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 a fraud or 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 [first authorities from the Middle Ages]can't be wrong. Rather any argument between them is "the words of the living God". But Achronim [commentaries written after the time of the Beit Yoseph] 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 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 over their own judgment 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.


People that believe in the Torah know that idolatry is forbidden.

People that believe in the Torah know that idolatry is forbidden.
But what happens if one bows down to an idol but does not accept it as his god or as a god? And what does it mean to accept it as  god. And can a person be an object of idolatry? And what about the question of an intermediate or a mediator?

Would you not expect these to be major questions in the Talmud? Why is it that the first question is addressed only by the Abyee and Rava and not mentioned by the Tanaim of the Mishna? Or in any Braita?
{Abyee and Rava are in the middle of the period of the amoraim}. Why is the question of a mediator not mentioned at all anywhere in the Talmud? What does it mean to accept as a god? This is a phrase used in the Talmud to define idolatry according to Rava, but gets a definition in no place. Most of Tractate Avoda Zara [Idolatry] is about wine that is offered to idols, and has little to do with these major questions.
Would you not expect that these should be major issues?

So with no further delay let me at least here say the argument between Abyee and Rava.[Sanhedrin 61b]. To Abyee one is liable if one serves idolatry even if he does not accept it as a god. Service in this context means service that is the normal way of serving that idol, or any one of these four types: sacrifice, pouring, burning, bowing.
Can a person be an object of idolatry? At least this is clear in the Talmud. And this question was raised by the Tenaim. The Braita says if one says, "Serve me," then one that serves him is liable right away (to all opinions). If one simply agrees to serve him then to Rabbi Meir he is liable right away. Not to Rabbi Yehudah.

Appendix: In spite of the fact that the Talmud does not deal directly with the question of a mediator I think it is possible to see two different approaches in the Talmud to this question. (However I only say this on a temporary basis since I have not finished learning this subject with my learning partner who might have a different conclusion and could perhaps show me where my reasoning is wrong.)

From page 60 until 67 in Sanhedrin we see the one  way one can be liable for doing idolatry is by accepting some other being besides God as ones god. That seems straightforward enough. And to both Abyee and Rava that is definitely liable.

The difference between Abyee and Rava is if one serves some other being besides God, but does not accept the divinity of that other being. To Abyee he is liable and to Rava he is not. It looks crystal clear serving a mediator is idolatry according to this. The problem begins when Abyee starts to defend his thesis. He looks a Mishna which brings a case of "idolatry by accident." It looks like he is wondering what could it mean idolatry by accident is the very definition of idolatry to accepting this other being as a god? By definition that can't be by accident. But look at the way Abyee defends this idea. He asks "If one went to a house of idols and thought it is a synagogue then it is nothing for his heart is towards heaven." Bear in mind that Abyee is the one who think one can be liable for idolatry even when he does not accept its divinity. How can he say "It is nothing?" It looks that even he agrees that when one heart is towards heaven even though he is in a house of idols that that is not idolatry. From this it looks like the worship of a mediator when ones heart is towards heaven is not idolatry.
This difference might be the reason that there is an argument between the Rambam and Rabainu Tam about the Notzrim. The Rambam considers worship of a mediator as idolatry. Rabainu Tam (Sanhedrin 63B) at least when it comes to the subject of an oath seems to take a different approach. But again without having done that Tosphot with my learning partner I hesitate to draw any conclusion


Rebbi Nachman was critical concerning reading outside books and outside wisdom. But what is included in that category? I suggest here it means man made wisdoms, not the Wisdom of the Creator as revealed in his creation.

 The Mishna lists things one loses the next world for. R Akiva adds, "reading outside books." 
The Gemara explains these are books of minim (one kind of several types of heretics). The Rosh and Rif have a different girsa [version] which says "books of people that explain the Torah not according to the tradition of Chazal(The Sages)."
According to this no books of science or philosophy would be forbidden, only books that deal with Torah subjects but explain the Torah in ways different from the Mishna and Talmud and Midrashim. 

So far we do not know whether the Rif (Rav Isaac Alfasi) or Rosh (Rabbainu Asher) decided like Rabbi Akiva or the Tana Kama (first Tana), but in an argument of this sort the halacha is like the first Tana. [Not like R Akiva]
At Any rate, we do not find in the Rif or Rosh anything that suggests books of science or philosophy are a problem. The problem would be of you have the regular girsa/version of our Gemara not like the Rif or Rosh.
All we see so far is books that explain the Torah not like the Chazal are considered outside books
Rav Joseph comes and says: "Also the books of Ben Sira." It is not clear if this is meant to be according to Rabbi Akiva or the Tana Kama [the first Tana] . But the problem there according to the Gemara is the it is a waste of time. And then the Gemara goes into things you can learn from it and things you can't.
Now we so far have not mentioned the Rambam. In the laws of Teshuva/Repentance where he brings this Mishna [things one loses his portion in the world to come for] he seems to ignore Rabbi Akiva completely. This suggests he thought the law is like the first Tana.  
But in the laws in Avoda Zara he says one must not learn the books of avoda zara/idolatry but that does not come from this Gemara about outside books and seems to be  an independent Halacha as we see in Sefer HaMitzvot where the Rambam there brings this down as a specific prohibition about avodah zara(idolatry). That is- there is a law not to have anything to do with avodah zara(idolatry). And not to learn the books of avodah zara(idolatry) are in that category.

Rebbi Nachman was critical concerning reading outside books and outside wisdom. But what is included in that category? I suggest here it means man made wisdoms, not the Wisdom of the Creator as revealed in his creation. My reasons are as stated above: the idea of outside books and wisdoms comes directly from the Mishna and Talmud and has nothing to do with how the term came to be used recently.


It is a sad commentary on the state of philosophy today that some people in academia treat Kant as an idealist almost like Berkley. This is in spite of the fact that Kant wrote a whole refutation of (material) idealism. Clearly to Kant the Dinge an Sich exists.
[In fact Kant wrote one argument against dogmatic idealism (that outside things are not real) and another against empirical idealism (that we can't know about outside things).]

The Kant-Fries school of thought is very different from the other three neo-Kant schools.
The other schools are ambiguous if the thing in itself exist at all outside the mind. This is clearly not Kant at all.

I mean how can Schools that don't think there is anything "out there" get to be called Neo Kantian? To Kant it is the representation that makes things possible --but the things are quite definitely there.


Kollel: That means sitting and learning Torah {and Talmud} and being paid by the State to do so.

Kollel: That means sitting and learning Torah {and Talmud} and being paid by the State to do so.

I have heard this justified as paid for off time from ones work ("sachar batalah"). However that is only mentioned in terms of a judge. And what it means is this: if you want a judge to judge your case, he can't be paid for it. But if he has work that he is anyway doing, you can pay him for the time away from his job. And it has to be an actual job. It can't be work that he "might" have gotten.

On the other hand, the Gra (Eliyahu from Villnius) was asked about receiving money in order to learn by Reb Chaim from Voloshin and his answer was it is allowed.  And the context was a "Issachar Zevulun"  arrangement.(One worked, the other learned, and they divide the reward in heaven.)

But if we are talking about Issachar and Zevulun then the Rambam himself benefited from such an arrangement. So that brings us to the original question what exactly is forbidden, and what is permitted?

Curiously enough this seems to be a difference between Mishna Torah by the Rambam and the commentary on the Mishna of the Rambam.

In Mishna Torah the idea is: one can't  learn Torah intending to depend on charity. Anyone in kollel will tell you, "I am learning Torah to learn Torah, and I accept charity. I don't learn in order to get charity."

So they are in the clear as far as Mishna Torah goes. But as for the commentary on the Mishna, there the Rambam takes a stricter view and simply holds that receiving money in any shape or form because one is learning Torah is forbidden. There he ignores intention.

I am ignoring the Kesef Mishna [Yoseph Karo on the Mishna Torah] here because to me it is more important that this question seems to be dependent on an argument between the Rambam and the Gra.--two rishonim.


The Gra saw learning Torah as being a  Divine service in itself and not just a way to come to do miztvot. You can see the idea in the book the Nefesh Hachaim by his disciple. And though Rebbi Nachman does seem to emphasize prayer and private conversation with God, but I think Rebbi Nachman's idea was that there are certain conditions one needs to fulfill in order that ones learning should be acceptable {like learning Torah for its own sake and not in order to gain benefits from it}. And I think he saw prayer as the only way to fulfill these conditions.

Also, we need to change the terms from "sitting and learning Torah," to "standing and learning Torah." The best exercise is to stand and be learning Gemara. It might be better than jogging