June, 2010 Archives

30
Jun

Rabbi David Lapin of I-Awaken on Pinchas

by admin in Spiritual Growth

The Imperfection of Knowledge

Wisdom is mysterious and human knowledge is not absolute. There is a dimension of wisdom that eludes even the wisest of men. “Fifty pathways to wisdom were created in the Universe” says the Gemarra,[1] “and all were given to Moshe except one.” Human knowledge will always lack at least one dimension of understanding, and therein lies its mystery.

Wisdom is like an onion. Each time that new insights peels away another layer of ignorance or confusion, we find yet another layer of questions and mysteries. At its core, this “onion” of knowledge carries a secret, a secret known to no one but G-d Himself: the fiftieth gateway to wisdom.

This applies even when man must make halachik decisions or decide in a matter of justice between two litigants in a court of law. “Ki Hamishpat Leilokim hu”, says Moshe,[2] “for the decisions of Justice are ultimately in G-d’s domain.”

If this is so, how are we meant to make halachik decisions? Even if a judge, Poseik or Rav is inherently competent and qualified, how is he to decide on matters of justice if his knowledge is always incomplete, never absolute?

Intellectual Fearlessness

Moshe gives guidance on that matter in the same verse: “Lo Taguru mipnei Ish,” he says, “show no cowardice before any human.” This implies two character requirements in addition to academic competence and practical qualification. The first is a fearless intellectual independence; the second is an implied fear of G-d (do not fear any human, fear only Hashem). In addition to knowledge and wisdom, courage and Yir’at Shamayim are the requirements of a Poseik.

But if no Rav or Poseik can have perfect knowledge, and every person is missing at least one element of understanding and knowledge since even Moshe only grasped 49 of the 50 pathways to wisdom, how can he ever make a valid halachik determination? Moshe himself provides the guidelines: “Anything too difficult for you, bring to me and I shall hear it.” In this statement of advice Moshe erred;[3] an error that caused him severe and eternal embarrassment later on. This is the story:

Tzlofchad’s Daughters

Oddly, the Torah appears to originally have “omitted” a straightforward but necessary Halachah. We are told the detailed laws of inheritance barring what happens to a deceased man who leaves no sons but does leave daughters. The daughters of Tzlofchad are such a case in our Parsha. They reason that although nowhere does the Torah specify their rights to inheritance, this certainly ought to be the law. They put their argument before the lower courts of the nation[4] who, although they agree with the women, refer the case to a higher court out of respect for a Law that as yet had no precedent or code and would need to be innovated. The higher court in turn referred it up for the same reason, until it was referred to Moshe himself. Astonishingly, Moshe’s mind blanked and although the case should have been “cut-and-dried” he needed to refer it to Hashem. Hashem affirms the logic of the Tzlofchad girls, and records Moshe’s intellectual “lapse” for posterity.[5]

What was so wrong in Moshe advising the judges to bring difficult matters to him? Interestingly, Moshe did not say “if you encounter difficulty, bring it to me.” He assumed they would encounter difficulty and instructed them to bring those inevitable difficulties to him. Moshe assumed that other judges who did not have the privilege of studying the Torah from Hashem Himself, would surely not have the same level of knowledge needed to make halachik decisions. And herein lay his error: No one has absolute halachik knowledge, not even he. Absolute knowledge cannot therefore be a precondition for competent halachik decision-making. It is this latitude that gives a Rav the right to pasken (make halachik decisions) provided he has an authentic semichah (Rabbinic ordination) authorizing him to pasken and holds a recognized position[6] as a Poseik. This is so even if there are other rabbis whose knowledge exceeds his. Perfect knowledge is not a requirement. Competence is; Yirat shamayim (G-d fearing) is; and intellectual courage is.

Often as individuals we need to make decisions regarding our own lives, and we feel humbled and overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions and their implications. In these situations it helps to be mindful that we cannot have perfect knowledge. We will err as even Moshe sometimes did. We will not be accountable for what we did not and could not have known. All we can do is be our best. Make decisions with as much information as we can and with a great deal of Yiras Shamayim and personal courage. We can also follow Moshe’s advice and avoid all intellectual cowardice and fear of public opinion, as we do what we know is right and follow it to the best of our abilities.

The Prominent “Nun”

This is the reason why the Nun (14th letter of the Hebrew alphabet) at the end of the word “mishpattan,” is enlarged.[7] Nun is numerically 50. It reminds us that no one but G-d could truly know all fifty dimensions of the law that applied to the daughters of Tzlofchad, nor any other law for that matter. Still, had Moshe not claimed superior knowledge, he would have made the decision. In effect the daughters of Tzlofchad themselves were able (though not technically qualified) to make the decision; the lower courts certainly could have made the decision. Perfect knowledge is not a requirement for halachik decision-making; nobility of character is.

Notes:

[1] Rosh Hashanah 21a

[2] Devarim 1:17

[3] Of course were it not that Chazal themselves (Rashi Bamidbar 27:5)make this comment we never could, as no human being can grasp Moshe’s greatness, nevermind identify his errors.

[4] Tanchuma 9

[5] Sanhedrin 8a

[6] Whether formal or informal.

[7] Rabbeinu Bechiye Bamidbar 27:5

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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20
Jun

Father’s Day Memories

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Relationships

Our family’s move from Baltimore to Toronto in 1964 was traumatic for many reasons, one of which was Father’s Day. (I was in a Cheder for Mother’s Day and it wasn’t mentioned. After coming home not being able to sit down because of a disciplinary issue my parents moved me to a different school.)I had never heard of Father’s Day before Miss Levine, who always wore dark glasses, announced that we would be making cards for our fathers. I couldn’t picture my father being excited by a card, so I announced that I would not participate. I figured that I would memorize some extra Mishna in his honor to make him happy. Miss Levine wasn’t happy. She tried her best to explain the importance of Father’s Day, but her words, on top of her glasses, only convinced me that she was from a different planet. We compromised and I made a card that announced my extra Mishna study.

Obedient student that I was, at least on that day, I followed Miss Levine’s instructions and handed my father the card before we left for the Yeshiva. “What is this?” he asked. “It’s for Father’s Day,” I answered. He looked at me and asked, “Do you want to go back to the Cheder? Every day is Father’s Day.”

The conversation was over. It was the last time I tried to do something for Father’s Day, that is, until I became a father.

Twenty-five years later, my son presented me with my Father’s Day gift; a 6 inch blue velour tie decorated with sparkles. I immediately took off my regular tie and put on my gift with a safety pin. The idea was to switch ties before I entered the synagogue for services. He was so excited that I was wearing his tie that he insisted on coming to the synagogue with me. I have to admit that I received numerous compliments from everyone, and my son received almost fifty dollars in gifts. He was in heaven, which I guess is the absolutely best Father’s Day gift I could have received, but I was uncomfortable doing something my father would not have done, and on Father’s Day!

I called my father to ask him whether I made a mistake in acknowledging Father’s Day. His reaction? “Why didn’t he make one for me?”

“But, Pa, I thought we shouldn’t celebrate Father’s Day!”

“You have to teach Kibud Av, honoring parents, in a way that is appropriate for each child. Your children should not speak to you in third person, and they should honor Father’s Day. You won’t be able to raise your children as I raised you. Your children are good kids and you were impossible.” (He must have been joking about that final comment!)

My father died eleven years ago, and yet not a single day passes when I don’t reach for the phone to call him. Whenever I have a question I want to ask my father. I want to call him with each new insight. I can’t read a verse, Midrash, law or Talmudic selection, without thinking, “How would Pa read this?”

He was right; every day is Father’s Day even so long after he passed away.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Jun

To Forget

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

With Mixed Emotions

When he loses he seeks, when he finds

he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves

he begins to forget.

Yehuda Amichai – A Man in His Life

I never cease to be amazed by our ability and need to displace one emotion with another.

There is often an element of loss in illness. I lost contact with many friends during long periods of illness. An important part of the recovery process is to seek out what was lost, and I would attempt to reconnect with people I had lost.

“When he finds – he forgets,” is true on different levels. Restored relationships allow me to forget the loneliness of illness, and they demand that I forget the pain of lying in bed for months or years at a time wondering why people forgot me. I can only relate again when I am willing to forget, and when I love again, I begin to forget the painful parts of the past. Rarely am I able to simultaneously experience all the complex emotions.

I was sitting with an IV before a recent operation much calmer than the people in the beds to my right and left who were terrified of surgery and were literally screaming in fear. My doctor was surprised that I was so calm. “I’ve done this before,” I explained.

“Yes, but often with disastrous results. You’re not scared?”

“No. Whatever the All-Merciful does is for good.”

“You’re blocking out your fears,” he insisted.

“Isn’t it strange for a surgeon to want his patient to be scared?”

“I am bothered more by your calm faith than I would be if you were as terrified as the people screaming!”

I wonder: Who was the one blocking his emotions? As my kids love to say; “Wasn’t me!”

Author Info: 



Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Jun

Myths Of The Flotilla Fiasco – Maritime Martyrs

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Finally! Since the beginning of this fiasco, where the international community has lined up against Israel for legally enforcing its blockade on the genocidal Islamists in Gaza, CJHS has been waiting for someone to put together a fully documented expose on the lies and fabrications being thrown around in the media. That video has finally arrived.

Please watch this explanation, which begins with the blockade itself and moves backward and forward, exposing the “humanitarian disaster” and the “Israeli aggression” myths for what they are – calculated and dishonest attacks meant to delegitimize the very possibility of Jewish self-defense.

http://vimeo.com/12555636

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16
Jun

Israel’s Peculiar Position by Eric Hoffer 1968

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

You probably don’t remember the  name Eric Hoffer.

He was a longshoreman who turned  into a philosopher, wrote columns for newspapers and some books. 
He was a non-Jewish American social  philosopher. 
He was born in 1902 and died in 1983, after writing nine books and winning the Presidential Medal  of Freedom. 
His first book, The True Believer, published in 1951, was widely recognized as a  classic.

Eric Hoffer was  one of the most influential American philosophers and free  thinkers of the 20th Century.  His books are still  widely read and quoted today.  Acclaimed for his  thoughts on mass movements and fanaticism, Hoffer was  awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.   Hopewell Publications awards the best in independent  publishing across a wide range of categories, singling out  the most thought provoking titles in books and short prose,  on a yearly basis in honor of Eric Hoffer.

Here is  one of his columns from 1968 — 42 years ago! Some  things never change!

ISRAEL ‘S PECULIAR POSITION

…by  Eric Hoffer

Los Angeles  Times May 26,  1968.

The Jews are a peculiar people:  things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.

Other  nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee  problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. 
Turkey  threw out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchman. 
Indonesia  threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about  refugees. 
But in the case of Israel , the displaced Arabs have become  eternal refugees. 
Everyone insists that Israel must take back every  single one.

Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an  atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis.

Other nations when  victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms.

But when Israel is  victorious, it must sue for peace. 
Everyone expects the Jews to be  the only real Christians in this world.

Other nations, when they are  defeated, survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be  destroyed. 
Had Nasser triumphed last June [1967], he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the  Jews. 
No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own,  is worth the paper it is written on.

There is a cry of outrage all  over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Blacks are executed in   Rhodesia . 
But, when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one demonstrated  against him.

The Swedes, who were ready to break off diplomatic  relations with America because of what we did in Vietnam , did not let out a  peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. 
They sent Hitler choice iron  ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troops in Norway .

The Jews  are alone in the world.

If Israel survives, it will be solely because  of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources.

Yet at this moment, Israel  is our only reliable and unconditional ally. 
We can rely more on   Israel than Israel can rely on us. 
And one has only to imagine what  would have happened last summer [1967] had the Arabs and their Russian backers  won the war, to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the  West in general.

I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it  goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. 
Should Israel perish,  the Holocaust will be upon us all.

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4
Jun

Ever Since Babel

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Ever since Babel we have been wondering about ladders and towers that reach the heavens. The first ladder to heaven didn’t turn out very well. The next one, in Jacob’s dream was awesome, but it was only a dream. The actual ladder does not appear until this week’s portion, smack in the middle of a disaster:

“We shall surely ascend!”(Numbers 13:30) “Even were Moshe to command us to build ladders to heaven, we could do it!” (Rashi)

What a moment to speak about our ability to build a ladder to heaven! (Guilty!!!) Would these people, complaining and crying, be any better than those who worked on the Tower of Babel? These people were as confused as anyone since God’s response to Babel. Did Caleb believe that they were capable of repairing one of the most disastrous sins in history?

Yes, Caleb believed that this moment, when everyone was caught up in fear and sin was the perfect moment for them to build Jacob’s ladder.

A person who can catch himself while in the passion of sin and redirect that passion toward God; he can achieve the spectacular. Caleb presented the people with an opportunity for greatness beyond anything they had achieved, including Revelation and building the Mishkan!

That one moment of passionate rebellion against God was an opportunity to build their ladder, Jacob’s ladder, and repair the sin of the Tower of Babel.

Caleb saw the opportunity for greatness, not despite the sin, but in the sin itself!

Imagine what we could accomplish if we used Caleb’s approach with ourselves. What would happen if husbands and wives understood that the moments of passionate arguments are opportunities to build ladders to heaven? How much would change if we responded to children who are labeled “troublemakers” with Caleb’s approach! I think we would succeed in building Jacob’s ladder in real life, not a dream.

Author Info: 



Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jun

Guilty!!!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

It was Shabbat Shuva, the day after Rosh Hashana, and we didn’t have a minyan. To the best of my recollection, St. Louis and the NY Mets were tied for first place and had to play a game to decide who would be in the pennant. The game wasn’t scheduled to begin until much later, but no one wanted to miss the pre-game show.

The tenth man appeared just as we were ready to say “Borchu,” and we continued as always. Someone came over to me during the Torah reading and said, “Rabbi! About today’s sermon..” I knew exactly what he was going to say (at least, I thought I knew); he wanted me to skip the sermon so he could rush home to watch the show.

I was wrong.

“I only came to hear you speak. I also know that you are upset about the situation, but please remember, we who are here, came. Don’t use your sermon to yell at us!”

How did he know? He was right, so I gave a (very short) speech about properly directing anger.

The attendance at one of my weekly shiurim had been dropping and I openly expressed my disappointment. By the time I arrived home, I had numerous emails from the people who were there apologizing for the poor showing. Why were they apologizing? They were there!

Had Caleb and Joshua taken that approach, they would have felt guilty about the other spies. Did they feel at all responsible for not somehow preempting the situation?

“We shall surely ascend!”(Numbers 13:30) “Even were Moshe to command us to build ladders to heaven, we could do it!” (Rashi) Those are not the words of someone who feels guilty. Rather than guilt, Caleb focused on possibilities and potential.

No wonder the blessings of Teshuva and forgiveness are immediately followed by a request for Redemption. There is no place for guilt, only for ladder building; rising to greater heights!

Author Info: 



Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Jun

The Jazz Musician

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

He was leaning into his piano as if it were a Gemara (volume of Talmud). He was playing with his entire body, not just his fingers. We would never confuse a jazz pianist with Rubinstein.

The saxophonist had one foot forward and was moving his body back and forth in a slow-motion Karliner shakel. I can’t picture him playing in an orchestra pit.

The trumpet player was shaking his head up and down while listening to the other musicians. He was in a different place when he expanded his cheeks and blew away. No, a jazz musician is very different from a classical performer.

The dance of the music, its flow and creativity, all demand that the musician sink into the music in a manner I’ve never seen in other forms of music. The Jazz musician is usually a “character,” whose formal skills are hidden by his total absorption.

“Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the entire congregation.” And then, the man who felt so helpless that he fell on his face, stands up to argue with God. One minute, he is falling on his face, overwhelmed by the challenge of the people. The next, he stands with strength and determination before God.

Moshe not only spoke with words; he was the jazz musician, using his body to express his message. The man who had the courage to shatter God’s Luchot (Tablets) did not need to fall on his face because he felt helpless. Moshe Rabbeinu – Our Teacher – lived Torah as the Shira – Song – it is. Everything he did, everything he said and how he said it, was to express the music of the moment; the joy and the devastation, the thrills and the fears, the highs and the lows.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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3
Jun

Inconsistencies Part Four: The Drunkard’s Walk

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“If we were logical, we would resign ourselves to the evidence that our fate is beyond human knowledge, that every conjecture is arbitrary and demonstrably devoid of foundation. But men are rarely logical when their own fate is at stake; on every occasion, they prefer the extreme positions. According to our character, some of us are immediately convinced that all is lost, that one cannot live here, that the end is near and sure; others are convinced that however hard the present life may be, salvation is probable and not far off, and if we have faith and strength, we will see our houses and our dear ones again. The two classes of pessimists and optimists are not so clearly defined, however, not because there are many agnostics, but because the majority, without memory or coherence, drift between the two extremes according to the moment and the mood of the person they happen to meet.” (Primo Levi – If This Is a Man)

What Levi described about his bunk mates in Auschwitz is not unfamiliar to us. We see the drift, the Drunkard’s Walk, everywhere in life in the random motion of feelings incessantly bumping, and being bumped by their sister feelings.

If we would mark the inconsistent path of the Children of Israel from the time they left Egypt, and then crossed the Split Sea, complained about water and food, received Manna and Miriam’s Well, complained again, battled Amalek, experienced Revelation, built the Golden Calf and then the Mishkan (Tabernacle), complaining again, repenting, t and on and on, we would see a drunken man’s path through life. They weaved back and forth, up and down, but always moved ahead until…

The spies forgot all the inconsistencies and got stuck believing they were insects. (Fleas On My Mind) The nation went back and forth as a pendulum until they froze in their sense of inadequacy.

What happened? Why were they frightened of their fluctuations only now, as they were about to enter the Land of Israel?

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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3
Jun

Inconsistencies III: Fleas On My Mind

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I can’t catch this tiny thing! The computer screen’s light attracts it and it keeps on flying in front of me, and when I wave it away, it flies near my ear to make a tortuous sound. A tiny bug is proving a greater adversary than some much larger people.

Tiny bugs can be evil. In Balzac’s “Droll Stories” the nuns of the merry monastery of Poissy explain to a naive novice how one must go about telling whether the captured flea is male, female, or virgin, but finding a virgin flea is extremely rare “because these beasts are unmannerly, they are all lascivious sluts, who give themselves to the first comer.”

In the popular mind the flea, as for that matter, in the Talmud and Midrash also the fly, is related to the Devil. In “Faust,” at Auerbach’s inn, Mephistopheles is applauded by everyone when he starts to sing the song of the king who had a huge flea, loved it like a son, kept him as a child, and had a silk and velvet suit cut for him.

The flea is diabolic in its ability to escape capture with a leap so swift that it abruptly eludes the eye and seems to disappear. God may be, ‘inordinately fond of beetles,” (J.B. S. Haldane) but He certainly gifted the tiny flea with great powers.

The spies felt small and insignificant. They contrasted themselves to, “the sons of the giant from among the Nephilim,” (Numbers 13:33) and immediately were deflated into thinking of themselves as insects. They carried super large fruit with them and felt like Gulliver in Brobdingnag. The same man who was a giant in Lilliput was able to adjust to being the size of an insect, but the spies could not handle the adjustment.

Their mistake was not in perceiving themselves as insects, but in refusing to adjust to their new size. We all experience highs and lows. Our encounters with life are inconsistent. We have moments of great accomplishments when we feel like giants, and failures when we feel like insects. We adjust. The spies did not. They refused to adjust, which reflected a total lack of understanding all they had experienced thus far.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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