My own background from Beverly Hills to the Mir Yeshiva in NY. My Dad was not a movie star but an scientist highly valued by the USA. So they recruited him when they needed him for some secret project or other.. An they paid well so we ended up in Beverly Hills

I wanted to make clear my own background so as to not leave a wrong impression as far as my own upbringing is concerned. I wrote once about this but it was lost.
At any rate, I was raised basically as a conservative Jew. We went to Temple Israel In Hollywood and sometimes to Mount Sinai Synagogue. I went to Beverly Hills High School and learned Torah mainly on Shabat. My philosophical interests were fueled and ignited by a general atmosphere of the need to search and find the Truth.  So on the side I did my own philosophical reading. Eventually I concluded the Torah--that is the Oral and Written Law of Moses is correct and went to Shar Yashuv yeshiva in NY to learn Torah.
This means that there is an inherent question about the proper path. My parents were as people and a parents very great. But there were some things in Torah they were not doing. Specifically the very things emphasized by the religious world. Laws about food, nida, and Shabat.  But in other aspects of Torah they were much better than anyone in the religious world. That is in areas of menchlichkiet, being a decent moral, upright human being, honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness, reliability and so on.
[As far as the religious world goes I have found the emphasis on these three things Nida, food, and Shabat to serve as excuses for being backstabbers. So as far as that goes, I do have to admit the Torah does require care in these things Shabat, food preparation, and nida. But as Reb Israel Salanter noted--these are not the major obligations of Torah even though they are obligations.]
Among the very important lessons I learned in the Mir yeshiva and in Shar Yashuv were the ideas of trust in God to take care of my needs and to sit and learn Torah. That is working for a living is basically not needed if one accepts on himself the yoke of Torah. I went with  this idea for a few years and it really works! But after some time I lost this great ideal. But even if  can not do it I think it is important to relay the message to others that might be able to do this. I went with this while at the Mir but then went to Israel to accept an invitation to join the kollel of Rav Ernster in Meor Chaim in Safed. That was a great period in many ways, but I was not learning much Torah.
Then we went back to the USA and there everything fell apart as is the situation until today.
So I still try to learn Torah to some degree but alone and lonely.
There are lots of important lessons to learn here about the importance of learning Torah and avoiding cults. The main thing in Torah we already know is to avoid cults as it says in Deuteronomy when you go to the Land that God has promised this is the thing to do--destroy all the places of idols. I am not quoting it exactly but you can see for the verse that the major thing is to avoid cults.


The Gemara in Bava Kama 19a is hard to figure out. Rav Ashi asks if a שינוי ["a change," that is doing damage in a different way than is common] applies to צרורות ("pebbles"). An example would be if the animal kicked up stones that went and caused damage. The question is if you say שינוי (change) does apply then it would be only a 1/4 of the damage.

[Normally if an animal walks and happens to knock pebbles that cause damage, the owner is obligated is half damage. But what if instead of walking the animal kicked the pebbles on purpose? Is that a further unusual circumstance and so the owner would be obligated only 1/4]

The Gemara then asks why not answer it from the question of Rava who asked if העדאה "warning"applies to צרורות (pebbles).
To me the questions seem independent. But clearly the Gemara is thinking that you could not ask about העדאה (warning) unless שינוי (change) applied. But even that to me seems hard to understand because let's say Rava had answered "No. There is no העדאה by צרורות". Then we would also not know anything about if שינוי applies.

[One reason that is all seems hard to understand is that even העדאה did apply to pebbles, that would be because it would be considered in itself a שינוי. But that would not tell us anything if another kind of שינוי would be applicable.]
Rashi understands that Rava was asking specifically on the issue of  a 1/4--that is. if העדאה applies. That would help to some degree but it still is curious that Rava does not mention anything about kicking (בעיטה). He only asks if העדאה is applicable to pebbles[[not to any specific case of pebbles. That would suggest his question was if an animal kicked pebbles three times  and the owner was warned each time, then after the last time, he might be obligated full damages.
The way Rav Shach seems to understand the gemara in Bava Metzia about the oven of Achnai is that there are two levels. One is the objective halacha. That would be on the level of the Platonic forms. The other level is when the halacha comes down into this world. When t comes down into this world an added condition is needed that the majority should agree with it. אחרי רבים הטות. That is how he explains the Gemara about the oven in which even though the objective halacha was like R. Eliezer, still it is needed this extra condition of רוב- the majority of sages should agree.
This gives an idea of in another Gemara we have a case in which God said the halacha was one way and the yeshiva in Heaven said the opposite and they went to Raba bar bar Chana to decide which one was right.

[This seems clearly like Aristotle that there is some kind of connection between the Platonic forms and the individuals that embody them that is more subtle than just as a container for the form,]

For background: the oven of Achnai was not cemented together. Would it still have a category of an oven [that can become unclean]? R Eliezer said no. The Sages disagreed.  A voice came from heave and said R Eliezer is right. R. Yehoshua said: Heaven does not decide the halacah. The Torah says to go by the majority of sages.

[The questions here are many; especially since we know the sages can make mistakes as we see in the Torah a special sin offering they must bring in such a case.]


Music for the glory of God

Religious fanaticism leads to anything except good character.]

The basic idea of the Rambam and Saadia Gaon of  a synthesis between Torah and  Greek Thought is important but today a new synthesis would have to  take into account the insights of Kant and Hegel. Most people would rather that the Rambam had never attempted such a synthesis in the first place but that to me indicates a lack of faith in the Rambam more than true faith in Torah.

[The reasons why the synthesis is needed between Faith and Reason is clear to anyone who has observed communities that are based on faith alone, and reject reason. Religious fanaticism leads to anything except good character. Why this should be so is an open question, but a hint can be gained from the Rambam in his showing the intermediate step of Natural Law was necessary between the  "ravings of the Sabians" and the Giving of Torah. Also it is possible to suggest that Torah in its pure form is on the level of the Platonic forms that   the hit the ground of being --the individual. דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה. Another suggestion is it is a kind of Hegelian dialectical process. [I mean to say that being things need a ground of being to exist. Being itself. Platonic forms hit that ground and become individual things]

The goal would be to make full use of the Rambam and the  Ari, the Gra, and Kant and Hegel.
I  mentioned this a few times about 6 years ago. But today it seems all the more necessary.

I admit most of the work in this direction was already done by Dr Kelley Ross. However he does ignore important ideas of Hegel. But the main ideas are already in place. That is you would have to equate what is called immediate non-intuitive knowledge with faith.

Falsification is not how new ideas are discovered. It is an important part of the Kant Friesian system but does not explain the processes of reason. But neither does Dr Michael Huemer where reason simply recognizes universals. However Dr Huemer does have a kind of dialectical process in his system in which things that are recognize by reason can be defeated by other concepts that turn out to have more intuitively clear consequences. So in any case Hegel's dialectical process in fact seem to be at the root of all new advances in reason
But furthermore the dialectical process the way most understand it is confined to reason but there does not seem to be any reason to limit it in that range. It could easily work between conflicting areas of value as per the Kant-Friesian system

Even if I am not the man for this job clearly the job in need to be done. It is perfectly possible to get a good synthesis of Reason and Revelation  and to base it on the labors of predecessors like the Rambam -and also to have the sense of what to reject. [I think people are right for taking the Guide of the Rambam as the best guide to how to go about this. The purpose of this is that without it, authentic Torah is not possible. People go into a whole array of delusions they image are real Torah and you end up with the nightmare world of the religious.


extra degrees of strictness do not help to come to righteousness.

The most remarkable thesis of the Rambam is  the synthesis of Reason with Revelation which scandalizes people today as much as it did in his own days.  I would not have paid any attention to it if not for my encountering problems in the religious world in the most unpleasant  possibles ways.
This is what got me to thinking the strictly religious approach is highly unkosher and that something is really wrong. My first feeling was to go with the idea of the religious not being strict enough. That is I thought they were ignoring essential aspects of Torah while focusing on rituals. Eventually I gave up on that and simply decided extra degrees of strictness do not help to come to righteousness.

A lot of this was based more on observation more than on abstract principles.
My basic set of principles today is different than what I would have said at the time all this was going on.
Today my set of principles  would be (1) Learning Torah with making full use of the great Litvak Gedolim like Rav Shach and Reb Chaim Soloveitchik.
(2) Learning Math and Physics.
(3) The Rambam's approach of combining reason and Revelation but I would not stop at Aristotle as he did but also make use of the German idealism especially Hegel and Kelley Ross.
(4) Learning the Ari, Isaac Luria but avoiding the cults of the Sitra Achra which claim to be going by him.
(5) Bitul Torah  is an even more important concept than learning Torah. Bitul Torah negates the idea of doing things outside of learning Torah as having any great significance. It says that it is  a sin to be doing other things even you could be learning Torah. This concept comes from a verse in the Torah כי דבר ה' בזה ונכרתה הנפש ההיא מקרב ינה For he despised the word of God and that soul shall be cut off from among its people. And the Gemara in Sanhedrim explains that verse as referring to anyone who is able to be learning Torah and does not do so. However I should add the Rambam who considered Physics and Metaphysics as a part of the Oral Law.


This is in fact one of the drawbacks of the religious world which has in it too many groups that are simply Sitra Achra [Dark Side] cults trying to get themselves accepted as valid.

Some of the main ideas I have found most important in Torah I have found in the books of Musar from the Middle Ages, especially the emphasis there on good character. The trouble nowadays
 when people become religious usually their character deteriorates  exponentially.

So this approach of Reb Israel Salanter of combining learning Torah along with Musar makes a lot of sense to me. but besides that I founds lots of very important ideas about practical living in books of Musar.[The idea of learning fast in the אורחות צדיקים is one idea I used in Torah  and also in Physics.]
[Trust in God with no effort I also discovered in books of Musar and that certainly has been a help to when ever i have listened to it.]

It would be hard to put it all into words but some important idea I gained from my parents and teachers in high school. Other very important ideas from my teachers in yeshiva and still more from reading Musar and Dante, Plato and the Rambam.

It might be a good thing to try and consolidate it all. But the main thing I discovered was not what good ideas to adopt but rather the importance of learning common sense about what kinds of people to avoid and what kinds of groups and ideas to avoid.

This is in fact one of the drawbacks of the religious world which has in it too many groups  that are simply Sitra Achra [Dark Side] cults trying to get themselves accepted as valid.