There are very good and important values in Torah.

There are very good and important values in Torah.
I think there are three great books in the Torah world–the Old Testament, the writings of the Ari'zal . Somehow it seems to me that these books reveal a depth of the human being not found in other Torah books. My question to many people  why throw out the baby with the bath water? Why not still keep Torah as a pipeline that can connect one with God? This does not imply that it automatically works but that it can work. The problem with the secular world is that there is freedom to think but no thoughts to think. You need some book that can provide you with depth and guidance.



Idolatry is the attempt to draw down into a physical object the spirit of some spirit or being besides God.
In the Torah we find spirits besides God --serafim, ofanim, refaim, seirim etc. To believe that these forces exit is not idolatry. To pray to them is. Pantheism which is the faith of many chasidim is not idolatry even though it is not the faith of the Torah. The faith of the Torah is Monotheism. And considering God separate from the world is not idolatry. Monotheism does not deal with the question of God's physical location. Chasidim do that and try to convince Jews that that is the faith of Torah. While I have a lot of respect for Rav Shick but he got his ideas about Jewish faith from other books of chasidut besides Rebbi Nachman's books. Rebbi Nachmans books do not advocate pantheism as Rav Shick has successfully convinced everyone that they do.


Rambam rational

There was traditionally a school of thought that thought there was a mystical element in the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides. The mystic Abraham Abulafia wrote a whole mystical commentary on that book and also said the secret of the redemption is contained in the first 40 chapters of the Guide.

The Rashba however was not thrilled by Avraham Abulafia. I have mixed feeling about the Rashba. His letters attacking the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam and the great mystic, Rebbi Avraham Abulfia annoy me. And yet he is quoted by the Maharsha. In general you can see people that were against the Rambam still being quoted by the great achronim (later authorities) like Rebbi Akiva Eiger. So who am I to judge? If the Maharsha saw value in the Rashba then maybe you could attribute the whole thing to the "Argument between saints." Two true points of view that are not consistent one with the other ontological un-decidablity .  The existence of the world depends on there being  the Empty Space (חלל הפנוי) that needed to be created by God so that there could be a creation. See beginning of the Eitz Chaim and the Mavo Shearim of Isaac Luria for details.]
Schelling says the same thing: This is the emergence of the finite world of entities that are connected to each other in an infinite chain of predicates from an originary indifference which is unconditioned. This emergence is not a smooth transition but a qualitative leap, a diversion, a falling away (Abfall) from its originary ground. And this in fact comes from the preSocratics.  [I got that quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

And as for the Rambam himself: apparently there is a mystic element in the Rambam that goes along with the  Geonic school of thought of the Chovot Levavaot (Duties of the Heart) that seems to have begun with Saadia Geon.
There was traditionally a school of thought that thought there was a mystical element in the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides. The mystic Abraham Abulafia wrote a whole mystical commentary on that book and also said the secret of the redemption is contained in the first 40 chapters.

[Incidentally, you can get his works in Mea Shearim bookstores nowadays. It used to be the case that you had to learn him with microfilm in the basement of Hebrew University. But recently someone printed them in regular Hebrew. But I perhaps should mention that they are difficult to understand. Professor Moshe Idel at Hebrew U and made a career of studying and publishing about Avraham Abulafia.]



Fear of God

I would like to suggest that the basic path of fear of God of Torah is well explained in Gemara and Musar.

That is why I think education should be first:  the great books--Torah, Talmud,  Plato, Aristotle, the Ari. These are world books that extend infinitely beyond their time and space. Then there are lesser books which are also important which also extend beyond their time and space but not infinitely--i.e.  and Kant.

The problem though with Kabalah as some people have noticed that the Dark Side gets into the act.  Nowadays they are almost synonymous. And with chasidut a similar kind of problem exists--it is idolatry.

My suggestion for fear of God in a proper way is to "learn Torah." [That is the idea of Reb Shmuel Berenbaum, of the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY. His answer to most people when they came to him with some kind of problem was to learn Torah. This is in accord with the general idea that the Torah {the Oral and Written Law} contains all the answers to life's problems. I should mention that "learning Torah" in the Lithuanian yeshiva world is  considered a life goal in itself. The idea is that by learning Torah one brings good things into one's own life and into the world in general. This is a radical idea I know and hard to accept. But it is the major premise of all Litvak Yeshivas.


Worship as Will

Worship as Will
Of Man

 To him the soul was not the bottom of the ladder (the bottom of all creation) but contained all the good and evil worlds, and in it is room for much more.

But his idea of the "self" is different from that of Nietzsche [which was borrowed by Freud and modern psychology.] Nietzsche opened the door for the idea of false consciousness- which is so well used by the Left. If people don't want what the Socialist government tells them is for their good, it is because they don't really know what they want--false consciousness. the depths of the soul into subterranean hell and into the highest of heaven are vast--but one always retains free will and knows what he is choosing.

2) The faith is faith in God now— faith in God is trust in God right now. Not any theology . Just simple plain trust in God right now. Anything that detracts from that, like creating articles of faith outside of that simple principle is simply a trick of the sitra achra (Dark Side) to detract from faith.\

 Prayer is actual prayer--not Shemona Esra. ) [Rav Shick did try to tell people \the Torah itself is pantheism. However this goes against the understanding that the Rambam and Saadia Gaon and all the rishonim (first authorities) had of the Torah. Plus לבד  means "alone". For example I  can say," I went to the market alone without Joe." So when the Torah says אין עוד מלבדו. It means nothing exists alone without God. No one that ever knew Hebrew thought it means pantheism. It is well known that the world view of Torah is monotheism.]
It is common to find books that supposedly explain the Torah but in fact change its meaning. That is why it is important to stick with books from the Middle Ages which were written before the different falsifying movements began. However the Musar schools of Israel Salanter do attempt to understand teh Torah as it is without changing its message to fit their agenda.

Reason and Faith
3) The crisis of our age is that our first principles are contradictory and incoherent. Reason and Faith (as in belief in reason and belief in Torah) is an absolute contradiction in belief.
4)a strong connection between reason and faith,  but it can't be at the expense of nullifying the essence of either one.

5) Just like the human brain is structured like a computer with levels and sub-levels so all aspects of a human being are reflected in mathematics. But the connection is inverse. It is not parallel but anti parallel. For in the purest form of mathematics logic there is absolute necessity but zero content—the sentence of logic can stand for anything you like. A sentence “A” can stand for any proposition you like and formal logic just deals with sentence like A, B etc. Spirit it is just the opposite. God is perfectly free. He is not bound but the law of contradiction, but he is infinite in content. Similarly everything in Mathematics is located in soul in an inverse relation.

6) There is a third type of perception that is not based on sensory perception and not on reason. It is called faith. It is how God is sensed. The first thing is to have faith and then a type of perception comes in. This is how the writings of the Arizal work also—one believes and then perception comes in. The main thing about it is it perceives content while reason only perceives form or universals.

7)  The rejection of reason is the equivalent of the rejection of morality.-This does not happen at first but eventually rejecting reason means a persons loses his conscience-- because all moral values have their basis in reason. One could object that he believes in Torah and that is a higher morality than reason, but in fact even the mitzvot of the Torah are perceived through the sense of reason (beside the fact that the Rambam and the Gemara understood that all mitzvot are based on some reason and are not goals in themselves).

8) There are different types of perception. Sometimes there is a zadik had the spiritual type and therefore he is believable in that area but not in areas where that kind of perception is not relevant—like areas of music or reason or justice or morality.


9)  the underlying values in Torah.  speaking with God simply with no formulas, faith in God not in doctrines nor faith in books, the disagreement between tzadikim and also the disagreement between system of thought—all this to   is in the category of ontological ignorance. Not only that we don’t know and can't know but also that that lack of knowledge leads to great things e.g. the existence of the world itself depends on that lack of knowledge.

10) At first I thought there are paths of holiness. For a Jew only the Jewish path works. There are religions that are straightforward evil. But outside of them many religions have some very important elements of good and one born inside of that system should stay they and just ignore or get rid of the bad elements. But even a good path like Torah can become perverted. It can start out in the direction of God but right before it gets there it veers off to the side.
But now this seems to me now to be ridiculous—there are not several paths to holiness. There is only one—simple plain human decency and morality-pay your bills speak the truth, don't steal, honor your parents. i.e. The common sense morality of the Ten Commandments.)


13) That means I am essentially saying a very simple thing: that education should consist of learning the great Torah books that deal with the essential questions of life—the existence of God, the meaning of life, is there reward and punishment? What is good? What is justice? Therefore the books that I think people should learn are the Torah, the oral and written law.[i.e.Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, Tosepfta, Sifri, Sifra. [You don't need to do every Rashi if you understand the Gemara, but you do need to do every Tosphot and Maharsha] This should not be particularly hard of you learn fast--say the words and go on. saying the words brings the מקיפים (surrounding light) of what you are learning closer]. But this also means not reading books that destroy the mind and morals. It means being able to discern what are really great books and what are modern fads, and shiny new theories that will disappear in a short time because essential they are just second rate hacks offering up re-digested material they got from else where and are presenting it as if it is original thought. (World books—books that contain a picture of the whole world and there is at least a possibility that they are believable and know something about what they are talking about and have some essential insights about human beings and human problems. And possible solutions)

) Existence itself is a field. Abstract objects hit the field and then start existing. Like when an electron hits a magnetic field and starts reacting.

) The indication is that fields of existence or of justice or music or morality are fields. That is why music was specifically in the area and time that it was. It is why Kabalah was specifically in Tzfat in the specific time and place that it was .
Talmud Study

16) Rather that the Gemara is a path to the light for one who already has good character traits.
Misuse of the Talmud does not cancel use. One can learn from the Talmud great morality and decency. That is the proper use of the Talmud. But one can misuse it also.

17) The unreasonable ineffectiveness of Musar (Books about Ethics written during the Middle Ages) to make moral people is disturbing. This is what I always noticed about Musar. It was not very effective to change people’s character. The reason is that it is not believable that it has some deep insight in life or human beings or the universe in general.

18) Torah has holiness and brings one close to God—but only to the degree that it influences one not to lie, not steal, to honor his parents, pay his debts, work honestly for a living. I.e. the essence of Torah is this and everything else about Torah has value only to the degree it is connected and brings to this. And that there is only one path towards the infinite light of God and it is to never lie and never to allow a lie into ones soul. It is not by lots of prayer or learning Torah.

19)  The purpose of Creation is to know God. Torah is to know God. But to know that something exists is not the same as knowing what it is. “To know God” means content. And that can't be known by doctrines and dogma. That comes by a simple faith that is totally independent of any doctrine not opposed to anything and is totally self sufficient. And it effects an person’s entire personality and every waking thought.


A school that would take the Rambam would learn Mishne Torah, Aristotle's Metaphysics, and Physics

I suggest a school that would take the Rambam/Maimonides seriously. That would be Tenach [Old Testament] and the Mishna Torah of the Rambam himself (containing the entire oral law) plus Maase Merchava (Aristotle and Plato) and Maase Breshit (Math, Physics, chemistry, and Biology.)Talmud \The Rambam also held it is a small thing as compared to science and philosophy (as he understood science and philosophy which means Greek philosophy and natural science—not all the nonsense today which poses as science).

 To understand halacha, is impossible without the Rambam. (The Beit Yoseph wanted to decide like the Rambam. And he knew the Rambam and the Rif always poskin (decide) the same way except in one particular tractate (Ketubot) in which they always disagree. Saying to go by the majority of Rif, Rambam, and Rosh just means that he decided like the Rambam in 80% of cases. Still I admit to understand the Rambam on any particular case without the Gemara is also impossible.

I met one fellow who had a edition of the Mishne Torah with no commentary at all.
That seems to me to be  a great idea for a halacha session. But it does not take the place of learning Gemara.

To sum up: In the Mir Yeshiva in NY there was an official Halacah session from 9:15 AM until 10:00 AM. In practice this  was only from 9:30 until 10. At 10:00 you learned Talmud until 1:45 PM which is when the Musar session began. What I suggest for halacah is to do the Rambam with little or no commentary. In the afternoon learn the Metaphysics of Aristotle as the Rambam said and also Modern Physics. This would be the complete Rambam program in three easy steps.

(1) Rambam with the Gemara and Rav Shach's Avi Ezri, (2)The Metaphysics of Aristotle. (3) Physics. 



Is it not better to see the chazon ish as simply seeing the failure of musar to create moral people even to the degree of having a simple understanding of the difference between right and wrong and concluding that no one has so far not found a better solution that sitting and learning Gemara?I do agree that it might have been deeper also. Perhaps the Chazon Ish had discovered the vast underworlds inside the Self that he thought was better not to open up like some Pandora’s box. I see all the time all types of distorted warped sanctimonious personalities that come out of of the religious world.


The Ari over the Ramak

 Kabalah. There are serious problems involved in learning it. The Ari himself warns that one who is not properly prepared, Kabalah kills them--spiritually. [That statemnt is in Parshat Haazinu]. [And the Ari repeats this warning  a few places].  That means: they enter into the Intermediate Zone and think they have reached great spiritual heights, when really they have sunken deeply into a world illusion. And who am I to argue with Isaac Luria?
So learning Kabalah at all should be short and sweet.--if at all.
And if you do learn it at least make sure it is authentic.

Kabalah in the Ashkenazic world after 1700's  got thematic material from Shabati Tzvi. Plus most Ashkenazic interpretations of the Ari are all derived from Natan the false prophet of the Shatz.

So my recommendation when it comes to Kabbalah is to learn one or all three of these schools of thought: 1) Reshash (Shalom Sharabi) --in Jerusalem that would be the yeshiva, Shaar Hashamayim of Mordechai Sharabi. 2) Yaakov Abuchatzeira --in Israel that would be David Abuchatzeira in Nahariya. 3) Moshe Luzzatto.

You could do this on your own if you are not in Israel. The Kabbalah Center in Israel has a great edition of the Ari, with Shalom Sharabi's book in the back of the Eitz Chaim and the notes of the disciple of the Ashlag. And that is a very good place to start.
As for what people are looking for authentic kabbalists or mystics-- I think many descendants of Bava Sali [maybe all] have some degree of the Divine Spirit because of some kind of merit that he must have had.
In Netivot, I was very impressed with Shimon Buso, a grandson of Bava Sali from the side of his mother. If authentic mystics is what you are looking for, that is probably the first place I would start.--and his mother also -the daughter of Bava Sali Avigail Buso.

But outside of that Abuchatzeira  family, I would avoid mystics. Most are heavily into the Intermediate Zone, and drag their followers down into the bowels of hell with them. I see this all the time.


In the thought of Isaac Luria the way the world was created was this

 In the thought of Isaac Luria the way the world was created was this: (step 1) The light of God is everywhere and thus no place for creation. (step 2) He withdraws himself from a certain area to create an empty space ("the Chalal Hapanui"). (step 3) Then He sends down his light into that space; first as 10 circles [concentric spheres like an onion], and then in the form of a human being (Adam Kadmon), mentioned by Hegel.  (Step 4) Then the light comes down from Adam Kadmon to make the world of "Nekudim". (step 5) Shevirat Hakelim breaking of the vessels of Nekudim. (step 6) Bringing up the broken vessels and bringing down the light of the Divine name 45 to create the world of Emanation. (step 7) Ditto for the world of Creation, Formation and then the Physical Universe.


The Rambam posits a system of a priori values that the mitzvoth are to bring to.

Learning Rambam is not claiming he had absolute truth.
It is searching to truth and justice. The Rambam posits a system of a priori values that the mitzvas are to bring to. [The Sefer Hachinuch brings them on each commandment] Certainly you will admit that is already an improvement on judicial activism of Supreme Court judges that think that if they say something that makes it moral and obligatory for people to listen to them. 

But there are books on a secondary level that are needed to find the depth of the first level books--for instance Aristotle I think is necessary to understand Plato. Some later people are important to understand Kant.

So an author like Reb Chayim HaLevi is important to understand the depth of a first level person like Maimonides. For example most people open up a Rambam and don’t see any problem at all. (They never get past the superficial level.)


What happens when you read book is your stream of consciousness is focused into what the book is saying. And if it is bad it can affect you badly. And some of it might even seep into your sub level subconscious]

I think most problems in the  world comes from a blurring of the distinction between
 books and great  books.
I mean there are classical Jewish books that are not great. Even bad. [What happens when you read book is your stream of consciousness is focused into what the book is saying. And if it is bad it can affect you badly. And some of it might even seep into your sub level subconscious]

My orientation is as a Rationalist. But that does not cancel out the fact that I believe knowledge is available by non rational non perceptive means.
I have great respect for the Ari (Isaac Luria)and Rambam
The general rule of thumb I would like to suggest is that people learn the great books of Torah that are original, fresh, powerful, i.e. The Torah, Talmud (Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot).


The more spirit the less form

The more spirit the less form. Content increases as form lessens. In total form (logic) each sentence has no content (the sentences of logic are just A, B, C and you can fill them with anything) then science has more content but less formal logic behind it. Then morality and ethics has even more content (people and the meaning of life) the God is beyond logical form (even the impossible is possible) but total content.
So in this context I would say that Orthodox Judaism in as much as it stresses halacha loses spiritual content

Rational Approach to the Torah [Maimonides]

I wrote only a short note before about my personal experience. I wanted to leave my answer out of it. But I do have an answer. I believe that the Rambam's rational approach to Judaism holds the key. In the way of thinking of the Rambam's [Maimonides] Reason (i.e. Aristotle's Logic and Metaphysics) and Torah are one organic whole. I think where Judaism (Yidishkeit) went wrong was when this Rambam approach was rejected. (One example of the way of thought of the Rambam is the parable of the King in the Guide for the Perplexed.) In this parable there is a king with a country. People outside the country are barbarians. People in the country are goyim with civilization. People near the palace of the king are Talmudic scholars that know and keep the whole Torah. People in palace are natural scientists. People with the King (God) are the philosophers and prophets.
You can see this approach also in Saadia Geon and the Chovot Levavot [a medieval book on ethics, Duties of the Heart].
This rational approach to Torah was wide spread during the Middle Ages. I think after the time of the Rambam,Yidishkeit deteriorated into fanaticism.
The "Middle Ages" were the age of reason. You almost can never punch a hole in an argument of a medieval philosopher whether Anselm or Maimonides or Aquinas. The characteristic of the great Mediaeval thinkers was that every counter argument against them can usually shows the shallow thinking of the one trying to find the hole. Later thinkers never approach that degree of rigorous thought--ever-- even Kant. 
 The greatness of the Renaissance was in art and in the beginning of empirical thought-not reason


a priori values

A priori values. Freedom and Reason. Sometimes there comes a person into the world whose purpose is to reveal some a priori value.
Or President Kennedy bringing the idea of jogging into national consciousness.
The Rambam also discovered the value of the fusion of Torah with reason.
But with every value that is revealed there is a false value which surrounds it. And there are "chevra mans" that pretend to be supporting the true value but enforce the false value.
(Just like the idea of freedom got perverted in America to mean the welfare state--the right not be to be insulted the right to feel good etc.)
the truth be told we need a process by which good values can be separated from bad values.
to reveal the combination of all good values can't happen until one discovers the process by which bad values can be sifted out.
I believe that there is a minimum requirement for a moral value system--that it should be logically deducible from it that murder rape and torture of 10 million people is wrong. Obviously Orthodox Judaism can't fulfill that requirement since it is a mitzvah to do so. Neither does Islam fulfill that requirement. But if you would take the Talmud along with Maimonides who says that the mitzvoth have a priori rational basis under them that determines how the halacha is applied then torah and Talmud could be part of a moral system. But only in connection with this idea of Maimonides. with him the torah is as vicious and evil as Islam