Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Ultimate Defeat Of Competition

From this weeks email....

I didn't send the Erev Shabbos email on Erev Shabbos because most people were keeping yom tov as per the custom in chutz la-aretz. I am told that there are still quite a few Jews left in chutz la-aretz. This week, for the duration of a number of weeks, I will be one of those Jews..... I hope to see you there, with a smile. And if you daven on my side of the mechitza - a hug as well. Anyway - it is never too late and Motzei Shabbos Bereishis is still in good time to send a Bereishis thought.  
Before the sin of Adam and Chava the world was supposed to be one of giving, generosity, love and caring. After the sin, life is about destroying and competing. We can only be happy when we have something that other people don't have [who really appreciates the warmth of the sun when everybody has it]. We go for jobs and try to beat out other people, we participate in sports or root for teams when all of the pleasure is in beating the opponent. We spend much time trying to cover our own backs and will often shy away from doing things for others when it comes at our expense [even though we don't like to admit it]. The rich do all they can to protect their beloved money. If all of the religious Jews would give just 10 percent of their earnings to tzdaka all of the yeshivos would be out of the red and in the black [isn't it interesting that most yeshivas are in the "black" but just in apparel but not in the bank...]. The poor and indigent compete and strive to convince the more wealthy to share with them. Yeshivos compete with each other for students. I remember when I attempted to start a yeshiva. I naively thought that other yeshivot would send me students in order to help get me started. I quickly learned that I was persona non-grata and just some unwanted competition. The cliche of "It's a dog eat dog world" has never been as true as it is today.
Countries try to swallow each other up alive, war never ceases from the earth. Worms eat away at trees. Success is built upon the downfall of the other. People only feel the exhilaration of being alive when faced with death. Most of life's pleasures come from opposites, contradictions - סתירות. We rarely feel great to be alive without considering the alternative of death. We are happy to be married because being single is so lonely. We appreciate our children most when we consider the plight of the barren and childless. We enjoy our sight when we see or think of a blind person. Just to appreciate good without considering the negative is so hard for us. Life is a "theory of relativity" of sorts. Everything is relative to other people and situations.
This all originates in the eating of the עץ הדעת טוב ורע. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil places our perspective on life in the realm of contrasts. Something is evil because it is not good and other things are good because they are not evil. The excitement of life comes from the possibility of it's contrast - death. That is why the punishment for eating from the tree was .... death. From now on all of life is going to be measured in terms of opposites. We can only have life if we also have death. כי ביום אכלך ממנו מות תמות.  
To fix the sin is to appreciate life as essentially and inherently good - regardless of whether the eventuality of death exists. To eat from the eitz ha-chaim is to learn Torah [which is eitz chaim la-machazikim bah] and put ourselves in a world where there is no death [see the end of maseches ksubos אור תורה מחייהו] and all that exists is blissful pleasure from a world of pure unadulterated life with no death and no disease. To fix the sin is to eliminate competition. It is not me against you. We are not battling for the same marbles or toys. It is about bringing the world to a place where all exists is good.

May we merit to fix the sin with a renewed commitment to latch on to the eitz hachaim and enjoy the bracha of וחי לעולם - a beautiful life of purity that never ends.

Bi-ahava rabba,

[Based partially on the sefer Mei Marom Vol. 5 parshas bereishis from Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap ztz"l. May I suggest that you purchase and learn the Rov's sefarim as it might well transform your life as it has mine]. 

New Articles

Vizos Habracha - here.

Breishis - here.

Pilei Pla-os! Hope people read it.


Let us say I act in a certain way. When you ask me why, I answer "It is Swumdokli". You don't understand and say "Come again?" I say "Swumdokli". You think I am weird.

We live in a world where the concept of "kedusha" - holiness, is foriegn to even many religious Jews. They have no idea what it means to be holy, don't strive to live a life of holiness and often belittle those who do attempt live there lives according to the standards of kedusha. They say "Be religious but be normal" where normal means to be unholy.

What is keudusha? That is beyond the scope of this post and would require a full length book to scratch the surface. One basic aspect of kedusha is to be פרוש מן העריות - Separation of the genders. Anytime you have a mixture and mingling of the sexes it is by definition an unholy gathering.

Recently, an outspoken feminist made the news because a man didn't want to sit next to her on a plane and she was offended. This shouldn't be newsworthy. There is not a frum man or woman on the planet earth who wants to sit next to someone of the opposite gender. I spend much time on buses and never ever sit next to a woman and no woman ever sits next to me [my wife is a notable exception]. Nobody is offended. Everybody understands that there is a difference between the sexes. That is why nobody objects to a men's room and a women's room. That is an ontological fact of creation.

Every normal man is attracted to attractive women from time to time. To be attracted to a woman other than one's wife is Jewishly obscene. Sitting in close proximity to a woman increases the likelihood of dual attraction.

Feminists say "When will men stop looking at us as --- objects?" The answer of course is "The moment they cease being men...." Men aren't bad people. They are exactly the way Hashem made them. He created men with qualities that attract women and women with qualities that attract men. That is why we are all here today together with 7 billion others. The Good Lord knows what he is doing. If men were not physically excited by women then they would almost never marry. Women cost too much, take up too much time, and are much too complicated to be worth a man's while. The physical attraction sparks the interest and he suddenly overlooks the obstacles and strongly desires a relationship. It helps that she cooks, cleans and keeps home. When a woman wants to get a man interested in her, she knows that the secret is NOT to read a tome of Shakespeare and wow him with her literary analysis but to dress nicely [in the outside world this is done differently than in the religious world ודי למבין].

Ideally, as the relationship develops, a man sees a woman for who she really is - a G-dly soul, suffused with holiness, a sensitive being with many positive qualities and other traits which she must work hard to polish and perfect. But step one is not so holy. Sorry.....

A woman too wants a male in her life not only for his G-dly soul but also for his financial support, emotional strength and physical attraction. He can make her feel special in ways her roommate at Stern cannot. He can also help provide her with her most desired gift - children. This makes a man quite a desirable commodity in the lives of females.

To sum it up: Seperation between the genders is holy but so many people have no conception of holiness so they are quick to criticize [of course the separation must always be acheived with the highest level of sensitivity for the feelings of the women. I am not advocating offending people].

Men and women are often attracted to each other. This may not be denied. There are seven billion proofs to this:-).

Are We Comfortable?

I don't react to everything I see and hear on the world wide web. The volume of complete nonsense is so great that I would never ever finish forever, so I try in general to focus on the positive in Hashem's world. This post will be an exception.....

1] One popular lecturer on a Torah website likes to say about his Rebbi [a gadol of whom we all know and learned from his students] with unmasked enthusiasm and pleasure as if he was telling about a fantastic quality  "He felt completely comfortable in the Western world".

That sentence brings to the fore the most basic question every Jew in the modern world must face. What is our relationship to the outside world? Is it one of comfort and "at-homeness" or one of being a stranger and foreigner? The answer is unquestionably the latter. The attitudes and most behaviors of the western world are antithetical to what the Torah personality strives to be. We go to work if we must and then we run back to our religious Jewish ghettoes and wish we never had to leave [except to make a kiddush Hashem]. We don't want their sports and movies, internet and television. The general society encourages a person to gain as much physical pleasure as his budget and the law allow. The Jewish attitude is that we are here to maximize our spiritual pleasure through connection with Hashem. The outside world contaminates. Period.

I am not arguing with this gadol. His talmid knew him and I didn't but he has a famous essay [see the late great Torah journal "Ha-Darom" 5763 page 152 and on] where he says that we are all גרי תושב [as Avraham Avinu said to the bnei ches]. We are תושבים - residents, of the world. We abide by laws and pay our taxes faithfully [even when Obama then uses it to help the Arabs rebuild terror tunnels and  weapons to liquidate the State of Israel and the Jewish People...]. But we are also גרים, strangers. Our weltanshauung [hashkafa in fancy German] is shaped by Moshe Rabbeinu and Rebbi Akiva, Abaye and Rava, the Rambam and Rashi. Our goal is to learn as much Torah possible, to minimize our need for the creature comforts of this world and to perfect our middos. We couldn't care less who won the World Series or what new show is appearing Mondays at 9pm or what some "mushchas-dike" ["corrupt" is a poor translation] actor tweets. We don't know and don't want to know.
When someone tells us the latest in nonsense - we don't feel comfortable. It is NOT our world. Our world is in one buiding. We call it a ... Beis Medrash.

2] This lecturer also notes that his Rebbi never went to mikva and that he doesn't either. I don't know about his Rebbi [although I believe him about himself] but it is well known that there are opinions in the rishonim [which the shulchan aruch doesn't codify] that when one is a Baal Keri he may not learn Torah or daven until he goes to mikva. EVERYBODY agrees that for added kedusha a Baal Keri [and even not a Baal Keri for that matter] should "be toivel". It is not praise to say such words and I would rather here "shvach" of gedolei yisrael and not "gnai" i.e. behaviors which we should not strive to emulate. It is considered a more "chasidic" custom to be makpid on mikva [for men] but many great non-chasidic gedolim were very careful as well [see here]. Rebbi Akiva Eiger would break the ice in order to immerse himself in the freezing European winters of the 1700's. When you learn a Rebbi Akiva Eiger, you are not just coming into contact with his tremendous, unparalleled mind and powers of analysis but with his tremendous kedusha and yiras shomayim as well.

I have a lot more to say, particularly about the aforementioned Rabbi's lectures but I will suffice with this for now. He, of course has many many mylos and zchuyos as well which I laud and appreciate.  But I want people to always remember that just because someone says or does something and he bears the title "Rabbi" doesn't make it correct or Torah-dike. Much is said [like lashon hara] and done [like machlokes] in the name of Torah and they are anything but....   

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Articles

Torah for succos here.
Yom kippur here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

If you understand hebrew this is kedai.

Old Shiur

A brilliant shiur on some finer points in the Rambam from a gadol, here.