Saturday, November 24, 2007

Great Op-Ed from today's NYT

The New York Times
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November 24, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Taking Science on Faith

Tempe, Ariz.

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist.

A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe — one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.

And just as Christians claim that the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe.

It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.

In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.

Paul Davies is the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of “Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pri Tzaddik Ki Savo 16

וכמו שאמר רבינו הקדוש זצ"ל ששמע מהרבי ר' בונם זצ"ל שאמר דאף שהמוחות מהדורות מתמעטין בכל פעם יותר אבל הנקודה שבלב נזדכך והולך בכל פעם יותר. ואחר כך שמעתי מרבינו הקדוש שראה הדבר מפורש בכמה מקומות (ונתבאר במקום אחר). והיינו שבדור יתום הזה כשיש בלב איזה הארה אמיתית אפילו מעט חשוב לפני השם יתברך יותר מאור גדול בדורות ראשונים שלפי קטנות המוחין של הדור יתום נחשב הרבה כמו שנתבאר במקום אחר בפירוש הפסוק כי רבים בני שוממה מבני בעולה. וכן הנמכרים לעבדים ולשפחות מה שנזכרים מהשם יתברך אפילו מעט חשיב אצל השם יתברך יותר ממדריגות גבוהות של אחרים. וזה הוא הנהורא דנפיק מגו חשוכא. וזה היה המכוון שנרמז הד' מלכיות במאמר עתיקא שנקרא אי"ן. וזה הפירוש ואין קונה שבאמת מדת אי"ן היה הקונה כאמור:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Summary of HaMaspik L’ovdei Hashem of R. Avraham ben HaRambam – Bitachon, by Erich Kauffman, with his notes

Summary of HaMaspik L’ovdei Hashem of R. Avraham ben HaRambam – Bitachon, by Erich Kauffman, with his notes

1. Definition of bitachon(pg. 83,84): “The main point of bitachon is the strengthening of emunah that Hashem is the Creator and the Sustainer, the One who causes life and death, sickness and healing, wealth and poverty. All the happenings of the world in general and in particular come back to Him, and He is their creator, the One who decrees them and brings them to fruition”. Furthermore “all of the normal means are subservient to His will and come to completion through His desire…The medicine only works with His word… and only causes pain through the will of the Creator…and material wealth will come from these actions [business] only through His decree”.

[1) He says this is one of the Yesodei Ha’emunah that no one argues about. Is it one of the 13 ikkarim and do people argue about the details? 2) Does Ramban/Chazon Ish argue with him regarding the word “bitachon”? 3) He states that only through intellectual understanding can one come to bitachon – first da’as then lev. 4) Viewing hashgacha as such leads to asking Hashem to “not get in your way” however see below #3]

2. The three levels of people regarding bitachon (pgs.84-93): The nevi’im and tzaddikim, the heretics, and normal religious people. 1) Certain prophets at certain times tend to rely on miracles that completely contradict the laws of nature and the normal means (i.e. cause and effect). This level can only be reached by receiving the Divine spirit or prophecy and is not a consistently held level. For someone who has not reached these levels to solely rely on miracles is incorrect, brazen-face, he desecrates the name of Hashem and is abandoned by Hashem regarding the thing he desires. Similarly, for someone who has reached these levels to not trust solely in Hashem is also incorrect (and is a sinner etc). 2) The heretics rely solely on their efforts and the natural laws. This includes people who may pay lip service to Hashem but inwardly do not rely on Hashem. 3) Normal religious people must synthesize trust in Hashem with the reality of the natural world (see pg. 106). In other words, they must combine outer action and human endeavor with an inner belief that Hashem is ultimately responsible for success and failure.

[He attributes this position to his father, the Rambam, on the pasuk Yirmiyahu 17:5.]

3. The system of hashgacha over normal religious people (how hashgacha operates within the laws of nature, pgs. 93-96): The laws of cause and effect were established by Hashem in the beginning and they usually follow according to their course. However Hashem also controls and decides when they will deviate from their natural course. He gives two examples of hashgacha: 1) a normal person who eats healthy will be healthy and vice versa. A sick person can be cured by known means. All of these laws are subservient to His will and function because he allows them to, on most people. But sometimes the laws function differently, even backwards, and therefore a wicked person, who has a decree for punishment upon him, who eats healthy will have the same diseases as a person who eats unhealthy, and medicine will not help. Also a righteous person, who merits good health, can eat unhealthy foods, if he is forced to, and they won’t harm him, or they won’t harm him to the extent that he will become ill. Even if the righteous person does get sick, because of a punishment or a lessening of hashgacha on the person, he will heal easily. Similarly, a normal crop will produce seven to ten bundles but someone who is wicked will suffer losses and a righteous person will have twenty bundles. Therefore a person should trust in Hashem for a good outcome in his endeavors. He should not get too involved with his physical endeavors (since through the merit of trusting in Hashem, he can achieve a lot without much work) and rather he should fear the physical laws of nature and the wicked man (who is coming to fight) only because Hashem can punish him through them. Proper bitachon is to trust in the kindness of Hashem.

[1) The foundation of hashgacha is the lack of deterministic cause and effect, i.e. A must lead to B. Hashgacha assumes that A usually leads to B but sometimes it can lead to C or D or E (“open possibility”). There is still cause and effect in hashgacha but hashgacha changes the track on which the cause and effect operates. This is certainly true on the quantum level. See below for more discussion on cause and effect. Also see pg. 123, 126, 134, 138. 2) He states that natural law is steady for most people. Can this natural law change based on where “most people” are holding (i.e. what if most of the world is wicked) or for other Divine considerations? This is especially important for our age of fast-pace technological advancement. See Lubavitcher Rebbe on technology. 3) A very important point that is emphasized over and over again is that not every righteous person merits reward and not every wicked person merits punishment. See Sh’urei Daas I, Hashgacha. 4) What does he mean by “a lessening of hashgacha on the person”? This is found in Moreh Nevuchim but it seems inconsistent with his earlier statements. Also see the middle of pg. 96 for the same phrase. 5) How does Hashem manipulate people who have their own wills? Through the mind (similar to telepathy) or manipulation of quantum material or through previous experiences that Hashem saw in His foreknowledge would later be beneficial? See Michtav M’Eliyahu Chelek I. 6) Are there two definitions of bitachon – trust in the hashgacha of Hashem and trust in the kindness of Hashem? See 105,106].

4. Discussion of appropriate hishtadlus for normal people (pgs. 96-100): Bitachon should not lead one to become lazy and completely passive, waiting for his food to come down from heaven. Besides very special people in very special scenarios, people are not on a high enough level to merit such miracles. Such people will fall into great poverty, will cause a terrible chillul Hashem and are brazen-face to think they are so holy. Even the Tanaa’im and Nevi’im worked. Chazal praise someone who eats from his own labor more than someone who fears heaven. A person must be balanced in his physical endeavors – not riches and not poverty - and seek out a normal livelihood to fulfill one’s needs. This is a true “ba’al bitachon” and from there, if Hashem has kindness and mercy on the person, he will be freed from an abundance of toil. In the future Hashem will increase our bitachon in Him and we will only trust in Him, similar to the nevi’im.

[1) The obligation of hishtadlus can be understood as the obligation to try and place oneself within a certain framework of success. By being a high-tech farmer you have the ability to produce more but it is possible that this endeavor will not be successful. However, generally speaking you will be more successful than the traditional farmer. Another example is a lawyer versus and teacher. Generally speaking, the lawyer makes more money than a teacher. Another example is the different medical opportunities in America and in a third-world country. The possibilities for treatment and cures are radically different. Hashgacha generally functions within the system or framework, the normal possibilities. Therefore he teaches us to work normally – putting ourselves in the normal framework of things – and then to have bitachon. Without our utilization of the natural means we will not get anywhere. Perhaps, though, if we over-utilize this means, in our denial of Hashem, then we will be punished and still not get anywhere! Therefore a normal profession is recommended. This synthesis of unpredictability and determinism is similar to the chaos theory, quantum mechanics or biological systems where the unpredictability has certain limitations and order. At the same time, however, Hashem also places us within certain frameworks – a certain family, economical class, personality, propensity to be healthy or not. See Rambam in end of Shmoneh Perakim, R. Soloveitchik, On Repentance pg. , R. Pincus on Rosh Hashana pg. 2) Why do Chazal praise someone who lives independent from charity more than someone who fears heaven?]

5. Foundations of hashgacha: In order for bitachon to be real and not imaginary we must understand one major principle: The world is built upon cause and effect and there may be many such stages until the desired result comes to fruition. For example, Man is dependent on food from either meat or vegetation. In turn, animals, the food of Man, are also dependent on vegetation. Vegetation is dependent on the ground, water, wind and sun rays. The water comes from rain which in turn comes from the mist in the ground. The mist is dependent on winds and the movement of elements (yesodos). The movement of winds and elements are subservient to the will and desire of Hashem (as attested to by many pasukim). Rain also comes (directly?) from Hashem as many pasukim indicate. Hashem is the beginning of the chain of events. There are three groups of people (three ways to view the world): 1) Those who do not pay attention to cause and effect or only to proximate cause and effect. Their intellects have not ripened and they are like animals. 2) The philosophers who recognize cause and effect and even recognize Hashem as the (original?) First Cause but they do not believe that Hashem changes any natural law and all is determined by cause and effect (i.e. they don’t believe in hashgacha pratis). 3) The religious people who believe in G-d because of intuition or tradition but they do not recognize the existence of cause and effect because they think it will bring them to heresy like the philosophers. They are instead forced to deny that which the intellect testifies to and senses attest to, namely, natural laws and cause and effect. These people are the laughing stock among the intellectuals and cause a chillul Hashem. However, the true religious people recognize even remote (secondary, distant) cause and effect just like the philosophers. However, Hashem gave bnei Yisrael higher knowledge than the philosophers through signs and miracles. Through such proofs we know that although there is deterministic cause and effect, nevertheless Hashem is the One who moves and causes these effects and with His will they move on their natural course and with His will they change from their natural course, and He creates for them a substitute (cause, see pg. 106?). With this understand of hashgacha the religious people are not bothered by science (like Aristotle) or natural endeavors like travels, business and medicine etc. Rather we act like our forefathers who engaged in hishtadlus, but who only trusted in Hashem, and in this merit Hashem exercised His special and miraculous hashgacha over them. Hashem exercises His hashgacha over the one who trusts in Him to the extent that He will “change the orders of creation,” if for nevi’im and tzaddikim, or He will “lower the strength (or disasters?) of nature” for Chasidim and full believers. This worldview is the perfection of intellect and religion together.

[1) On cause and effect in Jewish literature, see Brachos 35b, Rashi there. 2) Does Hashem only intercede in the area of wind and rain directly or are there other areas? Why these areas – because they are the beginning of the chain, or cycle (a closed cycle though, tz”i)? Do rain and wind come Yesh M’ayin or does Hashem take pre-existing causes and redirects them? In modern science wind comes from the movement of air molecules and change of air pressure. Is Hashem intervening on the Quantum level as some have suggested (regarding Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle)? 3) See Ramban, parsha Bo for a similar understanding of the purpose of miracles. However I am not sure if the Ramban understand nature/cause and effect in the same way. 4) What does he mean by the word “Temurah,” replacement/substitute? Does Hashem substitute one effect for another (for example if there are two or three possible effects from a given action than Hashem can choose which ever one he wants)? This is implied by the expression “U’machniah l’fanav es eisanei ha’teva – lowers before him the strength (or disasters?) of nature.”See pg. 109 and see Sh’urei Daas I. 5) He refers to a story of a great sage who didn’t believe in secondary causes, which was a chillul Hashem – who is he referring to? 6) The process to which the forefathers received their bounty can be understood in the following sense: Through bitachon we are nullifying our egos and as such we become vessels to receive the blessings of Hashem.]

6. Levels of bitachon and their results (pgs. 107-133): Bitachon consists of many, many parts regarding the things that a person should have bitachon for and regarding the result that is ascertained through them. This knowledge is really beyond our understanding, so we are only speaking according to our limited understanding and for the sake of strengthening our bitachon. Before discussing the levels of bitachon it is essential to point out that bitachon only “works” for someone who keeps the mitzvos. Hashem will not provide for those who transgress Toras Hashem. Bitachon works for ten things: distancing major and minor damage, ascertaining major, or necessary, and minor, or unnecessary, (whether distant or not distant from the major) things. These five things occur in the material and religious/spiritual areas of life (=10). Bitachon for things of a religious/spiritual nature is more correct and perfect than bitachon for material things. Even bitachon for non-necessary religious purposes (riches for charity) is better than bitachon for necessary material things (food and clothing to not be dependent on others).
1a) Having bitachon that Hashem will distance the person from major damage. In this a person must strengthen his bitachon by supplications and prayers (the outside affects the inside). In this area, bitachon and hishtadlus work together, as explained above. However if it occurs that hishtadlus is impossible (no medicine/doctors or a sinking ship) than one must rely on Hashem alone. There are some sins that hide or withhold the kindness of Hashem from saving someone, even a tzaddik.

[If a wicked non-Jew rises up to kill a Jew, the Jew’s reaction is dependent on his circumstances. If he is in Israel and has the ability to overcome them then he should but if he is in exile than he only has Hashem to rely on and cunningness. If a Jew rises up to kill another Jew, the one being pursued should only rely on Hashem and not rise up against a Jew even if he has the capabilities (1b) however if a Jew rises up against another Jew(s) in matters of religion than he has the law like a non-Jew, if he is beyond hope, and he can fight the Jew if circumstances allow)]. However a complete tzaddik cannot be harmed by any damagers (but he still cannot place himself in danger unless if forced to, for example during religious persecution, see the beginning of the chapter).]

2a) Having bitachon that Hashem will distance the person from minor damage (small disturbances or uncomfortable rain, see Taanis 24b) is not proper unless a person is counted among nevi’im and tzaddikim. To “activate” one’s bitachon in these areas is extremely brazen-face. However, if this minor damage will lead to major damage (minor to major sickness) then he may have bitachon for the minor damage. 2b) Having bitachon that Hashem will distance minor damage in religious areas is appropriate because a small matter in piety will have major effects. It is appropriate to pray to Hashem to distance a person from the smallest damage in religious matters.

3/4a) It is appropriate to have bitachon regarding the acquisition of necessary physicality (food, clothes, shelter) and to combine this with ordinary work, like Yaakov. Just like Hashem created every creation in the world, so too does He provide for them their food (based on Tehillim 137:25, 104:27,145:15, 157:9 and Avodah Zara 3b).

[According to this there are two essential questions that must be asked. First, what is the point of bitachon if a person, and even an unintelligent animal, is promised his livelihood by Hashem? Furthermore, what is the point of hishtadlus if our livelihood is promised by Hashem? Second, the pasukim imply that bitachon is a natural drive within a person, so why is it necessary to try and inspire to have bitachon? Furthermore, why is it praiseworthy to have this trait (Tehillim 84:13, 42:9) if everyone has it? The answers to these questions are as follows: Generally there is a promise of livelihood, however sins can sometimes cause the lack of livelihood and doing mitzvos add to one’s livelihood. One’s livelihood can also come in the merit of bitachon or it at least can make one’s search for a livelihood easier. The opposite is also true; as a punishment for not having bitachon a person can lose their livelihood or it can become difficult to attain it. The second question can be answered in two ways. One could say that the pasukim that say “all” people (and animals?) have bitachon is only speaking about the majority. This majority has bitachon either as a voluntary or forced trait, as a general or specific belief. We see people who are rich and then lose their money turning to bitachon – their bitachon is forced by external circumstances (“no atheists in a foxhole”). This even occurs with idol worshipers – since they believe in Hashem but also believe in intermediaries – they will come to rely on Hashem in difficult times (Yona 1:6). There are people who have a general bitachon in Hashem (Y’shayahu 36:10) and there are tzaddikim who have bitachon also for the details of their life. In the end of the day, most people have some sort of bitachon in Hashem. Another way to interpret the pasukim is to understand that every cause in the world will eventually return back to the Cause of causes. Therefore, whenever someone relies on a proximate or remote cause, he is either intentionally or unintentionally relying on Hashem. Therefore, everybody, in reality, does have bitachon. For example, someone who hopes to amass wealth and trusts in his body or in his partner is really trusting in Hashem who brings wealth into existence and guards it, gives Man the strength to seek it, is the Creator of the raw substance and decides who will receive it. This second approach also explains the pasukim that state the animals, who do not have knowledge, look to Hashem for their food. Ultimately, everything comes back to the Cause of causes. Only someone who has developed their imagination can grasp this. For example, a child looks to his mother to feed him. However, in reality his mother is given money by the father and the father from his boss etc. until we reach the Ultimate Cause, Hashem (see Tehillim 22:10,11).]

Nevertheless, when there are many human intermediaries between Hashem and the person attaining their needs, it is very difficult to see the hashgacha. It is easier when someone works directly with the ground, hunting or fishing. 3b) Another important point is that “needs” are defined subjectively. A king needs more physical things that a complete tzaddik. A married person needs more than a non-married person. Someone who grows up with fine food has different needs than someone who grows up with simple food. Hashem’s hashgacha, therefore, is also subjective based on whether something is essential or extra. Still though, bitachon is intimately tied with the notion of being satisfied with little – with what is necessary. When David said “and He will grant you the desires of your heart,” he was not speaking to a hedonist but to tzaddikim who are asking for necessary physical things or maybe for spiritual things. Paradoxically if a person only desires and trusts in Hashem for that which is necessary, Hashem in his great kindness and compassion may grant him those extra pleasures of life, as He did with the avos.

[1) Tz”I on the statement that one cannot have bitachon while transgressing the Torah. 2) Compare Moreh Nevuchim and Rambam’s letters about his brothers death with the statement here concerning a sinking ship. 3) The bitachon discusses in this part is bitachon b’chasdei Hashem since He has the power. 4) It is not clear if he holds, unlike his father, that there is direct hashgacha over every animal or just over the species. 5) It is implied by the first answer to his two questions that in the merit of bitachon a person might merit an easy profession but they wont necessarily merit money, yesh m’ayin. 6) He also says that not all kefirah/apikorsus stems from “prikas ole,” a subconscious hedonism, but it can also come “m’kotzer da’ato,” limited intelligence. 7) His explanation of the role of imagination in bitachon is the principle behind birchas hamazon – there are many intermediary steps until we get the food but Hashem is “hazan es haolam kulo,” and it depends on the intermediaries to function properly and spread the food. This doesn’t limit our bitachon in Hashem as the creator but He is also the Sustainer of the physical and social/economic world. It is nevertheless our responsibility to send the food around the world, including Africa, instead of trying to find life on Mars. Because of this problem of intermediaries, he admits that is difficult to see Hashem’s hashgacha. It is especially difficult to see hashgacha pratis –Hashem’s unique hashgacha over me – because we see that many people benefit from one cause, intermediary, source. For example, all the students eat from the cafeteria. It is always there and it will always be there unless the school collapses (physically or economically) or the stock market crashes or if my father loses his job and I don’t have money to pay for food. Since those things are relatively constant and assured it is difficult to see Hashem beyond all of these “trustworthy” intermediaries. 8) On bitachon and hashgacha being subjective, see Devarim 15:8 and Rashi there. This principle goes a long way in explaining the world that we live in. Man creates his subjective needs and Hashem is his shadow – He follows us!]

7. The many levels of bitachon and lack of bitachon (133-141): 1) The first level of lacking bitachon is when somebody gives up on attaining his desire. Bitachon is found the heart. Bitachon is that we rely on Hashem in our hearts for our requests, for example our livelihood. Someone who gives up on attaining his desire is not called a “boteach B’shem” regarding that thing. He has “given up on the compassion of the Creator.” 2) The second level of lacking bitachon is when a person only trusts in Man for his livelihood and not Hashem. The levels of bitachon are four: 1) A person hopes and trusts in Hashem, in His great compassion, but he is also afraid that maybe his sings will hold back Hashem’s compassion. 2) A person trusts in Hashem and he also prays to Hashem for the fulfillment of that desire.3) A person fully trusts in Hashem without any doubt that he will attain his desire (this is the level of a navi or it comes from an intense intuitional experience, as discussed in the beginning of the chapter). Similarly, bnei Yisrael is obligated to believe full-heartedly in everything the navi says or said in their books (for example that redemption will eventually occur, although not necessarily in our life times). 4) The highest level - A person detaches himself from his own will generally or in a specific circumstance and “gives it over” to Hashem to decide what to do. He is satisfied with whatever Hashem decrees. The person is passive and is fully confident in Hashem’s running of the universe. “Cast upon Hashem your burden and He will sustain you.”

Some Gemara Berachos Notes from Our Shiur

Made by ari and yossi
Tosfos ג: - Yhe Shem rabah mvarach is said in aramiac so the angels won’t understand it
יהי שמי רבא מברך

Gemara- There are three reasons you can’t enter a churban
A) Suspicion that you might do something immoral
B) The building might fall
C) Demons might be there
Why do we need all three reasons? Why not one?
It comes to teach you that one reason doesn’t apply another one might apply

We see there are cases where only one answer applies which implies that all reasons are necessary.
רבנו צדוקIn the destruction of the בית המקדש there were three steps
1) שכינה left
2) בית המקדש destroyed
3) בני ישראל sent to גלות
A person who wants to leave Judaism his יצר הרע first attacks his emotion (heart) then his intellect (brain)

ל: That a person who is doing a מצוה even though You know he is doing it wrong you shouldn’t stop
לא: It is better to pray alone with moreכוונה than with a מנין and no כוונה

It says that one who goes by the חומרא even though the הלכה is להקאל you are an idiot.
רב צדוק -There are some reasons you can hold like the חומרא:
1) You can hold the חומרא if you hold the הלכה is the like the חומרא
2) Love of G-d hold the חומרא to give a gift to G-d
3) Fear of G-d you can do the חומרא to show your fear of G-d
4) To distance one’s self from this world
5) If you start to hold like a חומרא which others hold like you can
This only applies to אדםמקום not בין אדם לחברו
By בין אדם לחברו you can be מחמיר
דובר צדק- A Chasid is one who distances himself from תווה קנאה וכבוד
Torah fights תווה because one should want to own and study torah
עבודה fights כבוד and עבודה means work in the בית המקדש but now days תפילה
Because if one humbles himself before ה' he want the כבוד
Doing חסד fights קנאה and all קנאה causes all עברות בין אדם לחברו
The mishna list each vs. its opposite backwards 1st mishna lists 1) תורה 2) עבודה 3) גמילות חסדים
2nd mishna- 1) קנאה 2) תאווה 3) כבוד
7 things bring צרעת one of them is קנאה
To be רע you have to be mean against your friends and that’s why we send a מצורע out of the camp to learn the fundamentals of being a good Jew.
Rabi Yossi says there is a contradiction one פסוק saysה' will help Yaakov and another says that Yaakov was scared of עשו and davened to ה' to protect him but ה' promised to help Yaakov and we know all positive נבוא must come true
רב צדוק says that Yaakov knew the promise would be fulfilled but he was davening to ה' that he would not have to do an עברה when he encounters עשו
ר' יוחנן says one who סומך גולה לתפילה של ערבית is a בן עולם הבא
מהר"ל- people who want to be in עולם הבא are סומך תפילה
רבי יהושע בן לוי- you say ש"ע first then שמע
He brings a pasook and a סברא
סברא- that בני ישראל where allowed to leave at night but then they left at morning
But at night doesn’t count because they let at the day
Pasook- vshachbcha ovkumecha that just like the morning you get up say שמע and then ש"ע so too at night say שמע then ש"ע
רבי יהושע- no just like at day the first thing you after you get up is שמע so too by night right before you lie down say שמע
Question: Do you say I need to סומך גולה לתפילה so I have תפילה or I am saying תפילה so I need to סומך גולה לתפילה
רש"י- 1st opinion- That in תהילים it says ה' צורי וגואלי next to יענך ה' which shows you need the גאולה next to תפילה 2nd opinion- The ירושלמיsays that one who doesn’t say תפילה and only says the גאולה is like making the king come and you run away from the king before you make a request
ר' זבין- Wants to prove from the לשון of סומך גאולה לתפילה that since it says bring the גאולה to the תפילה
The צל"ח answers that שמע can be said at משיכיר (dawn) and ש"ע at sunrise so instead of bringing ש"ע to שמע they did the opposite which fits the language of סומך גאולה לתפיל
מהרש"ל- Says that יהיו לרצון אמרפי...וגואלי is split into two parts and יענך ה' is telling you the result that ה' will listen
יהיו לרצון אמרפי is teaching you גאולה and ה' צורי וגואלי is teaching you תפילה
רבנו יונה- We say גאולה then we daven because we are עבדים and עבדים are עובד
2nd answer- we have בטחון and people have בטחון ask בקשות so after saying the גאולה we daven ש"ע
רבנו יונה- If you daven מעריב early you say all the paragraphs before and after שמע without ה'’s name and then ש"ע and later at the appropriate time you say שמע at home with ה'’s name and then a voluntary ש"ע
This shows that he holds that the main thing is גאולה by saying that once you mention גאולה you must say a תפילה
Rav shlomo zlaman aurebach- We don’t hold like רבנו יונה because now days we have a distracted ש"ע and it is inappropriate to add a ש"ע without having a proper כוונה
We call ברוך ה' לעולם a Part of ש"ע which continues the גאולה
When one comes late to מעריב and starts ש"עbefore שמע is skipped גאולה and we know that ברוך ה'is גאולה so you should say ש"ע then say all of שמע and then say ברוך ה' instead of a voluntary ש"ע
2nd suggestion- maybe if you come late and you need to say גאולה say a פסוק of גאולה then start ש"ע
According to רבנו יונה this won’t work because even you say all of the ברכות without ה'’s name and שמע it isn’t גאולה and you have to say it all over again later withה'’s name
According to the גרא saying שמע must fulfill the mitzvah of שמע in order for it to count towards סומך לגאולה
So on שבת if you say שמע before davening and then say it again in davening it doesn’t count as a real גאולה
If you can say a voluntary ש"ע why can’t you say a voluntary גאולה
Saying another שמע won’t work because it is only תורה and not a voluntary גאולה
מהרש"ל- Earlier It says his explanation of the pasookim
He says you can’t ask on him that because the pasook (according to him) of תפילה comes before גאולה we should say תפילה first
You can’t because we only say גאולה to introduce the תפילה
The Gemara later on says that you should be סומך because it will protect you from getting hurt
This helps you understand the אור זרוע- So the pasook says יום צרע to show you that you are סומך only on days where you are in stress so on שבת you don’t have to be סומך
תוספות ד: רבי יוחנן – People who say ברוך ה' how are they סומך גאולה if they interrupt the גאולה by saying it?
It’s a גאולה אריכתא since the רבנן made it so the early comers would say it so those who come late can catch up
Also ברוך ה' has 18 pasookim which says G-d’s name 18 times like the ברכות in ש"ע (implies that it is a תפילה)
The בה"ג paskins like ר' יוחנן
ר' עמרם גאון says that the reason we say קדיש at מעריב to show you don’t need to be סומך because מעריב is voluntary not obligatory
ר' עמרם makes no sense because then ר' יוחנן would hold it is voluntary and we would have to paskin like him but we paskin it is obligatory
We do paskin מעריב is obligatory and that you have to סומך
תוספי תוספות- Even though we interrupt between שמע and ש"ע in מעריב by saying השכבנו and we say ברוך ה', he says that ברוך has G-d’s name 18 times so for those who don’t know how to say ש"ע can just say ברוך and be יוצא and after they established to say ירו עינינו
There were some גדולים that didn’t say ברוך ה' because they didn’t like the answer that it is a גאולה אריכתא
רבנו יונה- The reason השכבנו is a גאולה ארכתא because it has a theme of גאולה because ב"י was afraid at the גאולה and said a תפילה so השכבנו represents the תפילה that they said
ר' בכהופר- maybe השכבנו was said as part of the ברכות of שמע and then they would go to sleep but once they made מעריב obligatory they put השכבנו with שמע into תפילה and the קדיש they would say even though it might be an interruption
רבנו יונה- why isn’t ברוך ה' a הפסק ?
When ערבית was voluntary they would say שמע with the ציבור and then say ברוך ה' because it says G-d’s name 18 times and then say ירו עינינו then a קדיש
Once they made מעריב obligatory ברוך isn’t considered a הפסק because it became part of the structure (מתבע תפילה) of davening
אישי ישראל- the one interruption one can make between גאולה and תפילה is if you finished saying גאל ישראל you may answer to someone else’s גאל ישראל but the best thing is to start ה' שפתי or finish the bracha with the chazzan so you won’t have to answer אמן
רמ"א- You have to be סומך on יום טוב because it is a יום דין
משנה ברורה- you don’t have to be סומך on יום טוב because it isn’t a יום צער

ציץ אליעזר- people don’t daven וותיקין but if they got to shul at that time even though there is no מנין but there will be one in ten minutes he can daven without a מנין and then stop right before תחנון and then continue with the מניון in order that his תפילות should mix with the מנין’s
The proof for this is from the צל"ח that if someone came late to the מנין and they finished ש"ע he can daven with them as long as they are still praising ה' like אשרי and ובא לציון your תפילות are accepted with them as the פסוק says on דף ו.
If you come late and you are davening שחרית when the מנין is saying מוסף it counts as תפילה בצבור the מגן אברהם says that it only works in shul and if you are davening שחרית at home and the מנין is davening מוסף it doesn’t work
הגהות חדושים- if you daven at home your תפילות aren’t heard but the next time you daven in shul your תפילות go up with those of the תפילה in shul
If you have 50 ש"ע without כוונה and the 51st is with כוונה they all go up with the 51st
The צל"ח says that if there is a shul in his town and doesn’t daven there he is called a bad neighbor of ה'
If there is a shul right next to his house and his window faces the shul he can face the shul and be part of the minyan even though he is part of the minyan he isn’t in shul and is still called a bad neighbor
And it is bad for people to daven in the hall next to the main sanctuary torah
הליכות שלמה- It is better to daven at a minyan that you would have more כוונה at even though you might have to cut out early or come later
Even if you are going to miss פסוקי דזמרא the קדיש at the end and קריאת התורה
When you cut out early make it clear why you’re leaving so people won’t think you hate תפילה (ח"ו)
Rav Shomo Zalman Aurebach-If there are 9 people needing a 10th and you know that if you go you will have less כוונה can you say no?
If it is a descent minyan he should daven with them but if it is a bad miyan he doesn’t have to
Just sitting there and answering won’t work according to the משנה ברורה because according to it 10 people have to start ש"ע together but according to the רמב"ם only six need to start
If there are two אבלים you can divide the minyan in to two separate ones but if you don’t have to you shouldn’t because ברוב עם הדרת מלך
If someone is davening in a set minyan even if his set minyan in is in the hall he isn’t called a bad neighbor
If there is a minyan at a guy’s house (not your set one) you can only daven there if it is a חסד
מהר"ל- you are יוצא the מצוה of תלמוד תורה only when learning with two people
גר"א- you can’t think words of תורה until you say the ברכות התורה s
רב צדוק- If you say over a word of Torah to your friend it is engraved in the souls of Jews and all the souls make up the ספר הזכרונות
It says ראובן saved יוסף and if he knew it would have been written in the torah he would have carried yosef on his soldiers
They didn’t realize at their time that it was efficient enough to be written in תנ"ך
Chazal writes that in the past when a person writes in down a נביא wrote it down now days ה' and אלי-הו writes it in the hearts of קלל ישראל
גמרא ו:- If a person goes to shul regularly and doesn’t go one day ה' asks where is he
If he didn’t come for a מצוה then he gets light but if he w\ent for a regular thing then he doesn’t get light
If ה' comes to shul and doesn’t find ten people he gets “angry”
מהרש"א- the case is when 9 people come and the 10th guy doesn’t come on time
A person who makes a permanent place for his תפילה he will be compared to the students of Abraham when he dies
רבנו יונה- This isn’t talking about a place in shul since the whole place is a place of תפילה the גמרא is talking about a home daven in the same place the ירושלמיsays that anyone who makes a permanent place to daven in his house he is surrounded by a מחיצה of ברזל and it makes you an ענב and a חסיד
Just because a person davens in the same place we give him such great praise that he is a student of אברהם?
It isn’t that he is making a permanent place it is that he loves tefillah so much that he makes sure to daven in the same place
It isn’t enough to have a permanent place he has to have a known place and a set place
מחלוקת in the ירושלמי about מקום קבוע
Opinion #1- You have to have a set place in shul
Opinion #2- if you daven alone there is a iron wall around you
Answer- one is talking about a person davening alone and the other is one who is davening in a minyan
רבנו יונה- it is good to daven at home and at shul but a home you need to have a set place and in shul you can daven anywhere
ר"ש סיריליאו- Home is bad when you are just davening but home is good when you are davening at the same time as a minyan and you can daven at home because you learn torah there
שערי תורה- Home is bad without a minyan and good at home when there is a minyan in your house
Two reasons for a מקום קבוע- #1- it is like a קרבן
#2- to have better כוונה
So if you have better כוונה in a different seat according to #1 you can’t switch but according to #2 you can
רא"ש- you need a מקום קבוע because of #1 Home is always bad and if you have a set place it doesn’t matter but that contradicts so he answers that a set place in shul is good not everywhere and a minyan is only good at shul
רבנו יונה- you need a מקום קבוע because of #2 and because of this at home you need a set place but in shul everywhere will give you the same כוונה

Encyclopedia תלמודית- the רא"ש says you can forbid someone from sitting in your seat if it is your מקום קבוע by taking a נדר
You can’t make נדר on things that the whole community owns like the ארון but a private seat that you bought you can make a נדר on it
מאירי- you can’t make a נדר on a מקום קבוע because the whole shul is your מקום קבוע and that seat is yours to keep order in the shul

Anyone can sell their מקום קבוע and pocket the money because you aren’t taking the קדושה from the seat
The exception is that when you build the shul they can make a תקנע that you are only buying that seat for those years high holidays
If a חשוב person has a seat in shul and his son is a terrible person and the father dies the son inherits the seat and can sit in it
If someone has a seat that he doesn’t use he must rent out the seat for a proper price
If someone has a seat and the shul wants to put a seat in the aisle next to your seat you can forbid the shul from building it
If someone owns a bench and they want to extend it and the person who sits at the end doesn’t want it to happen the shul can’t extend it
If the people in the back wants to raise their seat in to see the shul they can’t
If they want to raise it a little to help their sight they can if it isn’t noticeable
There is a shul where everyone writes their name on their seat it is like a שטר and you own it
Some אחרונים say the people don’t buy the land that their seat is on but they buy a שבוד on the seat
If a shul is destroyed and the build a new one in the same place everyone has their same seat that was in the old shul
אישי ישראל- Everyone should have a set place in shul or the בית מדרש
תורת חיים- a set place is only for ש"ע
You don’t have to sit in the same place your entire life
You can have a set place for the summer and another for the winter
You can change places for a מצווה or if people around you are bothering even if the guy isn’t talking but is a רשע
If a person is davening at home he should have a set place at home so people in his house won’t bother him
Within 4 אמות it is still considered your מקום קבוע so if someone sits in your seat don’t start a fight just sit close to your regular seat
In shul don’t sit in your fathers place even by woman a daughter shouldn’t sit in their parents set seat unless they get permission from their parents
Don’t daven within the eight טפחים of the entrance so you won’t look out and get distracted
When you enter a room wait a second then start ש"ע

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fascinating Reform Responsum

Note the bolded text:

New American Reform Responsa140.
The Paper Mezuzah Text

QUESTION: May the gift shop of a congregation sell mezuzot which contain the text on paper rather than on parchment as the tradition has mandated? (Rabbi Sue Levy, Houston TX)

ANSWER: The tradition of using parchment for the Torah, the megillah and the mezuzah has already been recorded in the tractate Softim 1:1ff; Mezuzah 1:1 and all later codes. Despite the use of paper alongside parchment during this and subsequent periods, parchment continued to be mandated probably as it was more durable and was readily available. Irrespective of the reasons involved, tradition has demanded parchment. We must now ask whether there is any good reason for us to change this tradition? For us in the twentieth century the use of a traditional Torah, megillah, and mezuzah serves as a direct link with the past and with fellow Jews. As Reform Jews we are open to suggestions for change, but only for good and valid reasons. No such reasons exist in this instance. We may contrast this with the use of a Torah which is very expensive. If a congregation cannot afford a Torah then it may simply read from a printed Bible until a Torah can be acquired (W. Jacob Contemporary American Reform Responsa #69). No great expense is involved with a mezuzah. It is possible for everyone to set aside enough money to purchase a mezuzah with the proper parchment.

We should be careful about any unnecessary escalation of the costs of this parchment. It might well be possible for congregations to train scribes who can produce mezuzot and do so at a minimal charge or perhaps as a gift to the congregation. We at Rodef Shalom years ago trained a high school student who wrote a megillah which we still use.This should be encouraged.

There are some unusual conditions under which a paper mezuzah may be acceptable. For example, during the recent persecution of Soviet Jews,affixing a mezuzah presented an act of courage. As a kosher text was difficult to obtain a printed text was acceptable under those circumstances until an appropriate text could be obtained.

It is especially important for a synagogue gift shop to sell only kosher mezuzot. Anyone purchasing a mezuzah would assume that the text was kosher. A printed text violates the prohibition of Leviticus "do not place a stumbling block before the blind" (Lev 19:14). If for some reason a paper text is provided by the supplier, then this should be made absolutely clear to the purchaser. Better yet, a kosher text should be substituted.

In summary, therefore, the gift shop of a congregation should sell only mezuzot with a kosher text. Anything less would be inappropriate.

The 5768 R' Mayer Schiller/R' Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer Avodas Hashem Conversations: Audio part 2