly the Musar movement of Reb Israel Salanter also tried to emphasize  that area of obligation --but with limited success.

I have to admit that I think Reb Israel and the Gra were right about the basic approach of the Holy Torah, but I think that in practice the Reform and Conservative people come closer to the ideals of Torah.
[There are however areas where the Reform and Conservative movements tend to be weak and t is in those areas that I go with the Gra.]

divorce laws

The trouble in divorce laws is there is something about them that goes against natural law. In natural law, a woman depends on a man. In the Law of Moses also  a woman can leave her husband, but she gets no support from him for doing so. The Torah says to the woman, "If you feel you not longer need him, then you can leave [that divorce is allowed, but it has to be that the husband desires it], but then do not suppose you can bankrupt him in desire for revenge that you did not get Superman." That is in plain language, there is no such thing as alimony.

[In Ketuboth there is for a widow alimony until she remarries. Not a divorcee. In any case, it seems to me proper to write this down as I have noticed a large degree of misunderstandings about this issue. It all comes from the simple fact that people do not learn tractate Ketuboth as thoroughly as they ought.

Not that I learned it so well either. But in Shar Yashuv [Rav Friefeld's Yeshiva] that was the tractate they were learning during my second year there, so I did try to do it as well as I could with the Tosphot, Tosphot HaRosh, Pnei Yehoshua and the Tur and other achronim. Still that was just my second year, so I did not learn it very thoroughly since I was more or less a beginner.

In any case, there is no reason to reward women for doing evil.

[Furthermore there is no reason to think that the government can just make up laws at random that goes against natural law. This is spelled out in the 9th and 10th amendment to the Constitution that people retain whatever rights they naturally have. That includes rights to their private property. The government can not just make up laws at random which benefit one part of the population at the expense of another. The "General Welfare"  clause means the general welfare of all the states--not one state at the expense of another.]


I never stop having to make corrections on the two notebooks I wrote on Bava Metzia and on Shas. Not having any Gemara was an obstacle, but eventually someone sent to me a Gemara and I was able to look up the Gemara in Bava Batra page 45 and I saw my note there on the argument between Raba and Abyee was stupid. I had not understood Raba's original statement, nor his statement when he said "I retract". So in any case I deleted that whole paragraph from my notes.

Then just last night I was able to look at Thomas Aquinas on Aristotle and then I realized another mistake I had make in my notes on Bava Metzia. I had written a note about the Obligations of the Heart חובות לבבות  and an idea he had there  and after that I wrote something I thought that Aristotle had said about the issue there. When I read Aquinas I realized that again I had made a mistake about Aristotle. Substance does not have to be simple --contrary to what I had written.
[Obligations of the Heart is a Musar book but in volume I he deals with philosophical issues and I wrote a small note about what he had written there. I can not go into the whole subject right now. Mainly Aquinas was bringing down Avicenna's note on complex substance and then I realized my mistake.

Of course it makes things harder when I am in exile and can not look up things and even worse--I do not have a learning partner. If fact almost all my notes were inspired by questions raised by  my learning partner. But without him I can barely manage. [If you want a book on Shas that is about the best, then get the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach.] While in Netivot I did some corrections and afterwards also. But as a rule making corrections seems to be an ongoing process.--

[In any case it seems to me that to reward women for doing evil, is not the best kind of law to have on the books.]

There are laws on the books that allow women to get rid of their husband and get  his money and support for the rest of her life. There is also a law in the Gemara דינא דמלכותא דינא [the law of the State is the law.]. So I ask can a woman depend on this? Or does she have to go by the Law of Moses which  does not give her that right?

[The basic law in tracate Ketubot is there are three divisions of a woman's property. נכסי מלוג, נכסי צאן ברזל, מה שקנה אישה קנה בעלה] Property that she brings into the marriage that she owned before the marriage she still owns but the husband can use the profits. Then there is property she acquires after she is married and that is owned fully by the husband.
Thus  she has no right to her husband's property after she is divorced.
Also in terms of  "the law of the state is the law" I would say that is not the case where the law of the state contradicts a Torah law. The main issues in terms of the law of the state are not clear to me but the major sources are the Rashbam and Maimonides in terms of how it is applied.

I have been thinking of mentioning that there is a school of thought among Christians that they themselves believe they are required to keep  the Law of Moses. That is called the Theonomic Position   See that essay by Gregory Bahnsen.

The Theonomic postion does take into account that some  laws of the Holy Torah apply to the Land of Israel, But other laws are general. And I should mention that Gregory Bahnsen says that this Theonomic Position corresponds with Paul, and that was kind of a surprise to me. 

[In any case it seems to me that to reward women for doing evil, is not the best kind of law to have on the books.]

Gehazi a major disciple of Elisha the prophet

Gehazi is one of the lesser known people in the Old Testament. He is brought down in tractate Sanhedrin as one of the people that have no portion in the next world.
The sin there is denial of the revival of the dead.
In the Old Testament itself we find a different kind of sin. He wanted to make money from a healing miracle that was brought about through Elisha the prophet.

This I think is the source of the idea brought in the Mishna that to make money from learning or teaching Torah gets one to lose their portion in the next world. [I recall that in the commentary of the Gra on those two mishnas, I saw him bring that idea from the events surrounding the king or Persia that used the vessels of the Temple in his feasting. But the fact that גחי Gehazi wanted to make money from the area of value of holiness and also that fact that that is the major sin attributed to him in the Old Testament, seems also a proof of that idea of the mishna.

[It is kind of a surprise that the connection that Gehazi had with Elisha the prophet does not seem to have helped him much. That is not what is usually expected from a disciple of a great person.]

Elisha the prophet I admit has always fascinated me. There is a lot more to learn from his life but this will have to do for now.

The lesson from Gehazi seems to be that it is important to repent and fear God and learn Torah but not to make Torah into a business. Not to advertise how religious one is.


Elijah did not excel in tolerance.

Even though Eliyahu the prophet {Elijah} is well known for the events at Mount Carmel, still the subsequent events are less well known. The events were thus: Israel were worshiping the Lord along with the idolatry called the Baal. The Baal was considered in control of the Earth,- and the Lord in charge of events in heaven.
Elijah asked Israel to make up their minds, and set up a test. The priests of the Baal would make an altar and bring sacrifices. Elijah also would make an altar; and the  god that would answer will show that he is the true God. The Lord  answered Elijah in fire. Then Elijah said, "Grab the priests of the Baal and kill them." And that is what happened. Elijah did not excel in tolerance. He does not seem to have held from religious freedom either.
The unique thing is that Israel listened to him. They killed the priests of the Baal.
Later Elijah from Vilna [Gra] tried to do the same thing. But he was not listened to. That was the whole point of the letter of excommunication that he put his signature on.

But in fact, even Elijah the prophet did not have much great success either. From Ahab until the actual exile of Israel [for the sin of idolatry] was not that long.

I should mention that Yehu, the king, also killed the priests of the Baal at a later date. In other words, in terms of legal issues, he felt that priests of the Baal did not need עדים והתראה (two witnesses and a warning). He probably depended on אנן סהדי "we testify." That is,-- once something is well established publicly, then the courts consider it to be known by witnesses.

[I mean to say that normally you need עדים והתראה witnesses and a court of 23 judges.  So it is interesting why both Elijah and Yehu did not feel the need to stand on legal minutiae. ]

What I mean to say that even though Litvak yeshivas generally go by the Gra in most points, still in this crucial issue, the Gra is totally ignored--as if we know better!

The repercussions of ignoring the Gra are as vast and and harmful as ignoring the warning of Elijah the prophet. Yet just as then Israel said, "Yes" to Elijah and then just went straight back to doing what they were doing beforehand.  So it is with the Gra. And there is no question that unless people wake up, the results will be the same.

If you go by the idea of the Rambam that learning Physics and Metaphysics fulfills the commandment to love and fear God it makes sense to start the day with those two things right when one gets up. [The main thing to understand is that you do not need to understand,.. Say the words and go on in order. as the sages said in the Gemara Shabat.]

The thing is that both have to be directed and intended towards the worship of God.

I am referring here to the parable the Rambam writes in the Guide about the state of the king. There was a state with people outside the state, others in the state, others in the capital city and still other close to king in his palace. These to the Rambam are barbarians, people with natural law morals, people that learn the Oral and Written Law, and still others closer to God --physicists and philosopher and prophets. But all need to be facing the King.

["Metaphysics" refers in the Rambam to that of Ancient Athens. But the hint is clear that he means specifically the Metaphysics of Aristotle. Though not called by that name by Aristotle himself, still by the time of the Rambam, that was well known as the name of that set of books.] 


Music for the glory of God

U-41 C Major Not edited. Simply a rough draft.
I was looking at the history of Bernadette the peasant girl of Lourdes. It kind of reminded me of Joan of Arc.
My basic impression of the whole event is something brought in the writings of Reb Nachman that there are different שבילים של קדושה paths that lead to holiness. [That is somewhere around Vol I ch 69 in his book.]
The best approach I think to this is that of Dr. Kelley Ross [the Kant -Fries School] which has this idea of non intuitive immediate knowledge  concerning the area  of the dinge an sich. [In plain English that is knowledge that one has but not through sensory perception nor through logic or reason concerning the areas of "things in themselves" -the way things really are internally.
[Here is what Dr Ross wrote to me about non intuitive immediate knowledge:Non-intuitive immediate knowledge would encompass all matters of abstract knowledge that are not known intuitively.  That would mean the foundation of all axioms in metaphysics, ethics, etc. – everything that the Positivists thought didn’t exist, or that Aristotle thought would be self-evident.  A claim to non-intuitive immediate knowledge can only be tested by Socratic Method, i.e. looking for contradictions among other matters taken for granted.  See and]

[There are areas of argument between the Kant-Friesian School and Hegel. Still both schools have important points. (Why people are not happy about Hegel is I think in part because he expressed himself in way that can be easily misused and were misused by Marx and Kierkegaard.)

The idea of different paths towards God means in each path there is a narrow area of truth. In Torah that narrow area is the Gra and Reb Israel Salanter. The Gra's basic path more or less is an emphasis on Gemara Rashi Tosphot, Trust in God and not to speak lashon hara slander. Reb Israel Salanter more or less boils down to learning Mediaeval Ethics with an emphasis on good character traits and fear of God. [There are basic classical books of Ethics written  by mediaeval sages.]
[The Gra certainly learned and wrote on all areas of Torah but teh emphasis is to start with Gemara. and the Old Testament. ]


Sometimes criminal behavior is simply encoded in some people's DNA

Even though according to the Rambam the peace of the State is one of the major goals of the Torah it seems to me that the system depends highly on the kind of people involved. That is I think that the Constitution of the USA is the crowning peak of political thought--the summit of thousands of years of political thought starting from Plato. Still it only works for a certain kind of person, that is a WASP.  Surely no one can imagine that in the turmoil that Russia was in during its civil war crisis, that simply adopting something like the Constitution would have solved anything at all. Russia became the USSR because that was the only viable option on the table that would put an end to the nightmare of chaos that they were in. This in not my own insight. I was once talking with a Mormon that was a professional economist  about capitalism as opposed to socialism in the context of the USA in the 1920's and 1930's. He mentioned this idea to me -- that when things area mess sometimes one needs to central government to assume greater powers which can happen only in a socialistic system.

It was the exact argument that the Founding Fathers of the USA made in the Federalist Papers about the need for a central unified federal government. But what worked in the USA would not have worked in Russia and the Ukraine where there already was a central government-- the last Tzar who was a disaster.

Some people who are in Russia and the Ukraine are so criminally minded in their very DNA that nothing like the Constitution would have helped. The Russians themselves were very much aware of this. It was not spoken, but it was clear that in the vast empire of Russia there were populations that had and still have criminal elements above the percentage in which a Constitution like the USA would have worked.  As Sapolsky says--a lot depends on DNA. Sometimes criminal behavior is simply encoded in some people's DNA and there is nothing one can do to change it.  

Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam [Maimonides] and the Beliefs and Doctrines by Rav Saadia Gaon.

One of the major ideas of the Torah is to bring to good character traits. This was the object of the Musar movement of Reb Israel Salanter to bring about this goal.
That was by emphasizing the idea of learning Musar--Ethics of the Middle Ages.
But Musar itself depends on world view issues-thus along with Musar what ought to be emphasize are the works of world view of the sages of the Middles Ages and the Gaonic period.
That is obviously the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam [Maimonides] and the Beliefs and Doctrines by Rav Saadia Gaon. ]

But along with good character there was an emphasis on Fear of God--at least that was the way Isaac Blazzer understood the ideas of his teacher Reb Israel Salanter.
In any case, it is clear that each school of Musar had its own unique approach but I think it is safe to say that these two things were fundamental--good character and fear of God.

The Guide of the Rambam has a mystical commentary [interpretation] by Rav Avraham Abulafia from the Middle Ages. [I should mention a lot of work of Rav Avraham Abulafia has begun ever since his writings were published in legible form in Jerusalem. Dr Idel started this whole thing when he devoted his Ph.D thesis to Rav Abulafia and later a few books.]

R. Shimon Ben Yohai says one can take the pledge of a rich widow

עשות חסד ומשפט והצנע לכת עם השם אלהיך The prophet Micha says "What does the Lord ask of you but to do kindness and justice and to walk modestly with your God."
הצנע comes for a verb להצניע to hide. It means not to advertise your religiously. It has to do with general conduct--not to make a public statement about how religiously scrupulous you are.

This is mentioned in the end of tractate Makot.. There the Gemara says different prophets came along and reduced the number of commandments one has to do. Rashi explains there that if everyone would be required to keep all the laws of the Torah, no one would merit to the next world. So they reduced the requirements.
To me it seems clear that that Gemara and that Rashi are going with the opinion of  the sage of the Mishna, Shimon Ben Yohai that דורשים טעמה דקרא we go by the reason for  verse.

You can see in the Gemara that the reasons for the verses are not considered to be unknown. They are considered to be known, but the argument is if one goes by the words of the verse or the known reason. Thus, if one goes by the reason, and the reason does not apply in a certain case, then the rule does not apply. This you can see in a few places, but one which comes to mind is the Bava Metzia [end of פרק המקבל] where R. Shimon Ben Yohai says one can take the pledge of a rich widow because the reason for the verse --not to take the pledge of a widow--does not apply.

I had some doubt if the law is like this opinion or not. The Rambam in one case goes like it and in another not like it. Then I saw in the Avi Ezri a very nice answer that there is  a third opinion that the Rambam is going with. In any case, there are cases where we depend on this idea of Shimon ben Yohai for example in new grain that was harvested after the Omer as the Taz says.

The actual reason for the commandments of the Torah the Rambam gives in a few places in the Mishne Torah and the Guide; and the Rishonim from the opposite side of the aisle--[the Ramban with an "N" at the end and his whole school do not disagree in any place that I have heard of.]
Off hand, from what I recall, the reasons are : To not worship any other God besides the First Cause. And thus to stay away from all things related to idolatry. [To the Rambam that already accounts for about half of all the commandments.] To develop good character traits. To lessen one's desires and pleasures. To come to peace of the State.


One aspect of keeping the Law of Moses is to love and fear God. The Rambam considers these two commandments to be commands to do some action. After all, emotions can not be commanded. Thus he understands the first to learn Metaphysics. The second [fear of God] to learn Physics.
The way to do this  think is early in the morning. That is to get up and start right away with the hardest thing--[Quantum Field Theory]. [Seeing God's wisdom in his Creation, inspires one to fear and love of God as the Rambam brings down in the Mishne Torah ch. I and in the Guide.]

Before that a little Tosphot and plain learning of the Avi Ezri is also important as to start with simple fear of God. 

[The morning prayer tends to take a lot of time. That is a good thing if one wishes it as a voluntary thing. But in essence it is short. The original blessings for the Shema were one sentence long each as you can see in the prayer-book of Saadia Gaon.]  
[This idea of the Rambam I noticed first in a mediaeval book of Musar מעלות המידות. That was at the Mir in NY and it bothered me greatly since in fact I was spending all my time at the Mir learning Gemara. The was a great deal of cognitive dissonance that this caused to me. Later in Israel I noticed this same Rambam idea in חובות לבבות Obligations of the Heart. But not where you would expect to see it. It is in fact in שער הבחינה But you have to be exacting in his language to see his point.   ]

The basic idea here is not just the importance of Physics but also that of balance.


 See the Old Testament events surrounding the writing on the wall in the palace that Daniel had interpreted. The king did not repent after he heard the proper interpretation by Daniel.--even though he clearly believed in what Daniel had said since he gave him the promised reward
Why I bring this up is that it occurred to me that you see this quite a few times in the Old Testament.
With King David, Nineveh, Ahab, and Hezekiah. [They all repented after hearing from a prophet that a n evil decree had been declared on them because of some evil deed they had done. After they repented the evil decree was either rescinded or lessened. ]On the negative side --people that saw the message on the wall and did not repent, King Saul, and most of kings of Israel.

In any case, the idea seems to be consistent -that even after a decree has been made and the writing is on the wall, and danger is imminent,- repentance can change everything. And what is repentance? To obey God's word. Not in thought or words, but actions. ["Acta non verba."]

The important thing to notice about God's word is the idea in Deuteronomy chapter 4 "Don't and and don't subtract to the commandments."  Do not make up new ones, and do not delete or declare null the old ones.

The actual commandments are clear, but interestingly enough they do not have much to do with politics. Any politics is simply to keep the peace and do the laws of Moses.
But that does not mean politics is not relevant. Rather the idea is whatever brings a society close to keeping the Law of Moses is the way to go. It does not matter one way or the other if it is a democracy or monarchy or whatever else.

Not that politics is not important. But my impression is that the Constitution of the USA s about as good as possible. The only problem is that people need some degree of education about what it means. Thus in high school I suggest people learn the Federalist papers along with the line thinkers that came to bring about the Constitution. Starting from Plato and Thucydides.
In other words,I think getting the political system right is important but it is not a subject of the Law of Moses or the Two Talmuds. In philosophical jargon it would be called a different area of "value."  See Dr Kelley Ross for more detail. [ I do not understand his system very well. It requires thorough knowledge of Kant. But I get the basic ideas.] [I think an original-ist approach would have averted the Civil War also because the whole issue of secession would have been resolved by a 2/3 majority which is required to amend the Constitution or it could have gone to the Supreme Court because after all the South had legitimate grievances.

[The Law of Moses is actually pretty clear on a lot of issues like not to steal, cheat, lie etc. See the Ten Commandments for more details.]


Bitul Torah-not learning when one is able to learn

The general way the idea of Bitul Torah is looked at is that if there is a positive commandment that can not be done by anyone else, then one is required to stop learning Tora and do that commandment.
The way the Gra understands it is that not that one is required, but one is allowed to stop learning. And that makes more sense because the rule is one positive command does not push off another one."
This all come from a Gemara Yerushalmi that one sage sent his son to another city to learn Torah. Word got back to him that his son was doing other kinds of commandments. He sent to him, "I did not send you there for those other reasons but to learn Torah."

The issue of ספרים חיצוניים [outside books] comes up in Sanhedrin and it is related to the idea of Bitul Torah in this way. What constitutes Torah? According to the Rif and Rosh ספרים חיצונים are books that explain the Torah in ways other than the ways the sages of the Mishna and Gemara explained it.

Thus to understand Torah besides the two Talmuds one would learn the Midrashim that were written by the sages of the Talmud. I had in fact had learning partner Hagai Preshal who learned the Midrash Raba in his spare time. [The basic ones as far as I recall are  מדרש רבה, מדרש תנחומא, אליהו רבה וזוטא ספרי ספרא תורת כהנים]
[I should add that things that the Rambam considered important to learn, I do not think are Bitul Torah.  That is Physics and Metaphysics. To the Rambam that refers to these two subjects as understood as such by the Ancient Greeks. In my mind that would mean basically Quantum Field Theory and Aristotle's book The Metaphysics.

The way to go about this is to get to it right when you wake up in the morning, have the first cup of coffee and then Gemara and --Quantum Field Theory. Just open it up and say the page after page in order.

If the law would be straightforward like R. Tam [which is the opinion of almost all Rishonim and Rav Hai Gaon], then on Friday night one would light the olive oil for the Festival of Lights right before 59 minutes after sunset. But since the Gra (and Rav Sharira Gaon)held the night begins at 18 minutes after sunset it makes sense to light before that time, and simply put in enough olive oil to last for the 72-102 minute period after sunset.

There is one question on R.Tam that I can not answer very well. It is that almost all stars can be seen about 45 minutes after sunset. So according to that no one comes out OK. If the Gra would be correct then one medium sized star would be visible right at sunset. That simply does not happen. If R. Tam would be right then medium stars would begin to be visible after 58.5 minutes. And then three medium stars at 72 minutes.

Just for some background to R. Tam the night starts at 72 minutes after sunset and the twilight doubt period at 58.5. To the Gra night is 3/4 a mil [24 min.] after sunset, 18 minutes. Or if a mil is 18 minutes then night is 13.5  minutes after sunset.


lighting the lights for the festival of Lights

My basic ideas about lighting the lights for the festival of Lights is that it should be with olive oil and lower than ten hand-breaths next to the door as one enters. The window is OK as long as it is below ten hand-breaths. The height is very important [it must be lower than ten hand-breaths]. Also it should be exact after 72 minutes after sundown because after that there is great doubt if one has fulfilled the obligation at all. Also it is an obligation on the home where one sleeps, not on the person. So if one can not be home then one's wife can light.

I do not have a Gemara Shabat to be able to look this all up but that is what I recall off hand.

It also occurred to me that it does not take 8 days to squeeze a few olives to make olive oil so the whole waiting period must have been because of טומאת מת [uncleanliness ]. But then from where did they get the אפר פרה אדומה The dust of the red cow that one needs? Maybe that was hidden somewhere outside the Temple?

Another issue which comes up is this is, "Let's hate the ancient Greeks week". Not that the problems were from Greeks. The Empire of Alexander was divided and the rulers over Israel were not Greek. Still the culture was imported from Greece. Still the Rambam seems to take a different approach when it comes to Aristotle. [The issue seems to be a debate among Rishonim. Clearly the Ramban [the "n" on the end means that is not the same person as the Rambam.] and all others from that school of thought were against learning anything from the ancient Greeks at all.]  I tend to go with the Rambam simply because of personal experience with religious fanaticism which I have seen does not lead to virtue. I am thinking that the Rambam was right.
[The Rambam specifically held that learning Physics and Metaphysics fulfills the commandments of the Tora to love and fear God. Physics I think is clear. The subject matter, not the actual book of Aristotle. Same with Metaphysics I think refers to the subject matter. Thus Physics would mean mainly Quantum Field Theory and String Theory. Metaphysics would include the books of Aristotle by that name but also include Kant and Hegel.]
[I am aware that some people disagree with the Rambam, but I think all evidence shows the Rambam was right. Thus in my mind a proper order of learning with be fourfold-The Oral Law, the Written Law, Physics and Metaphysics and I would add Musar of the Gra and also survival skills.]

bitul torah [not learning Torah when one is able]

The sages said: "One is obligated to surrender himself to death rather than transgress three sins, sex with forbidden relations, murder. idolatry, and bitul torah [not learning Torah when one is able] is considered equal to all three taken together."

על שלשה עבירות חייב אדם למסור את עצמו למיתה ולא יעבור עליהם גילוי עריות שפיכות דמים ועבודה זרה וביטול תורה כנגד כולם

The concept of bitul Torah was hard for me to accept. -and it still is.

Reading a book בנין עולם printed in Bnei Brak was for me the first time I saw this concept presented systematically. Later I saw this idea in נפש החיים

 The Rambam considered Physics and Metaphysics of the ancient Greeks as part of the commandment of learning Torah (as he says in Laws of Learning Torah in reference to the "Vineyard" which he defined in the first four chapters). Still the whole issue of bitul Torah makes it imperative to define what comes under the category of "learning Torah."

There is no question that I slacked off on this when I got to Safed. Even though being in Israel at that time was great in many respects, but I feel my slacking off on learning Torah was a bad mistake.

In any case, the whole concept really only exists in the world of the Gra and the Litvak Yeshivas which emphasize this concept. The minute I walked out of the Mir in NY, the whole idea of bitul Torah simply dissipated.

[I think I was not the only one in NY that was struggling with this issue when I was in yeshiva. I am pretty sure others were also trying to weigh the issue -- in so far as knowing when for example learning a vocation is OK, and also as just a general rule how to apply it. ]

[Just for the record--learning Torah officially means either the Old Testament and or the two Talmuds. It is however assumed that Rashi and Tosphot are included.  But certainly there is  a limit to how far one can extend the definition.]

Learning a vocation is certainly not bitul Torah and in fact it is required so that one does not end up using Torah as a means to make money by which one loses his portion in the world to come as the Rambam says in the Mishna in his commentary on "Avot" ch 4 דאשתמש בתגא חלף מכאן אמרו כל הנהנה מדברי תורה נוטל את חייו מן העולם ופירש הרמב''ם מן חיי העולם הבאה

The sages also explained verses of the Torah in a few books like מדרש רבה. And you can see that it is not allowed  to make up one's own ideas on what verses of Torah mean as you can see in Sanhedrin ch. 9 in the Rif and Rosh on the first mishna there.[The Rif and Rosh were pointed out to me by my learning partner]


Mikra Mishna, Math and Musar

מקרא משנה מתימטיקה מוסר Mikra, Mishna, Math and Musar.
Mikra is the Old Testament. Mishna is the book written  by R. Yehuda HaNasi before the Talmud. The Talmud itself is simply a commentary on the Mishna. Math is important as it is the essence of Physics. Musar refers to the books of Ethics written during the Middle Ages.

These seem to me to be the main things to concentrate on every day.
[The importance of Math and Physics I am basing on the חובות לבבות The Obligations of the Heart and the Rambam.]
The idea that Musar is important to learn every day I am basing on Reb Israel Salanter [and also the daughter of Bava Sali who said as much to me].

[But I want to add that if one has gone through the Mishna at least once, then it is time to do the Gemara. The best way to get into the depth of Gemara is to learn the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach.
In terms of Musar, I should mention the first thing is to go through the four classical books which were printed as a set a few years ago. אורחות צדיקים, חובות לבבות, מסילת ישרים, שערי תשובה.
Then the books of the Gra as part of the Musar session.]

[The Rambam also emphasized Metaphysics meaning Aristotle as he explained in the Guide that he meant the Metaphysics of the Ancient Greeks, but I have  hard time figuring out how to go about that.]

I wanted to mention that the idea of Musar of learning about good character and gaining good character is not as hard as some people think. But neither is it all that clear either. There is no algorithm that you can plug in and feed information to and come out with an answer how to act in accord with objective morality. But also it is not as hidden or impossible to know. The Law of Moses certainly tells us a lot, and the Mishna and Gemara also. But to condense it all into understandable  form was the forte of the Mediaeval sages.

As Kierkegaard noticed that man is essentially a spiritual being. It is not really an option to ignore that. And when people do ignore it, they get interested in politics.

What I am saying about Ethics is really reflected in the words of Alexander Hamilton . He said the science of government is not as unknown in his time as it was in previous times. That is: there was a lot of information about the importance of separation of powers, establishment of courts and representative government. Similarly, while there is no exact formula about objective morality (as Michael Huemer has pointed out), still there is a lot of information available about what works and what does not. We have a good idea that Musar of the Rishonim [Mediaeval Period] and the Gra and Reb Israel Salanter helps to a large degree. It may not be perfect -but it is a help in the right direction. We also know things like outdoor skills as learned as a group like in the Boy Scouts also helps. So we are not at a complete standstill. There are ideas that work.


The Talmud says troubles come into the world because of pseudo Torah scholars.

The trouble with the religious world generally starts with people that dress up as Torah scholars and play the role, but are in fact demons. That is to say the do not have human souls.
That makes keeping the Law of Moses very hard because people tend to believe those that play the role as being authentic. So innocent people  are led to sin by those that claim to lead them to virtue.

The first time I notice this problem mentioned was in the book of Reb Nachman from Breslov Vol. I ch. 12  even though he had mentioned something of that nature in ch 8., but I had glossed over it, and paid no attention. But chapter 12 made it difficult to ignore the issue. There he brings up this idea of Torah scholars that hate people that fear God simply and plainly.

It sounds kind of harsh in the ears of the religious world because the religious world likes to consider itself as above everyone else in virtue and intellect and all good qualities. It is hard to face the dissolving of that illusion.

This would not be an issue if the people that were held up as being Torah scholars were in fact so. But the true Torah scholars tend to hide in the corners, while the Torah scholar demons take the public stage.

The way you see this in the Talmud is that in one place in the Talmud troubles that come into the world are blamed on pseudo Torah scholars. That is in the end of tractate Shabat.  [For some reason however Reb Nachman did not quote that Gemara.][The actual words of the Gemara are these: If you see a generation upon which troubles comes then go out and check on the judges of Israel  because all troubles that come into the world only come because of the judges of Israel.]

One approach to take to avoid this problem is to learn Torah either at home or in some place that is careful to stick to straight Torah like regular Litvak yeshivas in NY and Bnei Brak. But there are no simple answers. I think Reb Israel Salanter came close to some kind of answer in his idea of the Musar Movement [not that he use that term]. That is the emphasis on learning books on the simple and plain Ethics of Torah. In itself that is a great idea but as is obvious it can easily be derailed.

The oddest thing about all this is there is absolutely no mystery who the demonic Torah scholars are. Everyone knows. But no one wants to say anything because they are afraid of how it will reflect on themselves.

The best suggestion to deal with this problem is more or less simple and straightforward but lack of interest makes it impossible.

If you do take this suggestion to learn at home, I think the best idea is to simply go through the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach along with the books of the Gra. That pretty much covers the major principles of the  Oral and Written Law

Music for the Glory of God


Learning an ancient Mediaeval mystic, Avraham Abulafia is what got me interested in Jesus. I was reading the microfilms of his books in the library of Hebrew University when I stumbled on some positive statements about Jesus.  I was in shock for about an hour, and could not move out of my chair even I had to get going to light the olive oil lights for the Festival of Lights.
[Rav Abulafia wrote in Hebrew but the mediaeval script was hard to read]

I was aware that not everyone held by Rav Avraham Abulafia, so I had a choice whether to go with what he was saying, or with the people that dismissed Rav Abulafia as a crank.
To me it seemed the weight of evidence was on the side of Rav Abulafia because he was accepted as legitimate by Rav Haim Vital.[That is the last volume of שערי קדושה].

[A very great Rishon, The Rashba, disagreed with Rav Abulafia. But he was not alone. But to me it seems better to go with his ideas as valid. Still, for me it is too easy to go off onto crazy tangents.]

[In the meantime right after that some fellow started putting those books into legible Hebrew and printed them up. That took around twenty years but he finished and the entire set of Rav Abulafia's books are now a lot more easy to read.]

I might mention that the way Jesus is usually understood seems to me to be not well founded.
I could go into a few examples, but the one that brings this all to mind is Kierkegaard who definitely assumed the Trinity. In fact most Protestants  that think the Trinity is true assume אהיה means "I AM." which is  mistranslated. The name of God revealed to Moses is "I WILL BE", not "I AM." 

[People always bring the statement of Jesus when he was asked who he was and said "I am" as proof. But for this to be proof he would have had to have answered "I will be".]

[None of this is meant to detract from the greatness of the Rashba who was a great Rishon. But rather the idea is that the area of expertise of the Rashba was different than that of Rav Avraham Abulafia. So in terms of spiritual insight it makes more sense to go with the opinion of Rav Abulafia.]

The major issue with the Mikveh

The most delicate issue of a mikveh is how thick is the concrete? If it is thick enough that it could be lifted whole and stay in one piece, then it is  a vessel--and not good as a Mikveh.

Another major issue with the Mikveh is that it needs to be a natural body of water.
אך מעיין ובור מקוה מים יהיה טהור מה מעין בידי שמים אף מקוה בידי שמים
So it is hard to make it by man's hands and still have it be natural. The issue really is from a Gemara that says if a pipe  is formed and then attached that makes the mikveh no good. But if it is attached and then hollowed out that is OK. To the Rashbam that is a pipe of stone or wood.
But later the Gemara says that is only according to the idea that drawn water is no good only from the words of the sages. But if drawn water is no good from the Torah then even attached and then hollowed is no good. And that applies to either rain water or even drawing off from a spring.
So the issues just keep getting more and more.

[Unless we would go with R. Isaac who in fact holds a mikve made of drawn water is no good only to the sages and that would leave the teaching of the Gemara in its place-snce the Gemara itself says it is going according to that opinion. A further point is that Tosphot says the case is if the pipes were made to receive and hold something in them--not just to have something passing through them. According to that, the plastic pipes or wood would be  fine since even when made and later attached they do not receive uncleanliness.]

Further reason to say one needs a river is the Rambam that brings the statement of the Gemara of a pipe plainly -not like Tosphot that says it has to be מקבל טומאה. But one reason to be lenient is that R. Hananel and the Rashbam hold the law is like R. Eliezer that what is attached to the ground is like the ground.

[I should mention that I would feel a lot better about this if I would have either spent more time on Tosphot or have learned it with my learning partner. Here I am just giving the basic outline of the subject but there is plenty of work that I still need to do on Tosphot.]

All I am saying is if you have a spring or river or ocean, anywhere around, that is the best idea.
I know girls have trouble in this area because most rivers are pretty cold. I hope that girls start to develop a rougher bark and get less delicate.

In NY a woman could go to the ocean on the seventh day and be OK at night. In Israel there are often springs and rivers around.

[Since my general approach is that once there is a Rishon that allows something, then one can depend on that, then one could just go with R. Isaac and the first Tosphot in which case things are OK. The only thing is it is clearly better to go to an authentic natural body of water because of R. Tam.]

I want to make it clear that even in cold winter it is possible to go a cold river much more easily that people realize. The reason is if you put your foot into cold water and then take it out, the body automatically starts to drawn the blood from the outer areas. So when you put your foot in a second time it does not feel cold at all. And the same goes with one's legs. So to dip in a river is possible if one does so gradually in small steps. That is to put the feet in an then take them out. Then the legs. Then the whole body. Also going   in with  clothing that is not tight also makes it much easier.


The importance of straight Litvak yeshivas

I had the great merit of being in two Litvak yeshivas Shar Yashuv and the Mir in NY. However I got off track. I had seen some very great insights and ideas in Breslov books, and even though there is a lot of things to learn from the great tzadik, Nahman of Breslov, still that was a bad reason to leave the Litvak approach which is that of the Gra-- straight and simple Torah with no frills.

 I seem to have a bad habit.  Often God gives me great things, and then I mess up. And yet for some reason, He seems to give me second chances.

[It is not that all Litvak yeshivas are so great. But those two that I went to were really special.]

In any case, it seems to me today I could very well have learned things from Breslov books, and still remained in the path of the Gra.

It takes some kind of common sense to learn something good in some other system of thought, but still to retain what good one already has. Not to throw everything overboard because one sees some great insight in some other backyard.

[The importance of straight Litvak yeshivas is the emphasis on God and his holy Torah. There one can come to authentic Torah.] [It might not be something I can communicate very well to anyone, but for what it is worth, the main thing one can get in an authentic Litvak Yeshiva is something he can not get anywhere else:-the spirit of Torah. But like I said it's unlikely that most people will understand what this means.]

Reb Naphtali Troup [one of the great Lithuanian sages] held that to obey one's parents is a positive commandment.  I mean to say that it has the same class as other positive commands that can override a negative command.

This should be fairly obvious but it is not to most people because of the statement of the sages that it does not override a negative command like keeping the Sabbath day holy. But keeping the Sabbath is a negative command that has being cut off from one's people as part of the punishment. So no positive command overrides it. In any case Reb Naphtali brings this idea from the Rambam. The whole essay is in his book חידושי הגרנ''ט

Why I bring this up is interesting case of the descendants of Yonathan ben Rehav in the book of Jeremiah. There the grandfather Yonathan ben Rehav had asked his children not to drink wine or any alcoholic beverage. And they listened to him even several generations later. Even though there is no prohibition of drinking wine except for a Nazir who accepts on himself not to drink wine, still they listened because of the command to obey  one's parents.

The promise given to the descendants was rare. The Patriarchs  had received promises from God concerning their descendants, Aaron and Pinehas, and King David also, and then the descendants of Yonathan Ben Rekav.

The basic idea is clear. If one's parents ask one to do something wrong, then clearly one should not obey. But in cases where there is no specific command otherwise, then it is a positive command to obey. It is more of an important issue than most people are aware of.

There was an event in the life of the older brother of Bava Sali, Rav David Abutzeira, where he had said something only slightly disrespectful to his father, Rav Masud, and when he realized his mistake went into exile for a month.

As for my parents I should mention that the Physics emphasis was more or less because of my own showing in interest in that direction. That was probably in itself from admiration of my own father and Albert Einstein. But in and of itself, that was probably not what they would have emphasized. After all they did not  adopt the same attitude with regards to my brothers. Rather it seems what they held was to be decent human beings with good character traits as per the Ten Commandments and to learn a honest vocation and survival skills.


The problem with the false ordination is brought up by Reb Nachman in a few places. One is LM Vol I ch 61 where he brings the idea that it causes exile. Another place is in LM II ch 8 where he brings the idea that it causes sexual sin.  In any case, the whole issie ought to have been settled by the fact that all ordination is a scam since true ordination ceased during the middle of the Talmudic Period.
So people that claim ordination are either malicious or ignorant.

But Reb Nachman goes into this issue in LM  ch 12 which is the place where he brings down the idea of "Torah scholars that are demons" which he brings from the Zohar. The Ari also goes into this in his unique kind of way -- so that you have to read between the lines. But the surprise is the Talmud itself goes into this in the end of tracate Shabat. So why it is ignored nowadays is beyond me.
So many more homes in Israel would be safe and whole and wholesome if people were more aware of this issue.

Also if a mikveh with drawn water is no good [which is the opinion of R. Tam and the R. Shmuel ben Meir] from the Torah itself, then even קבעו ולבסוף חקקו is no good because המחובר לקרקע לאו כקרקע דמי.

For the Mikveh I would avoid going anywhere near the religious. The reason is the religious world is sick and full of the Sitra Achra evil forces. The best idea is to go to the ocean or a river.

People usually take off their clothing before going in a mikveh but if the clothing is porous it is not needed. In places like Russia or the Ukraine the way to go into a cold river is to get used to it slowly.That is to put in your feet and then take them out. Then the legs. Then the body automatically starts to draw away the blood from the outer layers and so by the time you go to put your whole body in it does not feel cold at all.

[In Beverly Hills there is a reservoir  next to Coldwater Canyon that could serve as a mikveh.]
In general, it is hard to get a mikveh that is artificially made to be valid because often it itself is a vessel. That is it is made of  concrete such that if one would lift it out of the ground, it would remain in one piece. So it is not valid--since it is a vessel. And that is how all mikvas are made nowadays.
The more well known problem of how the water gets into the mikve is subject to a well known story about R. Israel (Bava Sali) in Morocco. But there, the mikve was not made of concrete.
The issue there was how the water was drawn to the mikveh. [The pipes can not be made and then attached even if they can not receive Tuma (uncleanliness.) . But even wood or plastic have to be attached and then hollowed out. In short-- it is better to go to a river.

[The mikveh itself can not be dripping out. So to have cement or concrete is OK but the problem is when it is made so solid that the whole thing could be lifted out whole. Also often plastic is placed between the concrete and the ground which makes the whole thing no good.]

Also if a mikveh with drawn water is no good [which is the opinion of R. Tam and the R. Shmuel ben Meir] from the Torah itself, then even קבעו ולבסוף חקקו is no good because המחובר לקרקע לאו כקרקע דמי.

Girls anyway ought get used to roughing it. Outdoor skills are not just for guys.


Music whether by voice or by instruments

Music whether by voice or by instruments is an argument between the Rambam and Tosphot. To the Rambam only songs of praise towards God are permitted . To Tosphot only in a house of wine is music forbidden. I generally depend on the opinion of Tosphot but in this Music I do intend it for the glory of God. I do not know it that makes it permitted to the Rambam, but in any case I have Tosphot to depend on. [The Rambam's idea of Music for the glory of God does not include using verses of Torah or Psalms. Rather things like songs you sing on the Sabbath day meal--but not verses of Torah.] [In Sephardi prayer books you find lots of religious poetry to sing on the Sabbath day for this very reason --not to use verses of Torah as lyrics for songs.]

U-35 A Major


Rambam's fourfold division.

In the Rambam's fourfold division of the subjects one must learn every day comes up Metaphysics.
[This he says over briefly in Mishne Torah but goes into more detail in the Guide. ]
What he says openly in the Guide is that he is referring to the Metaphysics of the ancient Greeks.
Clearly that is a reference to Aristotle's set of books called the "Metaphysics".
But to me this seems to include also Plato, Plotinus, Kant, and Hegel.

That is if you go by the basic subject matter. I know there are a set of great thinkers who were singularly unhappy with Hegel but to me that just makes the whole matter more interesting.
The basic critics of Hegel are:  Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Kelley Ross, and Marx and Popper. The questions they ask seem to me to be enlightening but not in the way that they thought. [i.e. they thought they were refuting Hegel but in fact doing a service in making us dig more deeply into what he was saying. People misusing Hegel does not seem to me to be disproof.

As for Physics it is also clear what the Rambam meant. The set of books of Aristotle called "Physics."
To me also it seem necessary to include Quantum Field Theory in this --for the same reason--that I think the Rambam was referring to the subject matter not the specific set of books. [There are a few things one needs to learn along with Quantum Field Theory like Lie Algebras.]

As for the Oral Law the Rambam makes clear in his letter to Yemen that "Just as there is no adding or subtracting from the Written Law so there is no adding or subtracting from the Oral Law."  So again it is clear he means the actual set of books the two Talmuds. But also it seems necessary to expand this a little. After all the two Talmuds are are to understand without Tosphot and the Rishonim and a few of the important achronim like Rav Shach and the Pnei Yehoshua.

The Written Law is of course the Five Books of Moses but again it seems necessary to include the rest of the Old Testament along with the explanations of the sages in the several books of Midrash written on it. [e.g. Midrash Raba, Sifrei, Sifra, and few other Midrashim written by the sages of the Talmud.]

[I do not claim to have done this. I got interrupted, and also when I returned to Israel with intent to find  a place to sit and learn Torah I was evicted. That has proven to cause a lot of wasted time that I might have just sat and learned in some odd corner away from everyone. [However the time I spent in Netivot was well spent in terms of learning and also I was allowed to sit in there in the Yeshiva of Rav Montag and people were gracious to me. And that also is where I was able to put together my notes on Bava Metzia. Mostly Sephardim learn there but the Rosh Yeshiva in Ashkenazic. In any case, that was a very nice place. It was kind of like the first time I was in Israel up North which also was very nice.] Besides that I do not seem to have the same amount of energy needed to go through the above list that I did have when I was in the Mir. Thus I suggest getting started on that above list as soon as one is able, and not waste time on side stuff that just turns out to be  a waste.]

It all seems like a lot to go through but it really is not. All you need to do is to do a half a page a day  in order. Just say the words and go on. But it is best to get started already since it does take a few years. No use putting it off.

The way to do this is when you get up in the morning right away to start learning Tosphot. That should be one Tosphot that is reviewed every day for a few weeks. Then some Physics. Page after page. Just say and words in order as fast as possible and go on until you have finished the whole book at least four times. Then if there are still some things that you did not get you can go slower.[Metaphysics is hard to get an idea of what is best there. Hegel seems about the best.]

Kalev ben Yefune comes up in the Five Books of Moses. First he is one of the spies that Moses [Moshe] sent to the Land of Canaan. Later he is brought up in the Book of Joshua  as asking Joshua to give him Hebron as an inheritance (as as promised to him by Moshe Rabainu [Moses]). Later he is mentioned in Chronicles. as the husband of a few wives and girl friends and having children from all. This fact is what the Gra uses as proof that the פילגש girlfriend kind of relationship is permitted.

The place to find this information is in the Laws of Kidushin. [This issue comes up in the Rambam, in the Tur and also by Rav Joseph Karo.]

Mutiny on the Bounty.

Mutiny on the Bounty. The kind of mud children that come by mixing races seems to have been the basic result of that whole episode. The mutineers --as much or little as they were justified,  ended up such that their children were little brown babies.
Though nowadays there is much effort spent in trying to make these mud children, still one would thing that common sense ought to prevail.
Parents can only despair of seeing their race continue.
Marriage is only rocks on ruin and families also.
What is one to do?

The best idea I think is repentance. For the actions of parents affect their children. And how does one repent. It is brought in books of Musar if one is accustomed to learning one page of Gemara, he should learn two. If one chapter of Mishna, then he should learn two.

One thing got me personally into learning was the idea of the Gra based on the Yeushalmi that every word of Torah is equal to all the other commandments of the Torah. And in fact it seems that without confidence in the Gra and his approach, no one can come to Torah.  All people end up with is counterfeit Torah. I think a lot of effort ought to be spent on getting rid of counterfeit Torah, before it can even be suggested to come to authentic Torah.


political and religious authority

I have been thinking about political and  religious authority for a while.The thing that got me interested was an observation that love of power and oppression are very human traits and people that have these tend to look for careers in politics or as religious leaders.

The fact of political authority seems best to be defended based on a consequential theory. That is- without the state, human flourishing would be impossible, and we would all be at the tender mercies of the worse of society that feel no compunctions or conscious moral restraints.
This does not apply in the religious world as Reb Nachman pointed out often about religious leaders.
[We would all be better off without religious leaders, since they always cause trouble and malice.]

In fact, Reb Nachman emphasized personal service: The verse says "One was Abraham"--that means that Abraham served God in the way -that he thought of himself as being alone with God and did not look on obstacles placed in his path by people, or even his own father and family. In a similar vein, it is impossible to come to God except by this trait of "One was Abraham" to think to yourself that you are alone with God and not to look or pay attention to obstacles from your family or supposed friends. [It is important to take note that Reb Nachman did not just say that that is how Abraham reached God. Rather he goes on to add that no one can reach God except in that way.]

In another essay Reb Nachman went into the issue of lack of faith that causes that people need hard services to come to God. Reb Natan said to him "But it seems to me that I have faith." And Reb Nachman replied that sometimes it is lack of faith in oneself that causes one to fall.

The  thing about the great NY yeshivas like the Mir is that there is no claim of authority at all. The message is simple: What ever the Torah says, that is what it says.

[I mean to say that political authority is legitimate. Religious authority is however a scam since true and authentic ordination does not exist. It ended during the middle of the Talmudic period. Authority is however still claimed stupid people still like to present themselves as smart and wise in order t get power and money an be able to inflict pain on others.] This critique however does not apply to Litvak yeshivas  which learn Torah for its own sake which is a very great and important thing.

Music for the Glory of God


Bitul Torah [being idle from learning Torah]

The whole concept of Bitul Torah [being idle from learning Torah] comes from a verse in Numbers 15 כי דבר השם בזה הכרת תכרת הנפש ההיא מעמיה. "For the word of God he despised". [That is the Torah is saying there to bring a sin offering for doing idolatry by accident, but not for doing idolatry on purpose. It might have stopped at that point. But then it continues to say this extra idea "for the word of God he despised." So you see this idea from the fact that the verse might have just stopped at saying one does not bring a sacrifice for a sin done on purpose.

This idea of ביטול תורה [being idle from learning Torah] is mostly ignored nowadays except in Litvak yeshivas where people are more aware of this issue.

That does not mean one can not learn a vocation. But it does mean that in the time one is not learning or being involved in his vocation he is required to be learning Torah.

However my feeling is it is best to learn Torah at home to avoid the confusing people that hang out around yeshivas trying to entice people into all kinds of insanity.

[This is the reason for the fact that Litvak yeshivas throw out people along with  other reasons. I agree that the yeshivas are right about this general practice.]

The Rambam includes Physics and Metaphysics of the Ancient Greeks in the category of learning Torah. In any case, exactly what is called learning Torah in order to be safe from the sin of Bitul Torah tends to be unclear. The most strict definition would be only the exact text of the Old Testament and the two Talmuds. Then you would add the actual texts of Aristotle that the Rambam includes--the Metaphysics and Physics. I think however it is safe to enlarge the definition to learning Rashi, and Tosphot and the basic Rishonim, plus the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach along with Quantum Field Theory.  But one has to evaluate very carefully what he wants to include in learning Torah.

[I should mention I found the Pnei Yehoshua very helpful. Also the books of the Gra I found very helpful. If all this seems too much the best thing is to simply learn the Mishna of R. Yehuda HaNasi along with the commentary of  Rav Ovadiah from Bartenura

[If you are in the walking distance from the great Litvak NY yeshivas or Bnei Brak then by all means learn there. But if not, home is better than anything else. Also if you have the ability to start you own place along the lines of the straight Torah of the Litvaks that is of course the best thing.]


Eliyahu the prophet asked Israel on Mount Carmel, "How long will you jump between the two extremes? If the Lord is God, then serve Him. If the Baal is God, then serve him."
At the time the Temple of Solomon was in Jerusalem, and people would go there and worship God and then return home and go to the local Baal Center and worship there. That way that had all their bases covered.
The Gra [Eliyahu from Villna] had the same  point. He saw people were worshiping God but also worshiping their leader or "tzadik." They would say to worship according to the Torah, but add on this one little thing--the worship of their leader or his grave.
They would come up with some religion that externally looked like Torah but in essence was the exact opposite.
The general approach has been to ignore the Gra except for the Zilverman yeshiva in Jerusalem, but I tend to think this ignoring of the Gra was and is a mistake.

Eliyahu the prophet is saying "Either this or that, but not both." That is the same thing the Gra said. Make up your mind.

[I am not sure but this whole event I think was only for Israel (the ten tribes) but not Yehuda and Benjamin. In any case the king there is the king of Israel, not the king of Judah. I do not even know if there was anyone from Judah present. So in any case we do see that even the ten tribes were still serving God. Were they allowed to go up to Jerusalem on the three festivals? Yeravam had forbidden that years before this event. In any case, you see some kind of worship of the Lord still existed in the ten tribes. The thing which is sad is not long after that the ten tribes were exiled because apparently  they were still doing idolatry even though they had listened to Eliyahu and after seeing fre fall from heaven had answered "The Lord is God, the Lord is God."]

Musar Movement

The basic idea of the Musar Movement  was not at all connected with yeshivas originally. It was simply the realization that no one is automatically moral without learning. [Moral principles are included in what is called "universals." Things that apply to different particulars.And it is characteristic of universals that they are  recognized by reason. One might need sense perception to understand the meaning of a universal, but it is reason that recognizes the principle as Michael Huemer goes into detail in his essay criticizing Ayn Rand.]

The  insight of the Musar movement was the realization that the Rishonim [authors during the Middle Ages] had an extra measure of logical rigor in understanding the principles of the Old Testament and the two Talmuds as opposed to achronim[authors after the Middle Ages.]

[This is a well established fact even though I find it very hard to get into the Rishonim without the help of the Achronim on the Gemara.
But in terms of the basic principles of Torah, achronim go off on tangents far away from Torah. Sometimes they find some odd principle that appeals to them and they decide that that principle is what the whole Torah is all about. The examples are many. Sometimes the principles they come up with are in direct opposition to Torah and sometimes they are just some minor issue that that person want to exaggerate into some big deal.]

So even though in the Musar movement itself--the disciples of Reb Israel Salanter--they also wrote books explaining  ethical principles of Torah but as a rule they are sticking with the approach of the rishonim. [That is until the second generation of Musar which then started also going off on tangents.]