Divorce. Torah is no protection and in fact makes things worse is because we live in the Age of Counterfeit Torah.

Someone suggested that the Protestant world is to blame for the present day situation [with marriage] because divorce got to be acceptable. No more embarrassment was attached. That is Protestants might have made a crusade against divorce instead of evolution, but instead decided evolution was the thing to fight against.

Something has changed about the very nature of marriage. It seems to be across the board--regardless of place.

  • This topic overshadows all others.We need to get back to marriage and family and only with that can Western civilization survive and prosper.

    That Torah is no protection (and in fact makes things worse) is because we live in the Age of Counterfeit Torah. This is the age in which everything that presents itself as authentic Torah is just the opposite

      Hidden Torah inside Creation

      Learning Physics is not usually considered a part of service of God. Nor is it considered a way to come to enlightenment. Both of these assumptions are not like the Rambam [Maimonides].[That is to come to fear and love of God and attachment with God is through Physics and Metaphysics.]
      [That is along with learning the Oral and Written Law. That is the Old Testament and the Mishna.]

      In the Guide, the Rambam is more explicit about this, but it turns up in Mishne Torah also, and in the Musar book Obligations of the Heart.

      The question is how to do this for people that are not particularity talented in that area and for that I think the best idea is just to say the words and go on and to know that eventually you will understand. [That is given enough time.]

      [Of course you have to understand enlightenment in a wider way than just experiencing the "Infinite Light". I mean to say one can even have true experience of the the Light of God, but that does not necessarily come with right knowledge. The kind of enlightenment the Rambam is talking about is a wider concept that simply experiencing the Divine Light.
      The way to make sense of this in my opinion is through the idea of the Hidden Torah inside Creation (the physical universe).

      [The Rambam openly says he is referring to the Physics and Metaphysics of the ancient Greeks. --not mysticism.]'''

      The hidden Torah inside Creation is a theme which comes up in Reb Nachman quite often. But the most simple way to explain it is  the idea of the Hidden Statement [the highest statement of Creation.]

      [I think it is proper to mention here the idea of שיעורים כסדרם (learning sessions in order) which means to learn short sessions in the different subjects that you need to cover every day. This can be helpful when you are in a situation where you have a few subjects you need to cover daily like Tenach (Old Testament), Mishna, Gemara, Midrash, Physics, Metaphysics. What is helpful is to do just two pages of  each subject and then to go on to the next subject.] [Sessions in order is how Bava Sali learned. It comes from the Ari.]



      My son came to help me during this period when I am recovering from breaking my leg. He has with him some books on modern Buddhism. And that reminded me that different systems of thought have different ideals about what is the proper way to live.

      Certainly gaining "higher consciousness" does not seem like a Torah ideal. But still the Buddha had some pretty good ideas: the four noble truths and the eight-fold way.[In short: Life is suffering and the solution is to cease desiring and stop ignorance.]
      What makes it especially interesting is the fact that he seems to have found in that group people he gets along with and can relate to.

      Though the way it is presented in the West is far from the original ideas of Buddha, still some important elements remain. In particular the fact that he grasped something about the nature of the Divine which goes beyond human understanding.

      [The Four-Fold Negation and is a fundamental Buddhist philosophical principle that deals with attempts to characterize Nirvân.a or ultimate reality:  we cannot either affirm or deny anything about it.]

      [In Lithuanian yeshivas (based on the Gra) learning Torah is considered as the prime ideal. This is in fact due to the aspect that it does get one to the Infinite Light (אור אין סןף) and for me it seems hard to distinguish this from the Buddha idea of "Higher consciousness or enlightenment"]

      [Nowadays I have a slight modification of the Litvak ideal. While the Litvak ideal is to learn the entire Oral and Written Law, my own approach is to  do that-- but add the two things of the Rambam: Physics and Metaphysics. And to do all this fast. That is to say the words and to go on.  ]
      Also I should mention I do not have any sefer, but if I did have a Villna Shas I would first and foremost have an in-depth session..[That is, to do the same  page over and over again for  few weeks]. That is what I mentioned before to have an in depth session and also a fast session. At this point with limited time I would spend my time on Gemara to be in depth. Faster sessions I would have in other subjects.]


      Learning and reading is not always of benefit.

      "Who knows what else is out there?" Sapolsky. [In terms of mind control parasites like Toxo-plasmosis.]

      Lots of times in what one reads or hears there is some hidden unit of social information [meme] that changes dramatically how one thinks about the world he lives in and thus that changes how he acts.

      Learning and reading is not always of benefit. Sometimes depending on what one reads. Learning can be really damaging.

      This is brought in the Mishna [of R. Yehuda HaNasi] אלו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא: הקורא בספרים חיצוניים

      "These are they who have no portion in the next world:.. One who reads "outside" books."

        According to the Rif and Rosh this means the exact opposite of what most people think it means.
      People think it that if they read just Jewish religious books, that is OK.

        The Rif and Rosh say just the opposite. They explain"Outside books" means books that supposedly explain the Torah but not in the way the sages did. That means almost all religious books nowadays are "outside books," because they explain the Torah but not in the way the sages of the Mishna and Gemara did so.

      I am only saying this because I take this personally very seriously. In the religious world, there is little that I consider kosher at all. The best is obviously the great Litvak yeshivas: Ponovitch, Brisk, Mir-but that does not stop the dark side from trying to gain entrance into these places.

      I have no objection to learning wisdom from all sources. But that is not what most religious books are about.They are mainly abut finding some dark side doctrine that appeals to them and then presenting it as authentic Torah.

      [Thus when it comes to Torah I am careful  in what I read. And most of the religious stuff out there I will not come within ten feet of.]


      race is real.

      I have thought for a long time that race is real. This might have come from my parents. I recall once going on a skiing vacation that the issue of race was brought up, and I heard my mother say some comment which indicated to me that she did not think that all races were the same. I forget the comment, but the idea was mainly that black people are not necessarily as talented as white people. I do not know why that was a surprise to me. Perhaps I was myself being indoctrinated by the public school system without my being aware of it.

      If you do not have something nice to say--do not say anything.

      I tried to impress upon myself the importance of not giving rebuke for a few years. I would repeat to myself the statement of Reb Nachman's  אע''פ שתוכחה היא דבר גדולה ומוטל על כל אדם להוכיח את חבירו כשרואה בו דבר שאינו הגון, אע''פ כן לאו כל אדם ראוי להוכיח

      "Even though rebuke is a great thing and it is an obligation on every person to rebuke their friend when they see them acting in a way that is not proper, still not every person is fit to be able to give rebuke. As R. Akiva said "I would be surprised if there could be found even one person in this generation who is fit criticize..'"

      The Shelah brings this up and the Gra also but in a different sense. There is a sense just saying what the proper thing is. This is brought up in the אבן שלמה which is  a small book of sayings of the Gra.

      The whole issue starts with the fact that rebuke is in fact one of the 613 commandments to the Rambam (and I think also all of those who counted the mitzvot like the Smag and Semak.].

      It is significant that Reb Nachman only said one Torah lesson in Uman and this statement of his is the beginning of that Torah lesson. It is obvious to me that he thought of this fact (not to rebuke) as being of prime importance--way beyond how it sounds to us. To me and probably to most people it just does not seem like a big deal. But clearly to him, this was the one and only principle he wanted his last days on earth to be about.

      Fast learning

      Fast reading I found helpful in terms of learning.--Especially for difficult subjects. The difficult thing is to find some middle ground between fast learning and in-depth learning. I also think that there is an emotional aspect to learning. That is that one needs an emotional commitment.

      One place I was learning at divided the day into slow in depth learning in the morning and fast learning in the afternoon and I have long thought that that combination makes the most sense.
      That was at the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY.

      Before the Mir, I had been in Shar Yashuv and there Reb Freifeld, Rav Naphtali Yeager and Motti Freifeld all emphasized in depth learning.

      [So the fact that there I would do the Gemara and each Tosphot about twice and then go on was way too fast for their taste. Still some time later, I have begun to see the wisdom of their approach. I am sure that if I had not been exposed to real in-depth learning when I was in my teen age years, that I would not have been able to pick it up later. So I can see why Litvak yeshivas do emphasize this kind of (in-depth) learning. But I also think it needs to be balanced with fast learning.]

      I have known people that could learn fast and comprehend. Shimon Buso and others. But I think the benefit of fast learning is usually not visible right away.


      Maimonides and his synthesis between Faith and Reason

      I have not done enough work on Maimonides to say much. Some of the main points were already brought up by Dr Kelley Ross and Sunwell that he is an arch type Kant Friesian. That is with the source of knowledge of universals being from non intuitive immediate knowledge. My personal question at this point is how to deal with the differences between Hegel and Kant and where to place Maimonides in regard to their differences. But the Middle Ages opens up a whole new range of possibilities in this regard. What I mean is the differences between Aquinas and Scotus also invites thought in regard to Maimonides.What was he thinking in terms of Human Freedom? Was he more like Aquinas or Scotus? There are plenty of mysteries about Maimonides that still require thought.
      The main things I find important about Maimonides are his synthesis between Faith and Reason [which was shared by most other great people during the Middle Ages]. But it is his particular approach which especially fascinates me. An approach that I am still puzzled by and also enthralled with.

      Rosh haShanah page 15 side B. An answer for a question I asked on Tosphot

      Background. An אתרוג is unlike other fruit. It stays on the tree after it is already ripe. Thus we do not know if to go by the time of לקיטה for מעשר or the time of חנטה.  For vegetables we go by the time of לקיטה. For fruit in general we go by the time of חנטה. But the אתרוג is a doubt.רבה says an אתרוג coming from the seventh to the eight year is obligated in laws of the seventh year, but not מעשר. From the sixth to the seventh year, it is not obligated in anything. אביי asked on this. In ראש השנה , תוספות suggests that רבה can answer אביי that he is going like רבן גמליאל. I asked on this in my notes, that would simply put the question of אביי on the end of the statement of רבה. The answer to my question is this. If רבה is holding like רבן גמליאל that means the אתרוג is obligated in laws of the seventh year. That is because it ripened in the seventh year. My question was that the same אתרוג ought to be obligated in מעשר because for מעשר ,רבן גמליאל goes by the time of חנטה.
      The answer is simple. כולם נכנסים לשדה שלו ואתה רוצה שיהיה חייב במעשר? I mean to say that even though it is already the eight year, but because he had to make the אתרוגים free and available to the public, so they are still coming into his field to take the אתרוגים. And in that case there is no way he could be obligated in מעשר.

      ) ראש השנה ט''ו: אני רוצה להציג שאלה על תוספות. תוספות אומר רבה היה יכול לענות אביי ולומר שהוא הולך כמו רבן גמליאל. אני שואל שזה היה שם את השאלה של אביי בחזרה לסוף הדין של רבה. (1) רק כדי להציג את הרעיונות הבסיסיים כאן: רבן גמליאל אומר לאתרוג אנחנו הולכים לפי הזמן של חנטה לערלה רבעי ושביעית וזמן לקיטה למעשר. רבי אליעזר אומר שאנחנו הולכים לפי הזמן של חנטה לכל דבר. רבותינו באושא החליטו שאנחנו הולכים לפי הזמן של לקיטה לכל דבר. (2) רבה אמר אתרוג של שישית שנכנסה לשביעית אינו מחויב בביעור ולא במעשר. אתרוג של השנה השביעית שנכנסה לשמינית מחויב בביעור אבל לא במעשר. (3) אביי שאל, הסיפא של רבה הוא בסדר כי הוא רוצה להחמיר, אבל מה לגבי הרישא? זה בסדר שהוא פטור מביעור משום שאנחנו הולכים לפי זמן חנטה, אבל מה לגבי מעשר? אם הולכים לפי חנטה, אז הוא צריך להיות מחויב במעשר. (4) רבה ענה: כולם נכנסים לשדה שלו ואתה רוצה שהוא יהיה מחויב במעשר? כמו חולית של ים לגבי אבדה. (5) תוספות אומרים שיש לרבה יכולת לענות שהוא הולך כרבן גמליאל. (6) השאלה שלי היא שזה היה זורק את השאלה של אביי בחזרה על הסיפא במקום הרישא.

      רקע כללי. אתרוג הוא בניגוד לפירות אחרים בזה שהוא נשאר על העץ אחרי שהוא כבר התבשל. לכן אנחנו לא יודעים אם ללכת לפי הזמן של לקיטה עבור מעשר או הזמן של חנטה. עבור ירקות הולכים לפי הזמן של לקיטה. עבור פירות  אנחנו הולכים לפי הזמן של חנטה. אבל האתרוג הוא ספק. רבה אומר אתרוג שמגיע משישית לשנה השביעית אינו מחויב בכל דבר.  משביעית לשנה השמינית מחויב בחוקים של השנה השביעית אבל לא במעשר. אביי שאל על זה.  תוספות עולה כי רבה יכול לענות לאביי שהוא הולך כמו רבן גמליאל. שאלתי על זה שזה יעמיד את השאלה של אביי על סוף לדוח של רבה. התשובה לשאלה שלי היא זו. אם רבה מחזיק כמו רבן גמליאל, אז האתרוג מחויב בחוקים של השנה השביעית. זאת משום שהוא התבשל בשנה השביעית. השאלה שלי היא שאותו אתרוג צריך להיות מחויב במעשר משום שבמעשר רבן גמליאל הולך לפי הזמן של לקיטה. התשובה היא פשוטה. כולם נכנסים לשדה שלו ואתה רוצה שיהיה חייב במעשר? אני מתכוון לומר כי למרות שהוא כבר  שנה השמינית , אלא בגלל שהוא היה צריך לעשות את אתרוגים זמינים לציבור, ולכן הם עדיין באים לתוך שדהו לקחת את האתרוגים. ואם כך, אין דרך שהוא יכול להיות מחויב במעשר

      This answer occurred to me  today as I was looking over my notes on the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah

      This is clearly what Tosphot was trying to say, but for some reason I did not understand Tosphot until today.

      Background. Rosh Hashanah page 15

      Raba says an Etrog coming from the seventh to the eight year is obligated in laws of the seventh year but not maasar. From the sixth to the seventh year it is not obligated in anything. Abyee asked on this.

      In Rosh Hashanah, Tosphot suggests that Raba can answer Abyee that he is going like Raban Gamliel.

      I asked on this in my notes that would simply put the question of Abyee on the end of the statement of Raba.
      The answer to my question is this.
      If Raba is holding like Raban Gamliel that means the Etrog is obligated in laws on the seventh year.That is because it ripened in the seventh year. My question was that the same Etrog ought to be obligated in masaar (tithes) because for maasar (tithes) Raban Gamliel goes by the time of picking.
      The answer is simple. כולם נכנסים לשדה שלו ואתה רוצה שיהיה חייב במעשר? [People are coming into us field to take fruit, and you want him to be obligated  to give tithes?!] That is: the same answer Raba gave, he could also have given if he was going like Raban Gamliel. Just the time period is different. The way Tosphot is understanding things is that even if people are coming into his field in the eight year just to get the etrogim, that also is enough to make him not obligated in tithes for the etrogim. It is kind of a subtle point that Tosphot is making.

      I mean to say that even though it is already the eight years but because he had to make the etrogim available to the public so they are still coming into his field to take the etrogim. And in that case there is not way he could be obligated in Maasar.


      One measure of mysticism brings ten measures of delusion. In the Ashkenazic world all mysticism is from the Sitra Achra (Shadow Realm) [with the exception of the Gra].

      That Occult and Mysticism are  bad things seems to be getting to be a fundamental of faith.

      I would not go that far.  To me it seems there were genuine mystics like Rav Isaac Luria, the Reshash [Rav Shalom Sharabi] and Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaira.
      However the tendency seems to be clear. That one measure of mysticism brings ten measures of delusion.

      It is too bad that there does not seem to be an accurate measuring stick or test to tell the authentic from the counterfeit.
      The basic difference clearly is that in the Ashkenazic world  all mysticism is from the Sitra Achra (Shadow Realm) [with the exception of the Gra]. But the Sephardi world is not far behind. Most any involvement with mysticism nowadays is guaranteed to be from the Sitra Achra.

      [On the other hand I might mention what Reb Shmuel Berenbaum [the rosh yeshiva of the Mir in NY] told me when I asked about earning the writings of the Ari (Isaac Luria). He said, "First finish Shas." ["Shas" means the Talmud.] I said "I did." Then he said "Then do it again." And to some degree there in fact seems to be some benefit to learning the Ari for people that have gone through the proper stages of preparation. This is in fact stated clearly in the writings of the Ari himself. I should mention I feel that I gained a lot by learning the central book of the Ari, the Eitz Chaim, before going to Israel. And the attitude of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaira is clearly positive towards the Ari. But this all seems to be predicated on the idea of having done Shas a few times before hand.]

      Reb Israel Salanter. Civilization needs certain unifying factors.

       The basic approach of Reb Israel Salanter is much more significant than most people realize. It contains the seed of the new future. The modern world as is seen clearly is in the decay of post modernism. There is no unifying factor as faith was during the Middle Ages. But the Middle Ages still provides the seeds of the future. The books of Ethics written then.

      [Civilization needs certain unifying factors. Though faith was certainly that factor during the Middle Ages, that faith needs some kind of synthesis with later developments. The Middle Ages got a lot right--much more than we admit today. But still there were areas that were naive.]
      One important insight of the Middle Ages was the synthesis of Faith and Reason. They knew very well that religious fanaticism is poison. But they also knew the need for faith and morality based on the Torah. [The Middle Ages had  a great idea what to do with religious fanatics-- lock them up in some institution where they can do their thing without bothering anyone else.]

      [ In the Middle Ages synthesis of Faith and Reason meant (more or less) Torah with Neo Platonic thought. The tilt towards Aristotle happened almost towards the end of the Middle Ages. Both Maimonides and Saadia Gaon were Neo Platonic.]

      [I was never that much into the mind set that looked down on the Middle Ages. But going to yeshiva in NY was even for me a eye opener. The son of Rav Freifeld [Moti Freifeld] told me "Rishonim can not be wrong. Achronim can be wrong."] ["Rishonim" means mediaeval authorities. Achronim means authorities from the Beit Yoseph and after-including the Beit Yoseph (Rav Joseph Karo)]
      Besides that it always was (and still is) the basic emphasis of all authentic Litvak yeshivas to emphasize rishonim.

      [From where this idea of the superiority of the modern age over the Middle Ages is not clear to me.--To some degree it seems to be a result of realizing the advances of the Renaissance and later on advances in the natural sciences. But the Renaissance is not the same things as the Enlightenment which seems to have gotten almost everything wrong. "What is Enlightenment?" is Kant's famous question. The simple answer is, "Everything that tries to undermine faith. It was a movement directly specifically to bringing down Throne and Altar."
      But within the context  realizing the importance of rishonim [medieval authorities], I find some acharonim [later writers] to be of great benefit. Mainly I am thinking of Rav Shach and the Maharsha.
      [But there are also some more  achronim I found helpful, e.g. the Pnei Yehoshua, Reb Chaim Soloveitchik. ]


      Reb Israel Salanter

      (1) To me it seems clear that Reb Israel Salanter was right about starting what is called the Musar Movement. The thing is today it needs modifications. I mean to say that not only has it changed a lot from the original idea, but also the original idea needs modification.
      (2) The original idea was really defined in the Letter of Musar [אגרת המוסר]. The idea was the importance of everyone learning books of Ethics from the Middle Ages. [Rishonim].
      (3) The modification I suggest is that it should include the Guide of the Rambam and the אמונות ודעות (Faiths and Knowledges ) of Rav Saadia Gaon.
      (4) Another modification is the "משגיח" really needs to be dropped. [The person that in yeshivas gives the "Musar Shmooz". [Musar Talks] These are mainly just rosh yeshiva "want-to-be"s.

      Maybe people need somewhere to go for spiritual advice--but that is never a mashgiach.

      In yeshiva, I talked with the rosh yeshiva himself, Reb Shmuel Berenbaum, not the mashgiach.
      (Also descendants of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaira are good to go to for advice.)
      (5) Outdoor and survival skills contributes a lot towards good character--learning to work as a team. Thus a part of Musar ought to be camping and survival skills in nature.

      "Does knowledge of God come through knowledge of nature?" To Hegel you would have to say yes, but visa versa also.

      I think Hegel can best be understood as a synthesis of the schools of thought that preceded him.  Though in my own mind I have in general thought of Hegel as the continuation of Aristotle, but now I realize he is  a lot more comprehensive than that.
      One thing I noticed is that he wants to answer a problem that arose in the Middle Ages. "Does knowledge of God come through knowledge of nature?"

      This provides a lot of insight into Hegel. Hegel is thinking that by knowledge of the Divine come knowledge of nature. [Not that he would put it that way, but rather "Absolute Spirit".] But Hegel is also using the idea of dialectics to go from nature up to the Divine also.

      [This is to me very similar to Dr. Kelley Ross's "Ontological Un-decidablity."]

      My own feeling about this [I mentioned many times] is on the side of Maimonides. That is that knowledge of Physics and Metaphysics is a prerequisite to come to love and fear of God.
      The most obvious reason is that knowledge of nature provides constraints against religious delusions. This is not the reason why the Rambam considers it a prerequisite but still you can see its obvious advantage. Just too many religious people think of themselves as being super holy and super smart simply by the fact of their adherence to certain rituals.
      I do feel however I gained the experience of Absolute Spirit in Safed after a few years of being in in the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY. And that was at a time I was doing only Torah learning [i.e. the Old Testament and the Talmud [Gemara Rashi Tosphot]].


      confidence in Torah

      Reb Nachman's critique of Torah teachers may seem to some people as not a good thing, but to me  it reinforced my confidence in Torah.
      If there had never been any awareness of this problem, I think that would have been strange to me. How can people that are externally keeping Torah (and even teaching it) be wicked?

      The fact that Reb Nachman pointed this out gave me renewed confidence in Torah,-- because I could separate what the Torah actually teaches from the Torah of the Dark Side that the religious world teaches.  


      supposed teachers of Torah.

      Most of what passes today as authentic Torah are  tricks of the Sitra Achra [The Shadow Realm]
      The trouble is the religious world is just too full of cults and cult leaders.

      In this, the Na Nach people definitely are on the right track-- in terms of suspecting automatically anyone that claims to teach Torah. They might go a little overboard, but this approach tends to protect them from the agents of the Dark Side.

      [I have mentioned before that because of this problem, the best thing is to get your own Vilna Shas and  the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach and to learn Torah at home.]

      [In this the Na Nach people are going with statements of Reb Nachman who warned against false teachers. The idea of being aware of this problem still is ignored however.]
      What Reb Nachman says about most supposed teachers of Torah is highly shocking. That is until you have experienced it yourself and then you see the point. It took me some real horrific experiences until I saw the truth of Reb Nachman's words. And that brings me to the question "How to tell the difference ?" As a rule if you go with the Gra you are safe. What he excluded ought to be rigorously excluded. [This however does not exclude Reb Nachman in spite of what most people think. But it does mean to take the signature of the Gra on the letter of excommunication seriously.]

      [The trouble is however in the entire religious world. Even what you would think are straight Litvak yeshivas often have this problem.]

      [I would not make such a big deal out of this if not for the damage that false teachers of Torah cause in the lives of all who are misled by them. ]

      Moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray

      Prayer I think is sometimes effective. But I think it has to go along with general life style. That is ones's actions and words and thoughts  should also be prayer. Prayer by itself does not work if it is unrelated to one's actions.
      There were times that in my own life I think prayer was effective.
      I broke my leg fending off vicious dogs. And I had prayed before that for help from God. For the month in was in the hospital I was wondering what good was my prayer? Then the last day there it occurred to me that this  business with my leg got me out of  a much  worse situation than I had been in ever before. But I could not escape until the event of the broken leg.

      This maybe is not very much of an inspiring lesson but it does help me get to my point. That Rosh Hashanah is about teshuva repentance. But  since moral obligations are obscure what I think is a good idea is to spend time praying to merit to repent. My logic is that at least a few times in my life when I prayed or something, the prayers seemed to get answered.
      I was in Safed in Israel and I remember one time my wife was asking me about parnasa [money]. I told her I would go out and pray about it. So I went out [not by kivrei tzadikim but rather in the forest] and for one hour I prayed only about parnasa--nothing else. After that in fact there was a kind of help n that direction.

      There were other times when things were more desperate. There was a time I was in the shiloach [underground steam] in Jerusalem which is at the bottom of  along flight of stairs. The Arabs on the top of the stair case were throwing large stones down the stair case in order to kill me  so I prayed then a short prayer. "God, if they succeed, my children will never know who I was.  I have no army and no weapons. But I have You." And then I started walking up the stairs. The shower of rocks stopped. When I reached the top the Arabs were there and one called out to the others "Here he is," and they started throwing rocks again. They were in point blank range. But not one rock hit me. As I was walking away, I saw a stream of rocks flowing by my head, but not one hit me.

      So I definitely feel prayer is sometimes effective; but in some way that is not clear. It is not just a matter of how hard one prays or sincere one is.

      What I am trying to get at is that moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray to be put on the right path. At least one day in the year that is Rosh Hashanah.

      It is not that the laws of Torah are ambiguous, but rather their application in everyday life. Another problem is people that make money supposedly teaching Torah are liars.That makes it difficult to know what the Torah really says. [So to have a decent idea of what Torah says you have two choices, (1) either find a straight normal Lithuanian yeshiva like Ponovitch or the Ivy League NY Litvak Yeshivas.   Or (2) learn Talmud and Musar and the Avi Ezri at home. I should mention that even though I have no first hand knowledge, but Mizrachi or Bnei Akiva kinds of Yeshivas also seem pretty good to me. I do not know ll the names they go by. One name I have heard is דתי לאומ (religious Zionist) and these places seem very good to me. They seem to have "balance."
      The basic premise of the great Litvak yeshivas is that virtue can be learned and taught. And they seem to come to that goal to a large degree. But the kind of approach I think that brings to virtue is to learn Musar, Physics, and survival skills.


      The highest light was contained in מאמר הסתום the hidden statement of Creation.

      It makes sense before Rosh Hashanah to mention a few words about Reb Nachman. Reb Nachman hints in a few places to the hidden Torah that is contained in the work of Creation. If you put together the scattered places where he deals with this, you get this picture:
      The highest light was contained in מאמר הסתום "the hidden statement of Creation." That remained hidden in דרך ארץ [the way of the Earth, or  hidden in the Earth] until it was revealed by the ten plaques and became revealed in the Ten Commandments.
       Reb Nachman was NOT disagreeing with the Rambam that the fulfillment of the major commandments of Torah to love and fear God come from learning Physics and Metaphysics. Just he had to hide this because of the Enlightenment which had pitted itself against  Faith.
       [You can see Reb Nachman hinting these ideas in lots of places -too many for me to remember off hand. E.g. where he says sometimes people have fallen so low that if you would tell them straight Torah they would either no accept it or become worse. So you have to hide it in שיחת חולין --שיחת תלמידי חכמים צריכה עיון simple conversation. I am also thinking of here he says to hold on to words of truth and where truth is  a light that can take a person out of all is troubles.

      [It is a  mystic idea which is based on the Ari.]

      Note (1) The Hidden Statement. Genesis has nine places where it says "God said". The Mishna says, "With ten statements God created the world." So where is the tenth statement? The Tikunai HaZohar says that is the מאמר הסתום the hidden statement of the first verse.

      The Rambam emphasizes Physics and Metaphysics in both the Mishne Torah and the Guide. But the way he does this sounds like he is talking about coming to high spiritual levels [Love and Fear of God].
      But what I think is he means this as a general program of leaning.

      I could defend this idea from the Rambam's texts. But what would like to is to suggest that the Rambam means this in more of an essential way that applies to everyone in order to come to objective morality.
      It is already obvious that religious fanaticism does not lead anyone to righteousness.  But my reasoning is that Love and Fear of God are the essential ground of Torah. Without them, the mitzvot are not real.
      Now in terms of first learning the Oral Law, the Mishna itself is in fact the actual Oral Law and does not take a long time to get through and its simple explanation is not hard. Plenty of people go through the Mishna each month. And that is the basic requirement of the Rambam for  doing Physics and Metaphysics.

      [The Mishna is the basic book of R Yehuda HaNasi that contains the entire Oral Law]

      Asking religious leaders for personal advice is a guarantee for disaster.

      Pericles warned the Athenians not try to try to expand their empire while fighting the war with Sparta. It seems, in fact, that he was right. They were trying to expand into Syracuse and all Sicily and that seems to have been the cause of their defeat.

      It is hard to know when one is making a mistake.

      People like me are prone to error. Often even people with an extra measure of intelligence seem to make serious errors in judgment. The Athenians themselves were aware of this, and felt that the best safeguard against mistakes in human affairs is discussion. But that did not seem to help in that case.

      What I feel has helped me to a great degree has been discussion with family. People that you can depend on to have your best interests at heart. Discussion with friends that have supported you in times of crisis also counts.

      I did this myself in times of stress. In Jerusalem, when I was going through a confusing period, I asked a group of my closest friends--(people that had previously stuck with  me in times of crisis) -to gather together on every Wednesday night to discuss my problems and possible solutions.

      After that when I was in NY and also going through a confusing period, I called my brothers often and discussed with them their opinions about my situation, and also I asked what they remembered from the basic approach of my parents--[which I had forgotten a lot of.]

      This all was a new approach for me. Before that, I had thought the right thing to do in times of crisis was to ask religious leaders. At some point, I realized asking religious leaders is a guarantee for disaster.

      [I might mention that to me this is already contained in the Torah itself in the command of "Honor your father and mother." As pointed out in books of Medieval Ethics (Musar) this means to obey your parents. This is also mention in the חידושי הגרנ''ט Reb Naphtali Troup, one of the great sages of Lithuania at the time of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik.
      [I might mention that Moshe Israel noted a lot of times when family members are not good sources of friendship. He saw this in the USA and right here where I am now in the Ukraine right in my hospital room this came to my attention. One fellow I saw had no money for medicine and I helped him out a little and his wife told me after that how in their family right the last week there was some problem with inheritance. So I have to qualify my remarks about family as being  prima facie. That is the way things are until proven otherwise.

      In any case the main lesson to learn here is wherever you go for advice, never ever ever go to a religious leader.


      Music for the Glory of God

      There are also social memes that get into people's heads

      Toxo-plasmosis is the parasite that gets into the mouse that makes it think the cat is attractive. [And thus the mouse gets eaten and the parasite gets into the cat's stomach which is where it wanted to go.] Sapolsky asks: "Who knows what else is out there [like that]?" That is who knows what other kinds of parasites are there causing us to think things that are not true?

      These get in by hanging out with the wrong type of people.

      There are also social memes [[units of social information]] that get into people's head without being necessarily from biological origin.

      [To find the right group to hang out with is often a hard project.  I should add that part of my own interest in the violin was certainly the Music aspect of it, but there also I felt a kind of אור מקיף "surrounding light" ] on professional violinists. Also I want to add that that the Mir yeshiva in NY besides being great in terms of learning also had the type of crowd that I felt was good to hang out with.] But the main thing is to avoid the cults. That is to identify and to gain the common sense you need to be able to identify bad groups and to avoid them. And if possible to help influence laws that will make them illegal, so they should not be able to entice and hurt others.

      Though I am not saying this very well my basic point is that a people like myself need to download good social memes [units of social information] into our minds. That is by learning Musar. And Musar is especially important because it is mainly the work of Rishonim. [The Middle Ages]. The Rishonim were especially careful in understanding the Torah.  


      U-12 D Major [Sorry if there are mistakes. This is not edited]
      Socrates asked "What is virtue?", and could not find anyone that could answer the question.[Meno]

      Even with Musar/Medieval Books of Ethics the question still seems hard to answer.
      Besides this he  asked, "Can virtue be taught?"If so then why it is that the children of virtuous people are sometimes not virtuous? If by nature, then it does seem to be from free will.
      The books of Musar do  a great job in explaining the basic ethics of the Torah but leave open the basic questions of how to identify virtue and to get it after one recognizes it.  Learning Musar would seem to help at least in terms of recognizing virtue. 

      Learning Torah is needed

      I could vaguely see this, but someone coming into the city (of the former USSR) where I am right now pin pointed the problem: "Punk-keit". That is in this city there is a kind of idealization of the punk. The young criminal thug. This must account for the fact that the Russians always seem to look down on this area and think of it as second rate.

      This reminds me that when a person has a "yetzer hara" (an evil inclination), he does not think of that thing that he desires as being wrong. In this city, theft is certainly not considered a bad thing. I think it shows how much learning Torah is needed for people to get an idea of the difference between right and wrong. In particular Musar (Mediaeval Ethics) is necessary because it deals with the areas of Torah that are most needed. One place you can see this is in the Reshash {Rav Shalom Sharabi} where he brings this idea that the actual soul is one's character traits, while Torah and mitzvot are the clothing and food of the soul.

      That is to say: if one lacks good character, he does not even have a holy soul. Then all the Torah and mitzvot do nothing. This is a reason most Jews in Europe were aware that the most essential lesson of Torah is "to be a mench" (decent human being .)


      There is such a thing as a unity between physicality and spirituality. Not just a connection but a  kind of ground of being in which they are one and identical. That was the kind of thing I saw and felt between my parents and also it existed between me and my wife. That is not the same thing as two different things being connected but a place in which they are one and the same. [ Like the aspect of wave or particle of an electron before you measure it. ] This is also similar to the way Hegel is looking for a ground of unity between Notion and Being.

      When I faced very difficult times

      When I faced very difficult times, I made up my mind to tell the truth at all cost plus to say the 13 principles of faith of the Rambam every morning right when I woke up. The last thing I gave up on  after a while, but recently I have started to do it again.. I do have feeling that these two things have helped. That is: telling the truth I feel has created a kind of force field around me. It does not make me impervious to harm, but I do think it has helped.

      [I might have chosen not to speak lashon hara /gossip and also to learn Torah,  but at the time these were the things that made the most sense to me.]

      Bava Sali had guarding his eyes as a prime principle, and I was aware of this at the time, but again I needed to find some principle  I could hold onto that I thought would help. I was not looking for just any random religious principle, but rather something I thought if I would hold fast onto it, could help me through my troubles. The most promising things in that direction were these two ideas of faith and truth.

      [Today I would add learning Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot and the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach, and Musar [Mediaeval Ethics] but then I was looking for something more basic.]

      So now that I feel I am also in a difficult period, my thoughts are still to look for the set of basic principles to hold onto that should work. The main ones still I think should the truth telling at all cost. I was trying to work on trust in God without effort but now I feel I overdid that. I might have stayed in a bad situation thinking that if God wanted me to leave He would make it happen. That I think now was a mistake in judgment.  But the things that are still clear I think to continue to hold onto. That is to be careful about lashon hara [not to slander or say anything bad about anyone unless under extreme necessity.] To try to spend as much time as possible learning the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach, the Vilna Shas, and Physics.

      What I hope is that if I can hold onto these important things, maybe I will awaken to further things I need to do.

      [You might note that I have not included metaphysics as  a prime obligation for myself.  ]

      "What is the good life?"

      The most important question one can ask is, "What is the good life?" A life of self indulgence and worldly power or a life of Divine service? To me it seems not everyone has the opportunity to ask this question but I felt in high school that this was the most important question facing me

      The answer to this question for me was to go to two authentic Lithuanian kinds of yeshiva in NY. That is: my answer was to devote my life to learning and keeping Torah.
      Later, I discovered that there are many people that in external appearance do exactly this, but in fact are not living the good life, but rather lives of self indulgence and lust for worldly power. So the answer to this question is more subtle than I had thought at the time. Especially when I got a chance to see the religious world in its totality, it became clear to me that none of them are living the good life -none are wise or compassionate or brave or have any kind of valor. Religious fanaticism  does not equal the good life. In fact, just the opposite.

      The truth is I had a good view of the good life when I was living with my parents. Philip and Leila Rosenblum (Rosten). More or less that means a life of being "a mensch" that is to act "right" in every situation.

      [The Litvak (Lithuanian) kinds of yeshivas to me seem to approach this ideal closely. That is at least they seem to see this idea of balance as a goal. They learn and keep Torah and serve in the IDF and also work and tend to not use Torah as  a means to make money. To me it seems they are on the right path as closely as possible though individual people there still have free will.]



      I am not at all skeptical about Prophecy. Not at all. This is based largely on Kant who divides reality into two realms, (1) the dinge an sich (things in themselves), things not as they are perceived but as they are) and (2) phenomenal reality. But I also believe like Hegel that there is a ground of unity between these two realms. [That is also hinted to in Maimonides in the Guide Volume 2 ch 19.] Where you see this in Hegel  in a few places but I think the clearest statement in that way is in his treatment of Kant in his lectures.

      Where you see this ground of unity between these two realms in the Rambam is this statement: "If the matter of the spheres is one and the same, in virtue of what thing has any sphere been so particularized as to receive a nature other than the nature of any other sphere? . . . There must of necessity be something that particularizes."

      [Volume II is where the Rambam defends Creation Ex Nihilo/ Something from Nothing at great length and it is very worthwhile to make a thorough study of those chapters.]

      I believe that chapter in the Guide has confused commentators for a long time because of lack of knowledge of Hegel. This means they were not aware of what the Rambam was getting at. ]

      That Yemenite fellow that translated the Guide from the original wrote great comments and he was aware of the Rambam's usage of concepts from Aristotle. But that particular chapter II:19 I think has confused people because the Rambam is certainly thinking beyond Aristotle.

      [Besides that the Guide is hard because it is hard to translate into understandable form. It needs someone like Reb Chaim Soloveitchik to begin the work of getting it to be understandable. This is the same as the Mishne Torah.]  The way to do this is to see not just the background of the Rambam [from where he comes] in Neo Platonic thought but also to have some idea of where he is trying to go.  I see in fact the Guide of the Rambam as being a very essential part of Torah. Without it, people get lost.

      In case it is not clear what I am saying: with Kant you  need a ground of validity for knowledge, both a priori and also a posteriori. With Hegel there is a ground of unity between them. But further there is a ground of unity between existing things and knowledge. So what I am saying is that I think the Rambam already hinted to this idea from Hegel.
       [Reb Nachman was very unhappy with the Guide of the Rambam and with all due respect to Reb Nachman, I feel he can not override the Rambam. And to me it seems rather silly to imagine he can cancel something the Rambam obviously thought long and hard about. I have great faith in Reb Nachman's ideas and visions, but not when he disagrees with the Rambam.]

      Two critiques on the religious world: worship of people they consider supermen, and magic.

      Two critiques on the religious world: worship of  people they consider supermen, and magic. Mitzvot  are thought of and treated as ways to manipulate the fates and nature. They are thought of as ways to harness spiritual forces.  This is characteristic of pagan religions but not of Torah. Worship of human beings in the view of the Torah is a monstrosity. Yet this is so pervasive in the religious world that there is no where to go to avoid it.

      In Torah, mitzvot have no automatic powers. They do not coerce reality. Nor does the Torah celebrate events in the lives of tzadikim [sadikim].
      In Torah, the work of God is not God himself. Creation is Ex Nihilo, not from Himself. Nor do people become G-d, (Heaven forbid)!

      What small gods the religious world has! Are the gods of the religious world able to create a butterfly? What sad and useless gods they have. What a small cosmos they occupy. Is there really nothing above these pitiful beings that the religious world worships?

      The fact that the Torah is straight Monotheism and Creation Ex Nihilo I have been aware of for a long time and it surprises me that almost  no one in the religious world is aware of these two basic simple facts. But to become aware of these facts took me  along time. Even though it Straight Monotheism and Creation Ex Nihilo was clear to me before I went to yeshiva, but the problem is the sitra achra [the dark side] is attracted to holiness and thus tries to weasel itself into authentic Litvak Yeshivas. It is almost as if the religious world spends extra time and effort on rituals in order to disguise what they are doing.

      Another small problem is when they need your money they are your best friends. When they see you have no money (and/or no rich parents), things change dramatically.


      People in kollel claim to be astronauts

      One problem with the claim that people in kollel are astronauts is that that is irrelevant to the importance of learning Torah.  The basic idea of learning Torah is for everyone equally. There is no more of  a mitzvah for a smart person to learn than for a dumb person. The claim seems to be geared towards creating a kind of elite class of superior beings whom others are in this world only to serve.
      [I am not making it up that kollel-leit claim this. These are the actual words they use to justify using Torah to make money and to exclude others from their elite class.]

      The other problem is that it does not seem accurate.
       Astronauts  have to go through engineering and math courses and rigorous physical training in order to become pilots in the first place. To be in a kollel, one has simply to be born into the right circles, and know the right people, and have the right friends. It has nothing to do with knowing how to learn Torah.

      ["Kollel" is where people get paid to sit and learn Torah all day.]
      However the question does arise about learning Torah as opposed to worldly pursuits.
      The fact that there are unscrupulous people in kollels should not deter one from looking at the basic question of: "What is the good life?" A life of worldly pursuits or a life of learning Torah?

      [I have to add that based on the Rambam, Physics and Metaphysics are in the category of the Oral Law as the Rambam says in Mishne Torah and in the Guide. The idea would be along the lines of the Hidden Torah that is contained in the work of Creation as Reb Nachman mentions. But there is more to it than that. The Rambam is for some reason not expanding on this theme much. [In the Guide he brings the idea that there must be something that particularizes universals into the spheres. That is to prove Creation Ex Nihilo Something from Nothing. That is he is saying there is a unity between the Divine Mind and Being, (between universals and particulars.)
      [The Rambam here is hinting to a connection between matter and form]

      The question is really not related to people in kollel or people that work at all. The question is for people that want to choose a proper path in life.  Is it better to choose a life of learning in kollel or a life of work? Which is more nobler? Which is more worthy? Which brings one to the ultimate goal of of attachment with God?

      So I am not thinking about one particular kollel or the other but the more basic question of proper direction in life.
      I was in the Kollel at the Mir Yeshiva in NY. I believe that if I had stayed there things would have been a lot better for me and my family.  That was a unique kind of place. Other yeshivas and kollels seemed to me to be disaster zones.
      Thus the only conclusion I can come to is that learning Torah is important and if you are doing it in a good place then --by all means- continue. But if not, then  just do your learning on your own.


      Trust of the Dark Side?

      What is בטחון של הסיטרא אחרא? Trust of the Dark Side? [Something mentioned by Reb Nachman, but not in any other books of Musar]. Is this a case when one imagines to himself that he is trusting in God, but in fact trusting in some organization  [I.e. the system by which he gets the shiduch and kollel check each month].

      Because of the possibility of self delusion, I think it is possible that a person might thinking that he is trusting in God, but in fact trusting in "the system."

      [That is at least how  some people talk. They say since they are super smart astronauts and the super holy, they deserve to be supported by the community. Trust in God seems to have nothing to do with almost any kollels I have ever seen or heard of. ]

      [Too bad Reb Nachman did not go into more detail about what he meant by that tantalizing phrase.]

      [There also seems to be a implicit claim of many yeshivas that they posses the knowledge and skill to make people wise and good. This type of claim I think deserves skepticism. The claims o the religious remind me of the opponents of Socrates who  also claimed  to be able to teach wisdom and virtue but in fact were buffoons.

      One problem with the claim that people in kollel are astronauts is that that is irrelevant to the importance of learning Torah. The basic idea of learning Torah is for everyone equally. The is no more of  a mitzvah for a smart person to learn than for a dumb person. The claim seems to be geared towards creating a kind of elite class of superior beings whom others are in this world only to serve. The other problem is that it does not seem accurate.
       Astronauts after have to go through engineering and math courses in order to become pilots in the first place. To be in a kollel one has simply to be born into the right circles an know the right people an have the right friends. It has nothing to do with knowing how to learn Torah


      Generational mistrust.

      Generational mistrust. When youth no longer trust their elders. Someone came to my hospital room yesterday and played the violin. We all clapped when he was done. One fellow {Roman--or Roma for short} commented that no matter what he did, his own father always criticized him. He was never good enough.
      I would not have thought anything of this if not for the fact that I noticed that Socrates dealt with the same problem [in Euthydemus]. Two adults that had come to Athens claimed to be able to teach to youth how to become wise and good. Their methods were more effective in created deep mistrust of adults in youth.
      And I have seen myself a great deal of what causes the generation gap. Lying to youth  and using them for one's own purposes.

      Outside of this I wanted to mention what I think is the best approach. That is, to support what ever is good and to criticize whatever is bad.

      [To know oneself what is good and bad is by learning Musar. Learning Musar does not actually make one good, but it does reveal objective morality.]

      I think society's disparagement of parents causes some percentage of the problem--but not all. A lot depends on the behavior of the parents


      Reason and Faith and outside books. ספרים חיצוניים

      Outside books. ספרים חיצוניים The  approach of the Rif and Rosh is these are books that explain the Torah in ways not based on the way the Chazal [the sages] explain the Torah. I wrote about this in short in my little book on Shas.
      The issue comes up in Sanhedrin: These are the people that have no portion in the next world...R. Akiva added those who read "outside books."

      The trouble that I see is that most books in the religious world explain the Torah not based on דרשות חז''ל the way the sages understood it.
      But I have avoided this subject for the very fact that it to me is ambiguous. I have no idea how far to take this. In any case, I am allergic to all books in the religious world. But those are easy. The Gra already made this clear by his signature on the letter of excommunication. But how far to go with this?

      After you get to yeshiva a lot of these books are considered OK. No one ever takes the Gra seriously expect the Silverman Yeshivas.

      What I think the Chazal [Sages] were referring to were the books of the schools of Alexandria. You can see that basic approach in the books of Philo and you can also see what the Chazal thought was wrong.
      It is not the synthesis of Torah with Plato but the way Philo was going about it.
      The Rambam and Saadia Gaon had no problem making a synthesis between Reason and Faith based on Aristotle and the neo-Platonic School.

      [The fact that Gedolai Litva did learn the books of Reb Nachman is not relevant to this since he was never in the category of the excommunication in the first place. ]


      Devakut [attachment with God]

      You can not make a scientific study of devakut [attachment with God]. But you can examine it.
      The first time I was aware of this fact was when a friend in Safed offered to me  a shiduch and I mentioned to her my experience in Safed of devukut. She mentioned that she had seen a study on this subject. [It probably was in Germany where she had been before that.]

      I myself was not aware of this, and my education in high school never got up to Kant, and in yeshiva I had been discouraged from learning Kant. But if I had been aware of Kant, I might very well have been aware right at the beginning of how to deal with this subject. [Reason can not penetrate into the realm of the Ding An Sich--the thing in itself. ]

      Later I had a chance to read a lot about Eastern cults which also gave me a certain perspective.
      [I might mention there were people there that  had powerful connection with the Dark Side which gave them awesome powers. The failing of the religious is that they think they are immune from this kind of thing because of their exactitude in rituals. From what I have seen the more exacting in rituals they are the more they get caught in this--because of the very fact that they think they are immune.]
      An even when the religious are not in religious delusions at least they have the cult of personality--worship of deluded leaders. The best approach to avoid these problems in my opinion is to learn Torah in a Lithuanian type of yeshiva where both phenomena are discouraged (both religious delusions and the cult of personality).

      I might as well mention right up front my basic conclusions. [To expand on this I would recommend doing the same readings that I did.]

      (1) Devakut is desirable, and in fact one of the 613 mitzvot. [It is mentioned I think twice in Deuteronomy.] One place to see this also is in the Musar book by Isaac Blazer [a prime disiple of Reb Israel Salanter] who brings down the idea from a commentary on the first four chapters of the Rambam.

      (2) It is far too easy to imagine one has devakut with God when in fact it is devekut of the Sitra Achra [the Dark Side]. I have seen this all the time. There is just too much religious delusion out there, but that does not mean that authentic devekut is impossible. [Reb Nachman actually mentions on a related note the idea of trust of the Sitra Achra that people mistake for real trust in God.]

      (3) I believe the path to real devekut is through Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot--even though this learning does not always bring abut this result.

      These are my simple conclusions without expanding on it. But at least I ought to mention that I consider it is one of my primary sins that I rejected devekut after about 7 years in Safed. I do not expect to make up for that mistake, but I do hope to bring about awareness of this important subject.

      I am not saying that Litvak yeshivas are wrong for discouraging this. From what I have seen interest in spiritual enlightenment never leads to real enlightenment but delusions that just are well hidden until eventually they are revealed. I have never seen an exception to this.  My own attachment with God never came because I was trying to get it. It was a total surprise. I only mean to bring out the fact that if one that has it, he  ought to appreciate it.

      [Further reading: I found Aurobindo and his treatment of the Intermediate Zone very insightful:
      "For this intermediate zone is a region of half-truths - and that by itself would not matter, for there is no complete truth below the supermind; but the half-truth here is often so partial or else ambiguous in its application that it leaves a wide field for confusion, delusion and error.  The sadhak thinks that he is no longer in the old small consciousness at all, because he feels in contact with something larger or more powerful, and yet the old consciousness is still there, not really abolished. He feels the control or influence of some Power, Being or Force greater than himself, aspires to be its instrument and thinks he has got rid of ego; but this delusion of egolessness often covers an exaggerated ego. Ideas seize upon him and drive his mind which are only partially true and by over-confident misapplication are turned into falsehoods; this vitiates the movements of the consciousness and opens the door to delusion. Suggestions are made, sometimes of a romantic character, which flatter the importance of the sadhak or are agreeable to his wishes and he accepts them without examination or discriminating control. Even what is true, is so exalted or extended beyond its true pitch and limit and measure that it becomes the parent of error. This is a zone which many sadhaks have to cross, in which many wander for a long time and out of which a great many never emerge."
       He is referring to people that supposed themselves perfect gurus but I can think of others to whom this characterization would apply.

      Litvak yeshiva

      When I was in Shar Yashuv [Rav Freifeld's yeshiva in Far Rockaway] and in the Mir in Brooklyn I did not want to hear about secular learning. This was in spite of the fact that Rav Freifeld told to me to take classes in Brooklyn College.
      This was as you can see not a matter of my belief system, but rather I felt I had found something amazing, awesome, powerful and full of holiness in the Litvak {Lithuanian} Yeshiva.

      I had already had a full stomach of secular learning for the past 12 years from kindergarten until 12th grade.
      But this was more of a matter of finding a kind of synthesis between learning Torah and keeping Torah. These two things were tightly bonded in the Litvak Yeshiva environment.

      [I have not been recently a strong advocate of the Litvak yeshiva in recent years because of later experiences as I have hinted to a few times. But I have not gone into these later experiences for a few reasons. The main thing is: "Abuse does not cancel use." The fact that people can misuse an institution does not invalidate its proper use.]

      This applies to institutions as much as anything else. Maybe even more.

      Nowadays the religious world is against the secular learning not from any kind of involvement in Torah. The religious world sadlly gives a great living example of everything wrong with religious fanaticism. The religious world has external rituals but not the essence. [But they do have the "cult of personality" which  is not really any different than any other groups that do the same.]

      [I should mention that after the few years at the Mir I did not do much learning Torah. So to me it is clear that without those few concentrated years of learning Torah I would not have gotten very far.

      The fact is the Enlightenment was an attack on religious values. But was motivated by much of the kind of behavior I have seen in the religious world. So what I try to do is to keep a sense of balance.

      [This aspect of balance in keeping Torah I saw in my parents, and in Musar. But Musar is generally misinterpreted to mean religious fanaticism. But then I also saw it in the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam and that book is harder for people to willfully misinterpret.

      Reb Freifeld I should mention stressed lots of review. To a large degree I have to agree with this.It i just hard to find the right balance. Recently in learning gemara and Rav Shach I have found review to be the only way to make progress. And now I am seeing this in Physics also.

      I have to mention that Rav Freifeld held so strongly about review that even for beginners like myself he was very firm about it. Ten times review for anything you learned. That was his "thing."

      I should mention that in spite of all I have written, one must keep in mind to have loyalty to Torah, --not towards any yeshiva. If a yeshiva helps provide an environment where you can learn, then by all means support it. But if it is just a private country club [as so many are] for some supposedly elite group, then do not go near it.

      [I did not ignore Rav Freifeld. It as rare to get to ten times review but I tried. And recently I would take one basic page of Gemara or chapter of Rav Shach and just read it through every day --which is not exactly what Rav Freifeld was saying to do but I have found this to be workable. [My learning partner David Bronson was extremely stubborn to stay on every word in Tosphot until we would get it-as you can see from my notes I wrote on the subjects in Bava Metzia we learned together.


      Music for the glory of God

      רמב''ם הלכות גניבה א' הלכה י''ד The רשב''ם holds in פרק השואל the גנב can pay back שווה כסף not just money, but rather anything that is worth money.

      The proof of רב שך that the רמב''ם hold by the רשב''םis hard to understand.
      His main point is the fact that the owner of the object can ask for the pieces back.
      The point is that if the רמב''ם would be holding like רש''י and the רא''ש that the גנב must pay back unbroken vessels or money, then paying back the broken pieces does not fit with that. But the way I see it neither does it fit with the רשב''ם. If he can pay back any שווה כסף anything that is worth money, אhen what gives the owner the right to ask for those piece specifically?

      That is one way or the other we need to find some reason the owner can ask for the pieces back. But what ever that reason is, it can not have anything to do with the argument between the Rashbam and Rashi and the Rosh.

      רמב''ם הלכות גניבה פרק א' הלכה י''ד. הרשב''ם מחזיק בפרק השואל  שהגנב יכול להחזיר שווה כסף ולא רק כלים שלמים אלא כל דבר שהוא שווה כסף. ההוכחה של רב שך כי הרמב''ם מחזיק עם הרשב''ם קשה להבין. הנקודה העיקרית שלו היא העובדה כי הבעלים של האובייקט יכולים לבקש בחזרה את שברים. הנקודה היא שאם רמב''ם היה מחזיק כמו רש''י והרא''ש כי הגנב חייב להחזיר כלים שלמים או כסף, אז לשלם בחזרה את השברים לא מסתדר עם זה. אבל כמו שאני רואה את זה, זה אינו מתאים עם הרשב''ם. אם הוא יכול להחזיר כל דבר שווה כסף , מה שנותן לבעלים זכות לבקש את השברים דווקא.  דרך אחת או אחרת אנחנו צריכים למצוא סיבה שהבעלים יכולים לבקש בחזרה את החלקים. אבל מה שתהיה הסיבה, לא יכולה להיות עמה שום קשר עם הטיעון בין רשב"ם רש"י והרא"ש.

      The State of Israel and the statement of Shmuel in the Talmud: The Law of the State is the law.

      The law is quite simple is understand.  It is that men have  common goals which are the objects of their rational will, that the state is a contrivance that they have worked out to help them realize that end, and that its authority over them rests on its being necessary for that end.  If it is politically obligatory at times to obey a law that one regards as bad, that is because the state could not be run at all if the citizens could pick and choose which laws they would obey. Ultimately, therefore, political obligation, even that of obeying a morally bad law, is a moral obligation; and when, as occasionally happens, it becomes a duty to disobey, the ground is still the same.  I believe that this simple doctrine is what the Gemara and all the rishonim [medieval authorities] are saying. [Credit goes to Reb Moshe Feinstein and Reb Aaron Kotler who both pointed out the connection between the State of Israel the statement of  Shmuel in the Talmud.]

      The religious world assumes if they were in charge then everything would be peachy. This is not true. I have never seen any situation in which religious people got involved in that they did not make it a thousand times worse. Whatever Torah they think they are keeping it is certainly not the Torah from the realm of Holiness.

      Does it follow that since the state is a necessary means to our major ends, we should in all circumstances obey it, that we never have the right to rebel?  Not at all.  Our view would not only justify disobedience in some cases; it would require it.  If the state is regarded, not as sacrosanct or an end in itself, but as an instrument to certain great ends, then when it becomes so corrupt as to cut us off from those ends rather than further them, when it serves its purpose so badly that it is better to risk chaos for the sake of a better order than continue to suffer under the old, then resistance becomes a right and a duty.  

        This will be an extreme and desperate case, since it will obviously be better as a rule to obey what we regard as a bad law and try by persuasion to get it amended than to seek the overthrow of the power which supports all laws alike.  
        But there is no doubt that when government has ceased to serve its major ends, the people who have fashioned it to serve those ends have a right to replace it with something that serves these better. 


      The argument between Dr. Kelley Ross [the Kant Fries school] and Hegel.

      I admit I am profoundly disturbed by the argument between Dr. Kelley Ross [the Kant Fries school] and Hegel. [This argument is an inheritance from the differences between Hegel and Fries. Also there is the fact that the Marxists made extensive use (and still make extensive use) of Hegel though they reject more than they accept.]

      It does not help much the fact that Hegel himself says on occasion outrageous things like his treatment of Newton.
      My own feeling about this is that Both Hegel and the Kant Fries School have  a lot to say that is valuable and important.[This is like the difference between Plato and Aristotle. There also it is hard to decide.]

      The truth be told is that if you would whittle down the argument to looking simply at the difference between the two systems--the differences would not be great and almost complementary.

      The normal thing to do in this case would be to learn Kant and Hegel thoroughly, and yet I have time constraints that make this impractical today.

      Both Hegel and Dr Ross are important for two reasons, rigorous logic and scope of vision.
      Today philosophy has sunk into deep meaninglessness as Allan Bloom already noted in his Closing of the American Mind. You need a certain scope in philosophy because that is the very essence of what it is--to make sense of the world. But also you need logic and reason, because otherwise anyone can say anything that appeals to people. If one is not constrained by reason, then he can say anything, and the only limit is what people like to hear, not what is true.

      The reason all this s important is that the defend Torah by means of the medieval books e.g. the Rambam and Saadia Gaon is difficult when the make use of axioms that no longer seem valid.

      To actually defend Torah seems a lot easier by means of Kant and Kelley Ross.


      The major source of evil is the refusal to leave a cult once one realizes its true nature.

      סור מרע in Psalms it says to "go away from evil". Not the term you would expect  לא לעשות רע--not to do evil. The reason is  the main evil people do is because they refuse to leave some cult that they joined and now recognize as evil, but refuse to leave it. This is the constant temptation of all mankind. This is major source of  evil. The refusal to leave  a cult once one realizes its true nature.

      This is easy to see in real life and also in the Rambam who says it is the nature of people to be drawn in their opinions after the people they associate with. See Howard Bloom in The Lucifer Principle  concerning the power of the super-organism. 

      my decision making process

      I can believe that there is something wrong with my decision making process. It is not just a lack of "street smarts". I have thought this for a long time after finding myself in one predicament after the other. I did not start learning Musar to answer this dilemma but after I was learning at at the Mir I thought it would help solve this problem.

      [My original reason for learning Musar is I felt my poor soul drying up without learning about the Fear of God].
      This is related to another question about the proper approach towards education that comes up in Laches where Socrates discusses this with two generals. The discussion notices that great men often have children that do not seem so great.

      My basic impression is that in fact Musar [Medieval Ethics] helps to answer this problem to a very great degree. There are people like me that we find our decisions in life often seem flawed and sometimes there even seems to be some reaction from Heaven as if telling us that something is wrong --but we do not know what it is. I think for them and for me, Musar helps to a very large degree.  But there still seems to be plenty of areas of doubt.

      I should mention that we ask forgiveness in the confession of Yom Kippur for not listening to our parents and teachers and to me it seems clear that this is the source of my difficulty. I had great and amazing parents and teachers in high school and in yeshiva but somehow I though I was better than them.
      The Israeli Supreme Court decided it is allowed to deport illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity.

      I heard about the problem surrounding the Ben Gurion airport. [Criminal activity by people from Africa]  I was warned not to leave the airport grounds at night for that reason.--by Tel Aviv people! That was something like 7 years ago. It took them long enough to come to a decision.

      Nationalism has some support from Hegel and Howard Bloom. The main thing I think is important to remember about Hegel is he not thinking of every state that ever was or will be. He is thinking of an ideal state.

      I have to say that without Trump and the Alt Right I think the Israeli Supreme court would not have come to that decision.
      There are some people you just do not want to be part of your state. It is as simple as that.

      It is not that I am against illegal immigration. Rather I think a lot depends on what kind of people you are dealing with. Perhaps Europe might take a hint from the Israeli Supreme Court and do the same with people that are in Europe mainly in order to destroy European Civilization.

      Israel's inability to deal with elements in its enemy population whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel to a large degree comes from Leftist attitudes that refuse to recognize  people can be evil and enemies

      Objective morality needs to be awakened and it not known automatically. You can see the Rambam goes through great pains to emphasize the fact that faith {Torah} needs Reason {Aristotle} and Reason needs Faith.

      The idea of learning Torah is made simple and concise by the Rambam. He goes about explaining it in a fashion that you need to put the different strands and threads together. But the end result is clear. To learn the entire Tenach [Old Testament], the Mishna {of R. Yehuda Hanasi}, Physics and Metaphysics or Aristotle. [Physics I would say based on subject matter is today's String Theory.]
      The reason for the Rambam is clear. He goes to great effort to show that people have no inherent moral intuitions. Whatever morality we have has to be reawakened. And that can only happen in this way.

      I mean to say the Rambam is neo Platonic--that we have access to the forms by some process of "remembering", but not by regress of reasons. That is objective morality needs to be awakened and it not known automatically.

      The basic idea here is contained in Mishne Torah where the Rambam says to divide one time into three parts the Oral Law, the Written Law, and Gemara. [The Oral Law is the Mishna and Talmud as the Rambam makes clear in many places. One such place is where he talks about mistakes in legal decisions. He says any legal decision that goes against things that are openly stated in the Mishna or Talmud have no validity. He definitely puts the final authority of judgement in the Mishna and Talmud.]
      [Gemara he says includes the subjects discussed in the first four chapters of Mishne Torah which are what the Rambam says are the Physics and Metaphysics of the ancient Greeks.]

      You can see the Rambam goes through great pains to emphasize the fact that faith {Torah} needs Reason {Aristotle} and Reason needs Faith.

      [My own personal experience with the Mishna was to learn every day about two mishnas with the Rav from Bartenura that is printed with the mishna and also to learn some of the other commentaries. Every mishna I did about twice. That is once I just read the words straight an then the Rav Ovadiah from Bartenura and not understand at all. Then I would do that again a second time and by that time I usually understood the basic idea.
        I should mention the commentary of the Tiferet Israel is really great but it is time consuming and I wanted to make progress. After I got to Israel I spent time just going through the Mishna straight with no commentaries at all which is also a great way to go about doing the Mishna.

      [Here is one case in which Hegel and Dr Kelley Ross are not so far apart.  To Kelley Ross the end of the regress of reason ends in immediate non intuitive knowledge. With Hegel this knowledge also comes from outside of one's self. [The Divine Mind of the Neo Platonists even though Hegel would not have put it in that way.]


      "search for Truth"

      Secular USA lacked numinous value. You could look for it yourself and many thus went into Eastern religions. But the general experience of life in the USA tends to feel empty.
      Later I think people looking for numinous value became part of the evangelicals. The later seems to me to be a lot better than the Eastern thing. The Evangelicals seem to find value in doing acts of kindness. That seems better than sitting around and doing nothing. [There are more serious complaints about Eastern religions but they still have some good points as Schopenhauer noted.]

      Though at the time I would not have put it in this way but the search for numinous value led me to two Litvak Yeshivas in NY and later to Israel. But I certainly did not think of it in that sense. At best I would have said it was the "search for Truth" in capital letters.

      Without a doubt I was influenced by my environment in which the search for "Truth" was a current theme. But I also think that I took it more seriously than most of my peers.

      Though the search for truth I think is admirable, it does not take into account the problem of "religious delusions." This is a problem for two groups. The newly religious  who almost invariably have this problem. But more so with people born religious. The trouble there is there is an assumed superiority (moral and spiritual and intellectual) by reason of birth, and where pride is there comes a fall into serious religious delusions. These delusions  have no cure since the people born religious assume they are immune from delusions.
      As long as their religious leaders are in externals keeping rituals, they assume there is no chance that they are possessed by the Sitra Achra [Demons] . A greater mistake or more serious delusion is hard to imagine.
      [I am not saying I have all this down pat myself. But the Middle Ages were amazing in this regard because it was assumed that reason was needed for faith and faith for reason for many different reasons but among them must certainly have been this one.]

      To cut away reason from faith is inevitably going to lead to this.

      If you consider what I have written here you can see the exact reasons the Litvak yeshivas strive to walk this middle ground between faith and reason

      It is true however the general rule that the baali teshuva [newly religious] are infected with religious delusions. The religious world is right on that account. But they do not see that they have the exact same problem in different forms-- and much more serious ones. It is they who lead the baal teshuva into their delusions.

      Hegel and Dr. Kelly Ross

      The biggest problem I see in philosophy today is the difference between Hegel and Dr. Kelly Ross of the Kant Friesian School. Each one has amazing points but if there is any way to reconcile them seems impossible. And personally I think both are outstanding for their scope of vision.
      And the only justification for the basic approach of Torah from Sinai seems to be from the Kant Friesian School with the idea of immediate non intuitive knowledge. [Knowledge that you know but not by thought and not by any of the senses.]

      Both Hegel and Kelley Ross are important for their rigorous thought, but also for the scope of their vision. And scope is important because the world is not disconnected pieces.

      It is one of the failures of philosophy of the twentieth century to be incredibly trivial and self contradicting. [If only they could come out and say openly their opinion of  meaningless existence.]

      One thing I would like to mention in terms of the Kant Friesian school is that causality is in fact existing among things in themselves. That is to say Locality but not reality.  [Things  have only possible values in space and time until measured, but locality still is true. There is no action at a distance. So Schopenhauer's complaint that Kant had not proved causality seems to me a little weak. But here is where Hegel come in useful with grades  of being. One level of causality and yet there being levels beyond that.

      Hegel says (Introduction to Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) Part One
       ):. Thus the knowledge of God, as of every supersensible reality, is in its true character an exaltation above sensations or perceptions: it consequently involves a negative attitude to the initial data of sense, and to that extent implies mediation. [Is that all that different from Kelley Ross?]


      What destroyed marriage?

      What destroyed marriage?

      Judith Reisman goes deeply into this problem and its sources.

      The idea according to her was to change people's conceptions and present perversity in the guise of normalcy and scientific respectability.  That is,-- if you change people's thoughts and attitudes then everything else follows.

      My feeling about this is people are not familiar enough with science to be able to distinguish authentic science from fake science. I do not think rejection of science is much of  a good option.

      I am not saying this is the reason to learn Physics and Mathematics. The best reason to learn these subjects is the Rambam and my parents.
      That is the basic medieval attitude of a synthesis between Reason and Revelation. [That really started before the Middle Ages, but it took a long time to find the right balance.] If you look at the classical period you will see this balance was by no means obvious.

      But a side benefit is that when you know real science, it is harder for pretenders to fool you.

      But the way I suggest going about science is to find  a balance between Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot and Science.
      [That is the best thing is to translate the Mediaeval ideal into a reality in every day life by learning a little bit of Physics, a little bit of Mathematics and a little Gemara Rashi Tosphot [or Mishna or the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach].] [I tend to think the Avi Ezri is the best because it already contains everything else good.]

      In any case I am very happy that I got a chance to see what a real marriage ought to be like in my parents and I think that this will return.  My optimism knows no bounds at this point.