Look at the Talmud tractate Sanhedrin page 61a at the second Tosphot. I had mentioned many times that I thought I needed to do that Tosphot with my learning partner in order to get it straightened out.
Well finally the chance came. And, in fact, things became clearer. So let me say over briefly what is so urgent here. First is the fact that my question on Tosphot was not a good question. [That you can find on my other blog The way of the Torah] . I had asked what justification Tosphot has for expanding the scope of "bowing" Deuteronomy 17. Well, to some degree it became clear that Tosphot does expand the scope of the prohibition by not because of "bowing," but rather because we have three verses (1) How do they serve (Deuteronomy 12) (2) bowing and (3) sacrifice (Exodus 22). One of them is coming out to tell us about the whole category of idolatry. So we can chose sacrifice. But in the suggestion of Rava Bar Rav Chanan we don't. Rather we choose "bowing". So since bowing came out of idolatry instead of sacrifice, therefore it does not limit anything. That is to say that "sacrifice" we do know was highly limiting--only the three services would be liable. So since "bowing" came out of that  instead, we have no reason to limit it.

[I think yesterday or some time ago I gave a different answer  for Tosphot that the Gemara is not expanding the scope of bowing but rather of idolatry itself. Today this last answer looks best to me.] But so far I have only answered why Tosphot makes sense. But I have not yet answered what problem there is in this answer in order for both the Maharsha and the Baal HaMeor to reject it and go on a different path. This is because at the beginning of this long question of Rav Acha, we are thinking of "bowing" as forbidding every possible kind of idolatry. But as soon as you return to the Gemara after reading Tosphot you see the first thing the Gemara does is to treat "bowing" as limiting something--i.e.  hugging idols one usually sacrifices to. My learning partner today thought that this might very well be the reason the Maharsha tells us to look at the  HaMeor HaGadol to see a completely different approach to this Gemara.

You people out there might not see what there is to be excited about here, but what I see is that it is very important to learn Gemara with a learning partner. Because you can see for all the other blogs I wrote about this Topshot that I was only scratching the surface without any depth. Also I thought I had a great question on Tosphot when clearly I did not at all and I completely missed the real questions.

[The question I thought I had on Tosphot had two simple answers.]

So we see in Gemara it does not matter how smart you are. It matters only if you learned it with a learning partner.

I thought today that I should mention that this question on Tosphot is more like a semi-question. Because if you think about it you will see that  Gemara extends the scope of what bowing allows into quadrant III (the area of service in a way of dishonor and not its way) and Tosphot expands its scope of prohibition into quadrant IV (dishonor but its way.)   So first of all there is certainly no contradiction at all. That is the first thing to notice. Second it makes sense too. It certainly makes sense to forbid service in the way of the idol even if it is in a way of dishonor more than forbidding service that is both not its way and also not in a way of honor. But there still is a question. It is funny that Tosphot would consider bowing to be indefinitely expanding and then all of a sudden the Gemara stops it in its path with no warning. At least we can see what might have been bothering the Meor Hagadol about this answer  and what caused him to take a different  track.


One of the refreshing thoughts of the Gra  {Eliyahu from Vilnius} is that worship of human beings is considered idolatry. This is not something that should be hard to understand. To most Reform Jews it comes naturally.When a person believes in Torah it seems natural to think that worship of any being besides God should be considered idolatry. Yet for some reason when people ascribe to some great zadik/saint, their attitude becomes suspiciously close to idolatry. And you don't really hear too much in the way of clarification. Mostly if you ask about this, you hear  people obscuring the issue. Now I had read the Nefesh HaChaim of Reb Chaim from Voloshin (the prime disciple of the Gra) some years ago when I was at the Mir Yeshiva in NY. But I was only reminded recently of a passage that I had forgotten. That the essence of idolatry is to tie oneself in spirit to something other than God. And he then goes on openly to say that even if one ties himself in spirit to the Divine spirit in some tzadik/ saint that also is considered idolatry. Now this is not to say that any great tzadik who inspires people to serve God according to the Torah is bad because people turn him  into an object of worship. Rather it is a problem when the worship of that person becomes the official doctrine.

When people find some tzadik that inspires them, the proper attitude is not worship but gratitude.
And this should be considered a serious issue. Because in Torah, idolatry is the most serious of all issues. And it is only too easy to transgress. Worship of a tzadik/saint in the usual way of worship is considered liable. This comes from the verse "Least you ask 'How do they serve their gods?' and I will do the same." Deuteronomy 12.

That is that to serve an idol is forbidden in two ways: (1) According to its usual way. (2) Bowing, burning something before it, pouring something before it, sacrificing something before it. [That means if ones bows towards an idol, even if that is not the usual way of worshiping it, he is liable. The same goes for teh other three.]


I think I have come to some clarity about the idea giving money to yeshivas. We know the Rambam is against this completely. We know other people like the Beit Joseph allows it. What makes this confusing is that the Rambam does not make any distinction whether ones intention is to use the Torah to make money, or to accept money to learn Torah. Both are forbidden, and one that does either forfeits their portion in the world to come. And in fact in the actual language of the Halacha he mentions specifically the later possibility because the former is clearly forbidden. The Beit Joseph and the Tashbatz also do not mention intension in their allowing it.
The great clarity I had about this issue came today when I opened up a Shelah haKadosh (Shnei Luchot HaBrit).
He specifically discusses intension. And this seems to me to make life simple. To him to use Torah to make money is forbidden. To accept money to learn Torah is permitted. And even though this is not like the decision (pesak) of the Rambam, it makes things clearer for me. It explains the many cases we have in the Talmud where we see it was considered a mitzvah to support Torah scholars. And it makes things in real life easier to discern. For even though peoples thoughts and intentions are often hidden from us but there are times when we can tell a persons intentions based on their deeds. For there are lots of Kollels where the Rosh Kollel says openly that the kollel is business. It is his way of making money. He claims he is a professional person  working in his profession. So there we have a clear case that giving him money is absolutely forbidden. This is base his intentions are stated explicitly that is to use the Torah to make money.
{This type is common in the USA}. There is another type of Kollel (common in Israel) in which the intention is stated explicitly that it is to learn Torah and through the money they receive it is possible to learn. This is allowed to most poskim (authorities). In other words if people state their intentions and their deeds conform with what they say, then we don't need to dig any deeper. The idea of intention making a difference is actually found in the American court system also. It should not be a surprise that a halacha depends on intension.


I wanted to discuss the difference between the Meor Hagadol [on the Rif/Isaac Alfasi] and Tosphot in Sanhedrin pg 61. [The second Tosphot on the page.] Tosphot does actually expand the area of bowing. and he does this with any special "Ribui".{A Ribui is some extra word that indicates to us that we should expand the area of application of the verse.} That is how he understands the Gemara. When Rav Acha asked on Rava  it was only on his potential use of bowing to forbid idolatry in its way and not in its way.
First of all I am not sure why this is justified. (Why would we expand bowing without a ribui? And if we would have a ribui then how could how do they serve come to limit it?)Also I was suggesting  that this is the reason why Tosphot was not going with the simpler explanation of the Meor Hagadol. That is because without any extra verse we can't expand the area of prohibition of any verse.

This is again one good reason why it is important to learn Gemara with a learning partner --because so far I have not learned this Tosphot with my learning partner  and that is probably why it is still highly mysterious to me.

But just now it occurs to me that this in fact might be the exact point of Tosphot. That is it is how Tosphot understands the point of Rav Acha. That is we have "How do they serve?' (Deuteronomy 12) to tell us all kinds of service towards idols is forbidden if it is in the way of that idol. So clearly you are not going to be able to expand "bowing" ["and they will go and bow" Deuteronomy 17] to forbid what is already forbidden.

My learning partner agreed to spend some time on this Tosphot. and while we were doing the Gemara that the Tosphot is talking about he noticed that when the Gemera says we would have thought that exposing oneself to the god markulit  is liable. Now know it is not because of the verse how do they serve. That Gemara is not expanding the scope of bowing but rather the original verse that forbids idolatry he will go and serve Deuteronomy 17.
And the way the Gemara does this is not by an extra verse but why simple reasoning. What is it with Markulit, it is sered in a dishonorable way, thus any serving of markulit in a dishonorable way is liable.
But so far this puts Tosphot into a difficult position. Because he is trying to expand the scope of bowing without any discernible reason or verse.

I think Rebbi Nachman has some very valuable ideas. [Learning fast, talking with God in ones own words and not repeating formulas. Rather to talk with God as one talks with a friend, and many other ideas.] Also, I think that there is a danger that when people discover him, they tend to get intoxicated. And because of this, it is hard to know how to deal with the subject. And I don't want here to deal with this question, but rather to acknowledge that it is a valid question.
And I think that everyone would benefit by just admitting he has good advice for a wide range of human problems, but that it is important not to get overly excited.

One thing I should mention is that while I was involved in two very good Lithuanian type of yeshivas, I did notice that when people had a need for spiritual uplift, or the need for a blessing, they would go to the Ribnitzer Rebbi. [That was a person that was friend of the Satmar Rav, who had recently come to the USA.]
So from early on I had a idea that there was something special about people who keep the Torah with more intense self sacrifice than is the norm.

The Ribitzer was one of those kinds of people that would break the ice is the Russian winters to go to the mikvah, and fast from Shabat to Shabat, and other types of things that we consider to be difficult types of service. And he was a person that was accepted and respected by the entire Lithuanian world.

So it is to be expected when I discovered Rebbi Nachman that I would be interested. Even if he passed away, there are people that feel that his spirit never really passed away completely, and than some small percent of his soul is left there. [And one percent of the real thing is better than 100 % of  an impostor.] But I admit that I too went overboard. Certainly he never meant to replace the normal type of Divine service (that is learning Torah and doing mitzvot) with any innovations. Rather his intention was to intensify people's devotion to God.

I was putting here some ideas I had in Tractate Sanhedrin 61 for a few days in English so I thought just in case there are any Hebrew readers here i might put them down in Hebrew also.

)סנהדרין סא. יש מחלוקת בין בעל המאור ותוספות איך להבין את קושיית רב אחא.

בתחלה אני רוצה להציע את הגמרא, ואחר כך את המחלוקת. הברייתא אומרת שלומדים שלש עבודות פנימייות (עבודה שלא כדרכה) מן הפסוק "וילך ויזבח"(שמות כ''ב). רבא בר רב חנן שאל למה לא לומדים עבודה שלא כדרכה מן הפסוק "וישתחוו"(דברים י''ז)? רב אחא שאל על זה שאם היינו לומדים מ"וישתחוו",אז מה היה "איכה יעבדו הגויים האלה את אלהיהם?"(דברים י''ב) בא למעט? בעל המאור ותוספות שואלים על זה, "למה רב אחא לא שאל את השאלה הזאת על הברייתא שלומדת מזביחה?"
בעל המאור מתרץ את האשאלה הזאת כך:אם היה לנו רק "זביחה" היינו פוטרים מגפף לזובחים או מגפף לפעור, אבל מגפף לנושקים או נושק למגפפים היינו מחייבים. ולכן צריכים "איכה יעבדו" לומר שגם אלו פטורים. זאת אומרת שאם היה לנו רק "זביחה" יש דברים שהיינו חושבים שהם אסורים. ולכן "איכה יעבדו" בא לומר לא לחשוב כן. אבל אם היינו לומדים מן "השתחוויה" אז אותם דברים הם באמת אסורים. ולכן הגמרא שואלת במצב כזה מה בא "איכה יעבדו" לומר לנו? יש לתוספות מהלך אחר בגמרא הזאת. הם שואלים למה רב אחא לא שאל על הברייתא שלומדת מזביחה, "'איכה יעבדו' למיעטי מאי?" והם אומרים שאם יש לנו רק "זביחה" אז "איכה יעבדו" בא לאסור עבודה כדרכה. מה שאין כן אם היינו לומדים מן "השתחוויה" אז היינו אוסרים עבודה כדרכה גם מזה.
הפירוש של המאור הגדול הוא לפי פשוטה של הגמרא. רואים את זה על ידי ההמשכה של הגמרא. להלן הגמרא מסבירה את קושייתה, ואומרת שהשתחוייה פוטרת שלא בדרך כבוד שלא כדרכה, ולכן למה יש צורך ב"איכה יעבדו"?לפי בעל המאור זביחה בא לפטור מגפף לזובחים ומגפף למרקולית. אבל היינו אוסרים מגפף לנושקים או נושק למגפפים בלי הפסוק איכה יעבדו. ולכן צריכים איכה יעבדו. תוספות לא מתרצים כמו בעל המאור. נראה לי הסיבה לכך היא שתמיד כשמרחיבים את הגבול של פסוק שאוסרת מה שהוא יש סיבה לכך.או שיש איזה ריבוי או גזרה שווה או מה שהוא. ופה בעל המאור מציע שהיינו מרחיבים את הגבול של וילך ויעבוד בלי סיבה. בעל המאור יכול לתרץ שבאמת מרחיבים את גבול האיסור לכלול עבודות פנים. אבל תוספות יכולים לומר שיש סיבה שמרבים עבודות פנים היינו שיש פסוק "בלתי להשם לבדו".ריקן את עבודות פנים לשם השם. ואחר זה הברייתא באמת מציע לברחיב את גבול האיסור. והיא בעצמה מתרצת את זו על ידי הכלל שזביחה הייתה בכלל וילך ויעבוד ויצא מן הכלל ללמד לא על עצמה לבדה היא באה ללמד אלא על בכלל כולו. מה זביחה עבודת פנים, אף כול עבודות פנים. להוציא מגפף או נושק שלא כדרכה. ולכן רואים שזביחה בעצמה היא ממעטת, ולא מרחיבים אותה בלי סיבה

And here is a question I had on Tosphotאבל יש להקשות על זה. תוספות אומרים שהשתחווייה כן היינו מרחיבים בלי סיבה לאסור גם כדרכה שלא בדרך כבוד. ועל ידי זה הם מתרצים את הקושיה. אם אומרים שלא שואלים על זביחה בגלל שזביחה לא אוסרת כדרכה, ולכן צריכים איכה יעבדו. אבל השתחווייה כן הייתה אוסרת כדרכה ולכן אין צורך באיכה יעבדו.


Rishonim [first authorities from the Middle Ages] can't be wrong.

One of the first most important lessons I learned in yeshiva was that Rishonim [i.e., first authorities from the Middle Ages] can't be wrong. Any argument between them is "the words of the living God". But Achronim [commentaries written after the time of the Beit Yoseph, Joseph Karo] can be wrong. And for that reason  in all the yeshivas I attended, Rishonim were studied with great depth.  But since I was an ignorant new comer,  I had no way of going deeply into the Rishonim on my own and so on my own time I studied only Achronim.
That means for example that when the yeshiva was learning Ketuboth, I went out and bought a Pnei Yeshoshua, and a Haphlah,  and even the commentary on Ketuboth written by the the head rabbi of the Sanhedrin of Napoleon, and the commentary on Ketubot written by Rav Zemba, a Gerer chasid  that was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto, and  the Maharsha.  This is not to wave my flag, but to show rather how ignorant I was.  That is I had no idea myself how to get into a Rishon. However, I did in fact use the commentary of the Rosh on Ketuboth to help me understand Tosphot. But that had nothing to do with why or how people around me were learning Rishonim. I could open a Ri'f or Ritva or Rashba and see nothing  except another commentary like Tosphot but with different answers to the same questions. That is I was fish swimming in the sea of the Talmud with no fins. But at least I gained a respect for Rishonim.
I also learned a less important lesson but one which I think is also true. That all major issues  that face  a person or the world at large are always depend on a argument between Rishonim. This last lesson is perhaps not so much the case when it comes to abstract Mathematics or Physics. But I think I have seen this in other areas.
I need to justify this before the public at large. The idea here is that during the Middle Ages, people were very interested in making sure that what they wrote would not have any logical fallacies or contradictions. [The reason is perhaps because the basic first course in all universities was made up in large part by the  Organon Ὄργανον,  the standard collection of Aristotle's six works on logic. This meant that people were well aware that anyone that would look at their book would be highly familiar with the laws of logic. But in a deeper way, it is also probable that Tosphot and the Rambam/Maimonides simply had some kind of Divine inspiration that enabled them to delve into the Gemara with great logical depth.]

This essay explains why the major Achronim [people that lived after the Beit Yoseph] are always very interested in how the Rishonim understand any particular subject in the Gemara. It is from an awareness that the Rishonim had some level of depth in understanding the Gemara that we just don't have anymore. So even if they know that the actual authority is in the Gemara itself, still they often will trust the judgment of a Rishon as to the meaning of some Gemara.

And it is from things like this that make me happy that I went to  a New York Yeshiva instead of staying in California where I surely would not have been able to discover this on my own. (Until someone opens a branch of the Mir Yeshiva in California).


Sanhedrin pg 61

Introduction. I want to give the reason I think Topshot in Sanhedrin pg 61 does not give the same reason as the Meor Hagadol (on the Ri'f) in answer to their mutual question on the Gemara.

  Lets back up a little. The Gemara learns service not like the way of the idol by means of "If he goes and sacrifices to a false god he will be destroyed" Exodus 22. So we see sacrifice is forbidden even if it is not the way of that particular idol. We know service according to the way of that idol from the verse "least he asks 'how do they serve their gods? so he can do likewise." Rava asks why not learn service not according to its way from, "Least he go and bow to a false god (Deuteronomy 12)?" Rav Acha From Difti asks on this "If we would learn from "bowing" then what would "how do they serve come to exclude?" \
  We can see from the Gemara later that the Gemera is looking to find something that the verse will say one is not liable for. This is because it asks: If we learn from "How to they serve?" to say one is not liable for the service not like its way and not honorable then that is also known to be not liable by the verse "least he bow." They both hold not laible the same thing. This is the key fact that the Meor Hagadol needs to build his case. He asks: Why did we not ask this same question on "If he goes and sacrifice then he will be destroyed?" (They both say one is not liable for the same things.) He answers if we use "if he sacrifices to a false god" then we would know only to permit hugging idols that one usually sacrifices to and or idols that one usually does some kind of dishonorable act to worship it. But we would not know to permit kissing an idol one usually hugs. So to permit that we need the verse, "How do they serve?"
I was in the Sukka today near the ziun of Rebbi Nachman and it occurred to me what must be bothering Tosphot about this answer to cause Tosphot to give a different answer. Tosphot asked himself: "Do we usually expand the relevance of a verse for no reason? Certainly not! What any verse forbids that alone is forbidden and nothing else. Period. It is only is a special case where the verse itself has some extra word that indicates that it wants to be expanded do we expand its realm of application." We do know also a expansion after an expansion is to contract. But we never expand it with no reason. And here the Meor Hagadol is saying we would have expanded "least he sacrifice" to kissing idols one hugs if not for the extra verse "How do they serve?" This certainly can not be the case.

  That is the basic thought I had today. But just to finish this essay let me say what Tosphot does to answer this question. Tosphot says that if we would learn from least he bow to false gods that would forbid also serve according to the way of that idols and so "How do they serve?" would not tell us anything at all. Not what is forbidden nor what is not liable. This is different from "if he will go and sacrifice" that tells us only inner services (services were done in the Temple) in Jerusalem are forbidden to do to idols. I am not saying that Tosphot saw the Meor Hagadol. I am only saying why he did not take the more obvious approach of the Meor.


[1] The above is the end of my essay. Right now I just want to mention to regular people that this all comes about because we have one verse which forbids serving idols in the way of that idol. And we have two verses telling us kinds of service that you can't do for an idol even if it is not the way of that idol. One of those verses seems expansive. Bowing (Deuteronomy 17) implies all kinds of service done in a way of honor. Sacrifice (Exodus) is more limited because of having one verse to expand it to inner services and then another verse (bowing) to limit it after that. [Bowing does limit sacrifice. Only in the discussion where we are thinking of using bowing to be inclusive does it not fulfill that function. ] This is the source of the question of the Talmud. Now I can just imagine that people might be thinking that it ought to be forbidden to serve idols in any shape or form. And you would be correct. The question here is liability. Certainly serving idols or any being in Heaven or earth besides God is forbidden. But one is not liable unless he serves the idol in the way that idol is usually served, or if he serves it by bowing, sacrifice, burning, or pouring.

[2] I wanted to make it clear that the simplest way to understand this Gemara is to go with the idea that the Gemara is clearly looking for something the verse, "How do they serve?" comes to permit besides what it forbids. For Tosphot to reject this he needs a strong reason and it bothered me for some weeks what could Tosphot reason be?

[3] I should also mention that the Meor here is likely to be thinking that we anyway do expand both bowing and sacrifice. In fact when the holy Torah says "He who sacrifices to the gods will be destroyed" (Exodus 22) we understand this to include burning anything or pouring in front of it anything like wine or the like. That is we do expand verse to include things that are like them. But Tosphot can counter this that we expand sacrifice because we have a verse telling us to do so as it says in the original Braita where all this comes from. But that leaves us with asking on Tosphot that then how does Tosphot have the right to expand "bowing" beyond it normal boundary without a verse to justify it?

[4] I want to continue my point about why Tosphot does not explain the question of Rav Acha in the same way as the Meor HaGadol.  I ant to point out that the Braita does not automatically expand the area that sacrifices forbids. It requires an extra verse to tell us to do so. And after it does so it does in fact ask why not keep expanding the area of prohibition to include lots of things besides the four [burning, sacrifice, pouring, bowing] and the Braita tells us explicitly a reason. It comes from the thirteen principles of how to understand the Torah (that is part of the normal morning service). One is anything that was in a category and has come out of that category  comes to teach not only on itself but on teh whole category. Sacrifice was in the category of how do they serve and has gone out to teach. and so it teaches us only things that are like itself. That is it is a limiting principle.


Should one learn kabalah? Well we have the Ramchal (yeshiva jargon for Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzato(note 1)) in the book printed after his Mesilat Yeshiarim saying that it is important. And we have the beginning of the Eitz Chaim by Isaac Luria also highly recommending it.And there it does not seem to depend on Torah knowledge. Reb Chaim vital says if one is good at learning Talmud he should do that two hours every day, and the rest of the day learn Kabalah. But he adds, if one has spend five years at Talmud and sees little progress, he should forget the whole thing, and simply learn Kabalah all day. So we see learning Kabalah is not dependent on Torah knowledge. I could bring a few more sources for the importance of Kabalah but for right now I wanted to mention that it also seems most of these same sources make it a precondition to be holy. In this context that means to keep the mitzvot. And in that same introduction to the Eitz Chaim, Reb Chaim Vital gives about twenty types of customs one must do before he is allowed to learn the Eitz Chaim. And those twenty conditions are pretty hard. What tends to confuse this issue is a similar argument of the Rishonim (authorities from the Middle Ages)about learning the Rambam's Guide for the Perplexed and Physics and Metaphysics. Sometimes people will quote to you some statement said by the Rambam or the Rema in the Shulchan Aruch (by Joseph Karo) that relates to learning Aristotle's Metaphysics which is not the same thing as Kabalah. The Ashlag wrote a small pamphlet defending the idea that the whole Redemption depends on leaning Kabalah, and that is probably the strongest defense of this idea I have ever seen. On the other hand we find cause for caution in some unexpected places. One would be the Eight Gates of Reb Chaim Vital himself. The Eight Gates are eight different books Chaim Vital wrote based on the teachings he received from Isaac Luria. Among them are books he wrote on the Five Books of Moshe. In all three of them in the weekly Torah portion Haazinu, he stresses caution about Kabalah. He uses unusually strong language.["One who learns Kabalah that is not fit for it, it kills him."] And Rebbi Nachman in the Lekutai Moharan, volume I, chapter 84 brings a Zohar which says that when one learns Kabalah who is not fit for it, then snakes and demons come into his mind. I would like to finish this blog on a note of optimism about the desirability of learning Kabalah after one has gone through a proper purification process. But in fact most that do learn Kabalah have not gone through that process and in fact it does seem to damage them very, very much. And in this I am considering the most authentic of all Kabalah books e.g. Sefer Yetzira, the Remak, the Ari, the Ramchal, etc. I have not even touched on the subject of Kabalah that is not from these original greats. Over some period of years I have heard a lot of ill founded opinions about this subject.It seems everyone has an opinion even when there have little knowledge of what it is they are talking about. Or they find some person they believe has the authentic commodity. In conclusion, I want to say that this is a highly charged issue. Many times you will hear people saying that so and so should not learn Kabalah for the reasons given above, when in fact the real reason the person is being critical is because he is looking for some excise to disenfranchise someone he does not like. And yet sometimes in fact you will find people leaning Kabalah that it is damaging. It is really hard to know how to act in this delicate subject When there is any question I think it is always advisable to find out what Reb Ovadiah Yoseph the last leader of Safardi Jews thought about any issue. Not because I am sefardi. I am not. But he was clearly the greatest Torah scholar of this last generation.(after the passing of Rav Shach who was a much deeper thinker). But since the passing of Rav Shach, definitely Ovadiah Jospeh was the greatest. And he thought that even though the great kabalist did say to learn Kabalah as much as possible he thought people should sit and learn Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot. It is well known that he led Sephardi Jewry to adopt the Lithuanian Yeshiva model. Go to Israel and see yourself. (note 1) The Ramchal. Wrote many books on the Kabalah and also wrote a "Tikunim" very similar to the Tikunai HaZohar but instead based on the last verse on the Torah. This is different from the Tikunai HaZohar which is a book of 70 chapters based on the first verse of the Torah. But the Ramchal is most famous for his Mesilat Yesharim the most central text of the Musar movement of Rabbi Israel Salanter. A student of the Ramchal also wrote a lot based on the Kabalah of Isaac Luria and the Ramchal and recently it was published in Israel. Appendix: 1) Sometimes the idea, "one should not walk in the garden until he has filled his belly with the Talmud and later Poskim is used to refer to the Kabalah though it originates with the Rambam and refers to learning the Physics and Metaphysics of Aristotle. The Shelah Hakadosh does mention this idea in connection with Kabalah and he says it refers to filling ones belly with Shas and Poskim [authorities] "that day." 2) My opinion about this subject is that everyone needs a basic background and thus I think the bare minimum is to learn the Eitz Chaim of the Ari (Isaac Luria). Other than that, I think people should learn Gemara [i.e. Talmud] and keep the holy Torah plain and simple-with no added restrictions and no extra permissions. 3) The Ashlag approach to Issac Luria I did not learn much. But the Ashlag had one student who wrote some very good notes on all of the writings of Isaac Luria. He also had some disagreement with his teacher about certain aspects of the spherot but I forgot what the argument was about. I learned about it when I was learning the forth volume of the Eitz Chaim where the Nahar Shalom of the Reshah is printed. The general direction of the Ashlag was taken up by the Kabalah Center. This seems to me to be good and Kosher. I have heard that people do not like the Kabalah Center but to me it seems above reproach. They say openly what they think and teach. And what they think and teach is the Zohar and the Ari'zal. It seems highly admirable to me. The approach of Ashlag seems to have branched out into three directions, the Kabalah Center, the fellow in the Rova Hayehudi in the Old city of Jerusalem where all the yeshiva students go for a taste of Kabalah on Shabat (I forgot his name), and Leitman. They all seem to me to be good although they tend to be at odds with each other. The only thing I am unhappy about with Leitman is that he seems to think Kabalah gives justification for socialism. I think the Ari himself would have been horrified at that suggestion.


Prufer 2 group

I wanted to discuss p groups a little bit. It seems to be that to some people this must be obvious but I think it is important to distinguish between  a group that every member raised to some power of p ^n equals the unit element and other groups that don't have that property. For example the Prufer 2 group in which there is only one element that raised to the power of two is equals the unit element. Everything else just gets smaller and smaller until you get to that element. That is g (sub n+1)^2= g sub n.This could be an infinite group and is clearly related to the Haar measure.

In fact learning about the Prufer group opened up to me the whole wide world of measures; Lebesgue and Haar, Radon etc. I am finding it amazing that you can assign a measure to all kinds of different sets and topological spaces that don't seem to be able to have any kind of  way of measuring them.

But of course that leads to the Banach Tarski paradox. I guess you just have to say you can make a measure of a set of points. But if you say that it seems to be an obvious question of why not?  Should not a set with three points be able to have a measure more than a set with two points?
Though I have zero talent at Mathematics I still believe it is a mitzvah to learn it based on the ideas of Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed. There he says it more openly than in his Mishna Torah but this opinion of his still shows up in all of his writings. At any rate i wanted to mention that looking at the Prufer group helped me to understand why a p group can't have a trivial center. (This is just my guess but it seems to me to be true.) For in the prufer 2 group there is only one element that gets to the unit element by raising it to the power of 2. and in all p groups it is true that there is at least one element like that. So to show the p group must have a none trival center means xg=gx for some x besides e. That seems simple. (xg)^2= x^2 * g^2=e*g^2. And (gx)^2=g^2*x^2=g^2*e. And g^2*e=e*g^2.