Friday 20 April 2007

2000 Years Without Torah

Originally published 4/20/07, 3:57 PM, Eastern Daylight Time

Rabbi Ben Hecht,

Someone recently asked me the following question:

If the Torah is the guidebook for life, how could humanity have survived without this guidebook for 2000 years? In other words, why did God wait for 2,000 years before giving the Torah?

I thought it would be a good question to pose on the blog. I look forward to the ideas and the discussion.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Hashkafa and Psychology

Originally published 4/15/07, 3:24 PM, Eastern Daylight Time

Rabbi Ben Hecht

It is my hope to use the blog to post thoughts I have on issues that I am presently considering, to hear your comments and initiate some dialogue. Here are my first musings and I do look forward to your feedback.

Hashkafa, the realm of Jewish Philosophy, emerges from the confrontation of the Divine command, the mitzvah, and the individual. Hashkafa, basically, attempts to explain the impact of the mitzvah on the individual, i.e. to find the reason for or the meaning of the Divine imperative. Within this process, invariably, there is the necessity to describe the nature of the human being or the Jew -- albeit that people often do not recognize this element in the process of hashkafic contemplation. What I have generally found is that -- and this is one reason why the psychological issues within this process is not fully considered -- the nature of individuals is often considered to be monlithic. There is often an assumption that all human beings or all Jews -- or that all women or all men -- have a similar psychological make-up, and the development of an explanation of a mitzvah is built on this assumption. I wonder about this assumption and the effect of this assumption on Hashkafa. Perhaps different philosophical outlooks -- although presented often as the reason or the meaning -- actually reflect different views on the psychology of people? How much is the idea that there are 70 faces to the Torah is tied to the differing natures of human beings? A consideration for psychology may create a much more complex understanding of Hashkafa but what will be the other effects of such considerations? Rabbi Meir in the gemora in Niddah implies that a purpose of Niddah is to maintain a certain level of positive sexuality in a marriage. Rambam states that its purpose is to dampen the sexuality within marriage. Both statements are presented as applicable to all but could it be that the difference lies in different psychological natures? The issue is not a simple one.

Thursday 12 April 2007

Welcome from Rabbi Hecht!


This is Rabbi Ben Hecht, Nishma's Founding Director, and I want to welcome you to the Nishma blog. Your host will be Rabbi Richard Wolpoe, a long time friend of Nishma and a new member of Nishma's Circle of Scholars. For those of you who have been involved in the learning potential of the web, Rabbi Wolpoe's name is most familiar. He now brings his knowledge of Torah and of how to make Torah study come alive on the web to the Nishma blog. We welcome him and are excited about the potential in Torah learning that may arise from this blog.

We envision many uses for the blog. One will be a place, in addition to the Nishma Discussion Forum at our website,, for individuals to comment on and discuss the many Nishma articles. The blog, of course, will also be a place for the initiation of new discussions as myself, Rabbi Wolpoe and others from the Nishma staff start new posts on important contemporary issues as well as other topics in learning. Throughout, our goal will be to meet the Nishma "commitment to the presentation of the Halachic spectrum, to the fostering of individual inquiry and to the critical investigation of contemporaty issues" all with the intent to further the development of a "wise and understanding people" (Devarim 4:6).

Take care

Welcome To the Nishma Blog

Welcome to the Nishma Blog!

Hi There!

I am Rabbi Richard Wolpoe, your provisional Host for this Blog. On behalf of Rabbi Benjamin Hecht, I welcome you to the brand new Nishma Blog!

Nishma Can be accessed at its websiste @

Hopefully there will be a lot of overlap between the Nishma Website and the Nishma Blog

Kol Tuv and Best Regards

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe