Friday, February 09, 2007

Something I wrote quite some time ago - and I forgot what I wrote...

...Reb Aharon's addendum to the Ba'al Tokei'a story makes its thrust totally different than that given to it by RYBS:

From: (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sun, 16 May 93 20:04:55 -0400
Subject: Reb Ahron's Hesped in Chicago

Hesped for Reb Yoshe Ber zt"l in Chicago

This morning, Sunday 40 la'Omer, there was a Hesped for Reb Yoshe
Ber in Chicago. Approximately 200 men and some women attended.
There were several speakers, but of course the focal one was Reb
Ahron shlit"a. I will attempt to summarize his Hesped (which lasted
about 45 minutes) in short, taking upon myself responsibility for
possible errors, omissions, etc. I should note that representatives
of all the major streams of Orthodoxy in Chicago were in
attendance, including Roshei Yeshiva of Telz and HTC, and a Rosh
Kollel of the Lakewood Kollel.

Reb Ahron began by noting that this was the third Hesped he would
be giving for his brother: the first, at the levaya, was
necessarily an emotional one: an onen is forbidden from Talmud
Torah, and is thus limited to emotion. This, he noted, is in
keeping with the nature of the laws of shiva, which require
behaviors on the part of the avel which are parallel to those the
Gemara identifies as signs of insanity - expressions of emotional
turmoil. The laws of shloshim are more restrained, allowing for a
more intellectual contemplation - which would be the spirit of
today's Hesped. There are, he stated, however, two types of
intellect, that of the mind and that of the heart. That of the mind
can be articulated, that of the heart must be sensed. Thus, the
Rambam devotes 30 chapters to Hilchos Shabbos, but only two
halachos to Ahavas Hashem - not because the latter is not
significant, but rather because in must be sensed and understood.
This Hesped was an attempt to give some sense of the intellect of
the heart.

The Gemara states that if we regard the Rishonim as malachim,
then we are as humans; if we regard them as humans then we are as
donkeys, but not as the donkeys of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, which
would not eat d'mai. Reb Ahron stated that these are complementary
statements - if we regard, in our imaginations, the previous
generations as angels, then in striving to emulate them we can
attain the level of human beings. If not, at best we will remain
lower level donkeys. Reb Ahron noted, however, that during the
lifetime of a Rebbe a talmid is not supposed to regard him with
this sort of deference, because then the phenomenon of a Rebbe
learning the most from his talmidim could not be fulfilled - they
will be too afraid to ask the questions which edify the Rebbe,
rather this is what the statement that tzaddikim are greater in
their death than in their lifetime means - after the Tzaddik's
death one must use this approach in one's imagination. [I asked Reb
Ahron after the Hesped as to how he understands the dictum that if
the Rebbe is "k'malach elokim tzevakos" only then should one learn
from him. Reb Ahron stated that this refers to the Rebbe's approach
to teaching as an agent of Hashem - a "missionary."]

Reb Ahron noted that in the Hakdama to the Meromei Sadeh Reb
Chaim Berlin said that his father, the Netziv, held the Teshuvos of
Reb Akiva Eiger as those of a Rishon, yet he was completely
disinterested in biographical information about him, holding such
pursuits a form of bittul Torah. Similarly, one must focus on the
writings of Reb Yoshe Ber, rather than his biography, in attempting
to assess him.

The Rov's two major works, stated Reb Ahron , were "Ish HaEmuna"
and "Ish HaHalacha." The prototypical Ish HaHalacha was Reb Chaim
Soloveitchik, the prototypical Ish HaEmuna was Reb Elya Pruzhiner
[their maternal grandfather]. Many talmidim make the mistake of
assuming that these two personalities are mutually exclusive. They
are in fact similar. The Ish HaHalacha reaches the madrega of an
Ish HaEmuna from the starting point of halacha, and vice versa.
This is similar to the definition that the Tzemach Tzedek gave to
the difference between himself and the Kotzker: the T"T began from
the head and worked to the heart, the Kotzker began from the heart
and worked to the mind.

Reb Ahron noted that Reb Chaim Volozhiner had three Rabbeim, the
Sha'agas Aryeh who was the Ish HaHalacha (in his works you will not
find a single Zohar quoted); the Ve'Shav HaKohen, Reb Refael
Hamburger, who was an Ish HaEmuna, and the GR"A, who was both. The
Beis HaLeiv was also both, but Reb Chaim and Reb Moshe Soloveitchik
were both Anshei Halacha. Reb Moshe had a Moreh Nevuchim at home,
but never opened it [I asked Reb Ahron after the Hesped about a
line written by a certain Modern Orthodox Rabbi stating that the
Rov's understanding of Rambam was deeper than his father's because
of his acquaintance with the Moreh. Reb Ahron was not pleased. I
have a feeling that his brother would not have been pleased with
such a definition either]. Nonetheless, they reached the madrega of
Anshei Emuna through their Halacha.

Reb Ahron then told over several ma'asim in detail to explain his
point. For fear of being over long, I note briefly that one was the
famous ma'aseh in which Reb Chaim prevented the Rashei Kahal in
Brisk from eating Seuda Mafsekes Erev Yom Kippur in order to force
them to ransom a Bundist from a Death Sentence; and another ma'aseh
in which Reb Elya told a "chapper" that he must return a boy that
he had snatched for the Tsar's army - when the chapper threatened
Reb Elya, he threw the chapper out of his house, and the chapper
died that night of a heart attack (Reb Ahron explained this
rationally, as a result of the remorse the chapper probably felt).
Reb Ahron then told over the famous ma'aseh with Reb Moshe and the
Chassideshe Baal Tokea that is related in Ish HaHalacha. This is a
classic, and I shall not relate it in detail , but I would like to
note that in the version of the story as told by Reb Ahron there is
a significant difference: At the end of the conversation Reb Moshe
explains that the reason that he was opposed to the crying of the
Baal Tokea is because although his great grandfather the Netziv
cried so much on Yom Kippur that they had to place rags around the
bema so no one would slip, on Rosh HaShana he would not cry at all,
because of the halacha of "Chedvas Hashem."

The next story he told is not well known, and therefore I relate
it in its entirety: The same Baal Tokea, Reb Avraham Radin, was a
big Baal Yisurin (suffered a great deal, having only one daughter,
a widow, and one grandson, and heart disease). In 1937, this Reb
Avraham came to Reb Moshe and told him that the doctor said that at
most he had two years to live, probably only a few months, and that
therefore he wanted to write a tzava'a. Reb Moshe said that the
Torah only gave reshus to a doctor to heal, not to project life
span, that they should find another doctor, and that Reb Avraham
would live until Moshiach (Reb Ahron stated that Reb Chaim held
that the traditional bracha of 120 years is a klala, and the
correct version is until Bi'as HaGo'el). Reb Avraham asked for a
bracha to this effect Reb Moshe responded that he was not a
Chassideshe Rebbe, but would give a "Birchas Hedyot" to this
effect. This Reb Avraham, then 78, lived to 113! (Again, Reb Ahron
explained rationally that Reb Avraham received one of the first
pacemakers. As to why the bracha of until Moshiach was not mekuyam,
Reb Ahron said that as a Misnaged he could not explain this.)

Reb Ahron then read a quote from a Rabbi "X" who had called the
Rov an iconoclast. Reb Ahron noted that one of the faults of modern
Rabbis is their tendency to use big words, but that being a modern
Rabbi himself, he understood them. An iconoclast is someone who
breaks religious symbols. Reb Ahron stated forcefully that the Rov
did not intend to change, nor did he change, in any way from the
Mesora of his Reb Moshe and Reb Chaim. That Rabbi "X" went on to
say that [I do not remember the exact quote] the Rov forged new
paths in Halacha, not hesitating to argue on the Shulchan Aruch. To
this Reb Ahron thundered "Shomu Shomayim." If the Rov did not
paskin like the Mechaber it was because he paskened like the Shach
or the Taz, or like a Kabbala in the House of Brisk. The Rov was
not a Maykel, but a Machmir, not forging new paths, but following
and applying the ways of the Sha'agas Aryeh, Reb Refael Hamburger,
the GR"A, Reb Chaim and Reb Moshe. Reb Ahron was dan Rabbi "X"
l'kaf zechus that he wanted to impress the media, but did not
accept such an excuse. He noted that in Hashkafa as well, although
the Rov, together with Reb Leizer Silver founded the Aguda in
America, yet under the influence of Reb Meir Bar Ilan subsequently
joined the Mizrachi, he yet agreed with his uncle the Brisker Rov,
to oppose Heichal Shlomo, lest it lead to reinstituting the

Reb Ahron noted the Gemara which states that if one of the
brother's should die, all the brothers should be considered; if one
of the members of the chabura should die, all the members of the
chabura should be concerned. Reb Ahron stated that he alone
fulfills both criteria, as a brother, and as talmid and chevrusa of
his brother, and that it is therefore he alone who can state with
authority his brother's derech and legacy.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sciene Journal: Can thinking you got a workout make you healthier?

Science Journal: Can thinking you got a workout make you healthier?

Friday, February 02, 2007

By Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal

One month into 2007 -- and therefore just in time for when we officially admit defeat on the New Year's resolution front -- science is offering one last chance. That heavy-lifting of lattes you do? Excellent strength training. Running for the elevator? Aerobic. Tidying up around the house? Good for the cardiovascular system.

Keep telling yourself this, and you may reap some of the benefits of exercise even if you have never used your gym membership.

Everyday activities do count toward the 30 minutes of daily exercise the surgeon general recommends. But according to a new study, the mere belief that you are getting a workout affects physiology much as the workout itself does. That is, exercise may affect health in part through the placebo effect: You believe you are doing your body good, and that belief leads to some of the well-documented benefits of exercise.

Psychology researcher Ellen Langer of Harvard University has long been intrigued by mind-over-body effects. She and student Alia Crum therefore invited 84 women, ages 18 to 55 years old, who worked as housekeepers at seven Boston hotels, to participate in a study. Those in four hotels were told that their regular work was good exercise and met the guidelines for a healthy, active lifestyle. After all, the women cleaned about 15 rooms a day, taking 20 to 30 minutes for each, so they did get a bit of a workout. Those in the other three hotels were told nothing.

Questionnaires established that the actual amount of work the women did, at work as well as off duty, didn't change over the four weeks of the study. Yet the so-called informed group told the scientists that their life was healthier. They had taken to heart the information about the fitness value of stripping beds and scrubbing bathrooms.

More surprising, the women in the informed group lost an average of two pounds, saw their systolic blood pressure (the first number) drop 10 percent, lost about 0.5 percent of their body fat, and reduced their body-mass index by .35 of a point. The other women showed no such changes.

True, these weren't "I dropped 20 pounds in a month!!" results. But considering that the women made no changes in how they lived or ate (the informed group didn't start dieting, for instance), it was nothing to sneeze at. The only change for the women who reaped these benefits was in their heads: They now believed that their cleaning work was a fitness routine.

"If you can put the mind in a healthy place, you can have dramatic physiological consequences," says Prof. Langer, whose study will appear in the February issue of Psychological Science.

The findings would seem more outlandish were it not for the fact that the placebo effect is showing up in other unexpected places. The power of belief has long been known to play a role in ailments that have a strong mental component. A 1998 analysis of 2,318 clinical trials of antidepressants, for instance, showed that half of the therapeutic responses came from the placebo effect: Believing that the pill would relieve depression caused it to do so. (This is why the placebo effect drives drug companies crazy: A drug has to be really good to come out better than the placebo.)

The power of the mind also shows up in conditions that involve the immune system. Exposing people to what they thought was poison ivy caused them to develop a real rash, a 1998 study found, and giving people what they thought was a caffeinated drink (but was decaf) raised their heart rates just as real caffeine does. The mere sight of a doctor can raise blood pressure.

More striking is when the placebo effect shows up in ailments that seem not to have much mind-over-body potential. Parkinson's disease, for instance, is marked by aberrant firing of neurons in a brain region called the subthalamic nucleus. There is no obvious way for thoughts and beliefs to affect the subthalamic nucleus.

But in a 2004 study, scientists reported that injecting a salt solution that patients thought was a real drug didn't only relieve the rigidity of Parkinson's for some. It did so by altering the firing patterns of the haywire neurons: They fired more normally after the sham drug, just as they did after the real one.

As for exercise, believing that you are working out may reduce stress, which would lower blood pressure. The weight loss is harder to explain, but it may reflect a rise in the women's baseline metabolic rate.

Exercise physiologists are skeptical, to say the least. Decades of studies show that working out lowers your levels of lipids, glucose, triglycerides and other bad things, and how that happens is well documented.

Even the best studies, though, do not examine whether the benefits of exercise reflect a placebo effect, with belief in its healthfulness bringing physiological improvements, says exercise physiologist Arlette Perry of the University of Miami. "But if something that accompanies exercise, whether it is better sleep or belief, brings those benefits," she asks, "who cares?"


Copyright © PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Belated Tu b'Shvat Post

(Based on Reb Tzadok, of course)

Sefer Yetzira states that in Shvat himlich os tes b'le'itah.

Le'itah is the middah of Esav ("Hal'iteni...), and an achilah gasah.

The tikkun is Tu b'Shvat, the eating of peiros l'shem Shomayim.

"Asid adam liten din v'cheshbon al kol ma she'ra'asah eino v'lo achal" (Yerushalmi) - the eating of exotci peiros is a tool to recognize Ma Rabbu Ma'asecha Hashem.

This is the tikkun for the first chet, which was a chet of achilah - ma'achalos asuros.

And that tikkun is with a tes - the first of which appears in the word Tov in Bereishis. Why is Tes good? The Maharal says it is the highest integer - ten is a unit of shleymus, not a number. This is because it represents the eight points of the cube and the inner point that unites them (ten transcends - ten is mei'ein Olam HaBo, Tes is shleymus ba'Olam Hazeh).

Moreover, the ninth sefirah is yesod - tzaddik ochel l'sova nafsho = tzaddik yesod olam ("Kol ha'olam kulo nizon b'shvil Chanina beni...").

The Bnei Yissaschar says Tu b'Shvat is the Arbaim yom kodem yetziras ha'vlad of the Beriah b'rachamim of Nisan (Day 1= 25 Adar). A world of growth, a world of chesed. A world of sheva yipol tzaddik v'kam, and "Ein Adam omed al Divrei Torah elah im nichshal bahem." The tree "fell" and "died" during the winter, but yesh tikvah l'acharisech - the sap starts to rise -"Kum Besulas Yisroel." And the sap is called saraf - the fire and chamimus of techilas ha'avodah ha'mechudeshes...

V'yehi ratzon she; yiyeh zeh techilas zman ha'geulah!