confidence in Torah

Reb Nachman's critique of Torah teachers may seem to some people as not a good thing, but to me  it reinforced my confidence in Torah.
If there had never been any awareness of this problem, I think that would have been strange to me. How can people that are externally keeping Torah (and even teaching it) be wicked?

The fact that Reb Nachman pointed this out gave me renewed confidence in Torah,-- because I could separate what the Torah actually teaches from the Torah of the Dark Side that the religious world teaches.  


supposed teachers of Torah.

Most of what passes today as authentic Torah are  tricks of the Sitra Achra [The Shadow Realm]
The trouble is the religious world is just too full of cults and cult leaders.

In this, the Na Nach people definitely are on the right track-- in terms of suspecting automatically anyone that claims to teach Torah. They might go a little overboard, but this approach tends to protect them from the agents of the Dark Side.

[I have mentioned before that because of this problem, the best thing is to get your own Vilna Shas and  the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach and to learn Torah at home.]

[In this the Na Nach people are going with statements of Reb Nachman who warned against false teachers. The idea of being aware of this problem still is ignored however.]
What Reb Nachman says about most supposed teachers of Torah is highly shocking. That is until you have experienced it yourself and then you see the point. It took me some real horrific experiences until I saw the truth of Reb Nachman's words. And that brings me to the question "How to tell the difference ?" As a rule if you go with the Gra you are safe. What he excluded ought to be rigorously excluded. [This however does not exclude Reb Nachman in spite of what most people think. But it does mean to take the signature of the Gra on the letter of excommunication seriously.]

[The trouble is however in the entire religious world. Even what you would think are straight Litvak yeshivas often have this problem.]

[I would not make such a big deal out of this if not for the damage that false teachers of Torah cause in the lives of all who are misled by them. ]

Moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray to be put on the right path. At least one day in the year that is Rosh Hashanah.

Prayer I think is sometimes effective. But I think it has to go along with general life style. That is ones's actions and words and thoughts  should also be prayer. Prayer by itself does not work if it is unrelated to one's actions.
There were times that in my own life I think prayer was effective.
I broke my leg fending off vicious dogs. And I had prayed before that for help from God. For the month in was in the hospital I was wondering what good was my prayer? Then the last day there it occurred to me that this  business with my leg got me out of  a much  worse situation than I had been in ever before. But I could not escape until the event of the broken leg.

This maybe is not very much of an inspiring lesson but it does help me get to my point. That Rosh Hashanah is about teshuva repentance. But  since moral obligations are obscure what I think is a good idea is to spend time praying to merit to repent. My logic is that at least a few times in my life when I prayed or something, the prayers seemed to get answered.
I was in Safed in Israel and I remember one time my wife was asking me about parnasa [money]. I told her I would go out and pray about it. So I went out [not by kivrei tzadikim but rather in the forest] and for one hour I prayed only about parnasa--nothing else. After that in fact there was a kind of help n that direction.

There were other times when things were more desperate. There was a time I was in the shiloach [underground steam] in Jerusalem which is at the bottom of  along flight of stairs. The Arabs on the top of the stair case were throwing large stones down the stair case in order to kill me  so I prayed then a short prayer. "God, if they succeed, my children will never know who I was.  I have no army and no weapons. But I have You." And then I started walking up the stairs. The shower of rocks stopped. When I reached the top the Arabs were there and one called out to the others "Here he is," and they started throwing rocks again. They were in point blank range. But not one rock hit me. As I was walking away, I saw a stream of rocks flowing by my head, but not one hit me.

So I definitely feel prayer is sometimes effective; but in some way that is not clear. It is not just a matter of how hard one prays or sincere one is.

What I am trying to get at is that moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray to be put on the right path. At least one day in the year that is Rosh Hashanah.

It is not that the laws of Torah are ambiguous, but rather their application in everyday life. Another problem is people that make money supposedly teaching Torah are liars.That makes it difficult to know what the Torah really says. [So to have a decent idea of what Torah says you have two choices, (1) either find a straight normal Lithuanian yeshiva like Ponovitch or the Ivy League NY Litvak Yeshivas.   Or (2) learn Talmud and Musar and the Avi Ezri at home. I should mention that even though I have no first hand knowledge, but Mizrachi or Bnei Akiva kinds of Yeshivas also seem pretty good to me. I do not know ll the names they go by. One name I have heard is דתי לאומ (religious Zionist) and these places seem very good to me. They seem to have "balance."
The basic premise of the great Litvak yeshivas is that virtue can be learned and taught. And they seem to come to that goal to a large degree. But the kind of approach I think that brings to virtue is to learn Musar, Physics, and survival skills.


The highest light was contained in מאמר הסתום the hidden statement of Creation.

It makes sense before Rosh Hashanah to mention a few words about Reb Nachman. Reb Nachman hints in a few places to the hidden Torah that is contained in the work of Creation. If you put together the scattered places where he deals with this, you get this picture:
The highest light was contained in מאמר הסתום "the hidden statement of Creation." That remained hidden in דרך ארץ [the way of the Earth, or  hidden in the Earth] until it was revealed by the ten plaques and became revealed in the Ten Commandments.
 Reb Nachman was NOT disagreeing with the Rambam that the fulfillment of the major commandments of Torah to love and fear God come from learning Physics and Metaphysics. Just he had to hide this because of the Enlightenment which had pitted itself against  Faith.
 [You can see Reb Nachman hinting these ideas in lots of places -too many for me to remember off hand. E.g. where he says sometimes people have fallen so low that if you would tell them straight Torah they would either no accept it or become worse. So you have to hide it in שיחת חולין --שיחת תלמידי חכמים צריכה עיון simple conversation. I am also thinking of here he says to hold on to words of truth and where truth is  a light that can take a person out of all is troubles.

[It is a  mystic idea which is based on the Ari.]

Note (1) The Hidden Statement. Genesis has nine places where it says "God said". The Mishna says, "With ten statements God created the world." So where is the tenth statement? The Tikunai HaZohar says that is the מאמר הסתום the hidden statement of the first verse.

The Rambam emphasizes Physics and Metaphysics in both the Mishne Torah and the Guide. But the way he does this sounds like he is talking about coming to high spiritual levels [Love and Fear of God].
But what I think is he means this as a general program of leaning.

I could defend this idea from the Rambam's texts. But what would like to is to suggest that the Rambam means this in more of an essential way that applies to everyone in order to come to objective morality.
It is already obvious that religious fanaticism does not lead anyone to righteousness.  But my reasoning is that Love and Fear of God are the essential ground of Torah. Without them, the mitzvot are not real.
Now in terms of first learning the Oral Law, the Mishna itself is in fact the actual Oral Law and does not take a long time to get through and its simple explanation is not hard. Plenty of people go through the Mishna each month. And that is the basic requirement of the Rambam for  doing Physics and Metaphysics.

[The Mishna is the basic book of R Yehuda HaNasi that contains the entire Oral Law]

Asking religious leaders for personal advice is a guarantee for disaster.

Pericles warned the Athenians not try to try to expand their empire while fighting the war with Sparta. It seems, in fact, that he was right. They were trying to expand into Syracuse and all Sicily and that seems to have been the cause of their defeat.

It is hard to know when one is making a mistake.

People like me are prone to error. Often even people with an extra measure of intelligence seem to make serious errors in judgment. The Athenians themselves were aware of this, and felt that the best safeguard against mistakes in human affairs is discussion. But that did not seem to help in that case.

What I feel has helped me to a great degree has been discussion with family. People that you can depend on to have your best interests at heart. Discussion with friends that have supported you in times of crisis also counts.

I did this myself in times of stress. In Jerusalem, when I was going through a confusing period, I asked a group of my closest friends--(people that had previously stuck with  me in times of crisis) -to gather together on every Wednesday night to discuss my problems and possible solutions.

After that when I was in NY and also going through a confusing period, I called my brothers often and discussed with them their opinions about my situation, and also I asked what they remembered from the basic approach of my parents--[which I had forgotten a lot of.]

This all was a new approach for me. Before that, I had thought the right thing to do in times of crisis was to ask religious leaders. At some point, I realized asking religious leaders is a guarantee for disaster.

[I might mention that to me this is already contained in the Torah itself in the command of "Honor your father and mother." As pointed out in books of Medieval Ethics (Musar) this means to obey your parents. This is also mention in the חידושי הגרנ''ט Reb Naphtali Troup, one of the great sages of Lithuania at the time of Reb Chaim Soloveitchik.
[I might mention that Moshe Israel noted a lot of times when family members are not good sources of friendship. He saw this in the USA and right here where I am now in the Ukraine right in my hospital room this came to my attention. One fellow I saw had no money for medicine and I helped him out a little and his wife told me after that how in their family right the last week there was some problem with inheritance. So I have to qualify my remarks about family as being  prima facie. That is the way things are until proven otherwise.

In any case the main lesson to learn here is wherever you go for advice, never ever ever go to a religious leader.


Music for the Glory of God

There are also social memes that get into people's heads

Toxo-plasmosis is the parasite that gets into the mouse that makes it think the cat is attractive. [And thus the mouse gets eaten and the parasite gets into the cat's stomach which is where it wanted to go.] Sapolsky asks: "Who knows what else is out there [like that]?" That is who knows what other kinds of parasites are there causing us to think things that are not true?

These get in by hanging out with the wrong type of people.

There are also social memes [[units of social information]] that get into people's head without being necessarily from biological origin.

[To find the right group to hang out with is often a hard project.  I should add that part of my own interest in the violin was certainly the Music aspect of it, but there also I felt a kind of אור מקיף "surrounding light" ] on professional violinists. Also I want to add that that the Mir yeshiva in NY besides being great in terms of learning also had the type of crowd that I felt was good to hang out with.] But the main thing is to avoid the cults. That is to identify and to gain the common sense you need to be able to identify bad groups and to avoid them. And if possible to help influence laws that will make them illegal, so they should not be able to entice and hurt others.

Though I am not saying this very well my basic point is that a people like myself need to download good social memes [units of social information] into our minds. That is by learning Musar. And Musar is especially important because it is mainly the work of Rishonim. [The Middle Ages]. The Rishonim were especially careful in understanding the Torah.  


U-12 D Major [Sorry if there are mistakes. This is not edited]
Socrates asked "What is virtue?", and could not find anyone that could answer the question.[Meno]

Even with Musar/Medieval Books of Ethics the question still seems hard to answer.
Besides this he  asked, "Can virtue be taught?"If so then why it is that the children of virtuous people are sometimes not virtuous? If by nature, then it does seem to be from free will.
The books of Musar do  a great job in explaining the basic ethics of the Torah but leave open the basic questions of how to identify virtue and to get it after one recognizes it.  Learning Musar would seem to help at least in terms of recognizing virtue. 

Learning Torah is needed

I could vaguely see this, but someone coming into the city (of the former USSR) where I am right now pin pointed the problem: "Punk-keit". That is in this city there is a kind of idealization of the punk. The young criminal thug. This must account for the fact that the Russians always seem to look down on this area and think of it as second rate.

This reminds me that when a person has a "yetzer hara" (an evil inclination), he does not think of that thing that he desires as being wrong. In this city, theft is certainly not considered a bad thing. I think it shows how much learning Torah is needed for people to get an idea of the difference between right and wrong. In particular Musar (Mediaeval Ethics) is necessary because it deals with the areas of Torah that are most needed. One place you can see this is in the Reshash {Rav Shalom Sharabi} where he brings this idea that the actual soul is one's character traits, while Torah and mitzvot are the clothing and food of the soul.

That is to say: if one lacks good character, he does not even have a holy soul. Then all the Torah and mitzvot do nothing. This is a reason most Jews in Europe were aware that the most essential lesson of Torah is "to be a mench" (decent human being .)


There is such a thing as a unity between physicality and spirituality. Not just a connection but a  kind of ground of being in which they are one and identical. That was the kind of thing I saw and felt between my parents and also it existed between me and my wife. That is not the same thing as two different things being connected but a place in which they are one and the same. [ Like the aspect of wave or particle of an electron before you measure it. ] This is also similar to the way Hegel is looking for a ground of unity between Notion and Being.

When I faced very difficult times

When I faced very difficult times I made up my mind to tell the truth at all cost plus to say the 13 principles of faith of the Rambam every morning right when I woke up. The last thing I gave up on  after a while, but recently I have started to do it again.. I do have feeling that these two things have helped. That is: telling the truth I feel has created a kind of force field around me. It does not make me impervious to harm, but I do think it has helped.

[I might have chosen not to speak lashon hara /gossip and also to learn Torah,  but at the time these were the things that made the most sense to me.]

Bava Sali had guarding his eyes as a prime principle, and I was aware of this at the time, but again I needed to find some principle  I could hold onto that I thought would help. I was not looking for just any random religious principle, but rather something I thought if I would hold fast onto it, could help me through my troubles. The most promising things in that direction were these two ideas of faith and truth.

[Today I would add learning Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot and the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach, and Musar [Mediaeval Ethics] but then I was looking for something more basic.]

So now that I feel I am also in a difficult period, my thoughts are still to look for the set of basic principles to hold onto that should work. The main ones still I think should the truth telling at all cost. I was trying to work on trust in God without effort but now I feel I overdid that. I might have stayed in a bad situation thinking that if God wanted me to leave He would make it happen. That I think now was a mistake in judgment.  But the things that are still clear I think to continue to hold onto. That is to be careful about lashon hara [not to slander or say anything bad about anyone unless under extreme necessity.] To try to spend as much time as possible learning the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach, the Vilna Shas, and Physics.

What I hope is that if I can hold onto these important things, maybe I will awaken to further things I need to do.

[You might note that I have not included metaphysics as  a prime obligation for myself.  ]

"What is the good life?"

The most important question one can ask is, "What is the good life?" A life of self indulgence and worldly power or a life of Divine service? To me it seems not everyone has the opportunity to ask this question but I felt in high school that this was the most important question facing me

The answer to this question for me was to go to two authentic Lithuanian kinds of yeshiva in NY. That is: my answer was to devote my life to learning and keeping Torah.
Later, I discovered that there are many people that in external appearance do exactly this, but in fact are not living the good life, but rather lives of self indulgence and lust for worldly power. So the answer to this question is more subtle than I had thought at the time. Especially when I got a chance to see the religious world in its totality, it became clear to me that none of them are living the good life -none are wise or compassionate or brave or have any kind of valor. Religious fanaticism  does not equal the good life. In fact, just the opposite.

The truth is I had a good view of the good life when I was living with my parents. Philip and Leila Rosenblum (Rosten). More or less that means a life of being "a mensch" that is to act "right" in every situation.

[The Litvak (Lithuanian) kinds of yeshivas to me seem to approach this ideal closely. That is at least they seem to see this idea of balance as a goal. They learn and keep Torah and serve in the IDF and also work and tend to not use Torah as  a means to make money. To me it seems they are on the right path as closely as possible though individual people there still have free will.]



I am not at all skeptical about Prophecy. Not at all. This is based largely on Kant who divides reality into two realms, (1) the dinge an sich (things in themselves), things not as they are perceived but as they are) and (2) phenomenal reality. But I also believe like Hegel that there is a ground of unity between these two realms. [That is also hinted to in Maimonides in the Guide Volume 2 ch 19.] Where you see this in Hegel  in a few places but I think the clearest statement in that way is in his treatment of Kant in his lectures.

Where you see this ground of unity between these two realms in the Rambam is this statement: "If the matter of the spheres is one and the same, in virtue of what thing has any sphere been so particularized as to receive a nature other than the nature of any other sphere? . . . There must of necessity be something that particularizes."

[Volume II is where the Rambam defends Creation Ex Nihilo/ Something from Nothing at great length and it is very worthwhile to make a thorough study of those chapters.]

I believe that chapter in the Guide has confused commentators for a long time because of lack of knowledge of Hegel. This means they were not aware of what the Rambam was getting at. ]

That Yemenite fellow that translated the Guide from the original wrote great comments and he was aware of the Rambam's usage of concepts from Aristotle. But that particular chapter II:19 I think has confused people because the Rambam is certainly thinking beyond Aristotle.

[Besides that the Guide is hard because it is hard to translate into understandable form. It needs someone like Reb Chaim Soloveitchik to begin the work of getting it to be understandable. This is the same as the Mishne Torah.]  The way to do this is to see not just the background of the Rambam [from where he comes] in Neo Platonic thought but also to have some idea of where he is trying to go.  I see in fact the Guide of the Rambam as being a very essential part of Torah. Without it, people get lost.

In case it is not clear what I am saying: with Kant you  need a ground of validity for knowledge, both a priori and also a posteriori. With Hegel there is a ground of unity between them. But further there is a ground of unity between existing things and knowledge. So what I am saying is that I think the Rambam already hinted to this idea from Hegel.
 [Reb Nachman was very unhappy with the Guide of the Rambam and with all due respect to Reb Nachman, I feel he can not override the Rambam. And to me it seems rather silly to imagine he can cancel something the Rambam obviously thought long and hard about. I have great faith in Reb Nachman's ideas and visions, but not when he disagrees with the Rambam.]

Two critiques on the religious world: worship of  people they consider supermen, and magic. Mitzvot  are thought of and treated as ways to manipulate the fates and nature. They are thought of as ways to harness spiritual forces.  This is characteristic of pagan religions but not of Torah. Worship of human beings in the view of the Torah is a monstrosity. Yet this is so pervasive in the religious world that there is no where to go to avoid it.

In Torah, mitzvot have no automatic powers. They do not coerce reality. Nor does the Torah celebrate events in the lives of tzadikim [sadikim].
In Torah, the work of God is not God himself. Creation is Ex Nihilo, not from Himself. Nor do people become G-d, (Heaven forbid)!

What small gods the religious world has! Are the gods of the religious world able to create a butterfly? What sad and useless gods they have. What a small cosmos they occupy. Is there really nothing above these pitiful beings that the religious world worships?

The fact that the Torah is straight Monotheism and Creation Ex Nihilo I have been aware of for a long time and it surprises me that almost  no one in the religious world is aware of these two basic simple facts. But to become aware of these facts took me  along time. Even though it Straight Monotheism and Creation Ex Nihilo was clear to me before I went to yeshiva, but the problem is the sitra achra [the dark side] is attracted to holiness and thus tries to weasel itself into authentic Litvak Yeshivas. It is almost as if the religious world spends extra time and effort on rituals in order to disguise what they are doing.

Another small problem is when they need your money they are your best friends. When they see you have no money (and/or no rich parents), things change dramatically.


People in kollel claim to be astronauts

One problem with the claim that people in kollel are astronauts is that that is irrelevant to the importance of learning Torah.  The basic idea of learning Torah is for everyone equally. There is no more of  a mitzvah for a smart person to learn than for a dumb person. The claim seems to be geared towards creating a kind of elite class of superior beings whom others are in this world only to serve.
[I am not making it up that kollel-leit claim this. These are the actual words they use to justify using Torah to make money and to exclude others from their elite class.]

The other problem is that it does not seem accurate.
 Astronauts  have to go through engineering and math courses and rigorous physical training in order to become pilots in the first place. To be in a kollel, one has simply to be born into the right circles, and know the right people, and have the right friends. It has nothing to do with knowing how to learn Torah.

["Kollel" is where people get paid to sit and learn Torah all day.]
However the question does arise about learning Torah as opposed to worldly pursuits.
The fact that there are unscrupulous people in kollels should not deter one from looking at the basic question of: "What is the good life?" A life of worldly pursuits or a life of learning Torah?

[I have to add that based on the Rambam, Physics and Metaphysics are in the category of the Oral Law as the Rambam says in Mishne Torah and in the Guide. The idea would be along the lines of the Hidden Torah that is contained in the work of Creation as Reb Nachman mentions. But there is more to it than that. The Rambam is for some reason not expanding on this theme much. [In the Guide he brings the idea that there must be something that particularizes universals into the spheres. That is to prove Creation Ex Nihilo Something from Nothing. That is he is saying there is a unity between the Divine Mind and Being, (between universals and particulars.)
[The Rambam here is hinting to a connection between matter and form]

The question is really not related to people in kollel or people that work at all. The question is for people that want to choose a proper path in life.  Is it better to choose a life of learning in kollel or a life of work? Which is more nobler? Which is more worthy? Which brings one to the ultimate goal of of attachment with God?

So I am not thinking about one particular kollel or the other but the more basic question of proper direction in life.
I was in the Kollel at the Mir Yeshiva in NY. I believe that if I had stayed there things would have been a lot better for me and my family.  That was a unique kind of place. Other yeshivas and kollels seemed to me to be disaster zones.
Thus the only conclusion I can come to is that learning Torah is important and if you are doing it in a good place then --by all means- continue. But if not, then  just do your learning on your own.


Trust of the Dark Side?

What is בטחון של הסיטרא אחרא? Trust of the Dark Side? [Something mentioned by Reb Nachman, but not in any other books of Musar]. Is this a case when one imagines to himself that he is trusting in God, but in fact trusting in some organization  [I.e. the system by which he gets the shiduch and kollel check each month].

Because of the possibility of self delusion, I think it is possible that a person might thinking that he is trusting in God, but in fact trusting in "the system."

[That is at least how  some people talk. They say since they are super smart astronauts and the super holy, they deserve to be supported by the community. Trust in God seems to have nothing to do with almost any kollels I have ever seen or heard of. ]

[Too bad Reb Nachman did not go into more detail about what he meant by that tantalizing phrase.]

[There also seems to be a implicit claim of many yeshivas that they posses the knowledge and skill to make people wise and good. This type of claim I think deserves skepticism. The claims o the religious remind me of the opponents of Socrates who  also claimed  to be able to teach wisdom and virtue but in fact were buffoons.

One problem with the claim that people in kollel are astronauts is that that is irrelevant to the importance of learning Torah. The basic idea of learning Torah is for everyone equally. The is no more of  a mitzvah for a smart person to learn than for a dumb person. The claim seems to be geared towards creating a kind of elite class of superior beings whom others are in this world only to serve. The other problem is that it does not seem accurate.
 Astronauts after have to go through engineering and math courses in order to become pilots in the first place. To be in a kollel one has simply to be born into the right circles an know the right people an have the right friends. It has nothing to do with knowing how to learn Torah


Generational mistrust.

Generational mistrust. When youth no longer trust their elders. Someone came to my hospital room yesterday and played the violin. We all clapped when he was done. One fellow {Roman--or Roma for short} commented that no matter what he did, his own father always criticized him. He was never good enough.
I would not have thought anything of this if not for the fact that I noticed that Socrates dealt with the same problem [in Euthydemus]. Two adults that had come to Athens claimed to be able to teach to youth how to become wise and good. Their methods were more effective in created deep mistrust of adults in youth.
And I have seen myself a great deal of what causes the generation gap. Lying to youth  and using them for one's own purposes.

Outside of this I wanted to mention what I think is the best approach. That is, to support what ever is good and to criticize whatever is bad.

[To know oneself what is good and bad is by learning Musar. Learning Musar does not actually make one good, but it does reveal objective morality.]

I think society's disparagement of parents causes some percentage of the problem--but not all. A lot depends on the behavior of the parents


Reason and Faith and outside books. ספרים חיצוניים

Outside books. ספרים חיצוניים The  approach of the Rif and Rosh is these are books that explain the Torah in ways not based on the way the Chazal [the sages] explain the Torah. I wrote about this in short in my little book on Shas.
The issue comes up in Sanhedrin: These are the people that have no portion in the next world...R. Akiva added those who read "outside books."

The trouble that I see is that most books in the religious world explain the Torah not based on דרשות חז''ל the way the sages understood it.
But I have avoided this subject for the very fact that it to me is ambiguous. I have no idea how far to take this. In any case, I am allergic to all books in the religious world. But those are easy. The Gra already made this clear by his signature on the letter of excommunication. But how far to go with this?

After you get to yeshiva a lot of these books are considered OK. No one ever takes the Gra seriously expect the Silverman Yeshivas.

What I think the Chazal [Sages] were referring to were the books of the schools of Alexandria. You can see that basic approach in the books of Philo and you can also see what the Chazal thought was wrong.
It is not the synthesis of Torah with Plato but the way Philo was going about it.
The Rambam and Saadia Gaon had no problem making a synthesis between Reason and Faith based on Aristotle and the neo-Platonic School.

[The fact that Gedolai Litva did learn the books of Reb Nachman is not relevant to this since he was never in the category of the excommunication in the first place. ]


Devakut [attachment with God]

You can not make a scientific study of devakut [attachment with God]. But you can examine it.
The first time I was aware of this fact was when a friend in Safed offered to me  a shiduch and I mentioned to her my experience in Safed of devukut. She mentioned that she had seen a study on this subject. [It probably was in Germany where she had been before that.]

I myself was not aware of this, and my education in high school never got up to Kant, and in yeshiva I had been discouraged from learning Kant. But if I had been aware of Kant, I might very well have been aware right at the beginning of how to deal with this subject. [Reason can not penetrate into the realm of the Ding An Sich--the thing in itself. ]

Later I had a chance to read a lot about Eastern cults which also gave me a certain perspective.
[I might mention there were people there that  had powerful connection with the Dark Side which gave them awesome powers. The failing of the religious is that they think they are immune from this kind of thing because of their exactitude in rituals. From what I have seen the more exacting in rituals they are the more they get caught in this--because of the very fact that they think they are immune.]
An even when the religious are not in religious delusions at least they have the cult of personality--worship of deluded leaders. The best approach to avoid these problems in my opinion is to learn Torah in a Lithuanian type of yeshiva where both phenomena are discouraged (both religious delusions and the cult of personality).

I might as well mention right up front my basic conclusions. [To expand on this I would recommend doing the same readings that I did.]

(1) Devakut is desirable, and in fact one of the 613 mitzvot. [It is mentioned I think twice in Deuteronomy.] One place to see this also is in the Musar book by Isaac Blazer [a prime disiple of Reb Israel Salanter] who brings down the idea from a commentary on the first four chapters of the Rambam.

(2) It is far too easy to imagine one has devakut with God when in fact it is devekut of the Sitra Achra [the Dark Side]. I have seen this all the time. There is just too much religious delusion out there, but that does not mean that authentic devekut is impossible. [Reb Nachman actually mentions on a related note the idea of trust of the Sitra Achra that people mistake for real trust in God.]

(3) I believe the path to real devekut is through Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot--even though this learning does not always bring abut this result.

These are my simple conclusions without expanding on it. But at least I ought to mention that I consider it is one of my primary sins that I rejected devekut after about 7 years in Safed. I do not expect to make up for that mistake, but I do hope to bring about awareness of this important subject.

I am not saying that Litvak yeshivas are wrong for discouraging this. From what I have seen interest in spiritual enlightenment never leads to real enlightenment but delusions that just are well hidden until eventually they are revealed. I have never seen an exception to this.  My own attachment with God never came because I was trying to get it. It was a total surprise. I only mean to bring out the fact that if one that has it, he  ought to appreciate it.

[Further reading: I found Aurobindo and his treatment of the Intermediate Zone very insightful:
"For this intermediate zone is a region of half-truths - and that by itself would not matter, for there is no complete truth below the supermind; but the half-truth here is often so partial or else ambiguous in its application that it leaves a wide field for confusion, delusion and error.  The sadhak thinks that he is no longer in the old small consciousness at all, because he feels in contact with something larger or more powerful, and yet the old consciousness is still there, not really abolished. He feels the control or influence of some Power, Being or Force greater than himself, aspires to be its instrument and thinks he has got rid of ego; but this delusion of egolessness often covers an exaggerated ego. Ideas seize upon him and drive his mind which are only partially true and by over-confident misapplication are turned into falsehoods; this vitiates the movements of the consciousness and opens the door to delusion. Suggestions are made, sometimes of a romantic character, which flatter the importance of the sadhak or are agreeable to his wishes and he accepts them without examination or discriminating control. Even what is true, is so exalted or extended beyond its true pitch and limit and measure that it becomes the parent of error. This is a zone which many sadhaks have to cross, in which many wander for a long time and out of which a great many never emerge."
 He is referring to people that supposed themselves perfect gurus but I can think of others to whom this characterization would apply.

Litvak yeshiva

When I was in Shar Yashuv [Rav Freifeld's yeshiva in Far Rockaway] and in the Mir in Brooklyn I did not want to hear about secular learning. This was in spite of the fact that Rav Freifeld told to me to take classes in Brooklyn College.
This was as you can see not a matter of my belief system, but rather I felt I had found something amazing, awesome, powerful and full of holiness in the Litvak {Lithuanian} Yeshiva.

I had already had a full stomach of secular learning for the past 12 years from kindergarten until 12th grade.
But this was more of a matter of finding a kind of synthesis between learning Torah and keeping Torah. These two things were tightly bonded in the Litvak Yeshiva environment.

[I have not been recently a strong advocate of the Litvak yeshiva in recent years because of later experiences as I have hinted to a few times. But I have not gone into these later experiences for a few reasons. The main thing is: "Abuse does not cancel use." The fact that people can misuse an institution does not invalidate its proper use.]

This applies to institutions as much as anything else. Maybe even more.

Nowadays the religious world is against the secular learning not from any kind of involvement in Torah. The religious world sadlly gives a great living example of everything wrong with religious fanaticism. The religious world has external rituals but not the essence. [But they do have the "cult of personality" which  is not really any different than any other groups that do the same.]

[I should mention that after the few years at the Mir I did not do much learning Torah. So to me it is clear that without those few concentrated years of learning Torah I would not have gotten very far.

The fact is the Enlightenment was an attack on religious values. But was motivated by much of the kind of behavior I have seen in the religious world. So what I try to do is to keep a sense of balance.

[This aspect of balance in keeping Torah I saw in my parents, and in Musar. But Musar is generally misinterpreted to mean religious fanaticism. But then I also saw it in the Guide for the Perplexed of the Rambam and that book is harder for people to willfully misinterpret.

Reb Freifeld I should mention stressed lots of review. To a large degree I have to agree with this.It i just hard to find the right balance. Recently in learning gemara and Rav Shach I have found review to be the only way to make progress. And now I am seeing this in Physics also.

I have to mention that Rav Freifeld held so strongly about review that even for beginners like myself he was very firm about it. Ten times review for anything you learned. That was his "thing."

I should mention that in spite of all I have written, one must keep in mind to have loyalty to Torah, --not towards any yeshiva. If a yeshiva helps provide an environment where you can learn, then by all means support it. But if it is just a private country club [as so many are] for some supposedly elite group, then do not go near it.

[I did not ignore Rav Freifeld. It as rare to get to ten times review but I tried. And recently I would take one basic page of Gemara or chapter of Rav Shach and just read it through every day --which is not exactly what Rav Freifeld was saying to do but I have found this to be workable. [My learning partner David Bronson was extremely stubborn to stay on every word in Tosphot until we would get it-as you can see from my notes I wrote on the subjects in Bava Metzia we learned together.


Music for the glory of God

רמב''ם הלכות גניבה א' הלכה י''ד The רשב''ם holds in פרק השואל the גנב can pay back שווה כסף not just money, but rather anything that is worth money.

The proof of רב שך that the רמב''ם hold by the רשב''םis hard to understand.
His main point is the fact that the owner of the object can ask for the pieces back.
The point is that if the רמב''ם would be holding like רש''י and the רא''ש that the גנב must pay back unbroken vessels or money, then paying back the broken pieces does not fit with that. But the way I see it neither does it fit with the רשב''ם. If he can pay back any שווה כסף anything that is worth money, אhen what gives the owner the right to ask for those piece specifically?

That is one way or the other we need to find some reason the owner can ask for the pieces back. But what ever that reason is, it can not have anything to do with the argument between the Rashbam and Rashi and the Rosh.

רמב''ם הלכות גניבה פרק א' הלכה י''ד. הרשב''ם מחזיק בפרק השואל  שהגנב יכול להחזיר שווה כסף ולא רק כלים שלמים אלא כל דבר שהוא שווה כסף. ההוכחה של רב שך כי הרמב''ם מחזיק עם הרשב''ם קשה להבין. הנקודה העיקרית שלו היא העובדה כי הבעלים של האובייקט יכולים לבקש בחזרה את שברים. הנקודה היא שאם רמב''ם היה מחזיק כמו רש''י והרא''ש כי הגנב חייב להחזיר כלים שלמים או כסף, אז לשלם בחזרה את השברים לא מסתדר עם זה. אבל כמו שאני רואה את זה, זה אינו מתאים עם הרשב''ם. אם הוא יכול להחזיר כל דבר שווה כסף , מה שנותן לבעלים זכות לבקש את השברים דווקא.  דרך אחת או אחרת אנחנו צריכים למצוא סיבה שהבעלים יכולים לבקש בחזרה את החלקים. אבל מה שתהיה הסיבה, לא יכולה להיות עמה שום קשר עם הטיעון בין רשב"ם רש"י והרא"ש.

The State of Israel and the statement of Shmuel in the Talmud: The Law of the State is the law.

The law is quite simple is understand.  It is that men have  common goals which are the objects of their rational will, that the state is a contrivance that they have worked out to help them realize that end, and that its authority over them rests on its being necessary for that end.  If it is politically obligatory at times to obey a law that one regards as bad, that is because the state could not be run at all if the citizens could pick and choose which laws they would obey. Ultimately, therefore, political obligation, even that of obeying a morally bad law, is a moral obligation; and when, as occasionally happens, it becomes a duty to disobey, the ground is still the same.  I believe that this simple doctrine is what the Gemara and all the rishonim [medieval authorities] are saying. [Credit goes to Reb Moshe Feinstein and Reb Aaron Kotler who both pointed out the connection between the State of Israel the statement of  Shmuel in the Talmud.]

The religious world assumes if they were in charge then everything would be peachy. This is not true. I have never seen any situation in which religious people got involved in that they did not make it a thousand times worse. Whatever Torah they think they are keeping it is certainly not the Torah from the realm of Holiness.

Does it follow that since the state is a necessary means to our major ends, we should in all circumstances obey it, that we never have the right to rebel?  Not at all.  Our view would not only justify disobedience in some cases; it would require it.  If the state is regarded, not as sacrosanct or an end in itself, but as an instrument to certain great ends, then when it becomes so corrupt as to cut us off from those ends rather than further them, when it serves its purpose so badly that it is better to risk chaos for the sake of a better order than continue to suffer under the old, then resistance becomes a right and a duty.  

  This will be an extreme and desperate case, since it will obviously be better as a rule to obey what we regard as a bad law and try by persuasion to get it amended than to seek the overthrow of the power which supports all laws alike.  
  But there is no doubt that when government has ceased to serve its major ends, the people who have fashioned it to serve those ends have a right to replace it with something that serves these better. 


The argument between Dr. Kelley Ross [the Kant Fries school] and Hegel.

I admit I am profoundly disturbed by the argument between Dr. Kelley Ross [the Kant Fries school] and Hegel. [This argument is an inheritance from the differences between Hegel and Fries. Also there is the fact that the Marxists made extensive use (and still make extensive use) of Hegel though they reject more than they accept.]

It does not help much the fact that Hegel himself says on occasion outrageous things like his treatment of Newton.
My own feeling about this is that Both Hegel and the Kant Fries School have  a lot to say that is valuable and important.[This is like the difference between Plato and Aristotle. There also it is hard to decide.]

The truth be told is that if you would whittle down the argument to looking simply at the difference between the two systems--the differences would not be great and almost complementary.

The normal thing to do in this case would be to learn Kant and Hegel thoroughly, and yet I have time constraints that make this impractical today.

Both Hegel and Dr Ross are important for two reasons, rigorous logic and scope of vision.
Today philosophy has sunk into deep meaninglessness as Allan Bloom already noted in his Closing of the American Mind. You need a certain scope in philosophy because that is the very essence of what it is--to make sense of the world. But also you need logic and reason, because otherwise anyone can say anything that appeals to people. If one is not constrained by reason, then he can say anything, and the only limit is what people like to hear, not what is true.

The reason all this s important is that the defend Torah by means of the medieval books e.g. the Rambam and Saadia Gaon is difficult when the make use of axioms that no longer seem valid.

To actually defend Torah seems a lot easier by means of Kant and Kelley Ross.


The major source of evil is the refusal to leave a cult once one realizes its true nature.

סור מרע in Psalms it says to "go away from evil". Not the term you would expect  לא לעשות רע--not to do evil. The reason is  the main evil people do is because they refuse to leave some cult that they joined and now recognize as evil, but refuse to leave it. This is the constant temptation of all mankind. This is major source of  evil. The refusal to leave  a cult once one realizes its true nature.

This is easy to see in real life and also in the Rambam who says it is the nature of people to be drawn in their opinions after the people they associate with. See Howard Bloom in The Lucifer Principle  concerning the power of the super-organism. 

my decision making process

I can believe that there is something wrong with my decision making process. It is not just a lack of "street smarts". I have thought this for a long time after finding myself in one predicament after the other. I did not start learning Musar to answer this dilemma but after I was learning at at the Mir I thought it would help solve this problem.

[My original reason for learning Musar is I felt my poor soul drying up without learning about the Fear of God].
This is related to another question about the proper approach towards education that comes up in Laches where Socrates discusses this with two generals. The discussion notices that great men often have children that do not seem so great.

My basic impression is that in fact Musar [Medieval Ethics] helps to answer this problem to a very great degree. There are people like me that we find our decisions in life often seem flawed and sometimes there even seems to be some reaction from Heaven as if telling us that something is wrong --but we do not know what it is. I think for them and for me, Musar helps to a very large degree.  But there still seems to be plenty of areas of doubt.

I should mention that we ask forgiveness in the confession of Yom Kippur for not listening to our parents and teachers and to me it seems clear that this is the source of my difficulty. I had great and amazing parents and teachers in high school and in yeshiva but somehow I though I was better than them.
The Israeli Supreme Court decided it is allowed to deport illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity.

I heard about the problem surrounding the Ben Gurion airport. [Criminal activity by people from Africa]  I was warned not to leave the airport grounds at night for that reason.--by Tel Aviv people! That was something like 7 years ago. It took them long enough to come to a decision.

Nationalism has some support from Hegel and Howard Bloom. The main thing I think is important to remember about Hegel is he not thinking of every state that ever was or will be. He is thinking of an ideal state.

I have to say that without Trump and the Alt Right I think the Israeli Supreme court would not have come to that decision.
There are some people you just do not want to be part of your state. It is as simple as that.

It is not that I am against illegal immigration. Rather I think a lot depends on what kind of people you are dealing with. Perhaps Europe might take a hint from the Israeli Supreme Court and do the same with people that are in Europe mainly in order to destroy European Civilization.

Israel's inability to deal with elements in its enemy population whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel to a large degree comes from Leftist attitudes that refuse to recognize  people can be evil and enemies

Objective morality needs to be awakened and it not known automatically. You can see the Rambam goes through great pains to emphasize the fact that faith {Torah} needs Reason {Aristotle} and Reason needs Faith.

The idea of learning Torah is made simple and concise by the Rambam. He goes about explaining it in a fashion that you need to put the different strands and threads together. But the end result is clear. To learn the entire Tenach [Old Testament], the Mishna {of R. Yehuda Hanasi}, Physics and Metaphysics or Aristotle. [Physics I would say based on subject matter is today's String Theory.]
The reason for the Rambam is clear. He goes to great effort to show that people have no inherent moral intuitions. Whatever morality we have has to be reawakened. And that can only happen in this way.

I mean to say the Rambam is neo Platonic--that we have access to the forms by some process of "remembering", but not by regress of reasons. That is objective morality needs to be awakened and it not known automatically.

The basic idea here is contained in Mishne Torah where the Rambam says to divide one time into three parts the Oral Law, the Written Law, and Gemara. [The Oral Law is the Mishna and Talmud as the Rambam makes clear in many places. One such place is where he talks about mistakes in legal decisions. He says any legal decision that goes against things that are openly stated in the Mishna or Talmud have no validity. He definitely puts the final authority of judgement in the Mishna and Talmud.]
[Gemara he says includes the subjects discussed in the first four chapters of Mishne Torah which are what the Rambam says are the Physics and Metaphysics of the ancient Greeks.]

You can see the Rambam goes through great pains to emphasize the fact that faith {Torah} needs Reason {Aristotle} and Reason needs Faith.

[My own personal experience with the Mishna was to learn every day about two mishnas with the Rav from Bartenura that is printed with the mishna and also to learn some of the other commentaries. Every mishna I did about twice. That is once I just read the words straight an then the Rav Ovadiah from Bartenura and not understand at all. Then I would do that again a second time and by that time I usually understood the basic idea.
  I should mention the commentary of the Tiferet Israel is really great but it is time consuming and I wanted to make progress. After I got to Israel I spent time just going through the Mishna straight with no commentaries at all which is also a great way to go about doing the Mishna.

[Here is one case in which Hegel and Dr Kelley Ross are not so far apart.  To Kelley Ross the end of the regress of reason ends in immediate non intuitive knowledge. With Hegel this knowledge also comes from outside of one's self. [The Divine Mind of the Neo Platonists even though Hegel would not have put it in that way.]


"search for Truth"

Secular USA lacked numinous value. You could look for it yourself and many thus went into Eastern religions. But the general experience of life in the USA tends to feel empty.
Later I think people looking for numinous value became part of the evangelicals. The later seems to me to be a lot better than the Eastern thing. The Evangelicals seem to find value in doing acts of kindness. That seems better than sitting around and doing nothing. [There are more serious complaints about Eastern religions but they still have some good points as Schopenhauer noted.]

Though at the time I would not have put it in this way but the search for numinous value led me to two Litvak Yeshivas in NY and later to Israel. But I certainly did not think of it in that sense. At best I would have said it was the "search for Truth" in capital letters.

Without a doubt I was influenced by my environment in which the search for "Truth" was a current theme. But I also think that I took it more seriously than most of my peers.

Though the search for truth I think is admirable, it does not take into account the problem of "religious delusions." This is a problem for two groups. The newly religious  who almost invariably have this problem. But more so with people born religious. The trouble there is there is an assumed superiority (moral and spiritual and intellectual) by reason of birth, and where pride is there comes a fall into serious religious delusions. These delusions  have no cure since the people born religious assume they are immune from delusions.
As long as their religious leaders are in externals keeping rituals, they assume there is no chance that they are possessed by the Sitra Achra [Demons] . A greater mistake or more serious delusion is hard to imagine.
[I am not saying I have all this down pat myself. But the Middle Ages were amazing in this regard because it was assumed that reason was needed for faith and faith for reason for many different reasons but among them must certainly have been this one.]

To cut away reason from faith is inevitably going to lead to this.

If you consider what I have written here you can see the exact reasons the Litvak yeshivas strive to walk this middle ground between faith and reason

It is true however the general rule that the baali teshuva [newly religious] are infected with religious delusions. The religious world is right on that account. But they do not see that they have the exact same problem in different forms-- and much more serious ones. It is they who lead the baal teshuva into their delusions.

Hegel and Dr. Kelly Ross

The biggest problem I see in philosophy today is the difference between Hegel and Dr. Kelly Ross of the Kant Friesian School. Each one has amazing points but if there is any way to reconcile them seems impossible. And personally I think both are outstanding for their scope of vision.
And the only justification for the basic approach of Torah from Sinai seems to be from the Kant Friesian School with the idea of immediate non intuitive knowledge. [Knowledge that you know but not by thought and not by any of the senses.]

Both Hegel and Kelley Ross are important for their rigorous thought, but also for the scope of their vision. And scope is important because the world is not disconnected pieces.

It is one of the failures of philosophy of the twentieth century to be incredibly trivial and self contradicting. [If only they could come out and say openly their opinion of  meaningless existence.]

One thing I would like to mention in terms of the Kant Friesian school is that causality is in fact existing among things in themselves. That is to say Locality but not reality.  [Things do not have values in space or time until measured but locality still is true. There is no action at a distance. So Schopenhauer's complaint that Kant had not proved causality seems to me a little weak. But here is where Hegel come in useful with grades  of being. One level of causality and yet there being levels beyond that.

Hegel says (Introduction to Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) Part One
 ):. Thus the knowledge of God, as of every supersensible reality, is in its true character an exaltation above sensations or perceptions: it consequently involves a negative attitude to the initial data of sense, and to that extent implies mediation. [Is that all that different from Kelley Ross?]


What destroyed marriage?

What destroyed marriage?

Judith Reisman goes deeply into this problem and its sources.

The idea according to her was to change people's conceptions and present perversity in the guise of normalcy and scientific respectability.  That is,-- if you change people's thoughts and attitudes then everything else follows.

My feeling about this is people are not familiar enough with science to be able to distinguish authentic science from fake science. I do not think rejection of science is much of  a good option.

I am not saying this is the reason to learn Physics and Mathematics. The best reason to learn these subjects is the Rambam and my parents.
That is the basic medieval attitude of a synthesis between Reason and Revelation. [That really started before the Middle Ages, but it took a long time to find the right balance.] If you look at the classical period you will see this balance was by no means obvious.

But a side benefit is that when you know real science, it is harder for pretenders to fool you.

But the way I suggest going about science is to find  a balance between Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot and Science.
[That is the best thing is to translate the Mediaeval ideal into a reality in every day life by learning a little bit of Physics, a little bit of Mathematics and a little Gemara Rashi Tosphot [or Mishna or the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach].] [I tend to think the Avi Ezri is the best because it already contains everything else good.]

In any case I am very happy that I got a chance to see what a real marriage ought to be like in my parents and I think that this will return.  My optimism knows no bounds at this point.


Music for the Glory of God

t101 E Minor   I do not seem to be able to see how this bring this piece to a proper conclusion. I think it is basically OK but I am thinking it might need more work

To know when to doubt oneself and one's motives and when to be bold seems to still be an unanswered question.

My general approach when  have problems is to look for my own sins. I think few people do this because few people have learned Musar-Ethical works from the Middle Ages.. Musar instills this attitude. The trouble is how to find out what in fact one is doing wrong.
This issue comes up in Charmides in a conversation between Socrates  and Charmides. The issue was "What is temperance?". The talk focused on when does one know that he does not know what he thinks he knows. That is how does one go about finding out if he has hubris? That talk did not end well for Socrates. He admitted in the end that he did not know. But that lesson passed over Charmides. Charmides was part of the group that tried to overthrow the Athenian Democracy by armed rebellion..
To know when to doubt oneself and one's motives and when to be bold seems to still be an unanswered question.

Sparta had won the war with Athens in 404.  Then there was a group of  "thirty tyrants" among whom was Critias (one of the leaders) and  in the inner group  of ten was Charmides. They seized power and were supported by the Spartan troops that were stationed in Athens. The leaders of the democratic constitution fought back and won in 403 and Critias and Charmides were killed in battle

[I wanted to mention that the purpose of the war between Sparta and Athens was to dismantle the Athenian Empire--not Athens itself.]

After what I have been going through recently this issue seems to come up again.  The best I have been able to come up with is to listen to my parents  and teachers.
Reb Israel Salanter came up with the best answer to this problem that I have heard of so far. To learn Musar [Ethics] one comes face to face with one's flaws. That does not mean one corrects them but at least it makes it harder to ignore them.


during surgery

I do not expect favors from people, but if anyone actually learned Mishna or the Avi Ezri or Gemara as I went into the operation I want to thank you.

I also want to thank all the amazing nurses and especially the doctor Alexander Sergevitch. And in particular the nurse Ira, who talked to me before and during surgery and called me Avraham Philipovitch. An amazing thing. Words of kindness and respect when I am certain I could not have looked very respectable.

The surgery was Thursday. August 31.

I am very pleased with the Jewish doctor Alexander Sergevitch [олександр алексеевич] and the whole group of nurses. Uman does not have much of a reputation in terms of doctors, but this one is excellent.

(What I heard here in the hospital was there was a doctor in the unit left over from the USSR in Uman who was really bad and that gave Uman a bad reputation. But this doctor is different.)

Music for the glory of GOD

T99 T 97 D Major

I need God's help today. I broke my leg and am having an operation called osteo synthesis. Prayers for me would be appreciated and learning Mishna. Learning Mishna should be with any of the basic commentaries. The Tiferet Israel is great but it is really a matter of taste. The Rav from Bartenura is also good.
If anyone could learn the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach for me today that would be even better. [Or better yet-to accept on themselves to learn the whole Avi Ezri from cover to cover.]

Another thing I would appreciate is if someone would learn a  little  Gemara, Rashi, Tosphot and Maharsha for me. {My name: Avraham Ben Leila and Philip].

I am very nervous and so my thoughts are not settled. I see I published the T99 without making sure it was finished. I see there are still a few parts that need finishing.  [a hour later I just added the missing parts.]

T97 might not be finished. Actually the end of T97 suggests to go a second and third movement. This is the kin of thing you see at the end of the first movement of the 40th symphony by Mozart where the ending in itself suggests a continuation.


Uman for Rosh Hashanah

I think it is important to know for people coming to Uman for Rosh Hashanah is there is a new criminal group that is going around beating up people seriously and robbing them. This is mainly at night or early morning in the city center and near to bus station.

I myself was victim but they do not care who it is. I do not know why the police have not put a stop to it. Just yesterday I saw another victim. A regular fellow [not Jewish] who was simply walking around in the city center early in the morning, and they beat him so severely that he might have internal head injuries. [It was light. Not nighttime.]
[He was coming out of a 24 hour a day store called "ATB". That is one place where this groups is waiting for people. They are very sophisticated and have night vision equipment. They also come up out of  car with masks so the nearby cameras can not see them.

[This comes up all the time in Uman. There is a new criminal group with new tactics every year or so.]

I do not think the police are even aware of the problem yet. In any case, please please please--people coming for Rosh Hashanah please stay near the Ziun of Reb Nachman and only go to the city in broad daylight.

[Though I am a thorough Litvak, I still have a lot of confidence in Reb Nachman's ideas (but not Breslov). The excommunication of the Gra simply did not apply to him as you can see from the wording the excommunication that the Gra signed. [There is an historical book that brings down the details and recently some people published a very thorough biography of the Gra which got people so mad that it must be accurate. I was there in Netivot around 7 years ago when it came out. But  I did not buy it. Mainly I have no doubt to what it must be saying--that the Gra was serious. And no doubt the Gra was right. But I still think because of Reb Nachman' personal service towards God he merited to deep insights that are important to listen to.]
In any case this new group might be so sophisticated that the police might be having a hard time keeping up. In any case this is not at all directed towards Jewish people. In fact the centre of activity seems to be ATB stores.

I should also mention that at Sofia Park are wandering vicious dogs so care should be  taken in visiting all these places. In fact it is better not to go to Sofia at all but rather the public river called Ostashivka on the other side of Uman where there is boating and swimming and no dogs

I should mention also that the subgroup of Na Nach people seems to me to be fairly good. At least it is the best of all the other groups.

There are time when thought does not help.

On the eve of  a battle between the Spartans and Athenians, the general Demosthenes, told them, "Let no man try to display his wits by summing up the dangers, because there are times when thinking does not help anything. Just face the enemy with a lively hope that you will succeed." [He won.]

The truth of the matter is just like that. There are time when thought does not help.
This was an idea I heard from someone who was getting married in Israel and he had spent a few years going through the entire Shas every month. [That is the whole Gemara. That is a little more than 100 pages every day].
He said not to even think if you are understanding your learning or not. This to many people may sound ridiculous but in  fact it contains a deep insight. There are times when thought does not help.
I found this to be the case in yeshiva. I would go through a small section of gemara--just saying the words. Then the Rashi on that Gemara. At that point I understood nothing. But then after a few more readings of the same gemara I would get the idea. Thus I got the idea that even when I think I am not understanding, something is being absorbed.

There are other areas of learning that I find it better just to read the material straight with no review until I have finished the entire book. That is, just to say the words and go on. Math and Physics I find to be more amenable to that kind of learning.

I should mention that Reb Freifeld of Yeshivat Shar Yashuv held by review.  That is specifically 10 times. Whether it was a chapter of Gemara or Tosphot, his main thing was to do review. I never got past this problem that I needed to make progress and yet the Rosh Yeshiva was emphasizing review. I still have no idea how to deal with this problem except to mention that in the Mir it was the accepted path to do in depth learning in the morning and to make progress in the afternoon. That does not really answer the question but at least it is  a kind of middle path.

[I must mention also that without Rav Freifeld's emphasis on in depth learning I am sure I would not be able to learn. To "know how to learn" is something I have seen that people need to get when they are young or they never get it. But it should be said that very few people understood what Rav Freifeld was doing. I felt very frustrated on his emphasis on learning in depth and I am sure a lot of other people felt the same way. Only later I realized the fact that when people do not get this right away in their first years in yeshiva, they never get it.
In the Mir yeshiva the whole question became mute,- because anyway the morning was for in depth learning and the afternoon for fast learning. That more or less answered the whole issue simply.


Learning Gemara opened the door into transcendence.

Reading Cleaving by Albert the Great just reconfirms what i already said   that the basic idea of the Middle Ages is to be attached to Hashem directly. The whole goal and orientation is completely different from the later Reformation.  

Personally, I have to say that I found learning Gemara opened the door into transcendence. It was just that that transcendence did not come to fruition until I got to Israel. I never really could put my finger, on it but there was some aspect of Gemara got me connected with the Divine.

What I mean to say is this:  at first learning Gemara was just that. Learning Gemara. The only thing different about it was my tremendous desire to learn Gemara. But there never was any thought about transcendence at all. It was just that while at the Mir in NY, I could feel the Divine presence. But that was all. It was only in Israel that the Light hit me with full power. But clearly it was because of the door that the Gemara opened. [Though I admit it might have been  learning Gemara in the Mir Yeshiva specifically or some kind Litvak yeshiva.]

The temporary romance has to precede the permanent one.

I have have not even heard of situations where this was not the case.
That is how love works. You have an intense love early in life, but for some reason it does not last, and then you find the next one which does last. In Litvak yeshivas they say every shiduch [date] that does not work  is one step towards the right one the "beshert." [The destined one.]
 Going through this  means one is one step towards finding the right one.
That is to say often people would go on endless shiduchim and never find the right one and the attitude was that each failed shiduch was one step toward the right one

The first one however must be real. It does not count if it is only immature love. Still there is something about it that makes it temporary.

Can virtue be taught?

The thing is that traditional American values were a delicate balance of values.  It was known to be hard to keep stable. I believe high school education was actually geared towards instilling those values. This all goes back to the conclusion of Socrates at the very end of Protagoras where  he decided that virtue can be taught.
Probably a lot of people in programs that are directly towards special ends [goal directed programs] do not see this. But when I was in high school I definitely got this impression.
 That was before the Frankfurt school [that came to the USA and changed education in the USA to become socialist] changed the very essence of USA education.

To me it seems that there is a lot of value in what could be called classical education.

 There also were Bible based organizations in the USA that explicitly had this as their goal [but combined these goals along with outdoor skills--being aware that virtue is best achieved in an indirect fashion.]

Can virtue be taught? Apparently not so easily. There is no question that the traditional Litvak yeshiva with its balance between Gemara Rashi and Tosphot with Musar/Ethics strove to achieve exactly that purpose. To me it seems clear that the gedolai Litva [sages of Torah in Lithuania] thought this balance was the best way to achieve this. Heads of the yeshivas in Lithuania  definitely did not think hours of Musar {books of Ethics} would bring to virtue. But neither did they think ignoring Musar was right. So they also sought this balance.

The Silverman yeshivas I think do the best job since their approach is modeled on the path of the  Gra which has in it an implicit balance of values.[I do not mean just Silverman. There are other yeshivas which have adopted the Silverman approach]
 I think it is clear that wickedness can be taught. I can see lots of systems out there that definitely instill evil in people. Does it makes sense to say the virtue can be instilled? Maybe. In any case my impression is that the general Litvak yeshiva approach ought to be modified into the Silverman approach which goes with the Gra and a great deal of Tenach [Old Testament] and Mishna. This is based on the Gra and from what I can see, the results are excellent.

[I might mention that I did try to do Mishna on my own time in yeshiva--mainly Taharot with the commentaries.]

So it seems the general conclusion is that virtue can be taught but not directly but as a by product of some other process. Why should this be so?


time itself is a creation

Causality I think is more fundamental than time. This comes from Bell's inequality which shows that things do not have values in time or space until they are measured.
The fact that nature violates Bell's inequality shows that one of two things needs to be thrown out: (1) Reality, or (1) Causality (Also known as locality). We know causality from GPS satellites which would be off by 11 kilometers !!! every day if either special Relativity or General Relativity were wrong. [The have to be calibrated to account for the effect of GR that is to go faster than clocks on earth by 45 micro seconds and to go slower by 7 microseconds. Thus to be made to go slower each day by 38 micro seconds in order to correspond with clocks in Earth] Therefore it is the assumption of Reality which has to be thrown out--that is that things have objective time or space before being measured. But they do exist --because otherwise there would be nothing to measure. [Not like Bohr.][Thanks to Dr Kelley Ross for bringing this fact up about Bohr.]]
[This treatment of the subject I owe to Motl Reference Frame and a a book on Quantum Mechanics from Beer Sheva University by  דורון כהן

[All popular science books claim locality is the thing which needs to be thrown out which does not speak well for their level of understanding.]

This fits in well with the idea that time itself is a creation. [Reb Nachman brings this in Sefer Hamidot, but it comes from Augustine of Hippo.]
This also fits well with the idea that God is the First Cause and He created time. Human reason has a hard time imagining how there can be causality without time, but there are plenty of other things   people can not picture. [A 4-d sphere]

The Sexual Revolution was begun by pseudo science

A great deal of the problems arise when pseudo sciences are substituted for actual science.
My own feeling is that this was inevitable after the Enlightenment when "Science" gained some kind of godlike status. The Sexual Revolution was begun by pseudo science. See this link
and here Judith Reisman

It just takes time until it gets into people's minds.

 Political "Science"? Social "Science"?  Thrown in a few equations and people get fooled by the simple word "science". What a joke.

[All of these stupid sciences are just a simple result of Physics -Envy. People too stupid to do the real thing.]

In other words, when the Rambam picks out Physics and Metaphysics to learn, I think he was being exact and very particular. He could easily have picked out other subjects in Aristotle. Why did he pick those two? I suggest he was being as exact and careful as much (and even more so) than he was being in the Mishne Torah as Rav Shach and Reb Chaim Soloveitchik constantly point out.

My feeling about the problem with the sexual revolution is that since it permeates society it gets into one's head--  just because one is automatically drawn after the opinions of people around him.


A synthesis balance between Reason and the Revelation at Sinai.

It is well known that the Rishonim (Medieval authorities)  had an approach based on a synthesis and balance between Reason and the Revelation at Sinai. This you see in Saadia Gaon also.
I did not pay much attention to this while in yeshiva- even though I definitely saw this in most of  the Medieval Musar books. This forms the basis for my approach about the importance of learning Physics and Metaphysics as the Rambam put it so bluntly.
The problem is obviously that these subjects tend to be hard. For that reason use the approach (I also saw in Musar books) of learning דרך גירסה just saying the words and going on with faith that eventually I will understand.
[Though I had seen this in only one Musar book [אורחות צדיקים] in California, later in NY I saw a book about learning [בניין עולם] from Bnei Brak that brought down a lot of Musar books that said the same thing. ]

The direction of the Rambam and Saadia Gaon was changed almost immediately after the Zohar was published. From then on this Rambam approach was relegated to the periphery, while mysticism took first place. My own approach is to accept the Ari and the Remak [Rav Moshe of Cordoba] but not to the degree of ignoring Saadia Gaon and the Rambam.
The main thing about the Ari is that whole thing has basically fallen into the Sitra Achra (Dark Side). It is almost impossible to get to the Ari without getting a fatal dose of the Dark Side along with him. It is for that reason I mention that anyone wanting to learn the Ari should only go to a descendant of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaeira in order to avoid the Dark Side. [Or Rav Shalom Sharabi.]

The reasons are more or less because I saw plenty of people that took the mystic approach and was never impressed. I can't even think of one person I knew that was into mystic stuff that was not filled with religious delusions.