The Gra said this statement of Maimonides is not understandable.

I wanted here to deal with Maimonides [Nizkei Mamon chapter 2] [When the string is owned the owner of the string pays .5 damage and the owner of the chicken nothing] and the Talmud in Bava Kama page 19b.
 The Gra said this statement of Maimonides is not understandable. And he goes with the approach of the Rosh

But before I do I want to say over the Gemara and Rosh [Rabbainu Asher]. This will give us some perspective.

The Mishna says when chickens that get a string attached to them and then a vessel gets tangled in the string and gets dragged along and breaks the obligation is half damages.

The idea is the damages that comes in an unusual way that they owner could not have suspected he is obligated only in half damages. [Damage directly by means of foot or pit or fire are all stated openly in the Torah itself in Exodus.]
Rav Huna says the Mishna refers a string that gets attached by itself but if someone ties it, it is full damage.

  The Talmud asks, "Who can he be referring to? If the owner of the string, then if he covered it, it is is no fault of his. And if he did not cover it he should pay full damage. So it must be he means the owner of the chicken and it is  a case that tit was flying, and Rav Huna was referring to a case of a string that was not owned."

The Rosh is thinking here: "OK, so full damages when someone tied it? That must mean like Rabbi Natan in the case of a stone on the edge of a pit. (Bava Kama 53 and page 13)"

I have two points to make. One is if the first approach of the Gemara was correct, then it never would have said that Rav Huna was not referring to the Mishna. [This idea was stated by the Migdol Oz. It is not my original idea.] Just think about it. If, in fact, the owner of the chicken pays half damage when it got tied by itself and when it is flying, why in the world would the Gemara resort to the radical step of changing Rav Huna's statement?!! You don't do such a thing unless you have be backed against a wall.

Now Rashi and Tosphot do I admit try to deal with this issue, but clearly the evidence is on the side of the  idea that the Gemara throws out the first approach completely. This turns the tables around completely and makes the Rambam seem to be the reasonable one over here.

The only thing left is to show why the Rambam says this--not just how he sees it in the Gemara but the reasoning behind it.
And this is my answer: I say that Rabbi Nathan was referring to cases of full damage. In our case here it is half damage. And in such a case R. Natan would never have said you get half damage from one and half damage from the other. That would have to be considered ridiculous.
The other idea is that this is not a case of two people causing damage. One is direct and the other indirect.
Like two owners of a pit. One walks by and does not cover it. then the other walks by and does not cover it. the second one is obligated.  There is a lot more to talk about here but let this suffice for now.


Kant is difficult. And I think it is important to read him and to understand him. Yet i favor a modified approach to Kant. And the approach is not that of the Neo Kantians. Nor is it the normal way to understand Kant at all.
 It is the very off beat Friesian approach of Kelly Ross from California. This is virtually unknown in the academic world. And furthermore it is considered weird. But weird is a prejudicial adjective. If I would be afraid of weird I never would have gotten involved in Torah and mitzvot which is the 1960 was considered the epitome of weird. And in the world of Rebbi Nachman weird is the norm. But weird is not always bad. In the 1980 being weird got to be the in thing. 

What the world needs is a way to distinguish from good weird from bad weird.

[I think it is fault of the Lithuanian yeshiva world that they classify all weird together. All the while being proud of being squares. Being square is in some ways good. I cant deny that. But it seemed to me to be an overreaction. I think Litvaks were so afraid of being classified as weird that they overreacted to anything outside of th what was thought the norm.  Of course in the world of Southern California in the !960 when i grew up being any kind of Orthodox Jew was considered the more extreme version of weird that was possible-- way beyond Adi Da or the Hari Krishnas. The only reason Orthodox Judaism became acceptable was because Americans in California and New York  did not think that weird was bad during the 1960. In fact they looked at weird as being delightful and entertaining.

I have pretty much concluded that the best path in serving God is Torah with Derech Eretz [the ways of the world.].
Though I think having a yeshiva is important so that everyone can have a place where they can go to Learn the Oral and Written Law, but the "Torah only" approach I am thinking is fraught with problems.
I come to this question not from theory but from experience.

That means in plain English that I favor the type of approach I experienced in the Mir yeshiva in the USA. That is four years of "Torah only" and then university.

I could go on and on into this but the fact that this is what the sages of the Talmud and certainly the Rambam say anyway that seems to close the debate. where the idea of permanent kollel came from is beyond me.


The problem with Chechnya is that if the Ukraine accepts help from Chechnya that will be considered as forming a military alliance with a group that is in direct opposition to Moscow. This Moscow would see as justification for an invasion of the Ukraine.

Now this might be a forgone conclusion anyway. After all twenty years of peace in this part of the world is very unusual. It is to be expected there would be conflict.

But for the benefit of both Russia and the Ukraine i would prefer a peaceful alliance and cooperation.


I have been interested in the issue of idolatry recently. This brought me to get involving in learning the tractate of the Talmud which deals with this issue.
Sometimes in my learning with my learning partner the issue of Christianity comes up.  So far it looks like Christianity would be problematic because of several issues. One obvious one is hitgashmut-- considering God as  body. Also the worship of an intermediary.

The actual character of Jesus does not seem to be an issue.

Some great people thought he was a tzadik, and some thought not. But we know even a tzadik one is not allowed to worship. According to the Nefesh Hachaim, even the intention of tying ones soul with the soul of a tzadik is considered idolatry. 
We do find in the Talmud that people went on a fast day to the Jewish graveyard in order that the people buried there would pray for the living. But this was not worship. This was  a kind of hope that people in heaven would intercede for the living.
My learning partner came across a section in the writings of  Isaac Luria in listing the graves of tzadikim that includes that of Yeshua Hanotzri.

I was not aware of that particular section but I did remember something else in another book by Isaac Lurai [Halekutim] at the end of Vayeshev that mentions that he was a gilgul [reincarnation] of Joseph.

But my learning partner noted that that paragraph refers to some Gemara in Menachot which he would have to look up.

I also remember a few places in the writing of the medieval kabalist avraham abulafia along the same lines.
Some people I suppose might be interested in all this. As far as I am concerned it does not tell us much about the prohibition of idolatry and what it involves. For that I think we just need to learn the Gemara.

From what i can tell there is lot of idolatry going around and it is not confined to any one group. It is worth my time i think to get a clear idea of what it involves, and the best way to understand issues in Torah as far as i can see is to open up the Talmud Bavali.


I think the future of the civilized world will be determined by two schools of thought in philosophy today.

That means to say that just like the world was divided between John Locke and Rousseau, so it will be divided in the future between the Kantians [in particular the Kant-Friesian School] and the intuitionists [e.g Michael Huemer ].
Also we see that what seemed small difference between Rousseau and Locke became very large difference  when their ideas were put into practice so I think the differences between the Kantian sand intuitionists will prove to be significant.

 But just to be brief: the ideas of Rousseau and Locke about popular sovereignty were similar except for one major point--individual rights as opposed to the general will. And this one small difference became the difference between the USSR and the USA.
But Locke and Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx while significant for older people  are getting less significant for younger people. Few of the  upcoming generation think any of these thinkers had access to the Truth. Even if major political systems are based on their ideas, still their ideas are not believable anymore for thinking people.
It is not that everyone is going to understand Kant or Prichard. But the schools of thought from these thinkers are becoming more and more influential every day.

Though linguistic British and American philosophers are still teaching their post modern nonsense but most people are not convinced.

For Jewish people i think it will become significant to decide if Maimonides was more on the side of Kant or Prichard.


There is a subject in the Talmud that I have been trying to make sense of and have not been able to make any progress. 
I assume that everyone knows about pebbles. That is an animal is walking along and kicks pebbles. In that case the owner pays half damages. That is straightforward. But what about an animal that has a string attached to its foot and the string knocks some vessel and causes it to role away and break?

 I really have no idea of what to make of this problem. The Rambam seems to have his own take on it. The Rosh and Tosphot and Raavad seem to have another one. The Migdol Oz  answers for the Rambam by connecting him with Rashi.
This is a subject that seems inexhaustible. But just for now let me say over one idea I had today.

The Rambam apparently has a problem. The first part of the Gemara on page 13b in Bava Kama does not throw out Rav Huna completely. [If it did we would be home free]. But what it does is it puts the idea of Rav Huna into the case where the chicken flapped its wings and the person that owns the bird pays the damages. What I mean to say by this is that the Gemara steadily works on marginalizing Rav Huna. But when it finally gets to this case it is satisfied. That would have to mean full damages for when the string was tied and half damages for when it got attached to the chicken by itself. That is of course completely opposed to the Rambam who says half damages for when it was tied and nothing for when it happened by itself.

The suggestion of the disciple of the Rashba, the Migdol Oz, here is that the person that tied the string is not liable for pebbles but for digging a hole and for a hole no damages are paid for broken vessels.

This will not work for the end statement of the Rambam that when the string has an owner the owner pays half damages because it is like a rolling pit. If anyone has a suggestion here I would be appreciative. This is just one of the seemingly infinite number of questions there are on this subject.


The Islamic caliphate was re-established in the Middle East

Last weekend, on the 29th of June – which also happened to be the 1st Ramadhan 1435 (Islamic calendar) a historic event took place: the Islamic caliphate was re-established in the Middle East. As the Independent reported:

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) declared the areas it occupies in Iraq and Syria as a new Islamic state, removing Iraq and the Levant from its name and ushering in “a new era of international jihad. The announcement will see Isis now simply refer to itself as The Islamic State, and the group has called on al-Qa’ida and other Sunni factions to immediately pledge their allegiance.”


The problem I see with this is that Islam seems to be a religion that advocates violence towards non believers. This would be bad enough in itself but what makes it worse is that many Christians that don't like Jews much anyway are only too thrilled to see the rise of the enemies of Israel. As far as they considered it is only good news. They can let the Muslims get rid of the Jews and only then worry about protecting themselves.

I don't write about the problems that Israel faces because I figure it is  a waste of ink.
There are people that like Israel and Jews and there is no argument to the contrary that they will listen to. and there are plenty of people that dislike Jews. No arguments or evidence to show the better side of Jews will convince them otherwise.

It is alarming that there are so many people that seem to dislike us. What can a Jew do but do what we have always done--turn towards God and try to repent on our sins as best as we know how.

And that means  learning Torah and Musar.


The Russians are not entirely wrong about the fact that the Ukraine really fell to pieces morally and in other ways after the Soviet Union fell. They really don't seem to be able to do well without Russian rule.

There is something that is unique about the Ukraine when it comes to the question of stealing. It is not to say that this is the worst thing in the world. But it does some to be a problem.
I had  a kindle [for reading]  and I was staying in the Ukraine by a nice family. But at some point one of their sons started harassing me. 

Just to explain the living arrangement in brief. It is a collage dorm that is privately owned. I have had a job there of basically keeping things in order and making sure things do not get too out of hand. This is a long story but basically the arrangement was working well for some time. But the adult children [early twenties] of the owners would often come in and try to use the place for a drug hang out. OK I basically stopped that. But yesterday one of the sons stole my Kindle when I was in the bathroom and went to his mother and said he would give back the Kindle if I gave 70 Grivans so he could go and party in the local bars.

I think you get the idea that this is just plain weird. I have kept my peace because of my policy of not complaining and especially being careful about Lashon Hara for several months [since the time this son started his policy of harassment] but yesterday brought this to a whole new level.
Of course this is what I have come to expect in any Ukrainian home and the fact that you live with a family even with a separate locked room is never a reason not to steal from you is in fact been a reason for frustration for me  more that a few years.

But I am not perfect also. I have certain issue of hyper sensitivity which makes it worse that it needs to be. After someone has stolen something from me even if I get it back I do not feel comfortable using it.
 The Russians are not entirely wrong about the fact that the Ukraine really fell to pieces morally and in other ways after the Soviet Union fell. They really don't seem to be able to do well without Russian rule.
But that being said I do think Ukraine should be independent but that there is some kind of important relationship and connection  that they need to have with Russia.


I was wondering why some yeshiva students are attracted to rebbi nachman.

I mean know the many reasons that i am attached to him but why others abandon their environment to come to uman and spend their time there praying   and learning Torah.

Most of the time it is hard to get an answer from people. But it is not the usual stereotype of people that could not make it.

Rather it seems like people that are searching for some kind of truth about reality.

 Now i know that many people are not concerned with questions of ultimate reality. They are more concerned with the height of the waves in California to know if they can go surfing. But for those that are interested in ultimate truth questions rebbi nachman seems to be a magnet.
One fellow i talked to a few days ago was a well respected yeshiva student in Babov chasidim.

There are a few off shoots of Babov but the one he was in is in Boro park. He though it was pretty much empty of any real spirituality. and that he why he came to rebbi nachman.

 He gave me some examples of how some students were overly involved in printing and publishing talks of the leading rabbi and were in fact not interested in Torah at all. He himself was well respected because he wore the right clothings  [which is known to be of ultimate ontological significance in the world of Hasidim even though he would hang out on shabat with friends smoking]. In short he thought the whole thing was a cult.

 This was surprising to me because as he described i they in fact do good work in learning Talmud. they have the regular in depth learning in the morning and the faster learning in the afternoon, And yet when he come to things that matter in life this fellow thought he needed to find a real tzadik