Sunday, 18 February 2018

Every Moment Is Special

From RRW
“Every moment of life is precious and can never happen again and therefore is a reason to appreciate, be grateful for and celebrate the fact that you are alive.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


From RRW
"The Importance of a Smile: A SMILE costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and is nature's best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give."

~Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

Sunday, 11 February 2018

From RRW
“A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is G-d, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. It must learn to seek out other sparks, it must dominate the shell. Anything can be a shell, Anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark.”

Chaim Potok, The Chosen

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Torah Instruction

From RRW
Kabbalah is an aspect of Torah, and Torah means “guidance” or “instructions.” Everything in Kabbalah is meant as an instruction in life. We study Kabbalah not to just to reach a high, but because we need its inspiration in everyday life, and because it provides us direction and practical guidance.

Kabbalah provides a cosmic dimension to the issues of everyday human life. Illness is a reflection of the lovesickness of the divine presence for the Infinite Light. The challenges in life are the sparks lost in the primal act of creation, coming to you to be repaired and elevated. Your life is a mission, in which you are directed to the divine sparks that belong uniquely to your soul, for which your soul has returned many times to this world until they will all be gathered.

Understanding the cosmic dimension means that nothing in life is trivial. Everything has meaning. Everything moves toward a single purpose, with a single goal. Understanding allows you to take on those challenges and to complete the journey of your soul.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Nishma-Parshah: Mishpatim

originally posted Feb. 3, 2016

Take a look at what's on
for Parshat Mishpatim

P. Mishpatim - Midrasho vs. P'shuto

Mishpatim: Understanding Torah

P. Mishpatim 1 - "Et Ishti" The Question     The Answer

Parsha: Mishpatim, "Following the Majority Opinion"


Review of R. Hayyim Angel's new book

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First

Book Review: Keys to the Palace, by Rabbi Hayyim Angel (Kodesh Press, 2017)

        In my youth, I was greatly influenced by the Daat Mikra edition of Tanach, published by Mossad HaRav Kook. One of its main contributions was to take the best of modern scholarship and incorporate it into a framework consistent with the Orthodox Jewish tradition.  Rabbi Hayyim Angel fits squarely into this mold. By reading his works, you are getting a traditional Orthodox approach to Tanach, combined with the best insights of modern scholarship. (I have suggested to him that he should write his own commentary on Tanach. I have a name for it already: “Daat Hayyim.”)
        Rabbi Angel has now come out with his thirteenth book: “Keys to the Palace: Exploring the Religious Value of Reading Tanakh.
         A little background on Rabbi Angel: He is the National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. He has taught advanced Bible courses at Yeshiva University since 1996. He is the Tanakh Education Scholar at Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva Day School in Paramus. He lectures widely throughout the U.S. on Tanach-related topics. He has authored thirteen books, edited three more, and published over 130 articles. (A list of all the articles is found at his Wikipedia entry. By the time you read this, the list is probably up to 140!)
        The new book is a collection of twenty of his articles, on a wide range of Tanach-related topics.  
        One article deals with the alleged conflict between Torah and Science. For example, R. Angel writes:  “Science states that the world is billions of years old; there was a process of evolution; and it is unlikely in the extreme that all humans biologically descend from the same couple that lived only 6,000 years ago.”
          In response, R. Angel quotes a variety of sources. He points out that both R. Saadiah Gaon and Rambam maintain that whenever the literal reading of the Torah contradicts empirical evidence, the Torah should not be taken literally.  R. Angel also cites Rav S. R. Hirsch who wrote: “Judaism is not frightened even by the hundreds of thousands and millions of years which the geological  theory of the earth’s development bandies about so freely…The Rabbis  have never made the acceptance or rejection of this and similar possibilities an article of faith binding on all Jews. They were willing to live with any theory that did not reject the basic truth that “every beginning is from God.” (Collected Writings, vol. VII, p. 265.) R. Angel also quotes the following from  R. Hirsch: “For it is not the aim of The Holy Scriptures to teach us astronomy, cosmogony or physics, but only to guide man to the fulfillment of his life’s task….(Comm. to Ps. 19:6-7.)
           R. Angel then quotes R. Abraham Isaac Kook about the Theory of Evolution: “Even if it were to become clear to us that the world came into being by way of the evolution of the species, still there would be no contradiction…Without question, the Torah concealed much about creation, speaking in allusion and parables…The main thing is what arises from the entire story-- knowing God and [living] a truly moral life.”  R. Angel also quotes S.D. Luzzatto (19th century Italy, Orthodox Bible scholar): “Intelligent people understand that the goal of the Torah is not to inform us about natural sciences; rather it was given in order to create a straight path for people in the way of righteousness and law, to sustain in their minds the belief in the Unity of God and His Providence.”
              R. Angel concludes: “There is ample room within tradition to avoid faith-science conflicts. One may reinterpret passages in the Torah, or one may study the Torah for its religious messages while accepting science as science… [T]he Torah states that God created the world in seven days, thereby teaching that God created the world, and that Shabbat is of vital importance in the God-Israel relationship. If the world is billions of years old, this scientific reality in no way detracts from the religious values of God as Creator above nature or in the importance of Shabbat. The Torah teaches that all of humanity is descended from one couple, and therefore there is no room for bigotry (San. 37a). If geneticists demonstrate the extreme unlikelihood of all people descending from one couple that lived  6,000 years ago, this would in no way diminish God’s message in the Torah against bigotry.”
           Another very valuable article is “Afterlife in Jewish Thought.” Here R. Angel has done us a tremendous service and summarized voluminous scholarship. As is well-known, the classical rabbinic position believes in a resurrection. Yet there is a paucity of explicit references to afterlife in Tanach. The Torah promises this-worldly rewards and punishments. The prophetic ideal is the messianic era in this world.
          The first explicit reference to a bodily resurrection in Tanach is in the book of Daniel. But R. Angel shows that the ideas underlying the resurrection do trace back to the earliest texts in Tanach.  Then he addresses the questions of why the Tanach gave the afterlife such little overt attention, and what motivated rabbinic Judaism to emphasize it.  Finally, he explains how a better understanding of Judaism’s view of the afterlife is in fact very relevant today and has tremendous implications for our actions.
            In another article, he tries to understand the fundamental message of the story of the Binding of Isaac. He quotes from a variety of sources, ancient, medieval and modern: The book of Jubilees, Rambam, Kant, Kierkegaard, S.D. Luzzatto, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Moshe Halbertal, David Shatz, and Shalom Carmy.
            My favorite article is about the “Ashrei” prayer. One section of this article focuses on the issue of the missing “nun” verse. He points out that Radak and Meiri state that the explanation of the Talmud (Ber. 4b) for the lack of a “nun” verse is a midrashic one, and that we do not know the true reason for the lack. He points out that the Dead Sea Scroll text of Psalm 145 has a “nun” verse: “ne’eman Elokim bi-devarav ve-hasid be-khol ma’asav,” and that the Septuagint text also has this verse (in Greek). Then he discusses the core issue: Should we view this “ne’eman” verse as having been there originally or was it just an addition by a scribe or editor bothered by the omission?
              He first gives two arguments in favor of this “nun” verse as having being there originally. But he then gives four arguments against it. First, other acrostics in Tanach are also incomplete: Pss. 9-10, 25, 34 and 37.   (The fact that verses seem to be missing in these other chapters is not well-known among us, because there are no passages on the Talmud about these missing verses.)
             Second, the added “nun” verse sounds suspiciously similar to the second half of the “tzade” verse: “ve-hasid be-khol ma’asav.” Perhaps a later scribe or author copied part of this nearby verse in his effort to create a “nun” verse. (But R. Angel points out that there are other such repetitions within chapters. The repetitions serve as a kind of chorus. He cites Ps. 24:7,9 and 67:4,6.)
             Third, R. Angel argues that it is more likely that a later writer or translator smoothed out a difficulty than that a scribe accidentally omitted a verse. Fourth, if Psalm 145 was part of the liturgy in an early stage, it is hardly likely that a verse would have been lost. He concludes that “it appears more likely that the MT contains the original text whereas the LXX and DSS reflect a later addition.”
             (P.S. I have discussed the missing “nun” verse in Ps. 145 in my own book, Esther Unmasked. I think that the missing verses in the acrostics of Psalms 9-10, 25, and 37 indicate that verses were lost. But I agree that Ps. 145 was likely composed without a “nun” verse. I also think that Pss. 25 and 34 were composed without a ”vav” verse.)
             The introductory section of the book cites the following from the Malbim: “Peshat interpretation is the beginning of knowledge; it is the key to open the gates, before we can enter the sacred inner chamber of the King.” In this spirit, all of R. Angel’s books stress a search for “peshat,” using a wide variety of sources, traditional and non-traditional, ancient and modern. Moreover, the ultimate goal of Tanach study, as R. Angel explains, is to deepen our religious commitments and inspire us to greater ethical behavior.
               All of R. Angel’s books fulfill these goals. There is much in this book for anyone who studies Tanach seriously. Hopefully that means all of you!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


From RRW
Hisbodedus (Meditation) and Nullification of Ego

You must include yourself in G-d's unity, which is the Imperative Existent. You cannot be worthy of this, however, unless you first nullify yourself. It is impossible to nullify yourself, however, without Hitbodedut-meditation.

When you meditate and express your spontaneous thoughts before G-d, you can be worthy of nullifying all desires and all evil traits. You will then be able to nullify your entire physical being, and become included in your Root.

The main time to meditate is at night. This is a time when the world is free from mundane concerns. Since people are involved in the mundane by day, you will be held back and confused, so that you will not be able to attach yourself to G-d and include yourself in Him. Even if you yourself are not so involved, since the world is concerned with worldly vanities, it is difficult for you to nullify yourself.

It is also necessary that you meditate in an isolated place. It should be outside the city, or on a lonely path, or some other place where other people are not found. For wherever people are found, they are involved in the mundane world. Even though they may not be in this place at that time, the very fact that they are usually there can confuse one's meditation, and then one cannot nullify himself and include himself in G-d.

You must therefore be alone, at night, on an isolated path, where people are not usually found. Go there and meditate, cleansing your heart and mind of all worldly affairs. You will then be worthy of a true aspect of self -nullification.

Meditating at night in an isolated place, you should make use of many prayers and thoughts, until you nullify one trait or desire. Then make use of much meditation to nullify another trait or desire. Continue in such a time and place, proceeding in this manner, until you have nullified all. If some trace of ego remains, work to nullify that. Continue until nothing remains.

If you are truly worthy of such nullification, then your soul will be included in its Root, which is G-d, the Necessary Existent. All the world will then be included in this Root along with your soul

Abridgement of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s key lesson on secluded meditation, Likkutei Moharan I, 52 (“HaNe’or BaLaylah” / “One Who Remains Awake At Night”).

Monday, 5 February 2018

Object of Mysicism

From RRW
 "The primary objective of mystical thought is to make the person understand that there is nothing else besides the Infinite. Reading the various configurations, maps, and diagrams the Kabbalah presents, the person is supposed to be awakened to consciousness that all that really exists is the Ein Sof - the Infinite. There is a feeling that is meant to be aroused when we penetrate the truths of Kabbalah, and that is the feeling that the world as we tend to perceive it, as separate and independent of a Creator, is but an illusion. But in reality there is nothing other then the infinite light. Having this notion in mind, consciously or even subconsciously, we are then able to conquer all our personal negative emotions and traits."

Rav DovBer Pinson

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Rambam on Meditation

From RRW
 Maimonides on Secluded Meditation

An individual having all the necessary qualifications can delve into the mysteries (Pardes), advancing in these deep, subtle concepts and gaining a firm understanding and perception of them.

At the same time, he must also sanctify himself and separate himself from the ways of the masses, who grope in the darkness of the times. He must achieve constant diligence in not even thinking of non-essentials or considering the current vanities and intrigues.

Such a person must work on himself until his mind is constantly clear and directed on high. He must bind his intellect to the Throne of Glory, striving to comprehend the purity and holiness of the transcendental. He must furthermore contemplate on the wisdom of HaShem in each thing, understanding its true significance, whether it be the highest spiritual entity or the lowliest thing on earth.

The individual who does this immediately becomes worthy of Ruach HaKodesh (the “Divine Spirit”). When he attains this spirit, his soul becomes bound up on the level of the angels ... and he becomes a completely different person. He can now understand things with a knowledge completely different than anything that he ever experienced previously. The level that he has attained is far above that of other men, who can merely use their intellect. This is the meaning of what [the prophet Samuel told] King Saul, "[The spirit of G-d shall descend upon you, you shall prophesy with them, and you shall be transformed into a different man" (I Samuel 10:6).

Maimonides (Rambam) (1135-1204), Mishneh Torah, Yesodey HaTorah 7:1.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

TORA Statement on Orthodox Union's Stance on Women Clergy

From RRW
TORA Statement on Orthodox Union's Stance on Women Clergy

For Immediate Release

Statement on Orthodox Union's Stance on Women Clergy

TORA, the organization of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America, applauds the recent decision by the Orthodox Union to implement the details of the responsum they presented last year. In a statement released yesterday, the OU states unequivocally that the institution of female clergy is not in consonance with Orthodox Judaism and therefore will not be acceptable in OU member synagogues. Despite harrowing criticism from more liberal rabbis, the OU decided to clearly delineate the red lines of Orthodoxy for the sake of the future of a unified Orthodox community. The decision is a victory for the majority of the Orthodox world who have faith and confidence in our collective age old wisdom, and have no desire to sacrifice it on the altar of fleeting societal trends.

The OU sensitively acknowledged that there are currently four member synagogues that already employ female clergy. The statement inclusively maintains the membership of these synagogues with the understanding that ongoing dialogue will continue in search of mutually agreed upon solutions that achieve compliance. A three-year Sunset Clause has been set to revisit the matter with these four synagogues if matters are not resolved by then.

TORA praises the courageous statement of the OU because it provides necessary clarity to an issue that has caused communal confusion in the recent past. The same way that the OU Kashruth symbol is synonymous with unquestionable Torah standards, the OU synagogue will continue to be unquestionably Orthodox.

TORA embraces all Jews and respects the right of every person to practice religion however they choose. Nevertheless, as Orthodox Jews we believe that we are guided by Jewish laws, customs and traditions that have bound us since time immemorial.

TORA understands that while the eternal precepts and laws of the Torah need to be applied in every generation, their implementation must be in line with the letter and spirit of divine law. Orthodox Jewish women learn Torah, teach Torah and assist in the Halachic processes of maintaining Ritual Purity. Orthodox women run communal organizations that visit the sick, care for the bereaved and share kindness wherever it is needed. But just as an Israelite cannot perform a Kohen’s service, a woman may not serve as clergy.

The OU's decision is based on wisdom that transcends the topic of women clergy. It asserts a traditional belief in mesorah and the protocols of halachic decision-making in establishing the qualifications for who participates in the determination of halacha at the highest levels, in the need to temper autonomy with Torah authority and in the value of what the traditional community calls meta-halacha.

TORA calls upon all Orthodox Jews and organizations to welcome the OU decision in order to maintain unity in our community. Just as the Torah was only transmitted amidst unity at Mt. Sinai, let us strive to build and foster continued unity so Judaism will continue to flourish.
TORA - Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America

99 Percent of "Palestine Refugees" Are Fake :: Daniel Pipes

From RRW