[1] One remarkable aspect of talking with God while alone in a wilderness or forest setting  is that one  relates to God directly. And the ability to relate to God directly is not something that comes easily. If people try to relate to God at all usually it is in some social setting like a church or a synagogue and usually it comes through some intermediary. The social setting usually takes away the actual event of a relationship with God.

[] Now , Yoga tries to resolve this problem by meditation but it seems to me that this also has several problems.
 The question of effectiveness of Yoga is that its main effect seem to be to get people into the intermediate zone (illusions) where they stay put.


[] In most of the solutions of relating and gaining some connection with the Divine, one is going through a middle-man or some Mitzvah, and that even when successful has the drawback of coming through a filtered lens.

[] Some try to resolve this issue by learning Torah.
Learning Torah is a half way solution because it is hearing and trying to relate to God through the inspired medium of the Torah.
  And yet this can be turned into a business in such a way that it in fact has little to recommend it to the general public.
[] I would have to say that from what I can tell talking with God while hiking alone is probably the best solution to how to get right with God.
But I would say this needs to be coupled with learning Torah (i.e. the Old Testament and Gemara) for it to be effective.

[] The Rambam/Maimonides did try to justify Torah practices on Aristotle.

Up until the time of Maimonides there was a tradition of about a thousand years of justifying Torah through Neo Platonic thought. The cumulation of this process was in the Zohar and the Ari [Isaac Luria].
At any rate, it seem to me that after the basic questions of Kant about synthetic a priori one needs some justification beyond simple Neo Platonic thought.

[] On a personal note I should mention that I got involved in talking with God after I had spent a few years at the Mir in NY.  At any rate, for some reason, when I got to Israel and started hiking in the forests around Safed while doing this Hitbodadut [talking with God], something clicked in me.
So I can say from experience that this can be a very effective tool to get right with God. [Besides being good exercise and also being a good way to get in contact with your inner self and find out what you are really thinking and feeling deep inside. People without talking with God /hitbodadut often do not even know what is going on deep inside of themselves.]


Talk with God as you would talk with a friend while alone in some forest or on some mountain top.
[or in your room by yourself.]

 I think it would also be a good idea for people to assemble their own personal Talk with God kit.
This would include the usual things that go into a survival kit along with hiking boots with spikes so one does not slip in the snow. . Since in the U.S.A. people work during the week, the major emphasis of the Talk with God movement would be centered on weekends. [Also there should be a book of normal Ethics (Musar) like the Duties of the Heart or the Mesilat Yesharim. Without Normal Musar, people that concentrate on Breslov books alone often come up with some world view contrary to Torah.

But that would mean taking a long car drive up to the mountains on Friday afternoon and then having to set up camp in the mountains before Shabat begins. [And then one would have to figure out how to keep Shabat in a camping situation. Frankly, learning how to get along on one's own is a good skill to learn in any case.]

This might be hard for some people but I figure that the importance of Private Conversation with God overrides other considerations.

3] The advantage of talking with God is as far as I can tell is that it gives practical way to fulfill the commandment of the Torah "to be attached to God." Attachment to God is one of the  commandments in the Torah. The way it is understood in the Talmud is to be attached to Torah scholars and this is the way it is brought down in all the people that count the Mitzvas. And the way to be attached to Torah scholars is explained by all of them  to mean to patronize the businesses establishments of Torah scholars and to marry their daughters etc.
The way I understand the Talmud is that being attached to  Torah scholar gives one a means to fulfilling the basic command of being attached to God but it is just one possible way to get to true attachment and is is not meant to replace the simple idea in itself. After all it is understood that the Torah scholar himself is attached to God directly  So in theory one could also learn Torah and thus fulfill the commandment directly himself!


I admit the Talmud is important to define what the Torah says about how to keep the mitzvot.) This may seem completely trivial to most people, but to me this makes a big difference. I want what I am doing with my life to make sense.  I can now easily understand what path the prophets took to reach God . They went out into the wilderness and talking and prayed with God. They did no Talmud learning, and they did no kabalistic unifications.


Talking with God where ever one goes  is a remarkable concept in the thought of
Brother Lawrence in his little book The Practice of the Presence of God.  


{Reb Nachman later took up this theme and it seems unlikely that he got it from Brother Lawrence. In any case there is a slight difference. Brother Lawrence is concentrating on being in the Presence of God and the speaking with God as a side effect. Reb Nachman is concentrating on speaking with God in one's own language with one's own words about one's own problems. The focus is a little different. In any case I think as worthy as this is it tends to take off the focus from learning Torah which is about hearing what God has to say. Talking with God is telling God what you have to say. No wonder that talking with God does not seem seem to improve people's character by a single jot.

 While by itself it does not sound like much but it has the potential to answer a lot of conundrums.
At least I should say it did solve a number of problems that I faced over several years.
I will just mention here a few points without trying to develop this into an essay with one single point.
Talking with God  should  considered  an priori value.  In this concept of speaking with God while alone, it would make sense to take a bag lunch in the morning and go out into some nearby forest and spend the whole day just talking with God.

We find in classical books of Musar that separation from this world is considered a noble goal. [See Chovot Levavot [Duties of the Heart] Shaar Habitachon for one example.] where it says in the old days when someone wanted to fulfill this he went out into a forest and built a hut and stayed there for several years subsisting on some merge diet and learning Torah all day.

Talking with God alone for some time during the day seems to me to be a good way of tasting a bit of separation from this world while still being in a position to fulfill ones other obligations It seems that if one can't do this every day, then at least on weekends one should take a field trip to some mountain top and spend time alone with God.[Get hiking boots before you do this.]

] It seems to answer the question of how to be attached to God. Now in the Torah we do find that attachment to God is one of the goals of the Mitzvas. [I mean to say that most of the mitzvas of the Torah are not considered goals in themselves. The Torah itself says to do the mitzvas for certain reasons that it lists. Attachment to God is one of these goals.  As it says in Deuteronomy: "Do these mitzvas in order to love and fear God, and to be attached to him."]

[] To me it seems unlikely that Yoga can lead to attachment with God. It depends on sitting and thinking. And sitting and thinking can easily become thinking about things that have little or no relationship with God. And also there does not seem to be an reason to say that thinking about God leads to attachment with Him. I should say as a preface that I consider numinous value to be highly connected and correlated with Moral value. Prayer seems to have the value that it is in fact in the category of a mitzvah-- that of prayer which is in fact one of the 613 commandments.Yoga does not seem to have that advantage.

[] It seems to me to be important in fact to follow the Reb Chaim from Voloshin program of learning Torah. The reason is that prayer may open one to hear the words of God, but then one needs to learn them. That is one should not think that since he has talked with God that it is automatic that God has talked with him. One still needs to do the effort to learn what God's Will is in the Torah.


The origin of Evil.

The origin of Evil.

That does not seem like a hard problem. To the Ari it comes from the light that came from the eyes of Adam Kadmon שם ב''ן דאדם קדמון and when that light reached the region that would later become  the world of Emanation (אצילות) the events called the breaking of the vessels occurred (שבירת הכלים).

This subject is dealt with at length in the Ari and I don't want to rehash it here. [In my opinion it is the best rational account of the existence of evil that I  have seen. You can try Hegel if you want, but I think the Ari wins the debate here.  As far as I can see his account is even better than that of Schopenhauer.]
 Israel Salanter:  the evil inclination{the "Yetzer Hara haRa"}  has two components: (1) the physical desire part and (b) a spiritual part [see the famous"Letter of Musar" written by Israel Salanter about this subject ]

He considers the evil inclination to be a continuum from the low physical desires up until the Satan himself. But the former levels of the evil inclination are not  significant causes of evil. Now the main force of evil in people is  delusion.

Divide the problem of evil into two major subdivision. -Kelipot and demons.
Kelipot in this context means delusions including delusions of demons or of grandeur etc. Demons he considers real.
Now in this context it is hard to say what he does with world view issues.

 even good meaning people can have all their good channeled into evil because of evil world views.

There is a deeper kind of evil to the original condensation of the presence of God from the space where later would become the worlds. From there is drawn an evil in which it is impossible to find God because people don't even know that God is hidden

So the best approach to evil that I have seen is that of Isaac Luria. It is based on motifs from the pre-Socratics and the Zohar and builds into a rigorous logical system in the Eitz Chaim and Mavo Shearim.
 For those with limited time the thing to do would be to get the Eitz Chaim of the Ari. and read from the beginning until about towards the beginning of Emanation. That is to do Adam Kadmon, Akudim, Nekudim, Shevirat HaKelim. If possible I recommend doing the Reshash Shalom Sharabi's Nahar Shalom with this. Then the Igeret Hamusar of Israel Salanter. In any case  the whole question of evil gets to be enormously complicated. In a practical sense it seems to have sources outside of a person like his group, religious leaders, bad friends, and internal sources. In any case, it always comes down to either the חלל הפנוי or שבירת הכלים the empty space or the breaking of the vessels.

Question on Tosphot Bava Metzia page 14

This essay deals with the question someone bought stolen land and improved it. When he gives it back from whom does he collect the value of the improvements? The thief or the owner?
And what if

You have a person whose land was stolen, the owner (נגזל)
The thief is the גזלן . The person that bought the stolen land from the thief is  the buyer (לוקח).
The land goes back to the owner (נגזל) with the improvements (שבח). Rav says the buyer (לוקח) gets the money he paid for it, and also the value of the improvements from person th thief (גזלן). [Bava Metzia page 14B]
Tosphot relates this law to the law [Bava Metzia page 103a] that concerns a person that goes into the field of another person and does improvements (שבח). The law stated by Rav is thus: when the improvements are more, then the owner (נגזל) pays for the expenses, and thief (גזלן) pays nothing.
My question is, "Why not?"
Bear with me while I try to say over why I think this is a problem.
First of all I want to make it clear that on page 103a the improvement is independent from the expenses.
On page 14 the law of Rav refers to paying improvements that are more than the expenses. [Of course, in my question there are no such things, so obviously he does not pay the expenses.] My point is that the owner נגזל) pays the least amount because of the law on page 103. The thief pays the improvements because of Rav's law on page 14. This page 14 law does not come from page 103 . And you can ask "From where does it come?" Well, one  option is to say it comes from the deed of sale. But if that is the case then  the thief should pay the expenses also. And in  fact he ought to pay the improvement also if we are going by the deed of sale!
I am not asking a rhetorical question here. I really do not know what Tosphot is doing  on page 14.
Anyone with an answer is welcome to share it here.
Later note: I think after this I wrote some answer to this question in some later blog entry.
Here is what I wrote in Hebrew about this subject:
א) ב''מ יד: יש פה שלשה אנשים: נגזל,גזלן, ולוקח מן הגזלן והקרקע שנגזלת. הקרקע חוזרת לבעלים עם השבח שהשביחה הלוקח. רב אמר שהלוקח גובה מחיר הקרקע ושבחה מן הגזלן. תוספות אומרים שהדין של היורד לתוך שדה חבירו בלי רשות שמקבל היציאה שייך לפה. זה דין של רב בדף קג. ושם רב אומר ידו על התחתונה. זאת אומרת שאם השבח פחות מן היציאה, אז הנגזל משלם את היציאה. ואם היציאה פחותה, אז הוא משלם את היציאה. ועכשיו אפשר להבין כוונת התוספות פה בדף יד:. פה יש שתי אפשריות. א) השבח יותר מן היציאה. ב) השבח פחות מן היציאה. מצב הראשון הוא המצב שרב דיבר עליו. שם הנגזל משלם את היציאה, והגזלן משלם את השבח. [פה כוונת רב היא שהגזלן משלם את השבח היתר מן היציאה, היינו ההפרש. וזה שלא ככוונתו בדף קג. אולי יש פה איזו קושיא?] במצב השני שהשבח פחות, אז הגזלן אינו משלם כלום, והנגזל משלם את השבח. וזאת היא השאלה שלי. למה הגזלן אינו משלם את היציאה? אם אנחנו הולכים לפי מה שכתוב בשטר, אז הוא חייב לשלם את היציאה. אם אנחנו לא הולכים לפי מה שכתוב בשטר (אחריות לאו טעות סופר היא) אז גם השבח אינו משלם.
I see in my Hebrew note that I did have an answer for this problem.


Yet  without philosophy, people tend to pick up the attitudes of the age. They unknowingly absorb the spirit of the times from their environment, and think it is obviously what the Torah means.

Like Steven Weinberg said: The  major advantage learning philosophy--  is to protect oneself from other  philosophies.

And I think that my point of view is born out by experience. In the world where this anti-learning-philosophy attitude is prevalent, we do find large kaleidoscope of attitudes and worldviews --none of which have any correspondence with the actual world views presented in the Torah and Talmud. It seems to me that without learning philosophy, one is simply not equipped with any intellectual tools that one needs to even be able to discern incoherent world views.

On the other hand,  academic philosophy is a real problem, nowadays especially in the English speaking world where the accepted world view is that of Linguistic/Analytic philosophy.

Yet the irony of this situation is that the philosophical foundations of materialism, in a proper metaphysics, are in worse shape now than they have ever been.

The truth is that the evils detailed by atheists in religion are by no means unique to religion but are simply characteristics of human nature.
It is noteworthy, however, that the heaviest blows against materialism in the 20th century have been delivered, not by philosophy or religion, but by science itself. The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, proposed by Niels Bohr (1885-1960), although metaphysically poorly motivated in some respects, represents a stark anti-realism that merely bewilders the physicists and philosophers who literally appear not to have the philosophical background to address it properly. It has proved easierjust not to worry about it and to lapse back into a naive materialism.

Much as Thomas Sowell has said, this incoherence is found in people who don't understand the virtues and advantages of their own land, but idealize some foreign hell hole as Utopia.

Most versions of relativism involve a reinterpretation or redefinition of moral judgements. What is common to all of the redefinitions of moral concepts is that they leave out everything moral. 

Second, it has been argued from time to time that moral relativism presents a simpler picture of the universe than objectivism. Objectivism postulates these entities, objective moral values, that we could explain the world just as easily if not more easily without. Therefore, the burden is on the objectivist to prove the existence of these things.
I think this argument is insincere; that is, nobody ever became a relativist because of this. It was invented after the fact to confuse objectivists.
The argument is exactly analogous to the following argument for mathematical relativism: Objectivism postulates these entities, objective numbers and numerical relationships, that we could explain the world just as easily if not more easily without. Therefore, the burden is on the objectivist to prove the existence of these things. Since he cannot do so, I conclude that all mathematical statements are arbitrary and subjective.

I have tried to show that, like most false philosophical theories, moral relativism dissolves under clarification.

"Calling twentieth-century philosophy superficial gives it too much dignity; vacuous is the closest term."


The Gra saw the energy of spiritual rot of Shabatai Tzvi was subsumed into Hasidut

The excommunication of the Gra  had in it two points that were common to all the different excommunications against.

The Gra saw the energy of spiritual rot of Shabatai Tzvi was subsumed into Jewish cults.

There were many  excommunications, but the two points that come up in all of them was disparaging learning Torah and disparaging Torah scholars. Though cults have been hard at work to deny these two allegations by a parade and show of learning Torah, it is still hard not to see that the Gra was right. I do not mean that this is something you can see looking in from the outside, but rather if you are in the actual world of cults it is hard not to admit that both of these complaints are based on actual attitudes that continue today--very strongly.

Now I don't  know if it is right to excommunicate people for things, even if they would be 100% true, but the Gra did feel that these were serious issues.

The excommunication of the Gra did not treat this as a minor problem. The actual text stated that  one is not allowed to sit in 4 amot [yards] of a chasid, nor talk with a chasid, nor marry the daughter of a chasid etc. It is interesting that this excommunication did not single out secular Jews.
I mean there have always been secular Jews and Jews of various degrees of religiosity. Why not excommunicate Jews that go to Collage? Or other such things? Why specifically Hasidut?

Part of the answer is that the essence of something is what  makes it what it is. That is when we talk about the essence of a thing we mean that something else of the same essence would be put into the same category. When there is a  claim to be of the same essence as the Creator of the Universe and this does not spark outrage in the general world of , then we know something is off.

The problem of the provability of the connection between Shabati Tzvi  with later Jewsih cults was the reason it was not mentioned in the actual text of the excommunication. That was in those days. Today we have lots of evidence of this connection. Cookies that were placed in the writings of the Shatz and Natan from Gaza that you find in all books of Ashkenazic Mysticism. The connection is undeniable. Even if you don't see how that stuff got into Ashkenazic Mysticism never the less it is there.