23.4.14

Monotheism verses Pantheism.

This subject came up in my mind recently because of reading the prayer of reb Nathan the disciple of Rebbi Nachman from Breslov.

I was reading one of these prayers yesterday and it was about saving Jews people from people trying to take us away from our traditional belief system.
This seems to be to be highly ironic. Breslov is pantheistic. Not just Breslov but in fact most of Orthodox Judaism. If we would be seriously praying to be firm in the faith of our ancestors it would mean to avoid Orthodox Judaism. Traditional Judaism is Monotheism.

You can see this in several places. EG: the Zohar,  the writings of Isaac Luria, the Emunot VeDeot of Saadia Geon, Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides. And last but not least in the Lekutai Moharan of rebbi Nachman himself.


To go through each one at a time: the introduction to the Tikunim: the sepherot of emanation are divine, not the sepherot below emanation.

The Arizal in the beginning chapters of the Eitz Chaim says the Tmitzum [contraction] was of God's essence.
He repeats this several times. . Now as a matter of fact this would not make any difference anyway. The Tzimtzum could have been simply of God's light and this still would not have implied pantheism.


Maimonides devotes the second volume of teh Guide for the perplexed to showing that God made the world from nothing.






22.4.14

One thing that this argument does bring out is the question of Freedom.

Rebbi Nachman was against learning philosophy. The Rambam thought that learning Physics and metaphysics were the only way to come to fear and love of God.
My idea to solve this contradiction is that when the Rambam was talking about Metaphysics he was referring specifically the the 13 volume work by Aristotle called "MetaPhysics".
 I think when Rebbi Nachman was talking against philosophy he was referring to philosophers that came after the Renaissance- -commonly known as the Enlightenment philosophers.

Now this is not to suggest that Rebbi Nachman was favorable towards Aristotle. Rather it is just to find some kind compromise. This is like when two people both want  an orange. But with a little work you can find out that one actually is really interested in the rind for making a cake and the other just wants the juice. I consider this argument between Rav Nachman and the Rambam to be along the same lines.

However there is larger question to consider here
One thing that this argument does bring out is the question of Freedom.

In other words whether the enlightenment philosopher were very big on rigorous logic is not an question. We know they were not big on that. They are full of self contradictions and circular reasoning. But they did notice two things that went unnoticed by Aristotle and Plato: Freedom and Equality Before the Law. Are we to consider this wrong? I would have a hard time arguing that freedom is bad thing. Or equality before the law.

It might be nice to daydream about kings and princes and the time of world that Mozart and Bach wrote their masterpieces in. But is it really a good idea to go backs to kings? I mean not all kings were like Friedrich the king that Mozart did his work under. And even Fredrick was working under the ideas of the enlightenment.
Ironically the enlightenment did give birth to two different ideas to replace kings and priests.One was Freedom and the other was Equality. These are not compatible ideas. One was embodied in the USSR and the other in the USA.But neither based on Halacha. The idea of creating a society based on Freedom or Equality or both is a new idea and if it could be possible to combine it with Torah is a serious question.

I mentioned this to my learning partner an he mentioned the statement in the Talmud that "Freedom was engraved on the tablets." But i said that that means that listening to the law is considered to be freedom. It is not making being freed into an ideal. It is doing the exact opposite.

I would consider some kind of combination of all three ideas to be ideal. Freedom, Equality, and Torah.
people that traditionally emphasize one or the other of these three things usually do not take much account of the others. Sometimes they do not even notice that they are living under the benefit of one or the other and still disparage it in favor of the ideal they think is more important. Torah freedom and equality are three independent variables that in making a decent society each one should be maximized. But you cant have all three. This is mathematical optimization Min Max problem for any society.













21.4.14

My suggestion for a yeshiva is this. A morning Seder from 930 to 10 in Halacha. This would mean the actual Shulchan Aruch with the Beer Hetiv. After going through the Shulchan Aruch in this way a second time I would add one more commentary each time like the Magen Abraham or the Taz. This I think could be done with the Mishna Torah of the Rambam also. One time going through it with the small commentary on the bottom of the page by the Rav Kook institute, And then each time going through it with one more commentary like the Magid Mishna.

But this is just a kind of introduction to Halacha.It does not mean this is a substitute for the real source of halacha the Talmud itself with Rashi and Tosphot.
So from 10 to 200 would be the Gemara, Rashi, and Tosphot. Then in the afternoon I would say the students should go to university to learn a profession.

But I admit that to be expert in Talmud one would need to attend the afternoon part of yeshiva which in regular Lithuanian yeshivas is from 330 to 8 PM.

Contrary to popular opinion the Talmud does not always go with Orthodox practice.
It often weighs heavily on the side of conservative or reform Judaism in many areas. The Orthodox have to depend on the general ignorance of reform Jews. But on the other hand sometimes the Orthodox are right.
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And based on this idea I would like to suggest a Math Physics school of the same kind of nature.
[based on the idea of Maimonides that learning Physic and metaphysics is the proper path to come to fear of God [after one has the proper orientation of learning the Written and Oral Law.]

The idea of such a Physics and Mathematics School is based on the idea of learning Talmud in which when one learns he or she says the words in order--and then goes on. However as opposed to the way hard sciences is approached today I would say that Physics and Mathematics are not for geniuses. I would say they are for everyone--just like Torah is for everyone.

Furthermore, I would suggest that just like in a yeshiva you have the morning seder for in depth learning and the afternoon for fast [bekikut] learning I would say the same applies for the natural sciences.

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For people that do not have access to such institutes i world say then just to do this learning on your own until such time there could be a public place for such learning. Minimum would be to to one half a page of Gemara Rashi Tospshot every day so that after 14 years you will have finished the entire Talmud with every single last Rashi and Tosphot. The same with Math and Physics. To take the basic subjects-  that is Abstract Algebra and Topology and get basic texts on them and go through them. The same with Physics: get a basic text on General Relativity and one on Quantum Field Theory and one on String Theory.

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Though general knowledge is important still I think one should choose just one subject at a time to concentrate on.

Also, I have found doing exercise help to expand the amount of learning one can do.
--Just like you did in high school.--running, sit-ups, pull ups, push ups.
























18.4.14

Rebbi Nachman has  a large number of good ideas concerning human problems. One of which is the idea of talking to God in  private place when no one else is around. This seems to me to to be an incredibly powerful idea. [I was even thinking someone ought to start a Hitbodadut movement--that is to organize field trips into the mountains on weekends so people can go somewhere and have private time with God.]
another great idea is that of Simcha --happiness-- to start to concentrating on happy things. I think the way to solve most problems  is to talk with God often and in your conversion with God to spend your time thanking Him for the good things you have .[This is the opposite of therapists that think that having people discuss negative things helps them. This is most certainly false. And yet people do like to wallow and drown in their misery and have bought into the scam that talking about bad experience somehow helps them. This is sad because it actually makes people sick.]



But the thing that I thing puts off many people from Reb Nachman is the issue of an intermediate.
There is also an issue of worshiping the divinity inside of a person. These seems to me to be important issues but there is not a lot of material available to deal with them. We all know the Rambam said that the worship of an intermediary is included in the prohibition of idolatry. I think Rav Saadia had the same opinion but I have not read his Emunot Vedeot.
But we don't see a lot of material on this from the Rambam or later thinkers.
This just does not seem to have occupied people's attention.
Now we could make a difference between the worship of an intermediary and the idea of using some means at getting closes to God as two different things.
But it does seem that somewhere there is a fine line that is crossed.


16.4.14

The argument between R Isaac, the grandson of Rashi, and the Aruch about work done on Shabat that is not intended.


We know that when the work is done automatically that rabbi Shimon agrees it is obligated in a sin offering.
The question is when even if it is done automatically if it is against the person will that it should be done.

The Aruch brings a proof that it is permitted from this gemara: Shabat 133.
there was a point in time that Abyee thought that r Shimon allowed work that was not intended even if it would be done automatically. So the Gemara asks the logical question what would r Shimon do with the extra word basar that allows mila to be done where there is a beheret? It answer it comes for a case when the father says he intends the forbidden action. The gemara asks "Then let's find someone else to do it as Reiish Lakish says when there is an positive commandment and a negative commandment then if you can accomplish both you do so?"
 The Gemara answers. "There is no one else available."

Now the Aruch takes note that this other person is doing a work that is going to be done automatically and even so it is allowed.

R Isaac asks the obvious question that this entire gemara is going only according to ten  opinion of abyee that rabbi Shimon does not care about automatic work It cant be used to support a conclusion about automatic work after Abyee changed his mind. I wanted to inject here that the question of r. Isaac is more powerful than it looks on the surface. -Because the Gemara going to the other to find someone who is not intending the work. That is all the Gemara wants at this point. It does not care at all about automatic work.

I should mention that Rabbi Akiva Eigger actually does decide the Halachah like the Aruch and attempts to destroy all of the questions of Tosphot on the Aruch. I am at this point not very sure what he could possible do with this particular question. It seems to me to be unbreakable.

[for those of you wondering: Yom Tov Sheni does not exist. There is no such gezera. It is a minhag based on how far the witnesses could come. I admit there is an argument in Betzah 4 if it is a law. And if that would be the case then there would be yom Tov Sheni. But in fact it is not  law. It is a custom based on a certain kind of empirical fact. This is the reason has the Rambam explains that a there are places in Egypt and Syria where there is no Yom Tov Sheni. The custom depends on the question if we would have to revert to witnesses where could they get to before yom tov? Today they could reach the USA and the Ukraine before Yom Tov.]






15.4.14

On Passover I thought it is a good idea to explain a little what Jewish faith is about.

[1] God made the world. He is not the world.
[2] He is one; not two or more. And He has no moving parts, nor ingredients. He is not a composite.
[3] He has not removed his supervision of the world after he made it. It is possible to pray to him and get answered. according to Rebbi Nachman this prayer is best done in a forest or while hiking alone in the mountains. It is not a group activity.
[4] The Ten Commandments are the center piece and ultimate prescription of the Torah for human beings on how God wants us to act in this world. But alone with these there are many other mitzvot in the Torah which also contain Gods will.




14.4.14

Different areas of debate came up recently concerning Rebbi Nachman of Breslov.
One thing is the area of interest that Rebbi Nachman's advice seems to be universal. On this last Shabat a fellow from Nigeria came to pray at the ziun [grave] of Rebbi Nachman in Uman. I think his name was Otudeko or something like that. After he prayed there for a while some Hasidim struck up a conversation with him but I was  involved in my own things at the time. Then I caught a few words with him before he returned to Kiev.
It turns out this fellow has a lot of faith. He is the a scion of one of African's richest family.
One interesting part of his story was that his son played football for the Ukrainian national team in Kiev and some time ago hurt his knee--very badly.  The operation in Kiev would have cost a fortune and when he inquired about doing an operation in Germany, it turned out the price was two fortunes. So he said to his wife, "We need to pray." So they simply prayed to G-d and  they did the operation in Kiev and the son is now better and back to playing football.

At any rate, he got the idea at some point about private conversation with God and decided to come to pray to God by the ziun of Rebbi Nachman.

So I think we can see the ideas and advice of Rebbi Nachman do have universal appeal and relevance.
[This is in opposition to people that think he is just  relevant to Hasidim or just to Jewish people..]

Another area of debate is exactly what is the path of Rebbi Nachman? My learning partner in Talmud thinks that it is Prayer and learning Torah. Many people on the other hand think it is prayer. Torah they think is not a essentially important part of his path. I do admit the weight of the evidence seems to go with the people that think prayer alone is the main theme of and path of Rebbi Nachman. My own approach to Rebbi Nachman was based on the Rav Shick approach which in fact is Prayer and Torah. But this is at odds with most of Breslov.

Maybe it would be helpful for people if they understood a little of why this is an important issue. when i got involved in learning Torah at the age of 17 i was in a Lithuanian yeshiva in New York In That yeshiva i found a small book called binyan olam which mentioned the famous gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud ll the mitzvot together do not equal the value of one single word of learning Torah. That one small statement lite fire under me and from then on i was hooked on learning Torah.when about 5 years later i started learning the teachings of rebbi nachman i admit it was my impression that he was emphasizing prayer more than Torah.








11.4.14

Child bride forced into marriage poisons groom and three of his friends in Nigeria - See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2014/04/child-bride-forced-marriage-poisons-groom-three-friends-nigeria.html/#sthash.pvQXXjyo.dpuf

my comment--self defense

9.4.14

article about running

6 Ways Running is Actually Good for You

By The Editors of Runner's World | Healthy Living – 21 hours ago




Running is not only great for the soul but good for your health.
By Jennifer Van Allen, Runner's World

You've probably heard it said that exercise is medicine. You might've also heard recently, that running may not be so good for you after all. Despite recent reports that too much or too little running can drastically shorten life spans, there's a raft of scientific evidence proving that regular exercise (150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes five times per week)--and running in particular--has health benefits that extend well beyond any pill a doctor could prescribe. Studies have shown that running can help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and a host of other unpleasant conditions. What's more, scientists have shown that running also vastly improves the quality of your emotional and mental life, and even helps you live longer. Here's how:

PLUS: The 5 Health Tests You Need to Ace This Year

1. Running makes you happier.
If you've been working out regularly, you've already discovered it: No matter how good or bad you feel at any given moment, exercise will make you feel better. And it goes beyond just the "runner's high"--that rush of feel-good hormones known as endocannabinoids. In a 2006 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that even a single bout of exercise--30 minutes of walking on a treadmill--could instantly lift the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. In a May 2013 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in which rats and mice got antidepressant-like effects from running on a wheel, researchers concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to treating depression.

And even on those days when you have to force yourself out the door, exercise still protects you against anxiety and depression, studies have shown. Moderate exercise may help people cope with anxiety and stress even after they're done working out, according to a 2012 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise. A 2012 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health proved that just 30 minutes of running during the week for three weeks boosted sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day.

Ever heard someone call running their "drug"? Well, apparently, it actually is pretty similar. A 2007 study in Physiological Behavior showed that running causes the same kind of neurochemical adaptations in brain reward pathways that also are shared by addictive drugs.

RELATED: The 5 Lamest Excuses for Not Working Out

2. Running helps you get skinnier.
You know that exercises burns calories while you're working out. The bonus is that when you exercise, the burn continues after you stop. Studies have shown that regular exercise boosts "afterburn"--that is, the number of calories you burn after exercise. (Scientists call this EPOC, which stands for excess post oxygen consumption.) That's kind of like getting a paycheck even after you retire. (Still not convinced? Learn exactly why running workouts help you slim down, in 4 Ways Running is Best for Weight Loss That Lasts.)

And you don't have to be sprinting at the speed of sound to get this benefit. This happens when you're exercising at an intensity that's about 70 percent of VO2 max. (That's a little faster than your easy pace, and a little slower than marathon pace.)

BEWARE: Top 6 Weight Loss Lies You Keep Falling For

3.Running strengthens your knees (and your other joints and bones, too).
It's long been known that running increases bone mass, and even helps stem age-related bone loss. But chances are, you've had family, friends, and strangers warn you that "running is bad for your knees." Well, science has proven that it's not. In fact, studies show that running improves knee health, according to Boston University researcher David Felson in an interview with National Public Radio.

"We know from many long-term studies that running doesn't appear to cause much damage to the knees," Felson said. "When we look at people with knee arthritis, we don't find much of a previous history of running, and when we look at runners and follow them over time, we don't find that their risk of developing osteoarthritis is any more than expected."

PLUS: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Knees

4. Running will keep you sharper, even as you age.
Worried about "losing it" as you get older? Working out regularly will help you stay "with it." A December 2012 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review concluded that the evidence is insurmountable that regular exercise helps defeat age-related mental decline, particularly functions like task switching, selective attention, and working memory.

Studies consistently found that fitter older adults scored better in mental tests than their unfit peers. What's more, in stroke patients, regular exercise improves memory, language, thinking, and judgment problems by almost 50%. The research team found "significant improvements" in overall brain function at the conclusion of the program, with the most improvement in attention, concentration, planning, and organizing.

PLUS: 5 Surprising Ways Running Makes You Smarter

5. Running reduces your risk of cancer.
Maybe running doesn't cure cancer, but there's plenty of proof that it helps prevent it. A vast review of 170 epidemiological studies in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. What's more, if you already have cancer, running can improve your quality of life while you're undergoing chemotherapy. (Want to know more about this? Read first-hand accounts of this in our special issue on cancer prevention.)

6. Running adds years to your life.
Even if you meet just the minimum amount of physical activity--(30 minutes, 5 times per week), you'll live longer. Studies show that when different types of people started exercising, they lived longer. Smokers added 4.1 years to their lives; nonsmokers gained 3 years. Even if you're still smoking, you'll get 2.6 more years. Cancer survivors extended their lives by 5.3 years. Those with heart disease gained 4.3 years

7.4.14

The subject of idolatry of human beings came up. I was looking  at the Book of Daniel and the explanation of the Malbim on chapter 2.
He says that when Nebuchadnezzar wanted to worship Daniel. it was because of the divinity he saw in him. And yet we find that Daniel refused to be worshiped because even the worship of divinity inside a human is idolatry.
This also comes up in the Nefesh HaChaim from Chaim from Voloshin.
So the question comes up concerning the ongoing debate between Breslov and Rebbi Nachman. The differences between what Rebbi Nachman says in the Lekutai Moharan and what Breslov does  are too many to go into here.
But on this particular subject we find Rebbi Nachman referring to tying oneself to a tzadik in the way that King David and Jonathan loved.  That means tying oneself to a tzadik is supposed to refer to a kind of love that one feels for his close family.

But in fact even the actual way that Breslov does do this still has to be considered a  bit different from how the Rambam defines idolatry as accepting a different god as ones god. Though sometimes it does look that some Brelsov fanatics come close to this, but still there is a conceptual difference between accepting a being as ones god, and tying oneself in prayer so that ones prayer goes up to the One  in connection with the prayer of that tzadik.
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This brings to light why to learn Musar. It is because people's opinions are fluid. Though I certainly like to think of my opinions as rock solid and based on concrete evidence but I know my opinions have varied widely in the course of time. Because of this it is wise for me  I think for others also to learn Musar to  get a reasonable and well thought approach to morality and human issues and religious issues