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29.7.13

Chaim Soloveitchik and Maimonides.


I want to defend a basic thesis here. I want to take back what I had written on my other blog about the opinion of the Rambam concerning work done not for its own sake on Shabat.
The original idea was that Rav and Shmuel both say piercing a boil is allowed. Rav says it is allowed because it is the opinion of R. Shimon who holds a work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) is not liable. Since Shmuel says it is allowed and also holds  מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה is liable; therefore he defines  work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) differently. And since the Rambam decides like Shmuel it follows that he goes with Shmuel's definition.

This sounds good but it is not true. Shmuel simply defines those different types of work differently. He puts them into the category of work not intended.
For example: piercing a boil. Rav clearly holds it is a   work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה). But we see the Rambam explains this as not actually doing work at all. [דבר שאינו מתכווין] He says the only case where there would be work is if it is done in a professional way like doctors. So the Rambam considers this permission to be a case where he is not doing the work at all.דבר שאינו מתכווין[Same with catching a snake--the only work is when it is for a need as the Mishna says openly.]

So what does come out from all this is that the reason piercing a boil is allowed is because it is a work that is not intended דבר שאינו מתכווין and even though Rabbi Yehuda would say in such a case it is liable but the Rambam and Shmuel hold by a work that is not intended דבר שאינו מתכווין that we go by Rabbi Shimon.

This same reasoning applies in Tactate Kritot in the case of stirring coals on Shabat in which case the first Tana says he is liable only once and R. Elazar Ben Tzadok holds he is liable twice. The Talmud says this argument depends on the argument between R Yehuda and R Shimon and that it is a case of work not intended. Tosphot does not see how this can make sense. If it is not pesik reisha [work must occur but his act]
Then even R. Yehuda says it is not liable. If it is pesik reisha [פסיק רישא] then even R Shimon agree it is liable.
Reb Chaim Soloveitchik says, "No." He says it is pesik resiha [פסיק רישא][work that must result automatically] that is not agreeable to him. [[ פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה]]In that case R Shimon says it is not liable, and R. Yehuda would say it is. And since the Rambam holds by a work not intended like Shmuel who goes like R. Shimon therefore the Rambam decides like the first Tana!!

What makes my original idea wrong is that no one sees a difference between Rav and Shmuel about the definition of a  work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה). Also the fact is the Rambam defines it clearly and it is just trying to grasp too much to think that he thinks Rav disagrees with his definition. Like the Talmud says; "Try to grab too much you have not grabbed anything." It is simpler to say Rav and Shmuel are disagreeing about individual cases concerning the question into which category do they fit.

After all the above it does make one wonder why this type of rigorous analysis is not applied to the More Nevuchim of the Rambam?

Elsewhere I explained the actual answer of Reb Chaim--how he expands the category of  דבר שאינו מתכווין a act that is not intended.--He has to do that, because otherwise catching the snake seems a lot like a work done not for its own sake (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה. To to this I borrowed an idea from Tosphot.





19.7.13

I said I would write about trust in God.

It is not an action or a lack of action. It is an attitude. It is a feeling that if I do what God wants me to be doing then he will take care of the rest. But it is not a lack of action. It is a feeling that affects ones actions.

 I discovered the book of Joseph Horowitz  from Navardok. He holds from this type of trust in an undiluted way. And the fact that he does not dilute it is important.

[Now I think for this to be true to its purpose one has to be actively searching for God's will.]

This is one reason I have not written about this for years.
I admit to two things. First I fell from trust.  I decided to leave Israel and go to Los Angeles and work and learn Torah on the side. What happened afterwards reminds me of a story in the Gemara of a friend of Rabbi Yochanan that did the same thing and lost his spiritual level. [The funny thing about this is that apparently working is fully in accord with the Shulchan Aruch.]


At some point I settled on the path of the Rambam/Maimonides in his combining learning Torah with Physics and Metaphysics as he calls them in the Guide for the Perplexed.

Well I was plenty perplexed, and this path of the Rambam made the most sense to me. So I went to New York and majored in Physics at New York University.
This is not a path that is commonly associated with trust in God but hey --it works for me.

 Part of the reason I did not just fall back on the general chareidi [Ultra Orthodox] path is that I think that there is good and bad in the chareidi [Ultra Orthodox] path. It is not something I could put a stamp of approval on.  Without the  "Reason" of the Rambam, it lacks a self correcting mechanism.


18.7.13

Gun Laws.The one thing I think makes America different at this point is the American people--not the government.

http://www.skepticaleye.com/2013/07/sheriff-i-will-not-allow-gun.html
There are issues which I have given up on.
I simply do not expect anyone to know the natural law basis of the Constitution of the USA. [I could quote the ninth amendment but a famous supreme court justice has already called that amendment a blot of ink. What do you suppose he will say about the second amendment?]
But beyond that I doubt if there is any area of government in the USA in which the government does not think is their legitimate turf.
I can today even image judges and lawyers who have never read the Second Treatise on government or any of the philosophers that provide the basis for the USA Constitution.
So it does not surprise me that the USA government thinks it can take away people guns. It already feels it can take away everything else. One anonymous phone call to child services they already take away your children. They already are forced you to but a product you do not want --health insurance. The can force Ministers of the Bible to marry homosexuals which Bible call an abomination. It is hard to see much difference between the USA and any average totalitarian government at this point. The one think I think makes America different at this point is the American people--not the government.


As is known there was a debate if to include the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. What people do not know is that Madison felt that the inclusion of the Bill of Rights would give the impression that these were the only rights; i.e. he was more pro natural rights than even Jefferson, not less!





17.7.13

Maimonides
His path could be reasonably called Torah and Aristotle. Maybe Torah and Reason would be better. But I should say how I stumbled onto the path of the Rambam. It is not that I thought the basic groups claiming following this path publicly were so great.
As for the groups of religious Zionists in Israel--well they come close to the ideal of the Rambam but again here I have a complaint.  And besides that they don't have anything even resembling a Talmid Chacham [Torah Scholar]. The Drashot [ideas in Torah] I have heard from them are woefully lacking the most basic understanding of what it means "to be able to learn."
Yose Faur [a self styled follower of the Rambam] is way too much of a fanatic. When he deals with Christian topics he seems to know what he is talking about but when it come to Talmud he is an Am Haaretz. He also sadly enough does not know what it means to learn.



So I admit in what is called the chareidi would there are spiritual paths that seems more attractive than that of the Rambam. I means I have know people that knew how to learn. And when you encounter that type of thing you never ever forget it.




 So what attracts me to the Rambam. It is the presence of reason in his path. To me facts and evidence are holy. Truth is the way things are. And the way things are is the one thing that the Rambam have beyond everyone.



















14.7.13

I have been planning on dealing with the issue of trust in God for a time.  But before I can I would like any one reading this blog to read a few introductory texts. Obviously the most important is the Book the Madgragat Haadam from Joseph Horowitz from Navardok.
But to get an understanding of his approach I think a little background information is also important about the Musar Movement of Reb Israel Salanter. So for background information I think one should also learn the books of his major disciples like Isaac Blazer and Simcha Zizel from Kelm.


Then there are the larger philosophical issues about this in which it is necessary to have some background in philosophy also. The Minimum requirement for that is to have some basic understanding of the three major periods of Human philosophy-ancient Greece, the Middles Ages and German Idealism.

The idea here is that anything dealing with ethical issues in Jewish framework implies a larger context of Jewish Thought.
So before you can work on fixing faulty character traits in yourself which is the main focus of Musar you need to have a wider picture of the justification for the whole process. I mean if there is no justification for ethics in the first place  then why bother with correcting your character? Just do what you want! So the issue of ethical theory does come up even in a limited subject like trust in God.

We fist need to know why are moral rules needed? For example, why do humans need rules about keeping promises, telling the truth and private property? This answer should be fairly obvious. Without such rules people would not be able to live amongst other humans. People could not make plans, could not leave their belongings behind them wherever they went. We would not know who to trust and what to expect from others. Civilized, social life would not be possible.
I in fact have found that among people that have no moral rules, it is impossible to remain.

Musar can't stand on its own. It is a first order theory. It needs a second order theory to support it.
Now normally speaking this would be simple to provide if all we needed was the Guide for the Perplexed of The Rambam and the books of Saadia Geon.

Now these are good books. But there is Kant. Without Kant we can't know the limits of what we can know in metaphysical subjects.In other words German Idealism provides a critique on the whole Musar project that needs to be answered and not ignored.











12.7.13




Now I am embarrassed to admit it, but in high school I did very little math. I was at the time getting very involved in the violin and so spent as little time on math courses as possible. So after many years of work in the violin and  in Talmud, when I stated math again I was starting at an extremely elementary level. I did not know Algebra or even how to divide fractions--zilch. But I found a small introductory book to Elementary Math in used book store and after my morning prayers by the Western Wall, I used the method of the Ari'zal [Isaac Luria] of saying the words forwards and backwards. I would read one page forwards and understand nothing. But then I would say the words on the page  backwards and somehow the idea went into my head.

So I applied to Hebrew University and got a high enough score on the Collage entry Exam [Psychometric test] to be accepted. But then I had to run to the USA  So in New York I started the collage entry idea all over again. I applied to Brooklyn College but they did not have an idea of starting a semester in the middle of a year and I had made up my mind to go  for Rosh HaShannah to Uman, Ukraine]. So I applied instead to New York University. [At the time I did not know this is an Ivy League School.]
At any rate, at that time I majored in Physics. But this involved a certain amount of math also. But in any case I was still doing the reading the words forwards and backwards and everything was going fine. I would read the words forwards and under stand zero. Then I would read the words backwards and it would miraculously enter my head.

The whole thing feel apart when I stated differential equations.{Also Chemistry.} At that point the saying the words backwards just got to be an hindrance and not a help. So  I started in math and physics just saying the words and going on.

I should perhaps admit here that this does not seem to work very well with Tosphot. when it comes to Tosphot it is very helpful to have a smart learning partner

But even with that I admit that the only way I have ever made any progress with Tosphot [of R Akiva Eiger and the Pneii Yehoshua for that matter is by sitting on the same Topshot for weeks at a time.]

But for Tosphot you really need a learning partner because he requires two different types of talent.One is analytic ability. Another is deep thinking.
Without both it is hard to see the depths of Tosphot and his rigorous logic..

I mathematics I for a time used a few methods.  I also discovered an idea  to repeat what you learn in German. I have found this helpful when it comes to higher mathematics. For some reason when I read higher Mathematics in English something just does not click. But when I read the same thing in German or Russian I find it makes sense. For one interesting example I read about tensors for sometime in English nothing made sense. Then one day I opened up the Wiki in German on tensors and right away at the beginning of the page they have this nice little diagram which makes the whole thing makes sense instantly. Like they say in Hebrew "Chaval Al Hazman"--what a waste of time do do anything else!

I don't have a lot of ideas about Physics I admit since most of my efforts on it are spent trying to catch up with missed time. But one thing I should mention while philosophers today take materialism as their staring point and assume the existence of matter, in Physics matter has been disappearing for a long time. The first person to get rid of it to some degree was Gell Man. Quarks are point particles. String theory did in materialism completely. Now all there is is space time. And space time as we know from Kant is on the level of the thing in itself of which we have no ability to conceive of. We can simply put it into the equations but we don't know what it is. [String Theory today is basically expressed the language of Homology and Homotopy. That means it is about holes in spaces and about deforming spaces. And it is not quantum physics. Quantum physics people tried for years to make it fit with gravity with no luck. And I myself worked on a GUT with a Russian Physicist which was more promising than the others. People gave up. String theory is modified Relativity. It is just taking the idea of Kaluza Klein and expanding  them.]