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9.2.14

People will automatically use any system they are a part of to get ahead and use it for money, and power.

 People will automatically use any system they are a part of to get ahead and use it for  money, and power. . If we would complain about this, then we would have to complain about Capitalism and Communism and every other system that exists.

But people also have another trait--they want things to make sense. The Love of truth may be the weakest of human  passions, but it still exists.

Because of this last trait, it seems to me that I should show how Torah is justifiable. [That means classical Torah--The Old Testament [Tenach], the Gemara [i.e. the Talmud Bavli].] But to justify Torah we have to go out of Torah into philosophy. This is how the Rambam/Maimonides did it, and Saadia Geon. You can't justify Torah on its own terms. To find a ground of justification, you need an external ground.
Since Reason has been in retreat in the Western World since the rise of Post Modern Philosophy, most people do not think that philosophy can justify Torah, and they also think they do not need Reason to justify it.

Now I should admit that my intention here is not to teach philosophy, but rather to explain why it is justifiable to sit and learn Torah [Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot.]
To do this I can't use Aristotle like the Rambam did. I have to go to a modified Neo Platonic approach like Saadia Geon and the Chovot Levavot [Duties of the Heart] .

The intuitionist school of G.E.  Morse and Prichard is close Kant school is better.
The Intuitionists are I think ignoring some of the real problems posed by Kant.

Now I get to the meat and potatoes of this discussion.
Frege wanted to expand the "a priori." [Things knowable by reason].  He wanted this to include all possible traits that can be derived from reason about objects of reason. The critique of Wittgenstein on this was true. But it was used by later incompetent philosophers to  backfire on Kant himself and to deny the existence of the a priori and of metaphysics all together.

One example of a priori I would like to suggest is in mathematics. It is the number two. You don't literally stumble over the number two when you walk in the street. But few people would be inclined to deny its existence altogether. At least to deny it it would seem you should have some strong proof. At least strong enough to deny common sense. And it does not seem that my knowledge of the number two is dependent on chemical reactions in my brain. Let me ask you to complete this sequence: 2 is to four as 4 is to eight. Eight is to 16 as 16 is to 32. Then 32 is to 64 as ... fill in the blank. Is this dependent on what I ate for breakfast this morning? If so, then you, my dear reader who ate something different [I had  eggs] would have to come up with a different answer.

[I should mention that one of the major ways that people that learn Torah think of it is as something that is applicable to Jews only. But this is clearly a mistake. Because objective values  are by definition applicable to everyone and perceivable by everyone. And Torah does claim that it is objective.
And though many commandments are addressed specifically to Jews. still the value system of the Torah is universal. and in fact the Rambam says the Torah is for "anyone that wants it." [In the Laws of Gerut. keeping Torah in no way depends on getting other people to accept oneself. This is an open halachah in the Rambam.

Some people keep Torah as a means of social identity. And this is lamentable. Torah should be kept because it is true.

6.2.14

a philosophy program at universities that deals with Metaphysics


I would like to suggest a philosophy program at universities that deals with Metaphysics.

And in particular I am thinking about the nature and origin of Evil.

This is something barely noticed by Western Philosophy up until Schopenhauer. Hegel specifically denied the existence of evil. That is hard to credit after the Twentieth Century.
But to deal with Evil in a philosophical way my suggestion would be to have a university course that would deal first with the pre-Socratics and the Tree of Life [עץ חיים]of Isaac Luria האריז''ל, and Schopenhauer.

This suggestion could not be made while British and American philosophy departments were still in the Dark ages. Recently the fallacies of post Modern Philosophy have become apparent even to school children and it is high time for some real philosophy to be done. John Searle wrote that L/A linguistic analytic philosophy of the twentieth century  is "obviously false."


Obviously the actual Book of Aristotle, "Metaphysics", would have to be tackled also but that it seems would require it s own separate course.

[To bring in a little bit more detail about what I mean:

Also I am referring to the last section of the Eitz Chaim עץ חיים and the Mavo Shearaim  מבוא שעריםof Issac Luria which deal with the origin and nature of evil.

Obviously Schopenhauer is very important for this issue, but one does need a little background in Kant to understand his basic thesis.
In fact without Schopenhauer it is hard to find any philosophical justification for the existence of evil at all. Only after you have Kant and Schopenhauer it is possible to appreciate the approach of Isaac Luria .
[I know you might complain to me and say that you can’t understand Luria, Schopenhauer without the proper context. How is it possible you can ask to learn the last section of the Eitz Chaim (Tree of Life) without the previous sections? Or Schopenhauer without Kant, or   without Plotinus and Plato?

I agree --but I think in a university course, you should need only a few introductory lectures to get the orientation right and then you can go to the actual material after a few weeks. After all you don't need to have learned all of Kant to understand Schopenhauer.]

I should mention that any treatment of Kabalah ought to deal with authentic Kabalah and not any  books that claims to be explaining the Kabalah. And in fact this is a major problem in many books of mysticism. They claim to be explaining Isaac Luria while in fact getting their major doctrines from Shabati Tzvi. 

With Kabalah the key word to hold to is "authentic".
















It looks like R. Yehuda in the Gemara does not make any distinction in prohibitions that are from the sages דרבנן if they are intended or not.
[This subject is part of a large Tosphot in Yoma. I just wanted to bring up one little point that I think is interesting.]

This approach of Rabbi Yehuda seems to be contrary to the way the Rambam understands Rabbinical law.
To the Rambam, the Torah gives permission to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (or people with what the Torah considers ordination--not the ordination that is common today) to interpret the law based on the thirteen principles of how to derive laws from verses and also to make a fence around prohibitions. [Also, they had some traditions of what is considered work on Shabat and other oral traditions that they have to hand down.] This we see in the verse in Deuteronomy "you shall listen to all they teach you." [The whole verse says basically when you have cases in Torah Law that come up, and you can't decide, you shall go to the supreme court in Jerusalem and follow all that they teach you.]

The Rambam makes it clear that it is not up to every individual to decided how to interpret the the law. This is clearly stated in the Torah itself.
But the law to listen to the Sanhedrin is specially a law to not ignore them. And this can't apply to an unintended act. When one forgets the law he is not ignoring anything.

The resolution to this is that the Rambam  in fact decided in a "thing not intended" like R. Shimon and not like R. Yehuda.


I hope it is clear what I am trying to say. We have two arguments between R. Yehuda and R. Shimon.One about work not intended. The other about work done  for a different than purpose the work was done in the tabernacle in the desert. The question here is on R Yehuda. If we understand a rabbinical decree in the way the Rambam does, then how does the opinion of R. Yehuda make sense? That is the question I intend to answer in this short essay.


3.2.14

 I think that the Torah itself is in need of some kind of interpretation in many places where the simple explanation just does not work--like the flood of Noah for example. [The Rambam  has already told us that Genesis chapter one is not to be taken literally. So I say well then let's see what Isaac Luria says that it means!] the female waters..

On a side note-- I have noticed that some people on their own tend to spend more time on Breslov books than on Gemara.
Now Breslov books are inspiring, but they are not the Written or the Oral Law. They have emotional appeal. worship of tzadikim is one basic problem because the Torah tells us not to do idolatry. At least Breslov is honest about this what they are doing. Most other groups put on a nice face to hide the rot under the surface. The Gra saw this and put teh whole movement into Excommunication. Which means not to go anywhere near them because when one ignores the excommunication, it goes upon the one ignoring it. See the Laws in חרםin Shulchan Aruch



As is known the Kabalah has a highly Neo Platonic approach to philosophy.
I just had one small comment on the issue of the breaking of the vessels (שבירת הכלים) today.
Even though the Ari usually does not give exact reason for this, there are a few places that he does say openly the reason[s]. One thing he always mentions is the fact that the light was only the name 52.(יוד הה וו הה) He says if it had been 52 with 45 (יוד הא ואו הא) or just 45 alone there would have been no breaking. Also he says the "breaking" happened in the circles also of the name 52. [עיגולים דב''ן] I.e. it is not just that the breaking happening in the world of "dots" [נקודים]. Even when the dots expanded and became ten circles of 52 with inner and outer light, the breaking still happened.


I mention this here because I think that metaphysics should be returned to philosophy and as far as metaphysics goes I think the Arizal [Isaac Luria] does  a good job 


Hegel actually discusses  the above aspects of the Ari. He was quite aware of Adam Kadmon where this breaking happened-- i.e. above emanation [אצילות] and in front.--if you go by the simple explanation/peshat in the Ari. You could also interpret the Ari like the Reshash-- but that is extremely complicated and for some reason when the Reshah רשש''ש (Shalom Sharabi from Yemen and later in Jerusalem) came to  Yaakov Abuchatzaira in a dream asking him why he did not learn his book the Nahar Shalom, Rav Yaakov said he had a different path. (And his path can be seen openly in all his books--it is the simplest possible way to understand the Ari.)





I had just two small ideas to talk about today. So I will put them here on the main blog. One refers to the way Reb Chaim Soloveitchik answers for a difficult Rambam. The Rambam says concerning a field that is made an apotiki אפותיקי [a thing that the lender must get paid back from if the borrower defaults]. In short the Rambam says the law of "his hand is on the bottom"(ידו על התחתונה) applies to half the improvement (חצי שבח) and concerning the expenses he says if they are less than the half improvement then the lender pays all. The thing that Reb Chaim says that I could not figure out before was that as far as the expenses are concerned the field is considered as the property of the lender and so the lender pays all. The reason is this neat חילוק-- distinction--that Reb Chaim makes. As  far as an apotiki is considered it is considered as the field is considered as owned by the lender--but this does not stop the law from Bava Batra of half improvements also coming into play because as far as improvements goes we say the obligation comes from the fact that the seller writes "I will  repay the improvements if a lender collects from the field." [I already wrote about this stuff enough on my other blog wine women and transcendence, so I will make this short here.]
the Rambam is in the laws of loans chapter 21 law one and law 6


This is already taking more time than I expected so I will try to make this next idea as short as possible.
It concerns the idea that on Shabat one can't do a work that is done for its own sake. (מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה) But if done not for its own sake this is subject to disagreement between R. Shimon and R. Yehuda
I have not written about this before here so I will at least be obligated to bring a little bit of the Gemara. R. Abahu says all types of work that do damage are not obligated in a sacrifice except for causing a wound and lighting a fire. (כל המקלקים פטורים חוץ מחובל ומבעיר)This is because the Torah allows one to do Brit Milah on Shabat. So obviously if the Torah had not allowed it it would have been forbidden [since both are among the 39 types of work that are not allowed on shabat] But why should Milah have been forbidden? It is causing a wound and doing damage! So we see causing a wound even in the case of doing damage is obligated in a sacrifice.That is all just the simple Gemara. The question is is it not also a work done not for its own sake? In fact Rashi says it is! So we see also that work done not for its own sake in the case of wounding is obligated.

What I am trying to bring out here is to nullify the other possibility that it is work done for its own sake. [צריכה לגופה] I can't prove this but I am at least showing how Rashi might answer this problem. For all I know Tosphot might say to R. Abahu that it is work done for its own sake and that is why the Torah has to allow it.




2.2.14






Joy as a prime mitzvah, i.e. not a mitzvah to bring to any goal, but being a goal in itself. As a philosophical concept I have  brought objections to this point of view. Plus there is no such mitzvah.
The other trouble is there are plenty of people for whom bringing pain to others constitutes the highest joys in life.



[4] . Bava Sali's primary principle was never to be without a wife. There was even a case where he got married on paper to a girl in Fez who he never saw or had any contact with. It was just in order not to be wifeless for even a short time.

[5] Fear of God solves the problem of short days. For instance I have found my days too short because of events which happen during the day that occupy my time and mental energy which I would have rather that had never occurred. A good solution to it: Fear of God. In my case I understood this to mean to learn books about fear of God like the "Duties of the Heart" and the Or Israel of Israel Salanter [and the Nefesh haChaim of Chaim from Voloshin--a disciple of the Geon from Villna] and I found that in fact by just spending a couple of minutes on these books per day --my entire days stated to expand and all the little things that were getting in my way disappeared.