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27.11.13

Pesachim 29b

Tosphot- -the commentary on Talmud has many layers of depth. The first layer is the the one which after you get what Tosphot is saying there seems to be some obvious question . That is the first layer you need to get past in order to start understanding Tosphot properly.
Just for a example of this first level. Pesachim 29b
In the Talmud there is an argument what happens if one eats leavened bread that belongs to the Temple on Passover. Is he required to bring a sacrifice? This is a debate. Rav Ashi says the reason for the one who says one must bring a sacrifice is because he hold one can derive pleasure from leavened bread on Passover.[That is everyone, not just the Temple.] [So he was נהנה (had pleasure) from הקדש (something that belonged to the Temple) so he brings a sacrifice]
Rav Ashi says that everyone is agreeing that one can't redeem the leavened bread on Passover. But the reason one brings the sacrifice is that since the leaven only has holiness of monetary value, it can be used to lite one's stove. That is the first level of Tosphot which seems to not make sense. Leaven seems more like holiness of body that can't be redeemed.
The next level is to understand that to the Temple, the leaven does have monetary value. So it makes sense to say it has holiness that applies to monetary value on Passover itself. We do not find that even on Passover that the Temple can't derive benefit from leaven. So it makes sense to say the Temple can sell it to be used to lite ones stove.

25.11.13

During the 60's the U.S.S.R. needed American wheat to feed their population. Here is an anecdote on a Russian web site.
[Historical note: this actually happened. The USA did send wheat to the USSR at the height of the cold war to save them from starvation.]


The General Secretary of the Communistic Party and the President of the USA are in a summit meeting. The General Secretary asked the President  to send wheat to save the lives of starving Russians.  The President agreed.

Then the General Secretary mentioned that they have a problem with producing  tractors. Can the Americans send tractors also? The President agreed.

Then the General Secretary mentioned it seems that there was also a shortage of cattle in the USSR Can the Americas send cattle? The president agreed.

Then the General Secretary mentioned that the are having trouble implementing a perfect Communist society. Can the Americans send over some advisers to help with that also?


24.11.13

In other words, the Ari is a highly Neo Platonic system that seems to reflect deep understanding of the metaphysical nature of the world

Though I do not have a theory worked out for this, I have noticed over the years connections between Mathematics and the Kabalah of the Ari [Isaac Luria]. The most obvious connection is in Vector Bundles, Homology and Homotopy. But I have never written about this because they seemed to be two separate areas of value. 


But when I started working on Category Theory, the connections became more obvious.

As a general introduction to this topic let me mention several areas of particular interest .

From Emanation we map from different spheres to lower level spheres. But we lose content. Only the spheres of Emanation are Divine as stated openly in the introduction to the Tikunai HaZohar.(באצילות איהו וחיוהי חד ולא בעלמין תתאין) and the Ari himself brings this Tikunai Zohar. [and the Remak, Moshe from Cordoba, also in his magnum opus the Pardes]

In Category Theory there is a well defined system to map from mathematical structures like rings or topological spaces like spheres to lower or higher levels. To me the connection seems obvious. Though I can imagine that this connection is ignored in academia for the sad reason that most of 20th century LA/P Philosophy [Linguistic Analytic] has been an attempt to deny the validity of metaphysics. Only recently has philosophy stated to climb out of their hole by the books of people like Jerold Katz that have exposed the intellectual bankruptcy of 20th century philosophy.
In the map from a sphere to the union of two spheres [(S^n) Psi to S^n/S^n-1 seems to be related to the idea of connection or joining (זיווג) between spheres in kabalah] The difference is that spheres in kabalah have numinous content while mathematical structures do not. But outside of that the connections seems clear.




I noticed some connections also between Logic and Kabalah a few years ago but this is mentioned in the "Book of Ideas."

A general observation is that mathematics is usually horizontal. It is only with the advent of Category Theory has it become vertical. And this seems also related to the difference between the philosophy of Plato [vertical ideas or forms] and Aristotle [horizontal]  and both are implicit in the general structure of the world of Isaac Luria. In particular you can see this in the Reshash (רש''ש)--Shalom Sharabi who holds that the entire system of the Ari [which starts out vertical and then morphs slowly into horizontal vessels] will change at some future time--the revival of the dead--when all the vertical world will become horizontal.
There is also some interesting parallels between Isaac Luria and Kant. Kant like Luria divides understanding into two parts (אמא עלאה  ואמא תתאה). For Kant one is empirical, and the other for a priori. The most striking parallel between Kant and Luria is concerning Kant's idea of a function of the mind that accomplishes synthesis between objects of the understanding and empirical objects --the exact idea of Daat דעת
There is also knot theory which explicitly uses a concept from the Ari [ in the title of the book itself].

The Ari himself is positing worlds that exist and were created on higher spiritual planes before this physical universe. Ar first glance this seems obvious. This world seems to have aspects to it that are not physical and seem to be embedded in it. For example the number "2." It does not seem to be something you stumble on as you walk down the street. But it would be hard to argue that it does not exist. The Ari mainly deals with these in between levels between God and this physical universe. And they are not considered outside the limits of experience. In  particular the moral plane, the world of moral law, though not physical is considered to be well within the range of experience.
In other words, the Ari is a highly Neo Platonic system  that seems to reflect deep understanding of the metaphysical nature of the world

There is another connection between Math and kabalah that astounded me when I encountered it.
It is the breaking of the vessels called מיתת המלכים. This refers to the kings of Edom that ruled before king ruled in Israel. [Genesis and in Chronicles.]. This small seemingly insignificant paragraph in the Torah occupies a major extremely complicated and involved subject in the kabalah of Isaac Luria.
There are seven kings of Edom. And this is considered to be the source of the breaking of the vessels and the root of all problems that come into the world.  The root of all catastrophes. And in Catastrophe Theory there are seven kinds of catastrophe in lower dimensions. [Seven major types.]
I noticed this Physics also. But that was a long time ago when I had ideas that I could defend on this subject.
Further look at the subdomains after integral domains. That is all the subdomains after you have the domain that can't be a clock. That is in clock 3^4 =0. The order of spaces under  a domain which is not a clock comes out to be the order of the ten sepherot. So to me it looks like Isaac Luria did have some important insights. [And besides that I should mention  that Yaakov Abuchatzeira calls Isaac Luria "Rabainu" (our teacher) with no other appellation. See for example the Pituchei Chotam of Yaakov Abuchatzaira]

21.11.13

I know that kabalah in general considered related to the Neo-Platonic point of view, but I found my own experiences were more in accord with the school of thought of Kelly Ross and the Freisians.]

I know many people are interested in spirituality.This desire can be channeled into crummy world view systems .
Personally, I went more for The Five Books of Moses and Talmud. But that was simply because I had and have an inherent love of Torah. [This was something I really did not get from my Reform Synagogue. It was more a combination of the influence of my wonderful amazing parents and also a great love of philosophy.] I was not expecting any great revelation of light or Divine experiences.
But as a logical step after doing a certain amount of Talmud at the Mir in NY I got involved in the kabalah of Isaac Luria and went to  Israel.




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But there is at any rate a good lesson for people that are interested in true spirituality. Apparently from what I can tell the books of the Ari [Isaac Luria] and being in Israel are a remarkable help in this direction.

But one shouldn't go into this expecting magical powers. I have seen many of the Kabalists in Israel and for some reason it does seem to me that most of them got caught up in the phantom  zone [the intermediate zone in the terminology of a Hindu mystic]




19.11.13

The Torah  (The Five Books of Moses)  makes a dramatic and unique claim that is usually overlooked. It is the simple claim that the sufficient condition for  human happiness is to keep the 613 commandments of the Torah. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.Deuteronomy 30:15-20
I have rarely heard of any living person who took this promise seriously. In general it is the custom either to ignore the commandments of the Torah or to add to them.Few people think that the Torah provides all the answers to human problems.

Some famous examples of commandments that are added to the Torah are commandment to believe in supposedly righteous people. Some people add the idea of believing in one person and they also the idea of adding  mitzvahs and as many rituals as possible. In any case there is no indication in the Torah that believing in any person is a requirement for "life and the good."
In the Torah, no human is a god.



In the Torah we do not find a requirement to go to therapy to merit to "The Life and the Good". Rather in terms the difficulties we find in human affairs we find a well worked out world view in the Torah that psychology is different from.

The world view of the Torah is in fact very different from most modern viewpoints.
[The Torah does not claim it was written by God. But it does claim a message from God. Do these commandments and you will proper. Don't do them and you will regret it.]

18.11.13

  The unique thing about the family of Israel Abuchatzeira is it gives a remarkable clarification of the question what is the service of God according to the Torah.

  What I mean by this is that it tends to be a confusing issue for most Jews and gentiles exactly what is the divine service that God asks from us. Even well meaning gentiles can come to the conclusion that running a 747 into the Twin Towers is a proper and respectable course of action. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity or resolve of the people that do this type of thing. Now we can all agree that this is because they believe in a false religion.

  OK, but what happens if you come closer to the Torah point of view? Now rigorous logical thinking in issues of theology was the specialty of the Middle Ages. Now matter how hard we try we are not going to come up with a better solution to this question than Maimonides and the other authors of Ethical books during the Middle Ages. This already shows a great advantage to the Musar movement of Israel Salanter that specialized in reading the Books of Musar and trying to fulfill them.

  But even this Musar Movement has great problems. Just look at the Musar movement today and tell me if you see much holiness or wholesomeness?

  The result of my study of these issues in the Jewish world has led me to the conclusion that the family of Bava Sali [Israel Abuchatzeira] has come to a remarkable synthesis that  works. I had a long history of dealing with this family and my conclusion is that they have reached a kind of balance between Torah and Derech Eretz [the art of being a human being ] that is remarkable.
 
  A good example of this would be for instance Shimon Buso in Netivot. On the outside there is not much to see. He sits and learns Torah all day. And to give himself an extra push, he joined a group that accepts on itself on voluntary basis to be tested on a lot of pages of the Gemara [Talmud] every month.
But what is remarkable about this is the lack of fanaticism. By Ashkenazic Jews, fanaticism seems to go with the turf. If you hold like the Litvaks (Lithuanian) that learning Torah is the greatest Mitzvah, then by means of some kind of fanaticism you translate that to mean everyone has to be doing that alone, and all other paths are bad.




17.11.13

David Abuchatzeira, the older brother of Bava Sali

The subject of David Abuchatzeira, the older brother of Bava Sali who was killed by Muslim fundamentalists in Morocco. 

A few stories about the  Abuchatzeira family


To begin with one minor story. The younger brother of David Abuchatzeira,  Isaac used to go around in Morocco collecting money for the school of Reb Masud in Tapilalt.  Issac loved a drink of alcohol called Irak. He got to one home, and asked for money. After they gave he asked for a drink. They said they do not have any. He said, "Yes, you do. I see it in such and such a place in your home." 
They said, "Yes, but that is saved for our son's Bar Mitzvah and the future weddings of our children."
He said, "Give some to me now, and I promise to you that that supply will never run out, -but only on condition that you never look inside to see it."

They did as he asked. After that they never ran out for many years. They simply lowered the bucket into the supply which was in an underground cistern and the bucket always came up full. This sufficed for all their children's weddings and bar mitzvahs.

One day the wife of the family could not contain her curiosity any longer and had to take one peek to see what in the world was going on. She could not believe how their original tiny supply could have provided so much. When she lifted the cover to look, all she saw was a well that was as dry as a desert and an empty broken bucket in the bottom of the well. That was the last day that it ever provided any Irak.
 Once I was at the home of the daughter of Bava Sali [Yisrael Abuchatzeira] and was discussing the importance vitamins and proper nutrition every day. She told me that she does not know about such things but she remembered that when she was a small girl it was her job to bring a daily meal to her father. It those days Bava Sali was in the attic in their home and did not come out for about two weeks at a time. No one really knows what he was doing in that tiny room for two weeks. He might have been learning Torah or praying or whatever. There is no information about it. But she would come in the morning, and leave a plate of food at the entrance to the attic. And in the evening she would return and the plate was always still there untouched.
Once in a Mikvah in Safed a grandson of a Moroccan Jew told me that his father once had the opportunity to drive Bava Sali in Morocco to the capital city. In Morocco in those days there was a severe penalty for speeding. Still Bava Sali had to get his destination on some public business, so he told the driver to ignore the speed limit. As they were speeding, a police motorcycle started to chase them, and signaled to pull over. They ignored his warning. So the policeman took out his pistol and stated shooting at them. At that point the driver was terrified out of his wits. Then, as he looked out into his rear view mirror, he saw the police motor cycle explode.  



I think I knew some descendants of David Abuchatzeira in Netivot. One was the wife of my downstairs neighbor. I used to go to them for Shabat. The last Shabat I was there there were a few kids there also that also were descended from Reb David, but I forget how. They were normally learning in a school in Bnei Brak called named after Avraham Kalmanowitz  the founder of the Mir  in  New York

There was a woman who did not keep mitzvahs but she heard about Bava Sali so drove from Kiryat Shmona to Netivot for a blessing. She was not let in because Bava Sali never talked with women. She told her request to the gabai [servant] and related the message to Bava Sali. Bava Sali asked for a check, and she wrote out some sum and she received a bottle of water in return. The blessed water was in fact quite usual but asking for a check never happened on any other occasion I have heard of. She drove back to Kiryat Shemona [about a six hour trip.] She got home and put the bottle of water on the kitchen counter and went to wash up. As she was washing she began think to herself I have running water here in my home! And bottles too! Why did I have to be so stupid to go to Netivot to get a bottle of water? When she returned to the kitchen the bottle of water was gone. Instead right where it had been place was her check.

David Abuchatzeira was like a square in Flatland that was taken into Spaceland--our 3-d world -and was sent back to proclaim the reality of worlds beyond this world.