I see in the world today several causes for alarm. War between Russia and the Ukraine. The threat of a Muslim Atom Bomb in the hands of a fanatic Muslim State that sees jihad  and suicide in the cause of Allah as the highest mitzvah. The  fact that the USA seems to be in the hands of a Socialist.

These are all cause of worry. My solution is to repent. But repentance in my way of thinking means to find out what the Torah requires of me and to do it.   We can’t assume that what our preconceived ideas of repentance are actually correspond to what the Torah thinks repentance requires. For one thing the Torah has several areas of value which almost by definition have to conflict.  And you can see this problem when ever you try to go about actually keeping the Torah. 

No to Kiruv (Kiruv means making people into Orthodox Jews). Kiruv has the problem that it takes people away from one area of Torah value--honoring ones parents and other areas of human relations and places them in another area--like keeping Shabat. So Kiruv is not what is needed. 

That also is not what is needed. What we need is simply places devoted to the idea that everyone should learn Torah and do what it says. Period.


I thought that sometimes it is easier to understand things in the Talmud if you learn them in Hebrew rather than in English translation. So with that in mind I decided to place here my ideas on the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin page 61 in Hebrew. And after that an English translation.

סנהדרין ס: אני רוצה קודם כל להציע את הגמרא בקצרה ואחר כך מחלוקת תוספות עם בעל המאור, ואחר כל זה להציע שתי קושיות על בעל המאור. הברייתא אומרת שלומדים עבודה שלא כדרכה מזביחה (היינו מן הפסוק "זובח לאלהים יחרם") [שמות כב].
רבא בר רב חנן שואל,"למה אין יכולים ללמוד את זה מהשתחוויה ("וילך וישתחווה") [דברים יז]. רב אחא מדפתי שאל על רבא בר רב חנן, "אם היינו לומדים מהשתחוייה, אז מה היה 'איכה יעבדו הגויים את אלהיהם' בא למעט? [היינו מה היה בא לפטור?]
תוספות ובעל המאור שואלים על רב אחא, למה הוא שאל רק על השתחווייה? למה הוא לא שאל גם על זביחה? היינו, אם לומדים שלא כדרכה מזביחה, מה בא "איכה יעבדו" למעט? תוספות עונים ששואלים רק על השתחווייה בגלל שאם משתמשים עם השתחווייה אז שייך לשאול מה בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו. זה בגלל שמהשתחווייה אפשר ללמוד את הכול, אפילו עבודה כדרכה. האופן לראות את זה הוא לדגש שבשלב הזה הגמרא חושבת שהשתחווייה כוללת גם עבודה של בזיון. רואים את זה מן התירוץ לשאלת רב אחא שהשתחווייה לא כוללת עבודה של בזיון. אבל מזביחה לא היינו כוללים עבודה של בזיון, ולכן שייך לא לשאול למה בא "איכה יעבדו"? הוא בא לומר עבודה כדרכה חייבת. אבל בעל המאור הולך בכיוון אחר. הוא ראה ששאלת הגמרא היא מה איכה יעבדו בא למעט (לפטור). היינו שהיא בא לרבות מה שהוא ולמעט מה שהוא. ובהמשך הגמרא משתדלת למצוא דבר ש"איכה יעבדו" יכול לפטור. לפי ההקדמה הזאת הוא אומר שמן זביחה היינו מחייבים נשיקה למגפפים[עבודה זרה שדרכה בחיבוק]. ואז בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו שאינו חייב.
שתי שאלות יש לי פה על שיטת המאור. אם זה נכון ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפטור נושק למגפפים, אז למה לשאול על השתחווייה? תגיד שהשתחוייה בא לחייב נושק למגפפים. ותגיד ש"איכה יעבדו" בא לפתור אותו.

שאלה שנייה איך התירוץ עובד? איך היינו חושבים שזביחה בא לחייב נושק למגגפים מראש? אין סיבה לחשוב שזביחה היה כולל נשיקה למגפפים. אפשר לראות את זה על ידי זה שנזכרים שמשתמשים עם זביחה בשביל להרבות עבודות פנים. אין שום הווה אמינא שזביחה היה כולל שום דבר אחר. רק השתחווייה חשבנו שהיא באה לרבות כל דרך כבוד.

Sanhedrin 60b and 61a.

I put this on the Internet so here I am just going to put down the gemara in brief and then two questions I have on the Meor and also to mention one clearly invalid question.
 First of all the Braita says you learn service not according to the way from sacrifice. Rava Bar Rav Chanan asks, "Why can't we learn that from "bowing" and use "sacrifice" for something else?
Rav Acha from Diphti objects to this question of Rava bar rav Chanan and says how could we use "bowing" (Deuteronomy chapter 17, parshat Shophtim)? If we would use "bowing" (to include other types of service) then what would "How do the nations serve their gods?" come to exclude? (That is what would it come to permit?) Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor both ask on Rav Acha: Why does he make this objection only on Rava Bar Rav Chanan when he tries to use "bowing" to include? [To forbid] Why does he not ask also on the braita that uses 'sacrifice' (exodus 22)(mishpatim)? [To include other types of serve no according to it way] That is if we use "sacrifice" to be inclusive, then what does, "How do they serve?" come to exclude?

Tosphot answers to this that we only ask on bowing because if we used "bowing" then we could ask, "What does "how do they serve" come to tell us? Since from "bowing" we could include everything [even service according to it way]. The way to see this is to note that at this point the Gemara is thinking that "bowing" includes also all service that is not honorable. You can see this from the way the Gemara answers the question of Rav Acaha by saying that "bowing" would not include dishonorable service. So we see that up to that point we thought it did include dishonorable service. But from "sacrifice" we would not include service that is not dishonorable whether according to it way or not, so we could not ask, "What do we use 'How do the nations serve?" We use it for all service that is according to its way that is dishonorable.
But the Baal Hameor takes a different approach. He notices that the the question of the Gemara is "What does the verse, 'How do the nations serve their gods?' come to exclude?" That is, it has to include something and exclude something else. And in fact you can see this from the way the gemara continues. It tries to find what does "How do they serve?" come to allow?
He says that from "sacrifice" alone we would forbid kissing idols that one usually hugs or visa versa. And that "how do they serve" come to tell us that this area is not liable.

The basic two questions on the Baal HaMeor are these. If you are right that "How do they serve?איכה יעבדו" is coming to allow the in between areas of quadrant II [kissing idols that one usually hugs] then why ask on "bowing"? I.e., you say that if we would learn from "sacrifice" then we would not ask what do we use "How do they serve?" for because we have something we would use it for [to absolve from guilt]: the in-between areas of quadrant II.
But then why not say the same thing with bowing? Also there say that "how do they serve?" is coming to allow the in between areas of quadrant II.

Question 2: how does the answer of the Meor work? How would we use sacrifice to forbid those things in order to need how do they serve in order to allow them? There is no reason to assume that sacrifice would include kissing things that you hug. We can see this by the fact that when we do use sacrifice to include things it only come to include inner services. No one has the slightest idea that it would include anything more. It was only for bowing that we thought it could include more.

The answer to both of these questions is the difference between potential and action. Bowing means in action  that kissing an idol that one hugs is liable. Therefore it makes sense to ask then what does how do the gentiles serve their idols come to permit. but sacrifice only means that would in potential could enlarge the field of forbidden-ness and therefore how do they serve come to tell us that we do not do so. So the Baal HaMeor makes perfect sense.



Sanhedrin [page 60b]

In Sanhedrin [page 60b] we find a braita that says we learn  from the word "sacrifice"זובח לאלהים יחרם to tell us also pouring and burning (עבודות פנים). The reason is that "sacrifice" was in the set of idolatry and came out of the set . And we know that in that case it comes out to teach us something about the whole set. כל דבר שהיה בכלל ויצא מן הכלל בא ללמד על הכלל כולו Rava bar Rav Chanan asked why not learn from, "he will bow down?"וישתחחוו Rav Acha asked, “How is that a good question? If we would learn from ‘bowing’ then what would “how do the nations serve their idols’ come to tell us?”
The Gemara concludes that it teaches us about service not according to its way of idols that are not served in an honorable way.
Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor [that is the book called the Meor Hagadol on the Rif (Isaac Alfasi) in the back of the Gemara] both ask on Rav Acha, “Why not ask on “sacrifice” also what does ‘how do the nations serve their gods’ come to tell us?

 Baal HaMeor  that we could not ask what do we learn from "How do they serve?" איכה יעבדו  because we learn something from it-- kissing idols that one usually hugs.

Tosphot takes a different approach. He says something very deep. He considers that fact that at the point of the question the Gemara is thinking that "bowing" tells us even not in an honorable way. We see this from the fact that the answer of the Talmud is that it does not in fact include service in a dishonorable way.
 Tosphot is saying that when the Gemara asks, "What do we need 'how do they serve?'" it means it literally-- that we would learning everything from bowing. And if that is the case then the answer of Topshot is common sense--if we would be learning from sacrifice then there is a large area that we would need “how do  they serve?” for that is service according to its way that is dishonorable.

Now once we understand Tosphot then we can see its advantage over the Baal HaMeor. Just think about the fact that in fact we do learn from "Sacrifice!" Not from Bowing. So according to the Baal HaMeor how do we know that kissing an idol that one usually hugs is liable?
 I noticed the Maharsha asks some question on the Baal HaMeor and answers it also. I am not sure if it is the above question because I have not had a chance yet to look into it. But I think at this point we can all agree that the Tosphot approach is prima facie better since it gets everything right  with no complications.


I noticed yesterday the story of Israel Odessaer getting involved in Breslov.  This story as long as it was did conform what I had suspected for a long time. That the people that are considered "tzadikim" (saints) in breslov tend to be unsuccessful students.

.  And then after a few years they forget their origins, and become "tzadikim". And then naive Baali Teshuva [Newly religious people] start laying the groundwork to claim that they are hidden tzdikim (saints) that know the whole Shas (Talmud) and Poskim [one word that includes the whole set of Rif, Rosh, Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch].

And people that follow the Petak [the letter Reb Isael Odessar believed he had to received from  Nachman of Uman that contained the phrase Na Nach Nachem Nachman from Uman] tend to be claiming deep kabalistic secrets for the petak when they have barely learned a page of the Zohar and certainly not Arizal.

Sanhedrin page 60b and 61A

It is not usual but just yesterday discovered that the Baal HaMeor has a nice explanation of the Talmud that looks better than Tosphot. Usually Tosphot comes out on top. But this case might very well be different.
It all starts with the subject of idolatry which to the Torah way of thinking is a very serious wrong.

We have to divide idolatry into several subsets. Service according to its way and service not according to it way. Service not according to it way was suggested by Rava bar Rav Chanan to be forbidden by the words "he will bow down."

Ravina  asked, "How is this possible? That is it is OK to learn not according to its way from the word he will sacrifice but not from he will bow down. The reason is that if we learn it from he will bow down then what does, 'How do the nations serve their gods come to exclude?'"
[Now I wanted to mention here as a side topic that this will probably be the subject of great attention my learning partner. Knowing him, he will problem be bothered bu the fact that if there would be no verse "How do the nations serve their gods," then "He will bow down" is not coming out of any general category and then you could not learn anything from it except exactly what it says. For all I know today he might want to sit on this problem for several weeks.]

To make a long story short I just wanted to say that the Gemara comes out that service not according to the way of that idolatry is liable for types of service that are honor and in not liable for types of service that are not honorable. That is just a brief summery. The question that both Tosphot and the Baal HaMeor ask is: Why could the same question not apply to when we learn this law from "sacrifice" and not from "bowing?"

The Meor HaGadol (on the Rif) says something very common sensible. He says there are areas in the set of honorable service  not according to its way that would not be liable e.g. kissing an idol that normally one hugs.


But seems that numinous value can slip very easily from holiness into its opposite. It would be nice if there was some kind of test for this

 Numinous value.   Over-excitement in the service of God.

Also we do find that the world of Kabalah deals with a different planes of existence than the Oral Law.

This we can see right away in the Zohar itself. The Zohar takes mitzvot and applies them to areas that are clearly not legal parts of that mitzvah. That means that sometimes a person gets connected with what can be described as higher spiritual worlds. The idea would be that while a person is still in his physical body his spirit gets embedded in some kind of higher plane of existence.

But people looking for numinous value can find this kind of value in the Sitra Achara {the Dark Side} [a phrase made famous by Star wars movies but comes directly from the Kabalah].

Regardless of the problems with this area of value still there are people that interested in numinosity and they will get their thirst satisfied by someone illegitimate of they if they are lucky find someone or something legitimate.

But seems that numinous value can slip very easily from holiness into its opposite. It would be nice if there was some kind of test for this.


There is an area of value which the Geon from Villna was sensitive to--that is learning Torah and keeping mizvot in the most basic simple way possible.  It seems to me that this is a hard area of value to hold on to. For one thing some people are on a different frequency anyway. \
 It is like radio transmission. If you are tuned into the right frequency then  you have got it but if you are even a fraction of a micron off all you get is static.

I was once tuned into this frequency. Loud and clear. .

 I had a friend they went around with the Na Nach group of Breslov for a few years and he thinks that they in fact felt some kind of lift by saying Na Nach all the time. But that is not any different from what Hindu people  feel when they say the mantra given to them by their Guru.

In conclusion I would like to suggest that there is no substitute for simple and basic learning Gemara, Rashi and Tosphot and keeping Torah in the most simple basic way possible. .