Sunday, 23 October 2016

Parsha: Breishit, "Breishit and Religulous"

The pattern of Creation in Breishit starts from the most simple creation (grass), and ends with the most complex (woman :-). This seems parallel to Darwin's hypothesis.  I also find 'dinosaurs' in "taninim g'dolim." So, without working too hard on apologetics, the Humash narrative and broadly accepted scientific hypothesis seem comparable.
"But to argue against the evolutionary process completely on the basis of the literal meaning of the bible is to argue..."
-  Rabbi David Willig
Furthermore, Rabbi Willig suggests taking Torah seriously, but not literally.  Although you need some flexibility in order to ignore dogmatists on both sides of the debate, his approach may be quite informative.

We know from the Torah text that it makes no sense to assume that first four days of creation actually lasted twenty-four hours. The sun and moon were created on the fourth day, while plants were created on the third.  A fundamental reading of the text cannot really match what passes for a fundamental read anyway. Again, not apologetics, just a simple analysis of the text.

Were I teaching a "Martian," I would say that both Darwin wrote from a technical perspective, while the Torah approaches the same sequence from a more spiritual and poetic perspective- yet both were describing the same events (more or less). So it's primarily a gap in style, not a difference in substance.

Even my 9th grade science teacher - a secular Jew - taught us classic evolution and allowed for the possibility that God was pulling the strings. As far as I know, I think most of us students were quite comfortable with that perspective. None of us felt that it threatened our faith in Humash


Parsha: B'reishit, "First Rashi"

The Rashi on the first pasuq of the Torah is striking. There, Rashi quotes R' Yitzhak, mentioning another possible beginning to the Torah. Instead of B'reishit, R' Yitzchak suggests  "hachodesh hazzeh" (Shmot: 12:2).

Q:  Why should the Torah start at Parshat Hachodesh and not Be'reishit? What's so special about it?
A: There are several approaches. For instance, this was the first Mitzvah given to all Israel

Along those lines, the main significance is that this starts off the Mechilta. Since the earliest strand of Torah sheb'al Peh begins with this passuq,  it would be natural to start Torah shebichtav [Miqra] at that same point.



Is Darwin Kosher?

Originally published 7/8/07, 10:45 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
A Tradition's Evolution: 
Is Darwin Kosher? - Wall Street Journal 
In a recent discussion with some of my chevra , we concluded that TRUE science and TRUE religion - since all of the above emanate from the same God - cannot be in any conflict.

However, in the human realm, we don't really understand the ultimate truths of science yet, as we probably do not really understand Torah or God - except on a superficial level. One day, there will live a Rambam and an Einstein all wrapped up in the same person who will get to the bottom of both realms. He will discover that when you really comprehend both Torah and science, their only conflict is semantic.

I believe it was R. Sa'adya Gaon who first posited that mitzvoth will gradually become more and more rational over time, and we will then grasp their meaning.

Here is an example: Most meforshim interpret "Taninim Gedolim" as sea monsters or whales... This is loosely based on RSR Hirsch on Parshat Vo'eira. He asserts, basing himself on the Haftorah, that we can interpret "Tanim" as crocodile and "Taninim g'dolim" as great lizards - Dinosaurs. A little bit of archaeology,  some flexlible etymology, and you can point to dinosaurs within the Torah.

What is definitively true of the Torah well before Darwin is that it describes a creation proceeding from the simple and progressing to the complex. Thus we see the confluence of Torah and Mada as an evolving process. - pun most intended -


B'reisheet - "B'etzev Teil'dee Banim"

Originally published 10/19/09, 3:09 pm.
B'reishit 3:16 - B'etzev Teil'dee Banim...

Itzavon in modern Hebrew can mean "depression"

Could this Passuq refer to Post-Partum depression?
So as to render this phrase, "With [or in] "depression" shalt thou bear children..."


The "Oat Brit" Linguisitic Pattern

The "Oat Brit" [Os Bris] Pattern

First - please see these sections

P B'reishis     R'vii 4:15
P. Noach     Hamishi 9:5-17
P. Lech Lecha     Shishi-Sh'vii 17:2-21
P. Ki Tissa     End of Rishon 31:13-17
In the last 3 Oat and Brit [Os and Bris] appear in tandem, often repeatedly. Re: Kayin, only "Oat"

Have any "Parshanim" connected all of these dots together?
EG the number of times Oat and Brit are used? The sequencing?

For a limited example -
See Torah Temimah on Lech Lecha 17:11 quoting a Meimra from Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok in TB: Shabbat 132a, concerning "Meelah docheh Shabbos" which addresses a small subset of this pattern.

Kol Tuv,

Parsha: Breisheet, "She'amar l'Olam Dai! & Darwin"

HKBH completed creation by saying DAI (DIE?).  Thus creative activity ceased.
- RSR Hirsch, B'reisheet 2:1.

It seems a certain Creative Force reined during the six Days of Creation, until S-D-Y [the Almighty] terminated it.  Yet it would appear that Creativity and even Evolution continues! So what, precisely, has stopped?

Here is a possible case of terminated creativity. As far as I know,  no human has personally witnessed a species morph into a more evolved species. No one sees mice becoming rabbits or deer. (Microbes may be an exception.) Yet adaptation has been observed within a species...

My big "kasha" on Darwin has long been this: How did Darwin understand adaptation to apply regarding evolving from one species to another? This is, as far as I know, unknown!

Now, with RSR Hirsch's assistance, I can approach a reconciliation.

When HKBH made the world during the six days, such evolution from one species to the next, or its equivalent, may have indeed reigned upon the earth.  As such, when Hashem created a certain species,  He may have done so in such a way as to evolve X into species Y and Z, etc. This pattern is coded into the original Creation Process's "DNA".

Conceivably, Darwin may have detected a legacy of that process or its equivalent. However, once S-D-Y said "DIE", this aspect of the creative process was terminated and what had already been made - and was also making - became fixed, locked. No new species would ever emerge.

Still, a remnant, a legacy of the original creativity and adaption remains, but the species have been fixed and limited - as perhaps other aspects of Creation. Therefore, since Vayachulu, the Original Creative process was terminated. Only its shadow remains



Parsha: B'reishit, "Vaychula, Vaychal"

Here is an exchange on the Leining Google Group
* * * * *

I posed this question given: B'reisheet 2:1,2.
  • Vaychulu TARGUM v'ishtachlalu
  • Vaychal TARGUM v'sheitzei
Why did Onkelos change the verb?


  • "And the heavens and the earth are completed, and all their host;"(Bereishit: 2:1)
  • "and God completeth by the seventh day His work which He hath made, and ceaseth by the seventh day from all His work which He hath made." (Bereishit: 2:2)

As you can see, the same verb is used, albeit in passive and active voices.

FREE Online Youngs Literal Translation. Genesis Chapter 2:1-25.

As to the reason for the Targum's change of meaning, there is an old sefer on Onkelos named Patshegen (viewable at who explains that if "vaichulu" merely meant "completed" rather than shichlul (which he equates with the Hebrew "tikkun"), then the second pasuk would be adding nothing to the first: if the work was completed, then of course HKBH completed it. Thus, the first is interpreted as meaning perfected, while the second means completed.
- Meir



B'reishit: Pru uRvu & Yishuv ha'Olam

This idea is extrapolated from Hirsch Humash Breishis 1:28, New edition pm 46, S.V. "Umil'u"

It seems bepashtus that the mitzva of pru urvu is about populating the world by reproducing more humans than what were there before. This does not mean merely replacing, but adding on through increasing the numbers.
While women are technically exempt from this mitzva, their participation is essential nonetheless. Lasheves yetzarah also implies a quasi obligation upon women to participate in this goal.
Now let's step back and ask: what about those [men and women] who unfortunately are not birthing children due to various circumstances and limitations? What should the childless Jew do?
Approaching this from a communal focus - instead of from an individual focus - the resolution seems also "pashtus". Men and women who are not blessed with offspring can assist others in this noble endeavor.

The last mitzva in the Torah -  kesivas Sefer Torah - is assigned to the individual. Yet, it is rarely accomplished by the individual anymore. It usually takes a a sofer, and often it "takes a village."
So too, with bringing up the next generation. The physical parents are analogous to the sofer, and so there is room for more participation. Several tasks that can be parceled out to the community at large include:
• Assisting the new parents by providing meals or "baby-sitting" relief.
• Medical and Nursing Assistance.
• Training or Coaching "new parents."
• Training children in Talmud Torah or in parnassah.
• Participating in synagogue youth work, such as minyanim, etc.
• Giving rides when necessary for parents or children - such as to the doctor or shopping.
• Playing surrogate "grandparents" when the children have none handy.
Anyway, the list goes on. The point of this exercise is to afford an opportunity for the community to adopt this mitzva so that all may be a part of yishuv olam. So those that cannot do for themselves can still enable others in this essential Mitzva.

A childless woman, "Tzipporah," has dedicated her life to teaching children in a Jewish Day School. In addition, as an aunt, she helps her nieces and nephews by playing the role of "surrogate grandmother". Thus both her personal and professional life participate in participating in or enabling the mitzva of Yishuv Olam.


Parshah: Breishit, "Na'aseh Adam"

There are many interesting interpretations and apologetics of the First Person Plural in the case of "Na'aseh Adam." (Breishit: 1:26)

Notzrim allege a multi-faceted Divinity, [Heaven Forbid! L'havdil]. RSR Hirsch counters this interpretation, reading "Naaseh" as a royal We. Rashi favours Hashem u'veit Dino - due to HIS Humility.

I have a simple reading.  Hashem created Adam as the sum of all that went before. Adam contained components of every step of creation. Adam is therefore part Light, water, earth, reptile, bird, beast etc. - as well as heavenly and angelic.

Hashem is "quarterbacking" or exhorting the entire "team" of creatures to pull together to make Adam Harishon.   Hashem partnered with all of his previous creations, Heavenly and Earthly, to make Adam. Na'aseh is addressed to all creatures.



Saturday, 22 October 2016

Parsha: B'reishit, "A New Perspective on Etz Hada'at"

In reviewing the Parshah with the Artscroll Ba'al Haturim Humash, I noticed a secondary aspect to Havvah's "sin" of eating from the "Eitz Hada'at".

The original take on Original Sin is that Adam exceeded his authority by telling Havvah not to touch the fruit. His credibility was sunk when the snake so easily debunked his Humra, that Havvah just had to give into temptation. Or did she? The Midrash adds [P. 1395] that Havvah slandered Adam in her mind "All that my teacher [Adam] instructed me is false".

We see that Hashem gave Adam a Mitzvah. Adam -acting as a "Rabbi" - violated "bal Tosif" by over-instructing Havvah. This excessive instruction enabled the Nahash to override the original Mitzvah, too.

What's the slander? After all, Havvah seems correct. She was, after all, misled by her Rabbi. This "slander" is a secondary aspect and highly instructive to any Talmid who finds a flaw in the instructions of his Rebbe. What happens when a Rabbi has apparently said something flawed, or, C"V, something definitely flawed.

How should we react?

Let me re-quote with emphasis: "ALL that my teacher instructed me is false"
This itself is jumping to a false conclusion. Making an error might impeach one's credibility. Furthermore, even while Adam was not infallible, it does not mean that all he said was false. So how should Havvah and/or our hypothetical Talmid should have reacted to a perceived flaw in instruction?
  1. A rationalist approach: "While there was a flaw in what my Rebbe said, not all that my teacher instructed me is false" 
  2. A believer's approach: "Despite a possible flaw in what my rebbe said, something, (I. E.some core principle) must be true even if he failed on some detail". 
Havvah could have reacted, saying, "wait a minute, Nahash! Just because I can touch this fruit - it doesn't mean I should go ahead and eat it!"

At any rate, this is not about berating Havvah. It's about teaching our hypothetical Talmid not to over-react and to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Yes, Adam erred on the side of caution, but this does not license one to throw caution to the wind.

Many years ago, when I took my driver's test, my instructor told me, "Rich, the speed limit on the course is 25 MPH. But go about 20 anyway".
I proceeded to go 15 MPH. My inspector was impatiently at his wit's end. Although he lectured me about being able to make quicker reactions, he did pass me. My caution, though annoying, was not fatal.
Now, if I had said to myself, "my instructor said 20, but the sign really says 25 - so I'll do better and go 30!" I might still be trying to pass my licensing exam to this day! ;-)

As you see, "fools rush in..." Adam might be faulted for over-compensating, but some level of trust - of emunat hachamim - is a must for Torah Observance


Etz Hada'as - So What IS So Bad about Knowing Good from Evil Anyway?

Originally published 10/23/07, 6:17 PM, Eastern Daylight Time

Q: So wasn't the nachash [snake] right? After all, what is so bad about knowing Good from Evil?
A: Because now we are stuck in a judgmental paradigm that we cannot escape.

Q: Whatcha mean?
A: I guess, before the "sin," we were all like Zen monks. Everything just IS. We only lived for the present moment. No discussion, no planning, no remembering, just being and experiencing.

Now, we are constantly stuck in the mind game
  • Did I do the right thing?
  • Did so-and-so do the right thing?
  • Were the Yankees GOOD to Torre?
  • Was Torre's firing Good for the Jews?"
We are STUCK evaluating every last detail of our existence on this veil of tears and there is no escape!

Q: Wow! So what can we do NOW?
A: Hashiveinu Hashem...Hadesh Yameinu kekdem. Restore us to our original state of ignorant bliss. But, please hurry, it has taken way too long already!


Parsha Breisheet - Word Play #1 ARM

Continuing my Study of Breisheet with R.S.R. Hirsch...End of Chapter 2:25
Vayihyu sh'neihem "Arumim"
Beginning of chapter 3:1 "v'haNachash hayah "Arum"

Of course the words convey different meanings, the former "nakedness" the latter "cunning." Nevertheless the [apparently] common root - juxtaposed so closely together - seems to be an obvious literary device.
NB: While R. Hirsch does indeed mention "Eryeh" in conjunction with the earlier term "Arumim", he does not seem to focus upon that definition.. Yet Arayot - as in "Giluy Arayot" - seems to be the obvious focus of the Nahash's meddling into Havvah's business. And this is so indicated by the Midrash.


Parsha B'reisheet - Word Play #2 CHWH[Y]

Chavah [HWH] is named by Adam [Breisheet 3:20] after the incident with the Nahash. Until then she is merely "ha'Ishah"

R.S.R. Hirsch points out an interesting word play with the Aramaic word "Chivya" [Hiwyah].
The root of the Hebrew Chavah and the Aramaic Chivyah [snake] are virtually the same. This suggests a very different approach to Chavah's name than the text's own reason [viz. Eim kol Ha]. At any rate, both reasons are apparently the result of the Nahash incidedent
See R.S.R. Hirsch Breisheet 3:6 p. 99 s.v. Sa'avah in the New Edition.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Parsha: Ha'azinu, "He Measured the Seas in the Hollow of His Hand"

We chose this article from  Nishma's Online Library  relating to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah and to start some discussion.

We encounter the artistic and poetic within Torah through the reading of Ha'azinu. It is with specifically this in mind that we direct you to the following article



Saturday, 8 October 2016

Parsha: Noah, "Cappara vs. Teshuva"

first published October 10, 2015

Parshat Noah, 6:15 S.V. "v'chafarta", R.S.R. Hirsch, New edition p. 182

The basic meaning of CPR is a protective or restrictive covering. In a sense, then, Copher means "Cover". Cappara is a covering.

V'al kol pesha-im techashe b'ahava...

In other words, to pray for Cappara is to pray that one's sins - or that the negative impact of these sins - will be covered up.

Teshuva is "returning to the state before sin". It is a retroactive process. Teshuva is the undoing of a sin.

Here is a mashal: A man gains weight and as a result his blood pressure rises.

Cappara would be to take blood pressure medication. The man is shielded from the deleterious effects of his weight, even though he is still heavy.

Doing Teshuva would involve the man's dieting and exercising, losing the weight and reducing the hypertension. In other words, restoring his body back to the healthy way it was before the weight gain altered its body chemistry.

Of course, Teshuva is a more complete process. A thorough Teshuva might take years.

Yom Kippur is more of a quick fix.  Perhaps it's necessary to take the palliative of Cappara before the cure of Teshuva is available.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Parsha: Vayelech, "National Torah and Personal Torah"

We chose an article from the archives of Nishma's Online Library that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Vayelech, and the topic is the self. We invite you to look at an article on this topic. 



Saturday, 1 October 2016

Haftarah -Scheduling of Shuvah and Dirshu

« In addition to the three haftarot of doom and the seven haftarot of consolation familiar to us, the Tosafot speak also of "two haftarot of repentance" belonging to this set of haftarot, namely Dirshu Hashem be-Himatzo that is read on Tzom Gedalya and Shuva Yisrael that is read this Shabbat.  This means that this entire set of haftarot constitutes a response to Tisha be-Av. 
The destruction of the Temple necessitates a two-fold response: 1) mourning over the loss of the Temple and the members of Israel who fell in battle; and 2) a process of repentance "in order to stir up the hearts and open the paths of repentance.  This should serve as a reminder of our own evil deeds and those of our forefathers that were as our present deeds to the point that they caused them and us these troubles, so that by remembering these things we should repent and do good."[1]
The first and immediate response to the destruction is consolation; it is urgently needed in order to revive Israel's dejected spirit and strengthen their broken hearts.  Following the great effort that was invested in this cause over the course of the summer, the time has come for the repentance that is required in the wake of the destruction as a repair of Israel's evil deeds that led to it.  We see then that reading the haftara of Shuva stems from a double obligation of repentance: a) the special obligation of repentance generated by the Ten Days of Penitence[2]; and b) an obligation of repentance in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, which is rooted in the laws of fasting, as is emphasized by the Rambam in the aforementioned passage.  Formulated in a slightly different manner, it might be argued that now that we have finished reading the haftarot of consolation, the time has come to act toward their realization and bring about the redemption.  This requires repentance and therefore we must deal with the issue of repentance in the haftarot that follow the haftarot of consolation.»
Torah on the Web - Virtual Beit Midrash

Kol Tuv,

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Limits of Rabbinic Authority

Originally posted 8/26/07, 3:15 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

Are there any objective limits to Rabbinic Authority? Or can rabbis rule subjectively and perhaps capriciously to advance their opinions, ignoring Black letter Law or the concept of Eilu v'Eilu? This subject was previously broached on Nishmablog, here. More than ever, it is something to consider seriously.

Here is an e-mail I sent to The Jewish Week that was recently published. More background on this matter is available and BEH will be published on this thread or subsequent threads.
Rabbinic Decisions
I would like to echo the remarks of Rabbi Noah Gradowsky (Letters, July 13). Certainly Orthodox rabbis should be empowered to render decisions concerning halacha [Jewish law]. That said, I have two caveats: First, they should not make decisions that are absolute when the matter is in dispute. The Lower East Side eruv controversy comes to mind. Some Orthodox rabbis are prohibiting making an eruv. Instead, they should be merely rendering an opinion as to the eruv"s validity.

Second, rabbis should not be "thought police." People should be entitled to think for themselves. The hidden thoughts are for God alone to determine. At most, rabbis can rule on prescribed behavior. However, the philosophy as to how best to implement laws should remain a matter for open-minded debate.
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe
Teaneck, N.J.
NB: The Hidden Thoughts refer specifically to "hanistaros L'Hashem Elokeinu" - [end of Shlishi in Parshas Nitzavim]. While a Beth Din has every right to enforce behavioral standards "v'haniglos lany ul'evaneinu" nevertheless our intimate thoughts [and possibly intimate behavior] are "bein Adam Lamakom" alone.

Lo Bashamayim Hee

Originally published 5/27/08, 12:37 AM.
 Some give and take on Avodah with regard to Parshat Nitzavim

First Cantor Richard Wolberg:
«The Sages relate that the angels complained to Hashem when He chose to share His precious Torah with His people. They argued, "Your glory (Your Torah) should remain among the Heavenly beings. They are holy and Your Torah is holy, they are pure and Your Torah is pure and they are everlasting and Your Torah is also." One of the answers to that is three words from the Torah: "Lo bashamayim hee".

However, Midrash Shochar Tov 8 says that Hashem responded that the Torah could not remain amongst them because they are perfect spiritual beings with no mortality, impurity or illness. Hashem's true glory would ultimately come from man plagued by impurity and mortality.
Cantor R Wohlberg»

Then RRW:
«Hazal wanted us to know that once the Torah left the heavens it would no longer remain the pristine Perfect Handiwork of HKBH, but would henceforth be managed and interpreted by error-prone humans. Nevertheless - despite the loss of innocence for the Torah - this step was necessary. The time had come for the innocent Torah to mix it up with the mortals and to help us even if if would not remain in its original state.


Hence though Torah started miSinai, it is not necessarily purely miSinai any longer. It is now an admixture.


Now for Michael Markovi:
A much-expanded version of a previous post of mine to this thread, regarding my...err...radical view of TSBP:

Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner makes a large point of this, saying that the truth of Torah She'be'al'pe is not what Hashem says but what we say (Rabbi Eliezer and the oven), in line with Drashot haRan #5 on theoven and Sefer haChinuch on the mitzvah of following the judges, that
we follow our rabbis even when they're wrong.

See also Rabbi Gil Student's "Halachic Responses To Scientific Developments"
citation of Yad Yehuda 30:3, quoting Rambam Hilkhot Shekhita 10:12-13, that we cannot question Chazal's decisions regarding which animals are treifa, because all we have is Chazal's decisions, and they are sealed.

According to Rambam, drashot can be overturned by a later Sanhedrin.

In fact, Rabbi Glasner, quoting the Midrash Shmuel on Avot, "aseh sayag laTorah", says that the Oral Law was oral davka to make it flexible and subject to change. This explains the Gemara's apocalyptic permission to write the Oral Law, viz "eit la'asot lashem"; by writing the Oral Law, to save it, a vital piece of it was destroyed, part of its raison d'etre in fact! Because once a piece of the Oral Law was written, it became authoritative, and no longer subject to change and
evolution as was previously the case.

Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (who received semicha from Rabbi Glasner's son, Rabbi Akiva Glasner) expands extensively on this point, that the writing of the Mishna, Gemara, and the Codes successively ossified the halacha in a way that the Oral Law was never meant to be, making us Karaites of the Oral Law.

See Rabbi Glasner's hakdamah to his Dor Revi'i, perush on Chullin. It is partially translated by Rabbi Yaakov Elman at
See also the biography by David Glasner at
As for Rabbi Berkovits, he makes his points in a variety of locations, including Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha (aimed at secularly-educated scholars), Halakha: Kocha v'Tafkida (aimed at rabbinical scholars), Towards Historic Judaism, and Crisis and Faith.

Rabbi Glasner simply takes this entire philosophy a bit further thanmost. Likewise Rabbi Berkovits on Moshe seeing Rabbi Akiva's class andnot understanding and learning from this that Torah does evolve overtime; both are more extreme than most, but the gist of what they say is quite normative, as far as it seems to me. In fact, once we say that

1) halachot could be forgotten and had to be recovered by humans, 2) many drashot were in fact used by humans to actually derive the law(often **but not always** they were asmachtot for laws already knownas kabbalot)

(See, for example, Dynamics of Dispute by Rabbi Zvi Lampel, "Interpretation" by Menachem Elon in Encyclopedia Judaica, Rabbi Isidore Epstein's introduction to the Soncino Midrash Rabbah, Rabbi Gil Student "Midrash Halakha" at

we are admitting the human element of many halachot, and we can no longer say it is purely m'Sinai as most say Torah She'be'al Pe is, and we are forced, as it seems to me, to adopt some sort of opinion similar if not as extreme as those of Rabbis Glasner and Berkovits, as least as far as theory goes (Rabbi Berkovits's actualization of thisphilosophy is a matter for a separate debate.)

Therefore, for example, we ought to realize that an Amora's explanation of a Tanna may be his own personal thoughts, similar to any rav's understanding today of the intent of a prior authority. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his Essential Talmud remarks on the peculiar Talmudic method of okimta, remarking that it aspires not for historicity, but rather, it attempts to make as many pieces of evidence agree as much as it possible.

There is thus no guarantee that a creative drasha is the correct intent of Torah, nor is there any guarantee that an Amora correctly understood a Tanna - see Tosafot Yom Tov Nazir 5:5 for permission to permit mishna differently than the Gemara.

Evidently, the Shadal (Shmuel David Luzzatto) held similarly to this whole line of thought, that Chazal's drashot on mikra are not necessarily "correct". See Shmuel Vargon's "Samuel David Luzzatto's Critique of Rabbinic Exegesis Which Contradicts the Plain Meaning of Scripture",
(note: my Hebrew is 
insufficient to have read this article yet, so I am relying on the abstract).

Rabbi David Bigman, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa (on Har haGilboa in the Jezre'el), for example, advocates critical Talmud study, asking, for example, what the Tanna meant independent what the Amora thought he meant; what different codifications of Oral Law say (Bavli, Yerushalmi, Tosefta, etc.), each in their own light. See his "Finding a Home for Critical Talmud Study",,

The Kuzari in 3:41 opines that the omer could be brought on any date chosen by Chazal, and it was Chazal who chose the second day of Pesach. If so, then it means the contrary opinions of the Tzadukim (that it was to fall on Sunday, as the literal mikra indicates) is wrong only insofar as it goes against the binding ruling of Chazal, and not because it was an invalid drasha. It seems to me that perhaps alternatively, we simply don't listen to Tzadukim even if they are correct; there is a story in the Gemara of one rabbi being put to death, and he realized it was because he once found a drasha of a min to be pleasing; even though the drasha was valid, he still should have ignored it. In any case, we can extrapolate that in general, freedom of midrash is restricted more by Chazal's binding decisions than any claim of theirs to being the only correct opinion.

I thank Rabbi Yaakov Elman of Yeshiva University for providing me with sources (most notably, he introduced me to Rabbi Glasner when I mentioned Rabbi Berkovits), as well as having extensive discussion with me on their implications. It should be noted, however, that this philosophy is still a work in progress by me, especially as I continue to learn more Chumash, Gemara, and Halacha. It should also be noted that any errors are mine, not Rabbi Elman's, as he has already pointed out certain errors in my thinking, and no doubt there are still more to be found.

Mikh'el Makovi

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Parshah: Ki Tavo - Arami Oved Avi

Question 1:
Why did Chazal choose Arami Oved Avi to illustrate the Central theme of Exodus in the Haggadah as opposed to - for example - Parshat Bo?
And given that there is a Tosefta (Peshachim 10:8) that states: "Those who live the in the city and have nobody to recite Hallel would gather in the shul".

Question 2: 
How would you know how to lead a Seder without knowing how to lead Hallel?
Here is a proposed answer to the 2 questions 
Originally, all farmers, when they brought the Bikurim, the first fruit, would recite Arami Oved Avi. So Chazal chose Arami Oved Avi to explain the Exodus because every farmer in Israel would be familiar with Arami Oved Avi when they brought the bikkurim annually to the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalyim.

Now we can answer both questions because we can now explain:

1. Why Hazal specifically picked this Parsha over any other
2. How a Leader at the Seder could be familiar with the Haggadah [Arami Oved Avi] yet still not be familiar with how to lead the Hallel


Ki Tavo: Free Choice

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.
This week's parsha is Ki Tavo and the topic is free choice. So often, people use the argument of free choice to explain why knowledge of God is not clear -- for it it was, we would not have free choice but would clearly not sin -- and/or to contend that there can be no consequences for our actions -- for if there were, we would not have free choice as, for sure, we would do what is good for us. If one considers the brachot and klalot in the Torah, though, one must recognize that free choice exists even when knowledge of God is absolute and the recognition of the consequences of one's actions, even the punishment for sins, is clear and accepted. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Parshah Ki Teitzie 9/11, Amaleik, Honesty and Anti-Semitism

The juxtaposition of honest weights and measures has been used by Hazal to be a causal connexion.; viz. when Jews are dishonest in business the specter of Amaleik rears its ugly head. And I have heard similar statements by Holocaust survivors. Supposedly, Anwar Sadat had anti-Semitic feelings due to being ripped off as a youngster by a Jewish businessman.

So be it.

But I would like to suggest as slight nuance shift. The concept that dishonesty in business triggers Anti-Semitism or Amaleik is difficult to perceive. How can the simple act of being dishonest bring about full-fledged persecution?

I would suggest an alternative way of understanding this point. I.E. that there are Latent Anti-Semites all over the place. However, when we Jews behave ourselves we merit Divine Protection. However, when we Misbehave we are stripped of this special shield and we are now VULNERABLE to Amaleik or Anti-Semitism. This might be viewed as a form of negative re-enforcement philosophically speaking; nevertheless in pragmatic and historical terms this can explain how a relatively minor infraction can trigger such a virulent response.

The late Jerry Falwell and other Christian Leaders voiced a similar point of view [POV] with regard to 9-11. and that is normally America merits Divine Protection but for some misbehaviour this Divine Shield was removed. In the case of the Christian Right, that was attributed to Sexual deviance, etc. While the specific attribution might betray a right-wing or Fundamentalist mindset, the concept of Divine Protection being removed is IMHO indeed a very legitimate Jewish, Midrashic concept. In the case of us Jews, the shield subject to business practices. Woe unto us re: some recent allegations re: some prominent Jewish Businesses.

In the case of America I have no idea which sin was the egregious one that removed this Divine Protection. Perhaps the Christian Right has it right, but it is also possible it has it wrong. If the Dor Hamabbul is a precedent for the world at large, the issue would be "hamas" or a form of thievery - not sexual deviancy. Nevertheless. the impact is similar, i.e. that any catastrophe must bring about active introspection and is a call for self-improvement regardless of the specific shortcoming. To put it another way. the Christian Right might have the specific misdeed all wrong but could also be 100% correct that SOME misdeed permitted this plot to succeed and we are therefore impelled to take this as a wake up call.

With thoughts of Elul time Teshuva,

Parsha: Ki Teitzei, "War and the Innocent Bystander"

This week's parsha is Ki Teitzei and the topic is the response to terrorism. In the response to terrorism, the practical reality is that there is always a great possibility that innocent individuals will also be hurt and killed. How do we understand this action within the Torah's moral perception?

We have chose the article, War and the Innocent Bystander from the archives of Nishma's Online Library both to direct you to the Dvar Torah and to initiate some discussion.



Re: [Avodah] proofs of G-d

On Nov 21, 2007, 5:38 AM, Marty Bluke <> wrote:
Meshech Chochma( Shemos 13:9)writes:

"Divine Providence is manifest for each Jew according to his spiritual
level as the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim (3:18): Divine
Providence is not equal for everyone but rather is proportional to
their spiritual level. Consequently the Divine Providence for the
prophets is extremely powerful each according to their level of
prophecy. The Divine Providence for the pious and saintly is according
to their level of perfection. In contrast the fools and the rebels
lacking spirituality are in essence in the same category as animals...
This concept that Divine Providence is proportional to spiritual level
is one of foundations of Judaism..."

Today, this idea (that the Chinuch explicitly rejects) of hashgacha
pratis on everything has taken hold. There is no question that it is a
very calming thought. You don't have to worry about chance occurrences
affecting you, everything is directly from Hashem. However, this was
not the view of the overwhelming majority of the Rishonim.

Regarding Moznay tzedek and Amaleik:

At the end of parshas Ki Teittzei there is the juxtaposition of Business ethics and Amaleik.
  1.  how does a failing of business ethics give Amaleik any power over us?
  2. Aren't there anti-Semites all of the time,  What's new about this situation.
Speaking to my congregation - consisting of many survivors of the Nazi regime - I explained it thusly:
The normal/usual situation is that there are ALWAYS anti-Semites out there. BUT it is only when we fail to live up to the Torah standards of Business Ethics that Hashem ALLOWS them power over us [kind of hester panim due to our bad behavior]

Simlarly Ya'kov Avinu was promised safe passing by HKBH but was afraid of "shema yigrom hacheit" But we know from Rambam et. al. that HKBH never takes away a POSITIVE promise?  Shema yigrom might remove the higher level of protection that was required. [ e.g. vayhi chitas Elokim....]

L'havdil, many Evangelicals felt that 9-11 was a result of Hashem withdrawing His usual protection of America due to America's mis-behavior.  So this idea of removing Protection in the face of Sin is a fairly common concept.

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
Please Visit:

Leining: Is it zeikher or zekher?

Originally published 4/2/08, 11:06 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

I looked up ZECHER in the Even Shoshan Concordance - and in it I located 2 occurences of Zecher - and BOTH were proper names!

Zecher is clearly wrong. Rav Mordechai Breuer OBM has confirmed this with unassailable research While the Ma'seh Rav attests to this idea of Zecher Rav Haim Volozhiner protested this very attestation [albeit very politely]. In NO way were TWO readings ever suggested

But if safeik D'd'oraiito lehumra re: Zachor why not go all the way? [Reductio ad absurdum indeed- after all it is read around Purim time! So why not

  1. Read it from BOTH a Sepyhardic and Ashkenaic Torah...
  2. Read BOTH Scrolls with every permutation of pronunciation [e.g. litvisher, Hungarian, Yekkish, Sephardic Yemineite etc. etc.]?

The Vilna Gaon himself made fun of multiple pairs of Tefillin as ludicrous and came up with 32-64 possible permutations. Ironically we are beginning to perpetuate such a practice in his honor. [Incidentally, this proves there MUST be a God or else it would make no sense to practice such a minhag to honor the one who felt such permutation as unnecessary.]

One Rabbi insisted that whilst reading Ki Tetze both Zeicher and Zecher must be read TWICE, one for Shevii'i and once for Maftir! His argument? since we have changed the form [tzura] for Zachor therefore THAT becomes THE normative way to read it EVERY time we read the Torah, including Ki Tetze! No I am not kidding, I had a bar mitzva student who HAD to do it this way!

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,


Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 1

Originally published 3/3/10, 9:13 pm.

Re: Repeating to read Zachor to accommodate both Zeicher and Zecher

There are those with whom I may never agree and in particular there is this one fellow with whom I often lock horns; he sent me a private email that expresses some of my own outrage on this matter...

I think it's safe to snip out these two points:

  1. The practice looks silly.
  2. The practice looks ... to be huqa utelula.

When you think about it, they are almost the same point.
Here is my similar reaction in a private email to a completely different colleague.
I still think it's a bad approach, a bad precedent and a bad example. We're making Reform & Conservative frummer with regards to the Masoretic text than we Orthodox Jews are. As we play more games with it, we thereby making it appear "less holy" and more susceptible to error.

Zeicher and Zecher on steroids. ;-)

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Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 2

Posted with permission from the author.

This post speaks for itself. -RRW

«Re zeicher and zecher.

My brother-in-law, Prof. Jordan Penkower of Br Ilan University wrote an extensive article proving that the correct pronunciation is zeicher. It's way beyond my expertise although Jordan acknowledged as a leading expert in Bible studies, Jewish manuscripts etc.

I asked a member of my shul, who is also an expert in this field and who often is the ba'al korey on Parshat Zachor, if he had read the article. he said he had and that Jordan was "absolutely" correct. So I asked him (as Jordan had asked me to) whether he would read it only that way (zeicher) on Parshat Zachor. "Of course not," he replied; "what do facts have to do with minhag Yisrael?" And sure enough, he read it both ways.

Joseph Kaplan»

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 3

Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids

I attended a Bar Mitzvah on Parshat Ki Teitze. There, the BM boy repeated zecher-zeicher twice
• Once for sh'vii
• Once for maftir

I found this strange. The entire Rationale for the Mishnah Brurah's requirement of repeating this - is predicated upon the premise that Zachor is d'oraitto! That does not apply to Ki Teitze.

Also it would be simple to accomodate Zecher/Zeicher by doing one way during sh'vii and the other way during Maftir! Win-win! After all the Passuq was being repeated anyway.

I asked the local Rav. He claimed that once MB changed the tzurah of how to lain this passage, it gets changed across the board in the same tzurah. I found this incredulous! Would the MB ever have made that suggestion? Seems far-fetched indeed.

But we do see that Halachah or Minhag evolves even twice in several generations. First for Zachor alone and then for Ki Teitze.

Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids - INDEED ;-)


Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 4

Originally published 3/7/10, 8:30 PM

Reb Ira Gruscott mentions that, "Of course , what he doesn't say is that prior to and even during the lifetime of R' Y.M. Kagan z't'l, it was never a minhag to repeat....even in Yeshivas Radun."

Check Marc Shapiro's post on this.
This can be spun two ways.Either
A: it's a frum shtick with  no basis either in minhag or grammar or halakha; or
B: Orthodoxy does have a halakha that is -to quote Shapiro- "dynamic" This, of course goes to the post on your blog re: how one "feels" regarding halakha


Look, we live in an ambiguous world!

Let's face the facts. Those who can tolerate ambiguity well,  will be fine, while those who cannot, will be frustrated, angry, railing, and dueling the windmills. Most of us fall somewhere in between! ;-)

Indeed I think "minhag Yisrael" is perhaps a poor choice of words.

What I think he was really saying is that Professor Penkower's academic analysis is irrelevant to the Halachah - one way or the other. Only a Poseiq can make that call, not a professor. As to how the Mishnah Brurah's ruling caught on fire - I do not know. I understand Lubavitch does this, and they are not known to be particularly deferential to the MB

Perhaps, as Hacham Sassoon might say: we believe in continuous revelation. Others might see the Hand of Divine Providence.

What bothers me about the Mishnah Brurah's method is that he presents the safeiq as even. It's not. And as Rabbi Noah G. has noted, a Halachic Safeiq is usually approxximately 50-50.
Here it's clearly not a 50-50. For example, I might say that Rabbenu Tam Tefillin might be 50-50, but Catholic Israel did away with that opinion.

R' Mordechai Breuer's article is brilliant on this matter. I have Professor Penkower's article but I have not yet had the pleasure to complete it.

As I understand Rav Halivni and Rabbis Feldblum and Price, we don't follow "science" when it comes to halachic practice, particularly in nusach. For example, This came up regarding "unetaneh toqef" and "kivnei maron" where Albeck and others suggest "kivnumerion" instead. R' Price dismissed this as academic and not halachic, and so subject to the shifting paradigms in science. For instance, is Pluto still a planet?

The story goes that in Breslau Seminary -
Proffessor Graetz read the Haftara with his emendation based upon science

And R' Z. Frankel apparently re-read the entire passage [iirc with brachot] to make the point that we don't emend Tanach on the basis of our scientific point of view - at least not during the liturgy

Anyway, we can safely say this:
  • The Masoretes deviated from the Talmud in a number of instances.
  • The Kimchi's Grammar deviated from the Tiberian grammatical system on several points.

- I believe segol is one of those areas. Anyway, as far as I know, the Kimchi's PRONOUNCED tzeire and segol the same - obviating any need for repetition. Perhaps our very hakpadah to distinguish the two vowels has led us to this safeiq, though many would claim that this is irrelevant.

'Nuff Said.

Zissen Pesach,

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 5

R David Bannett - from the Avodah List

I started learn to read the Torah some 75 years ago in Flatbush and was taught to read both ways. We did not repeat the entire pasuk but only the phrase "timcheh et zeikher Amalek". I don't remember if I was taught the order but, many years later, I decided to read the incorrect zekher first and then correct myself by saying zeikher the second time. Similarly, in the megilla, when the megilla has the incorrect bifneihem and laharog I read as written and then correct myself by repeating the phrase only: v'ish.... lifneihem and k'hashmid.... v'laharog. If the megilla is correct I read only once.

Anyone slightly interested in the subject should read R'Mordekhai Breuer's article. Those very interested should go directly to R' Prof Penkower's article. He gives the entire history, about 45 pages, including statistics on manuscripts from the time of ben Asher as well as customs of reading, etc.
The double reading evidently started slightly before the Hafetz Hayyim made it popular. Penkower cites a ba'al Kriah who was instructed by R' Sh'neur Zalman mi'Lublin to read twice. This R' Sh"Z died in 1902. The Mishna B'rura was printed in 1906.

I was delighted to read that R' Penkower read twice despite his indisputable proofs that zeikher is correct. A few years ago I gave a Friday night talk proving that there is absolutely no justification for double reading. On the following morning I read parashat zakhor and read zekher followed by zeikher. I too do as I was taught and do not allow myself to be confused with facts. I am overjoyed to find that I follow the derekh of the expert.

It should be pointed out that no eidah other than the Ashkenazi ever questioned the correct reading. AFAIK, Yekkes are the only Ashkenazi unaffected by the double-reading syndrome.

As to developments in Israel: One of my grandchildren told me his rosh yeshiva told him to read only once (based on Breuer). On the other hand I davenned this year at a yeshiva where in addition to reading in Abazit, Ashkenoz, Moroccan, and Yemenite they also had Parsi and what might have been Iraqi.

I have also heard a ba'al k'riah reading in mivta Ashkenazi repeat Machlas and Mochlas, and yahalom and yohalom. He told me that he was told to do so by Harav Nebenzahl. At this rate, it won't be long before we'll be hearing hundreds of p'sukim read twice.


Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 1

Actually this would be better phrased as:

"What Is the disposition of Parshat Zachor as per Shas and Posqim?"

Let's Start with Sources - Part 1:

See the texts in the Mishnah Brurah
SA O"Ch 685:7
Some say "Zachor" is d'oraitto.
Be'er Hagolah 10
Source: Tosafot Brachot 13
Ba'er Hetev 2 quibbles over Parshat Parah
He also quotes. Tosafot shantz that no other Q'riat Hatorah is d'oraitto other than Zachor
Quoting Magen Avraham - Also Parshat Zachor with 10 is more important than Megillat Esther...
Mishnah Brura 14
"And we learn in the Gmara that Zachor must be "amira mitoch hasefer b'libo"

Next post BEH
Positions of
Kaf Hachayyim
Aruch Hashulchan
Kitzur SA

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Re: Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 2

See the Aruch haShulchan
Orach Chaim 685:6

And see the new edition with fn to Mishna Brura notes 4 and 5

Kaf Hachaim esp. #33
[Vol. 8 p. 156]

Citing Talmud Bavli Megillah 18a

«Therefore [as per Rabbenu Hannanel on the Talmud there] both reader and listener need to intend to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah»

Also see Kitzur SA 140:3. Quoting SA, Rema et al.


Saturday, 3 September 2016

Parsha: Shoftim, "To King or Not to King"

Canadians will undoubtedly favour the Royalist Position whilst Americans will surely prefer the Republican Position!

The Torah states that: when you [Bnei Yisrael] ask for a KING,  "'I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me" (Devarim: 17:14) you shall surely place one - Even [or especially] when asking to be like the surrounding nations.

Sh'muel [with Hashem's approbation] protests that his people requested a King just like "the Goyim." (Shmuel I 8:5).

Shmuel's protestations all make sense if our Sidrah-Parsha is stating that this royal appointment is optional and subjunctive to a request. In that case, the objection was to the request for appointing a King. Once requested, it must be fulfilled,  according to the law in our Parshah.

However, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvot et. al. states that a king is a requirement.  This implies that the request is also obligatory. Sh'muel's protests then seem difficult to fathom.

I have some answers but I was wondering what you readers might say?



Shoftim: The False Prophet

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha Shoftim and the topic is the the navi sheker, the false prophet. The issue is not solely the person who lies about speaking in the name of God but the issue is also the message. The issue concerns any distortion of Torah. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Re'eh: To'eva

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library at, we have chosen an article that relates to the week's parsha, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This week's parsha is Re'eh and the topic is the the term to'evah, usually translated as abomination. The term is often used by proponents of different ethical perspectives as a further indication of the significance of their ethical stance. The fact is, though, that the use of this term in the Chumash itself may not actually provide support for such assertions. We invite you to look at an article on this topic at

Parsha: Emor, "Is Sefirat ha'Omer One Mitzva or Two?"

originally posted August 9, 2015

The Rambam firmly construes Sefirat Ha'Omer as one MitzvahSefer HaHinuch concurs with the Rambam's read. Abbaye, however, affirms in the Talmud that just as it is a Mitzva to count days – so it is a Mitzva to count weeks. 

These passages strongly suggest two separate MitzvotIn Parshat Emor we read, "Tisp'ru Chamishim YOM" (Vaykira:  23: 16), while the text states in Parshat R'eih, "Sheva Shavuot Tispar Lach" . (Devarim: R'eih: 16:9Doesn't it seem obvious that the two verses in the Torah describe two separate but equal actions?

Problem: How can an individual nowadays simply argue with the Rambam - especially without any further support? Furthermore, must I not construe the silence of so many peer reviews that as implicit acquiescence? 

A rabbinic intern recently provided an informative answer in his shiurRabbeinu Yerucham considers Sefirah as two separate MitzvotHe also posits that as well. My hypothesis now has supporting evidence.

I asked the speaker how he had found this relatively obscure source. He had noted that the new edition of the Minhat Hinuch has this source cited in the footnotes. This indicates that the matter assumed to be a slam dunk by the Hinuch is, in reality, a matter of dispute. Rabbeinu Yerucham had already articulated this voice of opposition, so I need no  longer be concerned about the silence of the peer review.

Case Closed


Comment On Original Post.

Aside from a bit of Talmud Torah - why did I post this comment?

Sometimes we see something and we assume it to be axiomatic, mutually agreed upon. In attempting to master rational thinking, I came across the concept of "not jumping to conclusions".  After all, if Jews are always questioning,  why was the Rambam's ruling of only one mitzva never questioned? It seemed likely that seeing it as two mitzvoth was an equally good read.

Failing to research this myself, I humbly concluded that Rambam won by acclamation. Case Closed. QED. 

However, after attending a Shiur in which the rabbi found a source that did challenge this Rambam, I had to recant.  Now I realized that my question - my observation - had some validity in classic sources.  It was just unnecessary for other sources to question the Rambam once Rabbeinu Yerucham posed his challenge. I could no longer construe their silence as acquiescence to the Rambam's decision.

In fact, I could now conclude nothing. Although, I now suspect that the silence is possible confirmation that both reads are about 50-50. and therefore no one needs to enter the fray to reject either side as off-target.

This is an important principle to realize: just because we have not seen a competing source does not mean it is not there! I must also confess to not researching the matter in depth. It therefore has also taught me a bit of humility.



Saturday, 20 August 2016

Parsha: Equev, "Defining 'Eqev' via the 'Concordance Technique' "

Rashi uses the Concordance Technique  to define some difficult or ambiguous words. A great illustration is the verb "PSCh" as in "Ufasachti alleichem" (Shmoth 12:13) There Rashi offers 2 definitions:
  1. "V'hamal." "Hashem will have mercy." Rashi bases this upon Yeshaya 31:5. It matches the Targum "v'Yeihos"
  2. "V'dileig" based upon Melachim I 18:21. This matches the modern "passover" to skip over or to jump over

Now for the background of "Eqev."
  • Targum states Halaf meaning "in exchange." 
  • Rashi Midrashically puns: "Those mitzvoth that one tramples with one's heel"

Although Rashi himself did not choose to use the Concordance Technique here, Rashi frequently offers a subset of the range of "valid" techniques and definitions.

"Eqev" appears in Humash five times:
  1. Eqev asher shama Avraham Beqoli (Breishit 22:18)
  2. Eqev asher shama Avraham b'Kqoli (Breishit 26:5)
  3.  Eqev hayeta Ruch Achereth imo (Bamidbar 14:24)
  4. Appears in Eqev itself, in conjunction with the verb "lishmo'a" totaling four of five instances. (Devarim: 7:12)
  5. Again, in Eqev. (Devarim: 8:20)
Cases 1 and 3 are the key for me. Both involve "nisayyon" IE crisis situation
  1. The Aqeida
  2. This is a generic use of the word "Equev," but since they both refer to Avraham, it is feasible to hook it onto one.
  3. The Meraglim
This means that Eqev may be more precisely understood to mean "Halaf," in exchange for listening/obeying - or for being - "UNDER DURESS."

Now four and five can be understood.
4. "And it shall be when you obey Under Duress (you shall be blessed...)" (Devarim: 7:12)
5. "...and when you fail to obey Under Duress..." (Devarim: 8:20)

And abandon Hashem...



Parsha: Eqev, "Who Wrote the Second Luchot?"

It always seemed Pashut to me that Moshe carved the second set of luchot and that Hashem wrote on them.

Once, a Rav happened to briefly mention that Moshe wrote the latter set of luchot in his drasha. I found this far-fetched at the time. Today, I find it completely untenable.

Just take a look at the parsha. It seems clear that Hashem wrote on the second set of luchot. (Eqev: 10: 2-4)



Eqev, Mishnah, Sukkah - Perfect Misunderstanding

The Land Of Israel is Unique:

Dvarim 11:12

A land that the L-rd Your G-d always Seeks

Always Hashem's Eyes are upon her.

Rashi s.v. Tamid to See what she needs and to INNOVATE edicts sometimes for the good and sometimes for the evil.


The mishnah was developed and redacted in the Land of Israel [EY]

Thus, it is logical and reasonable that the above supposition is a given premise - at least running in the background of the minds of the Tannaim.


Mishna Sukkah 2:9

When it rains - they made a parable: like a servant who fills the goblet for his master and the master dumps it in his face.

Based upon Rashi, this is a case of a negative Gezeira that HKBH might C"V might create when Israel misbehaves in EY


Perfect Misunderstanding

That is to assume when it rains in the Golah - such as in North America, that Hashem is altering the weather pattern of the masses to smite the few Jews - say in North America. This may be beyond mis-understanding and approaching hubris that the weather IN THE GOLAH - Sukkos or not - is only Jewis-centric.

This is because the context of this Mishnah has been ignored! And reasonable premises about a Jewish Society are illogically applied in a Gentile Society!


May we all Merit to sit in the Sukkah in our Holy Land EY bimheira beyameinu



Eqev: Who Inscribed the Second Luchos?

Originally published 8/5/09, 6:45 pm.

Hashem both carved and inscribed the First Luchos.
Moshe hewed the Second set of Luchos
Who inscribed this second set?

We have some ambiguities in the text.
We can resolve them by means of the 13th principle of Rabbi Yishma'el: 'Vechein sh'nei ch'suvim  amach'chishim ze es zeh..'

First the conflicting bit:
1. Shnei Ch'suvim:
Shmos 34:1, HKBH writes the Second Luchos: "V'chasavti al halluchos"

2. Sh'mos 34 "K'sav lecha.." Moshe is writing on (luchos? Or something else?)

Although the two do not completely contradict each other, they do seem ambiguous.
This week's Parsha, Eqev, to the rescue!
The scale tipper: Hakkatuv hashlishi:

3. Dvarim Eqev Ch. 10:2-4 "v'echtov al halluchos" where it is clear that HKBH wrote on the 2nd Luchos.
I think this structure is clear. Therefore, in #2, Moshe probably wrote something else or wrote the dibros upon something else, like parchment.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Yitro Vs. Ruth

originally published on 1/12/14

We read the 10 Dibrot on both P. Yitro and on Shavuot, and technically on vo'Etchanan, too! We also read the Scroll of Ruth on Shavuot so we can easily "connect the dots" between Ruth and the Dibrot
Now let's ask -

What do Yitro and Ruth have in common, and where do they differ?

What they do have in common is the discovery of the ONE TRUE G-D! No denying the sincerity of their common quest for that Holy Grail - so to speak.

Where do they differ?

Yitro found G-d, but - despite his relationship to his daughter and son-in-law - he subsequently abandoned the Jewish People to return to Midian.

Ruth, however, cleaved to Naomi and abandoned Moab to live the life of a beggar in Judea. Her commitment motto? Ameich Ami Veilokayich Elokai!. Her declaration of loyalty to the Jewish Nation preceded her commitment to G-D!

Blasphemy? Adearrabbah - a prerequisite! Yitro is the prototype of the Noahide who has found the True G-d but needs no society.

Ruth is the true convert, the prototypical "Ger Tzedeq" (actually Giyoert of course!). There is one reason to convert to Judaism following one's Spiritual Journey - to join the Priestly Kingdom and the Holy Nation. In truth, to live a life of G-dliness as an individual spiritual seeker needs no Judaism or Peoplehood.

Ruth's progeny? David and Mashiach. Her affiliation to our peoplehood earned her common destiny with us.
Yitro? A good guy to whom we say "fare thee well". Who of Yitro's descendants makes a glorious impact? Not the descendants of Hever haKeini who are allies.

Any sincere spiritual seeker can find G-d as an individual Noahide, but the prototypical Ger/Giyoret shares Jewish Destiny and Torah, as well as G-d.


Parsha: Va'etchanan, "The Perception of Torah"

How does the world view us?

On the one hand, many see our laws as somewhat odd. Rashi  himself writes, in the beginning of parshat Chukkot, that the nations of the world will mock us. Yet, doesn't Devarim 4:6  declare that the nations of the world will also see us, through our laws, as a "wise and understanding people"? So, which is it?

Should we expect the world to mock or praise us and our observance of mitzvot?

We invite you to look at the following Nishma Spark of the Week for a response to this question.