Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Machashavah Syllabus

Machashavah Syllabus
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Draft, Wednesday, June 21, 2006

First Principle (Emunah):
I. Ramchal:
A. Honor and Glory
B. L'Heitiv
C. Unity in Multiplicity
II. Reb Elchonon:
A. Heresy and Emotion
B. The Book in the Desert
C. Yellow and Pink
D. Yetzer HaTov, Yetzer HoRa – Intellect vs. EmotionE. Mussar b'Hispa'alus
F. When we don't follow the Majority
III. The Kuzari
A. Mesorah
B. Yetzias Mitzrayim and Mattan Torah
C. Kaffah Aleihem Har K'Giggis
IV. Emunah Peshutah
A. Chassidus vs. Misnagdus
B. Dveykus vs. Shleymus
C. Emunah Peshutah vs. Emunas Nashim

Second Principle (Unity):
V. Playing Parts Against Each Other
A. Sefiros
B. Kavanah in Davening

Third Principle (Corporeality):
VI. Material vs. Spiritual
A. Can G-d Create a Rock He Cannot Lift?
B. Shechinah (Rambam vs. Ramban)
C. Not Spiritual Either
D. Rambam vs. Ra'abad, Nebbich Apikores

Fourth Principle (Ex Nihilo):
VII. Age of the Universe
A. Non-Solutions
B. The Six Days
C. The Cycles
VIII. Evolution
A. Good Science and Bad Science
B. The Malbim, Rabbi J.H. Hertz
C. Rav Kook

Fifth Principle (Divine Service):
IX. Davening
A. Only to Hashem
B. Angels
C. The Deceased
D. The Yetzer Ho'Ra of Avodah Zarah
E. Frumkeit
F. Movies, Non-Jewish Music

Sixth Principle (Prophecy):
X. Connecting With the Beyond
A. Ramchal: Three levels in Ruach HaKodesh
B. Rambam vs. Mekkubalim
C. Chassidus and Nevuah
D. Meditation and Nevuah
XI. Kedushah
A. Rashi
B. Ramban
C. Shaarei Yosher

Seventh Principle (Moshe Rabbeinu):
XII. Uniqueness of Torah She'B'Ksav and Halacha L'Moshe Mi'Sinai
A. Av L'Kol Ha'Nevi'im
B. Aspaklaria
C. Changing Ethics
D. Reb Chatzkel and the Pistol
XIII. Additional Aspects of Prophecy
A. Equanimity
B. Dreams

Eighth Principle (Torah Min HaShomayim):
XIV. Two Toros
A. Why Torah She'B'Al Peh
B. Mesorah
C. Derashos HaRan on Takkanos Chazal
D. The Names of G-d
E. Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Akiva
F. Good Chumros
G. Reform and Conservative Judaism

Ninth Principle (Torah Will Not Be Abrogated):
XV. Eternal Torah
A. Purim and Megillah
B. Christianity
C. The Disputation

Tenth Principle (Omniscience):
XVI. Yediah vs. Bechirah
A. Ibn Daoud
B. Ralbag
C. Crescas
D. Rambam
E. The Izhbitzer and Reb Tzadok (PT Vayeishev)
F. Nekudas HaBechirah

Eleventh Principle (Reward and Punishment):
XVII. The Reward and the Punishment
A. Why
B. Yisurim
C. Kaf Ha'Kela
D. Gehinnom
E. Olam HaNeshamos
F. Gilgulim
XVIII.How Does It Work
A. Nefesh HaChaim
B. Imrei Binah
C. Buying and Selling Olam Ha'Bo
D. Yisaschar-Zevulun

Twelfth Principle (Moshiach):
XIX. The Process
A. The Rambam
XX. The Person
A. Five Parts of the Neshamah
B. Yechidah Kelalis
C. Chabad
D. Bar Kochba
XXI. Demanding Moshiach
A. Ikvesa D'Meshichah
B. Aschalta D'Geulah
C. Chutzpah
D. Hesech Ha'Da'as
E. Happiness (Viktor Frankel)

Thirteenth Principle (Techiyas HaMeisim):
XXII. Material vs. Spritiual
A. Rambam vs. Ramban
B. Yom HaDin
C. Olam Ha'Ba
XXIII.Techiyas HaMeisim and Science
A. Our Attitude Towards Science
B. Torah im Derech Eretz
C. Torah U'Madda
D. Torah Only
E. The Luz Bone and DNA (R' Aryeh Kaplan)
XXIV. For Who
A. Kol Yisroel
B. Ummos HaOlam

Various Other Topics:
Mo'adim U'Zemanim (Inyana D'yoma)
Ayin Ho'Ra

Another Conversation in Which I am Participating

Tuesday, June 20, 2006



My name is Mechi (Friederwitzer) Fendel and I am 39-years-old. I moved to Israel 20 years ago from Staten Island, NY. I have 6 children ages 18,16,14,12,10,4 - ages 10 & 14 are girls.

In 1994, when I moved to Sderot with my family, the city had just doubled its population from 11,000 to 22,000 residents. In the 1990s the great influx of FSU immigrants - mainly from the Asian Buchara and Khafkas (Caucaus) areas - changed the small Negev development town to a city with over 60% speaking Russian.

The reason that the former Russians numbered more than half of the city's population is that many veteran Israelis left Sderot after the city's demography changed so dramatically. The town, consisting of immigrants from Northern Africa, Persia, Yemen, and Romania was already struggling with high unemployment and now was supposed to absorb these new immigrants.

We moved to Sderot as part of the Sha'alei Torah movement to strengthen development towns. My husband, David (formerly of West Hempstead, Long Island, NY) came to be the head of a learning academy (kollel), and I came along with our 4 children. When we came to live in the city, I took a group of NY-UJA representatives on a tour of the town. "We are the Kiryat Shmona of the Negev," I said. I meant that since Sderot is the closest city town to Gaza, we're similar to the city near the Lebanese border. Never, in my wildest nightmares, did I imagine that Sderot would start being bombarded like its Kiryat Shmona counterpart!!!

We came to Sderot with 3 other families to try to rehabilitate a development town strategically located in the Negev (1 hour from Tel-Aviv, 1 hour from Jerusalem, and 45 minutes from Be'er Sheva) but ignored by all Israeli governments. The educational and welfare systems were in bad shape and the people of the town were depressed.

Even though most of the original residents were religious when they were brought to Sderot (no one decided to live here, but instead were sent in groups when they came on aliyah in the 1950s and 1960s), their children and grandchildren had lost interest in religion. The FSU immigrants were, of course, very far from religion, also. We tried to add as much as we could to Sderot's educational, religious and welfare frameworks.

Every year more families joined our "garin" (lit. seed). Afikim BaNegev ("Horizons in the Negev") - as our community is called - now numbers over 100 families and young couples. In our 2nd year in Sderot, my husband decided to start a Yeshivat Hesder in the city. The post-HS youth learn Judaic subjects (Talmud, Bible and Jewish philosophy) while also being active in the town and enlisting in the Israeli army. The original student body of 9 grew in 11 years to 400 students, half of whom are in the army while the other half live, learn and contribute to the city.

Five years ago in May, the first Kassam rocket fell in Sderot. Since then over 600 rockets have fallen in and around the city with another 400 in communities around the area. We have been living in a traumatic situation for so long; we've forgotten what normalcy is like. People have tended to ignore the threat of these rockets as a survival tactic - otherwise, we'd all be going crazy.

For five years terrorists in Gaza have seen Sderot as an easy target - only 800 meters away (less than 1/2 a mile). We were promised that the disengagement from Gaza would allow the army to use stronger force in bombing Gaza and therefore in stopping the rockets. This did not happen. We are all frustrated and don't know to whom to turn. Most Sderot residents walk around depressed - "No one cares about us", "Nothing will help", "Where can we go?", "Where's our army? Who are they protecting - the Palestinians or the Israelis?"

The students in the Yeshivat Hesder have currently begun a campaign of uniting the town. They split up into groups and go from door to door encouraging the residents and strengthening their faith in G-d. They offer help and try to identify situations where professional social workers may be needed.

We are experiencing miracles daily, but how long can this situation last? Each Kassam missile is stronger than its predecessor. In the past 2 weeks over 100 rockets fell in this well populated city. It's a miracle that so few have been injured.

One man, a guard from a school is hospitalized in critical condition. 5 people (4 children) have been killed and one lady had a leg amputated. We pray to G-d constantly that some sense will be knocked into the government and the army will do its job so that we can live normally…

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bloglines - Pious Gentiles according to Rabbi Yisrael Lipschutz

Bloglines user ygb ( has sent this item to you.

AJHistory by Menachem Butler
Where discussion on American Jewish History begins...

Pious Gentiles according to Rabbi Yisrael Lipschutz

By Menachem Butler

At the core of the Jewish tradition is Kol Yisrael Yesh laHem Chelek l’Olam haBah, that "All of Israel has a share in the World to Come" [Mishnah Sanhedrin (10:1)]. Buried deep within a footnote, Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, however, notes that Rabbi Yisrael Lipschutz (in his Tiferet Yisrael 3:14) extends this endorsement to several pious gentiles who too will receive a portion in the World to Come; they are:
(a) Edward Jenner (1749-1823) who discovered the vaccine against smallpox; (b) Sir Francis Drake (1540-96) who [according to Rabbi Lipschutz] brought the potato to Europe, thereby saving many people from starvation; (c) Johann Gutenberg (c. 1400-68) the inventor of the art of employing moveable types in printing; and (d) Johann Reuchlan (1455-1522), a Catholic priest who put his life on the line in order to prevent the burning of the Talmud under a Decree issued by the Viennese Emperor Maximillian in the year 1502.]
Source: Chaim Rapoport, The Messiah Problem: Berger, The Angel and the Scandal of Reckless Indiscrimination (2002), p. 88 (n. 184)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Coffee and Shavuos

Fascinating! I can forward the pdf I received upon request.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Coffee and Shavuot; an article by Prof. Elliott Horowitz
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2006 01:35:15 -0400
From: Menachem Butler

Dear All:

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot -- one of the two nights a year when Jews traditionally have the custom to stay up all night studying Torah -- I am sending the attached article (PDF), by Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University, entitled "Coffee, Coffeehouses, and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry," which appeared in The AJS Review 14:1 (1989), pages 17-46. Prof. Horowitz is the co-editor of the prestigious Jewish Quarterly Review (JQR; N.S.) and his recent book "Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence" was published by Princeton University Press (March 2006).

See specifically where he notes:

The widening popularity of coffee in eighteenth-century Italy seems to have breathed new life into the observance not only of Tikkun Hazot, but also of the Shavuot and Hoshana Rabbah vigils.... it may be noted that only in the [eighteenth] century, as coffee entered the fabric of everyday life in Italy, did mass-market editions of the readings for these two nights roll regularly off the presses. No less than eight editions of the Tikkun for Hoshana Rabbah appeared in Italy between 1729 and 1785, and in Venice alone no less than five editions of readings for Shavuot night were published between 1730 and 1767. These editions, moreover, were explicitly intended for use by those remaining awake all night, and contained prayers to be recited at the successful conclusion of the sleepless vigil. If coffee was in these years an integral part of the observance in Worms, its role could hardly have been less central in a city such as Venice, where the beverage was first introduced to Europe, and which, in the mid-eighteenth century, boasted some 200 coffeehouses, including some in its ghetto.

The vigils of Shavuot and Hoshana Rabbah, previously limited in their appeal and relatively brief in duration, came to be widely observed as all-night affairs. This was due more to the availability of coffee than to the habit of frequenting coffeehouses, but the vogue achieved by the midnight rite of Tikkun Hazot would seem to have been equally linked to the latter. [p. 43-44]

Chag Matan Torateinu Sameach!,