Monday, December 17, 2018

What do you do?

"In a state such as Mitzrayim, the individual was completely identified with his occupation. Indeed, it could be said that in ancient Egypt, children were not born as human beings but as artisans, peasants, soldiers, etc. Accordingly, Pharaoh's first question to Joseph's brothers would naturally concern their occupation." Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, Bereishis, 46:33-4.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

More on the Imperative to Study Grammar

"With regard to grammar, I note that my revered father זצ'ל held that its study is included in the מצוה of תלמוד תורה because its knowledge is crucial for reaching correct Halakhic conclusions. He cited a grammatical error which led a well intentioned author to propose building a מקוה in any Jewish home. Ignorance of the gender of the noun אצבע in רמב'ם הלכות ספר תורה פ'ה ה'ט had led that individual to advocate מקוואות in that were undersized and invalid; their use would have resulted in massive איסורי כרת. Knowledge of grammar is thus not פרפראות לחכמה, which the תוספות יו'ט defines as "studies undertaken to enhance knowledge" also not to be denigrated -- but גופי תורה , 'studies that affect Halakha.'"

R' Nathan Kamenetsky, Approbation for Grammar for Gemara, Yitzchak Frank (Jerusalem: The Ariel Institute, 1992)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Candles of the Menorah by Tzvi Avraham

The Candles of the Menorah

by Tzvi Avraham

Chanukah is a good time to ponder the meaning of the Menorah in the Temple, both because the eight   Chanukah lights commemorate a miracle that happened to the seven branched Menorahת and because of the profound connection between the two suggested by the midrash cited by Rashi[i] that when Aharon was distressed by not participating in the offerings of the Nasiim at the initiation of the Ohel Moed, Hashem consoled him telling him that he was destined to something greater: the mitzvah  of the Menorah, which the Ramban explains was intended to suggest the Chanukah Menorah.

The Midrah Tidasheh of R. Chaninah ben Dusah[ii]   describing  how the entire creation is suggested by features and kalim of  the  Beis Hamikdosh, tells us that the 7 candles of the Menorah are identified correspond to the seven planets, i.e., the seven planets visible without a telescope known in ancient times: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon.   (The ancients numbered the Sun and the Moon among the planets.)  That interpretation is also found in the Targum Yonasan.[iii]  

The medieval Castilian mekubal Yosef Gikitilia also  mentions it in his sefer Ginas Egoz[iv] while declaring, in keeping with midrashim and the opinions of most Rishonim, including Rabbeinu Elazar Hagadol, Harokeach, the Ramban[v], the Nimukei Yosef[vi], the Ran[vii]  among others that  “without a doubt,” the influence of  planets governs the world subject to Hashem’s supervision and control.     The seven candles, he tells us,  correspond to the seven planets,  and he invites  the reader to ponder their deeper meaning.  Let’s take up that task  tonight, because we have help at hand:  the interpretation of the planets which  Rabbeinu Elazar Hagadol, the Rokeach, gives in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.

Everyone knows that Avraham Avinu was an astrologer.  It’s even mentioned by  Rishonim as a decisive justification of astrology. So it’s no surprise that Sefer Yetzirah, which was written by Avraham Avinu, has a considerable astrological content. In the fourth chapter, which discusses the creation of the planets, the Rokeach gives us his interpretation of the planets while explaining  why each is assigned  to rule its specific day and night of the week.  His discussion of the planets complements the   considerable and detailed astrological science in his magnum opus, Sod Razei.  His astrological science is substantially the same as the Ibn Ezra’s – (Ibn Ezra  was a renowned astrologer and wrote 12 treatises on astrology, some of which were translated into Latin and had a profound impact on the western tradition of astrology.) but  his interpretations express  ancient traditions transmitted to him through  his Rebbe, R’ Yehudah HaChasid, his father, R. Yehudah b’rebbe Kolonimus -  (so he tells us in his introduction to Sodei Razei and at the end of his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah) -  a kabalistic tradition which flowered in the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany which we now call  Chissidus Ashkenaz.

Saturn[viii], he tells us, is, as all agreed, the most distant of the planets.  The ancient and medieval astrologers used the terms  hot and cold, wet and dry when they described the nature of the planets, and  Saturn, all agreed, is cold and dry.  But the Rokeach explains why.  Saturn is located just below the upper waters that are cold to protect the world from the heat of the angelic worlds above them.  That cold is what makes him cold.  Dry?  He leaves that to us, but its pretty clear to me:  His dryness is his thirst:  he thirsts to know the world above the upper waters, and, for that reason, has little interest in worldly matters and tends to exercise his  typically  “gvuradik” influence  that would induce us to turn from them to higher things. Saturn, the Rokeach adds, is Moshe Rabbeinu.

Jupiter is the next planet, just below Saturn. He is moderately warm and moderately moist, i.e., he has the qualities that promote life and virtue.  He is universally identified with all the endeavors and institutions that promote prosperity and express the dignity of man.  I like to think of Jupiter as turning the vision of Saturn into the  spiritual ideals  that bring dignity and prosperity to all who live by them.  And I think that the Rokeach would agree, for he identifies Jupiter with Moshe’s brother, Aharon Hakohen, Kohen Gadol  and celebrated for his compassion and pursuit of peace.  He personifies  the dignity of man in the service of Hashem. 

After Jupiter, Mars.  Mars is what we’d expect Mars to be, and what he is for Chazal:   choleric, inclined to violence  and aggression:  the spirit of the soldier. But also the virtues of the soldier:  the obedience, courage, persistence determination, decisiveness. And  we need that, for that’s the kind of strength it takes to fulfill the ideals of Jupiter in this dark and chaotic world.   Mars, the Rokeach tells us,  is David Hamelech and the spirit of the Moshiach.

After Mars, the Sun. 
The Sun is malchus, but not just any malchus, for three letters of Hashem’s name are inscribed on him. He is the proximal source of  the warmth that sustains life and light that bestows sight, which is why he rules the first hour of the erev yom chimishi, when animals of all kinds were created.[ix]  We might think of the light of the Sun as the shadow  of Hashem’s Majesty.

Just below the Sun: Venus.  The Rokeach’s description of Venus might be summarized as:  the love of life that Hashem brings forth through the heat and light of the Sun.  L’chaim!

Below Venus:  Mercury.   Every night of the week is ruled by one of the planets. Mercury rules Motzei Shabbos, erev yom rishon, the Rokeach tells us,  because Mercury represents the chochmah with which Hashem created the world on the evening following the Shabbos that preceded the creation of the world.   

And then the Moon, who governs  leyl vav, i.e., Thursday night, because the Moon has the power to incline the heart to good or to evil, and it was then that Hashem thought of creating man with the freedom to do good and evil.[x]   That is,  the Moon which moves to good or evil also represents the freedom human beings have to choose to do good or to choose to do evil, for “just as Hashem gave power and dominion to the planets to exercise a good or evil influence, He gave power and dominion to man to subdue his natural impulses, and do what is good and right in the eyes of Hashem.” [xi]

The Rokeach tells us that the planets govern the entire natural order, even the heart—but not the will, and what he  describes, with his interpretation of the planets, are the seven   principles that govern the created world and the heart (though not the will) of man, for whom the world was created. 

1.  The spiritual longing to know the truths of Heaven and the joy of the angels—i.e., the Love of Hashem  that makes it hard for a person to see any value in the pleasures of this world—Saturn
2.  The ideals which move us to live in this world in a way that is worthy of that vision—Jupiter
3.  The determination and drive to implement those ideals against the resistance of the dark forces that resist them--Mars
4.  The creative force which brings forth the life of this world in which Hashem so delights—the Sun
5.  Delight in this life brought forth by Hashem as a gift to all creatures—Venus
6.  The understanding of world--the understanding of life--that empowers us to use the world and manage our lives to fulfill the Divine purpose of creation—Mercury
7. The freedom of will which introduces responsibility, merit, the possibility of sin,  and the powers of darkness with which man must contend—the Moon

Even more succinctly:
1.  The yearning to be close to Hashem – Saturn
2.  The ideals and moral standards inspired by that yearning – Jupiter
3. The determination to implement those ideals - Mars
4.  The creativity that brings forth a world  in which those ideals are to be realized – the Sun
5.  Delight in that world as a gift from Hashem – Venus
6.  The wisdom and discernment that enables a person to use that world to serve its divinely ordained purpose -  Mercury
7.  The moral freedom which gives meaning and purpose  to the operations of these principles – the Moon

I’ve described these seven principles as spiritual forces while identifying them with the planets. That may be confusing: do they govern the heart or  do they govern the world? 

The answer is that they are the powers which are the essential expression  of  created existence  itself.  Man is a microcosm:  the powers which are the essential expression of created existence are the very same powers which govern his human nature. 

These are spiritual powers (matter is governed by spirit) and spiritual powers are not mediated by things that are merely physical.  There’s no reason to think that the Rokeach would take issue with  Rambam’s description of the planets in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah (3:9):  They are
בעלי נפש ודעה והשכל הם והם חיים ועומדים ומכירין את מי שאמר והיה העולם כל אחד ואחד לפי גדלו ולפי מעלתו משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים וכשם שמכירין הקדוש ברוך הוא כך מכירין את עצמן ומכירין את המלאכים שלמעלה מהן ודעת הכוכבים והגלגלים מעוטה מדעת המלאכים וגדולה מדעת בני אדם

Clearly, the planets are good.  There is nothing evil in them.   Nevertheless, according to the Rokeach, the Ibn Ezra and all medieval astrologers,  planetary influences can be  destructive and even evil, according to their locations in the heavenly sphere and relations to each other.  The otherworldliness of Saturn can turn into world rejection;  the dignity of Jupiter into arrogance;  the martial spirit of David into cruelty and hatred;  the light and heat of the sun that brings forth life can also destroy it.

Jeremiah tells the people (10:2)

ב כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אֶל-דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל-תִּלְמָדוּ, וּמֵאֹתוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם, אַל-תֵּחָתּוּ:  כִּי-יֵחַתּוּ הַגּוֹיִם, מֵהֵמָּה

Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them.

Why should they not fear them?  The Malbim explains, the pagan nations are subject to the influence of the planets, but not you, for so long as you are live true to the ways of Hashem, You are governed by Him, and He will intervene to moderate their influence in accordance with his judgment. 

How then, can they exercise an evil, destructive influence?

The Rokeach explains Divine government through the planets, and the Maggid of Mezritch, as the Bnei  Yisaschar summarizes his doctrine,  says substantially the same thing[xii]:  When Hashem created the world, He surveyed the entire history of man, and ordained from the very beginning the way each person’s life would be directed according to his nature.  So long as  person conducts himself according to his nature, doing averas when he is, by nature, so inclined, and doing mitzvahs insofar as he is, by nature, so inclined, he will live subject to the Divine Government Hashem  established b’maaseh b’reishis when, knowing his nature and foreseeing his behaviour, Hashem  placed the planets in their orbits to be located and to interact in a way which subjects him to the appropriate governing  influence, presumably an influence that would subject him to experiences that would move him to take his life in hand and make the effort to serve Hashem for which he was created.

For Hashem created us to do teshuvah, i.e., to do more than what we are inclined by nature to do to serve Him.    Clearly, when a person fails to do that, he needs a push, perhaps even a shock (though, of course, sometimes he needs is an extra measure of chesed).  That push or shock will likely come in the form of an existential challenge, perhaps even a crisis, which lifts him out the indifference of a person who serves Hashem according to the flow of his inclinations.   What is called the evil influences of the planets is the gevurah that causes that to happen, the experience of gevurah that awakens a person to teshuvah.

Hashem foresaw the need for that gevurah, and programmed it into the revolutions of the planets, so that each one of us would get a taste of it as it would be required.  But when the time comes, if Hashem sees that a person doesn’t need to be treated with gevurah, that  he doesn’t need a shock to awaken him, He protects him from it and moderates the gevurah the planets would have exercised, or turns it into a chesed.  With that in mind, let’s consider the mitzvah of lighting the Temple Menorah.

In Temple times, when a person did teshuvah for an averah, he would typically bring a korban.  The animal that was shechted and burned on the altar represented the body of the one who brought it, the repository of his natural inclinations and evil inclinations which moved him to sin.  The act of sacrifice  gave them up to the will of Hashem, subordinated his natural impulses and willfulness to the Will of the Creator and King.   

The kohen’s role of setting up the wicks and filling the cups with oil is comparable to his role of performing the physical part  of offering  a sacrifice.  Only he can set the flesh of the sacrifice  on fire—place it onto the fire burning on the altar – because the purpose of that fire is to extract from the flesh the pleasing fragrance that ascends to Hashem.  His act symbolically purified the body that had served the sinful will of the person who brought the sacrifice. He was the instrument of that symbolic purification.

But that sacrifice had to be lit, as a candle is lit, with another fire before the sacrifice would find favor:  the fire that purifies a sinful will. That fire, of course, is the teshuvah that ignites the heart with the glowing ember of a burning soul,  so that it bursts into flame as it beholds the Light of Truth and Goodness.  Even a Yisrael--the one who brought that sacrifice for his sin - could light that fire.

Each candle corresponds to one of the planets, one of the seven fundamental forces that are the essential expression of created existence – nature—coordinated, orchestrated by Hashem b’ma’aseh breishis to  govern the lives of every Jew who acts as he is naturally inclined, whether to do mitzvos or to do averos.   
Lighting the candles (which is not an avodah and can be done by any Jew)  is comparable to the interior act of  teshuvah which ignites the heart with a Light which transforms it, inspires and guides it to a love for Hashem that serves Him without consideration of natural inclinations.

The purpose of burning the oil is not to offer a pleasing fragrance to Hashem – if it were, it would be an avodah that only a Kohen may do—but rather to produce a fire and light like the fire and light which inspire the heart to teshuvah when bringing a sacrifice.  That fire is the flame of the Glory that governs all those who proclaim it, governing them directly,  setting aside the order of Divine government that operates through the planets which the candles represent.  That Light, concealed in the oil, is now revealed, that all may know and be assured:  אין עוד מלבדו   השם הוא האלוקים!
The candles of the Menorah burned from evening to the morning with one exception:  the Ner Ma’aravi, which was to be kept burning throughout the day, relit in the morning if it had gone out.  But during the Kehunah Gedolah of  Shimeon Hatzaddik, the Ner Hama’aravi never went out.  It always miraculously continued to burn straight though from evening to the evening of the next day.  The merit of Shimeon Hatzaddik was so great, that the Ner Ma’aravi didn’t have to be relit in the morning.  Hashem kept it lit it for us.  That was the miracle of the Ner Ma’aravi.

Which of the seven candles was the Ner Ma’aravi? There are three opinions:  It was the first candle of the Menorah closest to the Kodesh Hakadoshim;  the middle candle, or the second from the candle furthest east.  Each of these candles represented a different planet.  Applying the Rokeach’s explanation of their meaning, we might interpret this machlokes  as a disagreement in Hashem’s response to the merit of Shimeon Hatzaddik. 

The first candle would correspond to the first planet, Saturn.  If the miracle occurred on the first candle, i.e., if Hashem sustained the light of the first candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what Saturn, i.e., Moshe, would give us:  a gift of Torah, by  bestowing an extra measure of the Light of Torah on his generation

The middle candle corresponds to the Sun.  If Hashem kindled the middle candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what the  Sun represents:  the Light of His Presence  and Majesty.

The second to the last candle corresponds to the Mercury.  If Hashem kindled that second candle, it would mean that Hashem responded to Shimeon Hatzaddik’s merit with a gift of what the  Mercury represents:  the knowledge, insight and discernment that enables us to order our lives and create the things through which we live in the ways that best serve the ultimate purpose of our lives:  avodas Hashem.

The miracle of Chanukah was that Hashem kept all seven candles lit for eight days—a miracle much like the miracle of the Ner Ma’aravi in Shimeon Hatzaddik’s time. Shimeon Hatzaddik’s tzidkus  was such a great testimony to  Hashem’s Malchus, that once the Ner Ma’avi was lit, Hashem kept it lit as a proclamation of His Malchus: His rule over the planet which the Ner Ma’aravi represented, and with that the assurance that the active principle it mediated would be implemented by Him to maximize the welfare of Klal Yisrael.

The miracle we celebrate when lighting the Chanukah Menorah was similar, only on a much greater scale corresponding to the much greater scale of the declaration of Hashem’s Malchus by the m’sirus nefesh of the Maccabim.  It was dramatic demonstration that when we kindle our hearts with the Light of Torah and  turn ourselves to Hashem, He turns to us and keeps those Lights burning, doing for us far more than what we could do for ourselves: for when we transform ourselves for Hashem,  He transforms the world for us.

[i] במדבר ח:א
[ii]   Perek 1
[iii] סדר פקודי מ"ג
[iv] הוצאות ישיבת החיים והשלום תשמ"ט דף רלז
[v] See, for example, his commentary on the name א-ל ש-די (בראשית יז:א)
[vi] טור קעט
[vii] See the eighth and eleventh droshos in דרשות הר"ן
[viii] The following interpretations of planets are found in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, esp.  on pages 48-52
[ix] SY 52
[x] SY 52
[xi] Commentary on SY 71
[xii]  See ספר בני יששכר מאמרי ר"ח מאמר א'

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Torah im Derech Eretz requires self-discipline and its no surprise that it developed in Germany as Germans are known for their self-discipline. With TIDE we can get the best of secular materials as long as we are very discerning and leave out the problematic stuff.

With Torah u'Maddah, the philosophy is once we go with the secular, we study it all. We don't differentiate. 

Hirsch and TIDE have been honored by gadolim for a century and a half. And results go along with it. Hirsch was enormously successful at keeping people in the fold and attracting people. TUM  has successes. There are people who can handle it. But arguably the masses cannot. It has resulted in  departure from the fold plus traife offshoots like Open Orthodoxy.

Some authors are known for their decadence. D.H. Lawrence is famous for writing novels that lowered moral standards. We are not talking only about his private life here but the essence of his novels. One of his most famous novels is called "Sons and Lovers." Another is called "Lady Chatterley's Lover." There is no excuse for putting Lawrence in a collection that alleges to hold a higher moral standard.

Isaac Asimov was famous for his atheism. Moreover, his parents were Torah observant. He wrote, "I am an atheist, out and out....Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time." To give children an attachment to an atheistic Jew who left religion is very problematic.

Yet, one sees these authors in books by at least one frum publisher of children's collections. At Stern College of Yeshiva University, they study Lawrence:

3351 Modernism 3 credits
Modernist texts in English focusing on fiction and poetry from 1900-1930. An introduction to the intellectual and technological backgrounds of modernism and their relationship to modernist themes in the visual arts. Writers may include Conrad, Stein, Joyce, Lawrence, Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hurston.
3733 The Development of the British Novel III 3 creditsTreats twentieth-¬century experiments in fiction. Authors may include Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Lessing, Byatt, Coetzee, and Rushdie.

The frum publisher features Lawrence:

And reads Asimov:

Now the material included in the books is neither illicit nor atheist. So to a large extent this comes down to a disagreement as to whether it is appropriate to include acceptable material from authors who are otherwise unacceptable. There are some people to whom all goyim are the same and as long as the material itself is acceptable it doesn't matter what else the author has done in his writing or life because really they are all traife. But I think that we  can make more precise distinctions. Some authors are far worse than others and kids develop an attachment to writers.

There are plenty of authors who don't have these glaring problems, particularly if you stick to the 19th century and earlier. Dickens, Stevenson, Hawthorne, Irving, Twain. But even if you go with the 20th you have John Steinbeck who was married 3x but his novels strive for morality. Pearl S. Buck, Arthur Conan Doyle, E.B. White, Joseph Conrad, Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce. You have plenty of people to choose from who are less problematic than Lawrence and Asimov.

The further back you go, the better it gets. 17th century is better than 18th which is better than 19th which is far better than the 20th. As for the 21st, stay away entirely.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Shin Bet Commander with a Heart

Some Torah Im Derech Eretz in action in Israel:

How to prevent Jewish and Arab terror, from a Shin Bet commander who fought both - Times of Israel

Avi Arieli plays soccer with Palestinian youth to develop a relationship with them and prevent terrorism through education:

“After playing for a bit, we naturally get to talking. I hear about their struggles, and in between, I’m able to caution them against offenses such as stone throwing.”

On developing informants: “it can only be done through persuasion, not by threats or force.”

“If I threaten a prospective informant, I know that from that very moment he’s already planning how to betray me.”

Arieli ran the "non-Arab terror division" aka Jewish terror. He says the Hilltop youth are mostly kids from broken homes. "“They speak about ideology, but the passion that’s driving them is coming from other places — from broken homes and from being tossed out of school.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Use Your Time Well

Life is short. Look at all these great composers who lived a short time on this earth relatively speaking. Still they accomplished much musically. Fortunately, they didn't push off their goals for another day. The primary goals for Jews should be yiras shamayim, Torah, and mitzvos, not to be pushed off for another day.

Beethoven, 56
Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Tchaikovsky, 53

Schumann, 45

Mussorgsky, 41

Chopin, 39

Mendelssohn, 38

Gershwin, 38
George Gershwin 1937.jpg

Bizet, age 37

Mozart, 35

Schubert, 31

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rav Avigdor Miller on Why Are there so few torah Jews

 If being a Torah Jew is so enjoyable, why are there so few Torah Jews?

Let me ask you something, a parallel question. You know, it's enjoyable to have good health. And it's possible to have good health. So why are so few people availing themselves of opportunity to having good health? You know, if every day you would take a brisk forty-five minute walk, and if you would eat your meals on time every time, and go to sleep on time every day, you would be a healthy and happy person. You should drink a glass of water every morning before davening, and be careful to avoid sugar and sweets; don't overeat! 

You know, it's possible to live a happy life! So why are there so many lunatics? You see them coming out of the cake stores, bakeries, carrying big paper boxes full of cakes. It's poison. Pastries with icing. Why are there a world full of so many lunatics?You can see the evidence on every block. Liquor stores everywhere. A liquor store is a sign that there are crazy people in the world. You need liquor like you need a hole in your shoe. So why are there so many liquor stores?

And the answer is that the world is throwing away opportunities for living happy lives. If they would smash the television and they would go out every day in the fresh air, around the block a few times, it would give them a different kind of a hold on life. Their eyes would sparkle, their cheeks would be red. They'd go to sleep early and get up early. They'd be living a life of happiness.

The truth is, happiness is available. I didn’t outline it yet. I'd be happy to speak about it more some other time. But there's a great deal of joy in this world that the vast majority of mankind hasn’t even begun to tap! There's so much happiness; enjoying the weather, enjoying the zest of the wind, enjoying the slap of the rain on your face. Enjoying the sunshine, taking a pleasure in the winter and the summer. There's so much fun in the seasons! If you learn how to taste each season you’ll find that each season has its own savor. And you’ll look forward to the zest of winter. You look forward to the delicious quality of summer. You look forward to spring and to autumn. There should be a song in your mind for every month. Every month is its own song! There’s a song, "Achta liba august"- a German song. Achta liba august; ah, the lovely August. But you could sing the same about every month. There’s a song, "There's Nothing Like a Day in September." There's a song like that. There's another song, "October." If you learn all these songs, you'll be singing your own songs, "How beautiful is January," and "How wonderful is February." We have to learn how to enjoy life. You know that it’s a big chochma to learn how to enjoy life.

Now there are a lot of frummeh who don't have any sense. And they say, "Enjoying life? This world you want to enjoy? No!" And so, these frum fools are missing out on life. There's so much to get out of this world. You know how much fun it is just to have your two feet and your two arms and your two eyes and your two kidneys? It's so much fun! If you don't believe me, ask a man in a wheelchair, sitting with a blanket over his knees. If you pick up the blanket, you'll see there's nothing underneath. He doesn't have any feet. Suppose he could have one foot. Just one foot! Now he could hop around on crutches. He'd be a millionaire! And you have two of them?! So you’re a multimillionaire! There's so much happiness in life, you can go meshugah from happiness!

So you're asking me a kasha, if Torah Judaism is so much fun, why are there so few Torah Jews? So I ask you, why are there so many lunatics who are ruining their health, ruining their teeth, ruining their stomachs, ruining their hearts! You know people are eating their hearts out by fighting all the time, and worrying! Recrimination in the house! Eating themselves up! There are a thousand and one things that people are causing themselves. Diabetes is usually caused by people fighting, by quarreling. Heart attacks are the result of excitation. People are excited and quarreling. How many family tragedies take place over the biggest narishkeiten?!

"Your mother said this," and "His mother said this," and there's a whole tragedy! I hear it every day. And people die of that. Here’s a woman who had cancer and died young because she had a bad husband. A wicked husband. He killed her! He murdered her with his wickedness. Here’s a man who had a heart attack because his wife always egged him on until he lost his temper. And finally in the midst of a burst of temper he fell dead. People die from emotions. If people would train themselves to live quietly, not to take anything seriously, to laugh it off, and instead to learn the science of being a שמח בחלקו, then their lives would be different.

So you asked me a question, why are there so many people who don't understand the joy of being a frum Jew? The joy of sitting shabbos around the table with your family singing zemiros! You know what a geshmak that is? You're sitting with your sons and leading them in zemiros. You have to have children of course. If you don’t have any children, then it’s just an empty table. If you want to practice ZPG (Zero Population Growth) by not having any children, so what can you expect in an an empty house already? But here's a man with ten children. And they're all singing, it's a choir. Ah, a pleasure, a taanug. It's oilem hazeh, it's gan eden on this world. Of course, the housewife is putting all of her talents into making delicious viands for Shabbos, and that makes the Shabbos so delicious! And everybody is smacking their lips and diving into it; they're enjoying it. They’re enjoying the shabbos. And everybody takes a nap. Instead of sitting behind the steering wheel and smelling the man in front of you, his gas fumes coming out of his [inaudible], you're sitting around your table with your children. And then you go to sleep; it’s quiet and peaceful. Then you get up, and everybody is learning, going to shul, you're family is together. The happiness of a true Orthodox life! Why are there so few people who don't have sense to live a normal life? Go ask them. 
TAPE # 403

Sunday, October 28, 2018

the precept of brotherly love

"Alas, to what cruel slander has Judaism, the heritage of the Abrahamites, along with its bearers, the Jews, been subjected through the ages! The "circumcised race" has been accused of regarding itself as the sole chosen people of God. We are told that the sign [of the covenant] which sets the Jews apart from all the others must of necessity rob them of all cosmopolitanism, of all thought and feeling for their fellow men, turning the God of heaven and earth, the God of all human souls, into the narrow, parochial deity of their own particular spot on earth, the national god of their own tribe.

"And now we are shown the first circumcised Jew. He is seated "in the grove of Mamre...." He is still with Abner, Eshkol, and Mamre..." Though Abraham had been circumcised, his relationship with the non-Abrahamite world had remained unchanged. These much-maligned rabbis of old, those most authentic spiritual heirs of Abraham, teach us that the one great concern which motivated Abraham to sit before his door, directly exposed to the burning sun, was the apprehension lest now, following his circumcision, other men might avoid him. Our Sages have pointed this out in order to impress upon the sons of Abraham, through Abraham's own example, the dictum that hospitality to wanderers is regarded as more praiseworthy than standing before the countenance of God. This is true even in the case of wanderers such as those whom Abraham might expect to receive as his guests: uncircumcised idolaters (for what other people could Abraham have expected to see at this point?). And so we are shown Abraham hurrying away from God's presence in order that he may practice with those wanderers the precept of brotherly love."

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch on Bereshis 18:1, parshas Vayera

Friday, October 19, 2018

TIDE Event in Israel

As I have mentioned, in my view there's little Torah Im Derech Eretz in Eretz Yisroel. Militarism is the biggest reason for this. Draft exemption rules require that a man never work a day in his life in order to be exempted from the draft. So while people like to complain about Charedim not working, they need to know a big cause of that is the draft, perhaps the primary cause. So why don't Charedim just go to the army? Answer is because the environment is not kosher in about 50 different ways. 

One would think that having a country full of Jews would allow for TIDE. However, that would only apply if it's a religious country, which it definitely is not. 

Nevertheless, now and again, little slivers of Torah Im Derech Eretz surface. Next month in Jerusalem, the Taub Center is hosting a series of lectures on the Israeli labor market. The Taub Center is a non-profit non-governmental social policy organization. It seems to be fashioned like an American organization, hence the TIDE. Here are some details on the event:
Date: November 04, 2018 / 8:30-16:30 / Mishkenot Sha'ananim
The Herbert M. Singer
Annual International Policy Conference
Envisioning the Future of Israel’s Labor Market
Sunday, November 4, 2018
Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem
The conference will be conducted in Hebrew and English with simultaneous translation
Motty Elisha, Head of Employment, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services
Prof. Avi Weiss, President, Taub Center
First Session: Productivity, High Tech and the Start-Up Nation
Chair: Prof. Avi Weiss, President, Taub Center
Keynote Lecture: Prof. Eugene Kandel, Hebrew University, CEO Start-Up Nation Central
Dalia Narkis, Chair, Manpower Israel
Michal Tzuk, Former Deputy of Employment, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services
Additional speakers to be announced
Second Session: The Geographical Matching and Concentration of Firms, Workers and Places of Residence
Chair: Prof. Eric Gould, Chair, Labor Policy Program, Taub Center
Keynote Lecture: Prof. Edward Glaeser, Harvard University
MK Itzik Shmuli (The Zionist Union)
Efrat Dagan, Global Staffing Lead, Google
Lunch (Dairy)
Behind the Scenes with an Arab Israeli Start-Up Founder
Taub Center Podcast Launch 
Aziz Kaddan, CEO and Co-Founder, Myndlift
Third Session: Workforce Diversity
Chair: Yulia Eitan, Head of the Employment Administration for Special Populations, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services
Rivi Beller, CEO, VeHadarta
Moishi Friedman, Co-Founder and CEO, Kamatech
Ayman Saif, Former Head of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors, Prime Minister’s Office
Space is limited, and advanced registration is required

For directions to the event with parking options, click here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eretz Yisroel, Zionism,and Medinas Yisroel in the Philosophy of RSRH

Eretz Yisroel, Zionism,and Medinas Yisroel in the Philosophy of RSRH by R' Eliyahu Klugman

1991, Rav Eliyahu Meir Klugman, biographer of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, wrote an article summarizing the views of Rav Hirsch on Zionism. He closed with the following thought:

Yet, after all has been said, Medinas Yisroel is a modern, secular, parliamentary state. Clearly, it is not the Jewish State, projected by our prophets, for which we have been taught to yearn (as Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch so lucidly explains), and that would express our national identity as the Am HaTorah and the beginnings of the Messianic Redemption.

It follows clearly from Rav Hirsch’s teachings, then that we cannot embrace it in its present form with any enthusiasm. Rather it can only be viewed as a political fact and we must work within it to further the true interests of the Jewish people, the Am Hatorah, as we would in any political setting in which we find ourselves – but we cannot recognize it as an expression of the Jewish national identity and the coming of Moshiach.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, “Exempt from the draft”

“Some people are proposing to take frum boys into the army in frum regiments. You should know that it’s a shtus. The army is made לכתחילה for the purpose of changing the minds of the boys in the army. It’s a statement they made long ago. It’s very long. And it’s only a trick that they are using now to deceive the frummah into entering the army. The truth is Am Yisroel has to keep out of the army. We have to maintain our privilege as all the countries give, rabbinical students are patur from the draft, exempt from the draft. Let’s continue to fight for it, and not to yield, and not to listen to the מסיתים ומדיחים who are talking about frum regiments for frum boys.”

(Rabbi Avigdor Miller, “Fortunate Are You,” Audio # E-253, 1:15:52)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Rabbi Avigdor Miller on the Yom Kippur War

Q: Why did Hashem allow the Arabs to attack us on Yom Kippur?

A: Rabbi Levy is asking why Hashem allowed the Arabs to attack us on Yom Kippur. So I presume that there are two parts to this question. Why did Hashem allow them to attack us, and why did He allow them to attack us on Yom Kippur?

But first, I must make an ammendment to the question. The word "us" is not properly used. The Arabs didn't attack "us." The Arabs attacked the people in Eretz Yisroel.  And that's important to note. Because for certain purposes there are people in Eretz Yisroel who wish to create the impression that the Arabs are attacking the whole Jewish nation. But this is not true. Not that the Arabs love us so much - not at all - but the Arabs had no intention of attempting to destroy, chalilah, the Jewish People, as was falsely stated recently in one Hebrew kol koireh. It said אמרו לכו ונכחידם מגוי ולא יזכר שם ישראל עוד. That's what it said in the kol koireh and I don't understand that at all. At all! The Arabs didn't say that. If they wanted to destroy specifically the State of Israel we have to differentiate between their intentions. They didn't want to destroy, chalilah, the Am Yisroel.

Now, why did Hashem permit it? Hakodosh Boruch Hu permits many things that we don't like. But he understands more than we do, like the physician does. You go to the physician and sometimes he does a number of things that you'd prefer he wouldn't do. He pushes certain things down your throat or up the other end of you. And he makes various examinations that you might not like. But he does it because he has his good reasons. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the big Roifei. And therefore it היוסר גוים הלא יוכיח - "If He brings suffering upon the Nations, is He not showing something." המלמד אדם דעת - "Isn't He teaching Man understanding?"

So we must understand as well, that He certainly wishes to teach us, the Am Yisroel. Only that, if we had the foresight to learn from the misfortunes that happened to other nations then we could sometimes spare ourselves from undergoing these experiences. If we would study the yissurim that other people have, then it would be enough. But when we fail to learn from the yissurim of others then sometimes we ourselves have to suffer, chalilah.

     Now, let's say, had the people of the State of Israel learned from the sufferings that people underwent in the Vietnam War, or other wars, which are sent upon the Nations for the purpose of making the Am Yisroel afraid and causing us to do teshuva. That's what the Gemara says, אין פורענויות בא לעולם אלא בשביל ישראל No misfortune comes upon the world if not for the sake of Yisroel" (Yevamos 63a). Do you hear that? All misfortunes are only for the sake of our people. Even what comes upon the nations of the world. And Rashi says, כדי ליראם, in order to put a fear into them so that they should do teshuva.

     So if we would learn properly from the wars that the nations are undergoing then we could be spared those wars that hit closer to home. But when Hakodosh Boruch Hu sees that people don't learn sufficiently, so what does He do? He brings the lessons closer to home.

     And why did it happen on Yom Kippur? Because that is the day that they should have learned the most lessons. What day is more suited for teshuva? And therefore, when Hakodosh Boruch Hu sees that Yom Kippur is passing by and soon it will be over and it will be back to the old d'rachim in Medinas Yisroel - the same things that they did last year after Yom Kippur and the year before that after Yom Kippur - so therefore this year He added a little more vitamins in order that the lessons should be more potent. The purpose of all suffering is for teshuva and suffering on Yom Kippur is surely for teshuva.

Rav Avigdor Miller, TAPE # 382