Sunday, May 29, 2011

Long time no see

After some encouragement from the baal Harambam System, I will be endeavoring to post new material on this site. I admit that I have been more than lax in posting or thinking of posting for the blog and the realization that there are some who were waiting on that is encouraging. Currently I have about 15 posts that have been half done for some time including on : Mila, Tehillim 119 ( part of the larger project), Sukkos, Hakaras Hatov and Mezuza. I think the Mezuza post might appear in some form shortly.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meir of Rothenburg and the appropriate way to treat your wife

A few months ago I found this teshuva from the Maharam Merutenberg, one of the Baalei Tosafos and a major figure in the Torah world in Medieval Ashkenaz, he is famous outside of the Torah world for his steadfast refusal to allow his student Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel ( the Rosh), to ransom him after his capture and detention in the Ensesisheim fortress in Alsace. That ruling may become the focus of a separate post, but I saw this teshuva recently and thought it was worthwhile posting it .

כל בן ברית חייב לכבד את אשתו יותר מגופו, עולה עמו ואינה יורדת עמו, 'בעולת בעל' כתיב, בעלייתו ולא בירידתו, לחיים נתנה ולא לצער ומספר הכתובה נלמד 'אנא אפלח ואוקיר ואיזון'
אני אעבוד ואכבד ואפרנס אותך, והמכה את אשתו מקובלני שיש יותר להחמיר בו מבמכה את חברו דבחברו אינו חייב בכבודו ובאשתו חייב בכבודה ודרך הגויים בכך, אבל חלילה וחלילה לשום בן ברית מעשות זאת והעושה יש להחרימו ולנדותו ולהלקותו ולעונשו בכל מיני רידוי ואף לקוץ את ידו אם רגיל בכך...

(שו"ת מהר"ם מרוטנבורג, דפוס פראג, סי' פא)

I did not really have anything to say about the teshuva itself, just that I think it is very interesting, I wonder under what circumstances he issued this.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


If anyone still reads this blog they would notice that for the last few months I have been absent without leave from this page. The product of those many months was a paper on the Baalei Tosafos. I am beginning to think that this paper will mark a new phase in my learning and probably this blog ( well at least some of my learning).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And he called out there in the Name of the Lrd King of the Universe- II

I will admit that this post is taking a very long time to complete. I do not really care about that because, well, what I am trying to understand is pretty large, and I am pretty small. I have gone back and forth about how to approach this a few times, it is something that I do with trepidation. If I end up changing my mind on presentation or order, I will change

What does the argument over the well have to do with anything? Why do we care about Abraham's border conflicts?

How did Abimelech see that " G' was with Abraham" and what did he mean?

Why is the first thing that Abraham does, after settling the covenant with Abimelech, planting an Eshel ( It remains to be seen what an Eshel even is)?

And of course, how does the planting of the Eshel correspond to the last part of the verse " and he called there in the name of the Lrd King of the World" and what does that mean?

What strikes me here is the interaction of Abimelech and his general, with Abraham. It is clear that Abraham was not as militarily powerful as Abimelech and yet Abimelech takes him very seriously, from the beginning. Sure, he says that he has seen that G' is with him but what does this mean? Why would anyone with such a powerful army fear Abraham enough to cede territory to him?

I think that what you have to say here is that the interaction of Abimelech and Abraham was a manifestation of the idea of " Magen Avraham", that is, that the politcal dealings of Abraham were within the realm of Hashgacha. Abimelech saw that Hashgacha saved Abraham from Sodom ( Rashi) and it impacted his view of, and dealings with him. What then is the Eshel and its connection to this episode? Rashi brings down a machlokes in the Talmud between Rav and Shmuel, one holding that the Eshel was an orchard that bore fruit and one holding it was an inn that provided many forms of fruit to its guests. Rashi explains further that through this orchard G's name will be recognized as the Judge of the universe, because they will contemplate the source of the food and realize that it was from he who spoke and brought the world into existance.

So why then did Abraham plant the Eshel, what does it have to do with anything? I think this is a demonstration of what the proper philosophy of ownership is. Abraham was not concerned with his territorial control over the wells qua the wells themselves. What he was concerned with was the ability to control the wells in so far as they were sources of Bracha which leads to reflection. That is to say, that after he secures the wells, he rushes to actualize their potential for yedias Hashem, and he plants the Orchard/ builds the Inn so that he can foster the reflection on the source of Good. The wells provide water which in turns provides sustenance to plants , the plants in turn feed Man. Man then must recognize the true source of the sustenance, the true purpose of the wells, recognition of shem Hashem.

So according to what I am saying so far, the verse focuses on Abrahams utilization of the territory towards a yisod of the universe and not towards his own material gain. He recognizes Hashgacha as manifest in his acquisition, which forces him to reflect on the purpose of property, this causes him to dedicate the property towards Yedia.

Fine, but what does any of this have to do with the Mishneh Torah?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And Abraham planted a tamarisk-tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the L-rd, the Everlasting Gd

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Rambam heads the entire Mishneh Torah with two verses. The first is Genesis 21:33. The following is the parasha that contains this verse ( Hebrew and English). It would seem based on the stucture of the Mishneh Torah that this verse is necessary to an overall understanding of the Mishneh Torah. I wanted to first present the verse in its context, the following is the entire section in the original and then the english translation from JPS.

כב וַיְהִי, בָּעֵת הַהִוא, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ וּפִיכֹל שַׂר-צְבָאוֹ, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר: אֱלֹהִים עִמְּךָ, בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה. כג וְעַתָּה,

הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה, אִם-תִּשְׁקֹר לִי, וּלְנִינִי וּלְנֶכְדִּי; כַּחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר-עָשִׂיתִי עִמְּךָ, תַּעֲשֶׂה עִמָּדִי, וְעִם-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-גַּרְתָּה בָּהּ. כד וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אָנֹכִי, אִשָּׁבֵעַ. כה וְהוֹכִחַ אַבְרָהָם, אֶת-אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, עַל-אֹדוֹת בְּאֵר הַמַּיִם, אֲשֶׁר גָּזְלוּ עַבְדֵי אֲבִימֶלֶךְ. כו וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ--לֹא יָדַעְתִּי, מִי עָשָׂה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה; וְגַם-אַתָּה לֹא-הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי, וְגַם אָנֹכִי לֹא שָׁמַעְתִּי--בִּלְתִּי הַיּוֹם. כז וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָהָם צֹאן וּבָקָר, וַיִּתֵּן לַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ; וַיִּכְרְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, בְּרִית. כח וַיַּצֵּב אַבְרָהָם, אֶת-שֶׁבַע כִּבְשֹׂת הַצֹּאן--לְבַדְּהֶן. כט וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם: מָה הֵנָּה, שֶׁבַע כְּבָשֹׂת הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר הִצַּבְתָּ, לְבַדָּנָה. ל וַיֹּאמֶר--כִּי אֶת-שֶׁבַע כְּבָשֹׂת, תִּקַּח מִיָּדִי: בַּעֲבוּר תִּהְיֶה-לִּי לְעֵדָה, כִּי חָפַרְתִּי אֶת-הַבְּאֵר הַזֹּאת. לא עַל-כֵּן, קָרָא לַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא--בְּאֵר שָׁבַע: כִּי שָׁם נִשְׁבְּעוּ, שְׁנֵיהֶם. לב וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית, בִּבְאֵר שָׁבַע; וַיָּקָם אֲבִימֶלֶךְ, וּפִיכֹל שַׂר-צְבָאוֹ, וַיָּשֻׁבוּ, אֶל-אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים. לג וַיִּטַּע אֶשֶׁל, בִּבְאֵר שָׁבַע; וַיִּקְרָא-שָׁם--בְּשֵׁם ה', אֵ--ל עוֹלָם. לד וַיָּגָר אַבְרָהָם בְּאֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, יָמִים רַבִּים.

22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phicol the captain of his host spoke unto Abraham, saying: 'God is with thee in all that thou doest. 23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son; but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.' 24 And Abraham said: 'I will swear.' 25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of the well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away. 26 And Abimelech said: 'I know not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to-day.' 27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and they two made a covenant. 28 And Abraham set seven ewe-lambs of the flock by themselves. 29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham: 'What mean these seven ewe-lambs which thou hast set by themselves?' 30 And he said: 'Verily, these seven ewe-lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that it may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.' 31 Wherefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there they swore both of them. 32 So they made a covenant at Beer-sheba; and Abimelech rose up, and Phicol the captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines. 33 And Abraham planted a tamarisk-tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days.

I want to let this section sit alone before I put my two cents in. Due to the extreme import that verse 33 seems to have in the Mishneh Torah, I would not want to 'jump the gun' but I felt that perhaps I could open the investigation up to any readers for some mutually beneficial reflection.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is the cure for diseases of the soul?- ומה היא תקנת חולי נפשות

An anonymous comment on the last post asked what the proper method for perfecting one's self in the area of shtika would be. The comment caused me to focus back on the method of perfecting Deos. I realize that I dont normally like to post out of order in a perek, but alas, it demands its own post .

משוך חסדך, ליודעיך; וצדקתך, לישרי לב תהילים לו,יא
O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee; and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

א חולי הגוף, טועמים המר מתוק והמתוק מר. ויש מן החולים מי שמתאווה ותאב למאכלות שאינן ראויין לאכילה, כגון העפר והפחם, ושונא המאכלות הטובים, כגון הפת והבשר--הכול לפי רוב החולי. כך בני אדם שנפשותיהם חולות, מתאווים ואוהבים הדעות הרעות; ושונאים הדרך הטובה, ומתעצלים ללכת בה, והיא כבדה עליהן למאוד, לפי חוליים. וכן ישעיהו אומר באנשים הללו, "הוי האומרים לרע טוב, ולטוב רע: שמים חושך לאור ואור לחושך, שמים מר למתוק ומתוק למר" (ישעיהו ה,כ). ועליהם נאמר "העוזבים, אורחות יושר--ללכת, בדרכי חושך" (משלי ב,יג).
ב ומה היא תקנת חולי נפשות--ילכו אצל החכמים, שהם רופאי הנפשות, וירפאו חוליים בדעות, שמלמדין אותם עד שיחזירום לדרך הטובה. והמכירים בדעות הרעות שלהם, ואינם הולכים אצל החכמים לרפא אותם--עליהם אמר שלמה, "ומוסר, אווילים בזו" (משלי א,ז).
ג [ב] וכיצד היא רפואתם: מי שהוא בעל חמה--אומרים לו להנהיג עצמו שאם הוכה וקולל, לא ירגיש כלל, וילך בדרך זו זמן מרובה, עד שתיעקר החמה מליבו. ואם היה גבה לב--ינהיג עצמו בביזיון הרבה, ויישב למטה מן הכול, וילבוש בלויי סחבות המבזין את לובשיהן, וכיוצא בדברים אלו: עד שייעקר גובה הלב ממנו, ויחזור לדרך האמצעית, שהיא דרך הטובה; ולכשיחזור לדרך האמצעית, ילך בה כל ימיו.

The sick of the body taste bitter things as sweet and sweet things as bitter. There are some sicknesses which cause a desire to eat things which are not suitable for eating, such as dust and coal, and also cause a dislike of normal foods, such as bread and meat - it all depends upon the seriousness of the sickness in question. So too man who's soul is sick, desire and love the bad temperaments, and hate the good ways and try to avoid going in those ways, for the sickness makes it difficult. About such people Isaiah said, "Woe to those people who call bad good and good bad, put dark for light and light for dark and put the sweet for bitter and the bitter for sweet", and about them it is written, "...who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness".
So what is a remedy for sicknesses of the soul? Go next to wise people, for they are healers of the soul, healing it by means of temperaments which they teach until they have returned the soul to the good ways. Concerning those who recognise in themselves bad temperaments but do not go amongst wise people Solomon said, "Fools despise wisdom and instruction".

How do they cure? They tell someone who is of an angry disposition to establish himself, and that if he is hit or cursed he should not react, and he should follow this way until his angry disposition has left him. If he was haughty, he should subject himself to a lot of disgrace and sit low down, and should dress in torn rags which are a discredit to normal clothes, and do similar things until his haughtiness has left him and he returns to the middle way, which is the good way. Once he has returned to the middle way he should follow it for the rest of his life. Other temperaments should be treated in this manner - if one was far over to one extreme, one should move oneself to the other extreme and accustom oneself to it for a long time, until one has returned to the good way, which is the intermediate characteristic that each and every temperament has.

I wanted to clarify something that I know personally I often overlook. Most people are aware that the Rambam advises that one must go to the opposite extreme in order to address a character defect and then moderate himself. What is sad is that this halacha is often learned while ignoring the prior law. The essential cure for deos diseases is consulting a Chacham. ומה היא תקנת חולי נפשות--ילכו אצל החכמים and not rashly changing one's deos on their own.

The derech chachma of adjusting deos is to go to a chacham and speak with him. This is Not a rash self diagnosis but rather a careful consultation with an expert. The Rambam does not advocate hasty pendulum swings in deos. Halacha 2 ( 3) must be viewed in the context of the prior statement, that the cholei hanefesh must go to a Rofeh Nefashos to heal them, and the method that the Doctor will proscribe will involve a careful adjustment of the character through the method described.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

לעולם ירבה אדם בשתיקה Man should always maximize silence

משוך חסדך, ליודעיך; וצדקתך, לישרי לב תהילים לו,יא
O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee; and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
ח [ד] לעולם ירבה אדם בשתיקה, ולא ידבר אלא בדבר חכמה או בדברים שהוא צריך להן לחיי גופו. אמרו על רב תלמיד רבנו
הקדוש, שלא שח שיחה בטילה כל ימיו--וזו היא שיחת רוב כל אדם. ואפילו בצורכי הגוף, לא ירבה אדם דברים. ועל זה ציוו חכמים ואמרו, כל המרבה דברים, מביא חטא; ואמרו לא מצאתי לגוף טוב, אלא שתיקה.
ט וכן בדברי תורה ובדברי חכמה--יהיו דברי החכם מועטים, וענייניהם מרובים. והוא שציוו חכמים ואמרו, לעולם ישנה אדם לתלמידו דרך קצרה. אבל אם היו הדברים מרובים והעניין מועט, הרי זו סכלות; ועל זה נאמר "כי בא החלום, ברוב עניין; וקול כסיל, ברוב דברים" (קוהלת ה,ב).
י [ה] סייג לחכמה, שתיקה. לפיכך לא ימהר להשיב, ולא ירבה לדבר; וילמד לתלמידים בשובה ונחת, בלא צעקה, בלא אריכות לשון. הוא ששלמה אומר, "דברי חכמים, בנחת נשמעים" (קוהלת ט,יז).

" Man should always maximize silence, he should only speak words of chachama or things which are necessary for the life of his body. It is said about Rav the talmid of Rabbeinu Hakadosh ( Rabbi Judah the Prince), that he did not converse in meaningless conversation his entire life, this is the conversation of the majority of Mankind. Even with regards to physical needs, Man should not maximize his words. On this commandment the Sages said " All who increase their words bring sin. They said, there is nothing found that is better for the body than silence.

This applies also to words of Torah and words of wisdom. The words of a chacham should be minimal and the concepts widespread.This is what the sages commanded and said 'Man should always teach his students in a concise manner'. However, if the words are many and the concept small,this is foolishness. Regardung this it says : "For a dream cometh through a multitude of business; and a fool's voice through a multitude of words."( Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Silence is a protection to chachma, therefore one should not rush to answer, nor increase his words, and one should teach his students quietly,without shouting, without lengthy words, this is as Solomon said "The words of the wise spoken in quiet are more acceptable than the cry of a ruler among fools."( Ecclesiastes 9:17)


A) What is the Rambam's concept of " Shtika"( silence)
B) What is the perfection of Shtika?
C) Why should man limit even the words of chachama that he speaks?

Perhaps the best way to define Silence and answer our questions is to define the opposite, namely speech. I believe that speech is a declarative action about reality. The speaker conveys his or her vision for reality, or of reality to the world. I know this sounds a bit far fetched, why dont we try it out. " I am tired", the person who makes this statement usually wishes that he was not tired, that he had an alternative reality. " I have work Tomorrow", again , the person is bearing testimony to a reality. ( I can keep going on with these examples , but in the interest of brevity, and not going on anymore, I will stop). Every phrase that the speaker utters is a reflection of the speakers view of reality. This is so because the fact that the person speaks about something means that his view of anything is important in and of itself.
The speaking itself, let alone what is being spoken reflects the worldview of the speaker, one who occupies himself with discussing chachma makes a different statement than one who talks about that beautiful loaf that he found at the market, or the latest gossip. Again, the subject that we choose to speak about reflects our notion of the good on one level, ( the person who only speaks about food clearly values food above all else, he declares that the reality of the universe exists for his tase experience). The fact that we choose to speak is itself also our very own declaration of what reality is. Speaking acts as a stamp on reality, a declaration that something IS or Should be.
If this is the case what is the problem with speaking words of chachma ( or speaking too much)? Surely, words of chachma ARE reality, what harm can be done with lengthy discourse in matters of reality? The problem with over speaking with chachma is the same as it is with anything else, speaking is a declaration or commentary on reality by the speaker. When one is engaged in chachma it has to be clear that the davar is not "his" reality but Realities Reality. The speaker who goes overboard even speaking chachma makes the statement that reality is as he perceives it and is no other way, ( definitively, in explaining an idea you are declaring that the idea IS as YOU see it) this is itself a distortion of reality. We know that no man can perceive reality as it really is and as such lengthening words is muddying the waters.

Therefore, shtika, allows for the removal of man from his desire and practice of making declarations about reality. Shtika allows the person to appreciate reality without imprinting himself on reality or confirming or denying reality. Silence is a defense to wisdom because it helps to slow or prevent the distortions created when we speak.

I found an interesting halacha in the first chapter of the Yisodei HaTorah:
יד ואין לו לא מוות ולא חיים כחיי הגוף החי, ולא סכלות ולא חכמה כחכמת האיש החכם, לא שינה ולא הקיצה, ולא כעס ולא שחוק, ולא שמחה ולא עצבות, ולא שתיקה ולא דיבור כדיבור האדם. כך אמרו חכמים, אין למעלה לא ישיבה ולא עמידה, לא עורף ולא עיפוי

"He does not have death, nor life like that of a body that is living, nor foolishness nor wisdom like the wisdom of a Man who is a sage, neither sleep nor waking, neither anger nor levity, and not happiness or sadness, Not silence and not speech like the speech of a man. Thus said the sages, there is no sitting nor standing no back and no fatigue"

This halacha is of course from the very first chapter of the laws of the foundations of the Torah. I found it interesting that the Rambam uses the anthropomorphisms that he does. Particularly " no shtika and no Speech like that of a Man". The " attributes" are phrases that we use to attempt to understand G' by comparing him to our experiential data. It is interesting that we do not have an idea of " Shtika" in terms of G' but we do have an idea of "Dibur". I think, that this could be pointing to the potential idea of shtika from hilchos deos. Dibur of G' is the manifestation of chachma. Chachmas Hashem is manifest in the creation, Neviim experience chachma manifested even further because they are at highly perfected levels of thought and deed, " and G' spoke to Moses saying". " Dibur" in terms of G' is reality.Shtika could not be appropriated to G' because there is no alternative to Reality being manifest.