Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Don't Suppress

“It’s the continual suppression of unresolved feelings and emotions that cause the problems we experience in our lives.”

Wasted Energy

Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit, talks about being “plugged into” the past. If there was a situation in your life where you were hurt, abused, or left anything unfinished, you are prob- ably still carrying around that unfinished business. You are still plugged into that old event. That means a part of your energy is still back there, reliving and probably recreating the old event. 

I know this is tough to understand. But let’s use another example from Myss. Think of the energy you get each day as cash. You wake up in the morning with $500 available for the day. But you are still mad because your spouse said something mean to you last night. That’s going to cost you. You are spending $50 to keep that energy alive in you. And say you are still upset because a friend owes you money from five years ago. Now you are spending $100 to keep that memory alive. And let’s assume you were abused as a child. You are spending another $100 to keep that memory in you. You woke up with $500 to spend, but before you get out of bed you have spent half of it on old memories. When you try to attract something today, you won’t have all of your energy available to make it happen. When you get clear of the old events, hurts, memories and beliefs, you will have more energy to attract what you want now. And the more energy you have now, the more you will get.

The Mysterious Parsha Of The Bitter Waters

לרפואת הרב בנימין יהודה בן רחל
לרפואת שרה לאה בת רבקה
לזכות עדינה בת שבע בת נעכא גיטל

I had a few minutes so I started reading some psukim in parshas Beshalach [פרק ט"ו] and was bothered by the following questions. There are many more questions but this will suffice for now.

 So here goes. 

וַיַּסַּע מֹשֶׁה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיַּם סוּף וַיֵּצְאוּ אֶל מִדְבַּר שׁוּר, וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר וְלֹא מָצְאוּ מָיִם. כג וַיָּבֹאוּ מָרָתָה, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה כִּי מָרִים הֵם, עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ 'מָרָה'. כד וַיִּלֹּנוּ הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: "מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה?". כה וַיִּצְעַק אֶל יְהוָה, וַיּוֹרֵהוּ יְהוָה עֵץ, וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶל הַמַּיִם וַיִּמְתְּקוּ הַמָּיִם. שָׁם שָׂם לוֹ חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט וְשָׁם נִסָּהוּ. כו וַיֹּאמֶר: "אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע לְקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו תַּעֲשֶׂה וְהַאֲזַנְתָּ לְמִצְו‍ֹתָיו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ כָּל חֻקָּיו, כָּל הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם לֹא אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה רֹפְאֶךָ". כז וַיָּבֹאוּ אֵילִמָה, וְשָׁם שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה עֵינֹת מַיִם וְשִׁבְעִים תְּמָרִים, וַיַּחֲנוּ שָׁם עַל הַמָּיִם.

Moshe led Israel away from the Red Sea, and they went out into the desert of Shur; they walked for three days in the desert but did not find water.

They came to Marah, but they could not drink water from Marah because it was bitter; therefore, it was named Marah.

The people complained against Moshe, saying, What shall we drink?

So he cried out to the Hashem, and the Hashem instructed him concerning a piece of wood, which he cast into the water, and the water became sweet. There He gave them a statute and an ordinance, and there He tested them.

And He said, If you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you.

They came to Elim, and there were twelve water fountains and seventy palms, and they encamped there by the water.

A number of questions I am pondering and need help.

1] On the words ויסע משה, Rashi says that he led them away against their will because of all the great bounty that was available to the Jews from the horses of the Egyptians who were adorned with gold, silver and jewelery. 

My question is - What were the Egyptians thinking when they dressed up their horses. Who puts jewelry on his horses?? And to wage war?? 

2] The people complained to Moshe and asked "What will we drink?" And Moshe cries out to Hashem. After 10 makkos and Krias Yam Suf didn't it occur to the Jews that the correct address for their request would be Hashem?  

3] Why couldn't Hashem just make the water sweet without the piece of wood? What was the meaning of this wood throwing? 

3] "The water became sweet. There he gave them a statute and ordinance" - Rashi says that in Marah he gave them a few laws such as Parah Aduma, Dinim [court related laws] and Shabbos. GRRREAT! But what is this information doing in the very same pasuk where it says that the water became sweet?? They seem to have NOTHING to do with each other yet are in the same pasuk?! And then the pasuk goes back to the water story and says ושם נסהו - there they were tested. How does one explain the flow of the pasuk? 

4] Why didn't Hashem wait until Matan Torah to give them these laws?

5] Why specifically these laws and no others?

6] Rashi says that the test was if they were going to ask nicely but they spoke disrespectfully and complained. Shouldn't the test have been whether they were going to daven to Hashem [as we said earlier]? It seems that they were SUPPOSED to turn to Moshe and just speak nicely. 

7] אם שמוע תשמע - Why the tautology ["double lashon"]?

8] First the pasuk says that we must "listen". Rashi says that this means to accept. Then the pasuk continues and says that we should do what is ישר in the eyes of Hashem. All good. But then we continue "והאזנת למצותיו" - You listen to his mitzvos. Rashi says תטה אזניים לדקדק בהם - Incline our ears to be careful about them. But this is after we ALREADY accepted and did them, so what are we adding. And first it is קול ה' אלקיך and then it is מצוותיו. What is the difference? Then we say ושמרת כל חקיו. You guard ALL of his statutes. So why not והאזנת לכל מצותיו - Listen to ALL of His mitzvos. But no - here it just says והאזנת למצותיו without the כל. 

9] Rashi says that the חקים are those mitzvos we don't understand such as shaatnez, eating חזיר and Parah Aduma. Odd. We haven't yet been commanded about חזיר and שעטנז so why are we already being warned??

10] First Hashem is called twice by his שם הויה. Then he is called הויה אלקיך. What changed?

Where Is Krias Yam Suf?

How come Hashem didn't mention Krias Yam Suf in the ברית בין הבתרים? Was that not a significant event?


This weeks parsha thoughts - this time on the sugya of המשכיר בית לחברו with a little dessert at the end. 

Great Shiur

Tonight at 9:15 the Rebbe Shlita is giving his monthly shiur in Hebrew. Very ke-dai!

Corner Rechov Rabbeinu Gershom right off Bar Ilan street. 

Here is a recording from a shiur from the past.

Avoid Rigidity

Soft as a Reed

The Gemara tells us, לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז "A person should always be soft like a reed, and not tough like a cedar tree" (Taanis 20). During מכת ברד when hail fell on the crops, only the full grown, stiff crops were ruined. The new, softer shoots were able to sway in the storm and they didn’t break. As the passuk says, "The flax and the barley were smitten, because [they were stiff and fully grown]. The wheat and the spelt weren't smitten, because they develop slower" (9:31). They were still soft and flexible and they bent and turned away when the hard hail fell on them. 

There are two types of people: Those who are flexible, and those who are rigid. The flexible ones have their desires and opinions but when things don’t go their way, know how to bend to the side and let matters pass. They are pliable and adjust to reality. They are ready to be mevater. They won’t break down when things don't go according to their expectations. Then there are the tough, rigid people. They don’t want to compromise. Their opinions and desires must be fulfilled. When matters don’t go their way, they try to forcefully have their wishes fulfilled. If they fail, they break down and collapse. We are urged to be soft like a reed. We won’t always get our way, yet, it is the wiser approach to life. A person should also be soft in the way he deals with others. A father and a teacher should educate their children and disciples with a soft hand. There are times when strictness is in place, as Chazal say, “The left should push away and the right should bring close,” (Sotah 47) but the dominant motion is to bring close with love and compassion. 

A mashgiach in a yeshivah will generally need to use a certain amount of strictness and discipline to enforce the rules and regulations of the yeshiva. Reb Eliyahu Dessler zt'l was the mashgiach of Ponovezh and people told the Chazon Ish zt’l that Rav Dessler is running the yeshiva with softness and kindness. The Chazon Ish replied, "He is correct in his approach because the kinyan, acquisition, of meshichah is stronger than the kinyan of chazakah." (In the halachos of acquiring an item, there is a kinyan called משיכה, pulling the item, and there is an acquisition called חזקה [forcefully showing ownership over the item]. The kinyan of meshicha, pulling the item towards you, is a better acquisition than chazaka. The Chazon Ish was implying that pulling the students to you with love and compassion will accomplish more than trying to win them by a show of might.) 

It is essential that a child feels loved. There must always be a strong connection between parent and child. When Yaakov saw Yosef's coat soaked in blood, he thought that Yosef died. The family came to console him but the Torah says, וימאן, Yaakov refused to be consoled" (Bereishis 37:34). The word וימאן, refuse, is stated again. When Yosef was tested with אשת פוטיפר, the Torah says, וימאן, Yosef refused. There is a connection between these two pesukim. It’s explained that Yosef received his strength to refrain from sin because his father Yaakov never lost hope. Yaakov refused to be consoled; his mind was always on Yosef – perhaps he even davened for Yosef – and this connection gave Yosef HaTzaddik the impetus to refrain from sinning. Parents should learn from this never to lose hope on their children. Even if a child goes astray, chalilah, parents should continue to love them and should  yearn and pray for the child’s return. This connection is felt in the child's heart even from the distance and it empowers the child with willpower to return.

[Rav Elimelech Biderman]

Smile At Yourself

Taught Shamai - Greet everybody with a happy face - "הוי מקבל את כל אדם בסבר פנים יפות" (Avos 1:6). Notice that it was Shamai, whose neshama comes from the world of strict judgment, who taught this halachah and not Hillel, although Hillel is famous for his kind nature. This teaches us that even according to the strictest interpretation of the Torah, one should greet everyone with a pleasant and cheerful countenance.

Reb Meir of Amshinov zt'l would say that הוי מקבל את כל האדם בסבר פנים יפות  also includes oneself. One should accept himself the way he is, with joy and happiness. He shouldn’t harp on his faults and feel dejected.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Only Because Moshe Said

A great vort from the Holy Ozhorover Rebbe ztz"l who recently had a yahrtzeit.

The Meaning Of Sadness

When we are sad it is a lack of acceptance of our circumstances and consequentially  - a complaint against Hashem.

To accept reality is to be happy and at peace with ourselves and Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Your Gift

Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God. - Leo Buscaglia

The Importance Of Love - Part 2

An article I saw written by an MD. I edited it slightly for tzniyus purposes but the point that I edited out was that in one's marriage it is important to show a lot of love. והמבין יבין.

Love Heals

The heart of the matter is that it is the heart that matters. A healthy heart is a happy heart. To achieve optimal heart health, your emotional and spiritual heart is just as important as your physical heart, and care must be given to all aspects of this vital organ.

Every thought causes an instant flow of emotions by neuropeptides and hormones that compose a symphony of positive and negative effects within the body. That is why it is so important to pay close attention to the thoughts and emotions that are running through your mind, as they dictate the symphony of neurotransmitters playing in your body.

Love helps heal the heart and nourish your mind, body, and soul. Love is a strong emotion, representing human kindness, compassion, and deep affection. Love is pure. Love is self-directed and directed toward others. Most importantly, love is a vital component for your overall health and happiness.

How Does Love Benefits Your Health?

Love helps boost self-esteem, which leads to better self-care and happiness. Self-love is important because when you love yourself, you are much more likely to engage in activities that contribute to better nutrition and physical fitness, and less likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Love makes you happy. Love causes the production of norepinephrine and dopamine (both hormones associated with adrenaline), which leads to increased feelings of joy and pleasure.

Love counteracts the fight-or-flight response and helps reduce stress. Even low levels of stress cause the body to release cortisol, which is associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Love can help lower the production of cortisol hormone. In fact, love encourages your body to produce oxytocin, the “feel-good” or “love” hormone. Oxytocin can reduce overall stress and improve the immune system, which in turn decreases cell death and inflammation.

Love decreases anxiety and staves off depression, which then reduces the risks and signs of heart disease. Dr. Dean Ornish’s book Love and Survival: Eight Pathways to Intimacy and Health describes one study where where married men who suffered from angina (chest pains) experienced far less angina if they felt loved by their wives, even despite high risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Love improves your immune system, decreases inflammation, and can be a powerful pain reliever.

Love allows you feel well-connected with the body which can help increased release of cytokines, better relaxation and the release of endorphins.

Love helps you sleep better. Sleeping next to someone you love makes you feel more relaxed, which helps you to sleep better. Adequate rest is vital to heart health and overall well-being, as much of the reparative work of the body is done during sleep.

It is important to remind yourself every day that there is so much more to love than just romantic love. There is love of life, love of nature, love of animals, love of others, and love of self, and all of these acts of love provide amazing health benefits.

How to Incorporate Love into Your Life:

Be more loving and giving. Bring happiness and joy into your life and other people’s lives. Be generous with your time and money. Try to do one random act of kindness today, even if it is as simple as smiling at someone.

Hug and holding hands. Physical contact has a loving and nurturing ability to instantly improve your mood, reduce levels of stress and put you at ease. Try to hug at least one person you love every day.

Love your life and be grateful. Bring more joy into your life each day. Flirt with life… laugh, dance, sing. Laugh.

Love yourself and be kind to yourself every day. Treat yourself like you would another person who you are truly in love with. The more you love yourself, the better prepared you will be to love others. And the more love you give, the more you will receive.

What I Have Been Thinking About

למנות ימינו כן הודע ונביא לבב חכמה.

[For daf-yomi people the pasuk will soon be quoted by the gemara.] 

Any ideas??

Who Is Rich?

In the mikva dressing room the other day some fellow asked me out of the blue if I am rich.

I have noted how almost everyone I know is so secretive about their finances but I don't know why it has to be a big secret. So I told him straight out that I am rich. The richest guy in the neighborhood, in fact. [I bet he wasn't expecting that answer].

And that was the end of that.

Anyway - עשיר is roshei teivos ע"יניים ש"יניים י"דים ר"גלים. If you have those you are rich.

And if you have them remember who is responsible. 

Have you called your parents today??

Two Types Of Doubt

There are two types of sfeikos: There is is one type of safeik that is a safeik b'etzem - an inherent safek and not due to our lack of knowledge - חסרון ידיעה. One example is an אנדרוגינוס whose gender is a ספק בעצם. Another is the חפינת הקטורת that is between the fingers [see Yoma 48b]. Others are Bein Hashmashos, כוי, and clusters of grapes that are ספק עוללות. 

In the words of the Rebbe ztz"l

ועוד דלא הוה ספק בחסרון ידיעה לאיזה צד הוא שייך רק דהוא ספק בעצם ויש בו שני הצדדים וישאר הספק לעולם.  

Examples can be found in Yerushalmi 8/5. 

An example of a ספק of חסרון ידיעה is a טומטום or a ספק whether someone read קריאת שמע, safek tumah etc. etc. [The Yerushalmi in Nidda 1/1 compares safek tumah to a טומטום and אנדרוגינוס. But the אנדרוגינוס is אגב שיטפיה and not really comparable to safek tumah which is a ספק of חסרון ידיעה just like טומטום. See Yevamos 83a Tosfos D.H. Biryah].

The difference is that a ספק בעצם has a דין ודאי. Since we will never be able to resolve the ספק, the Rabbis made it ודאי. Whereas a ספק of חסרון ידיעה remains a safek. 

See at length in the פתיחה לצפנת פענח on Rambam Hilchos Shabbos. 

Enjoying An Aveirah

In Mesivta Torah Va-daas decades ago, there was a strong Chasidic spirit. Among other things, there was a shiur in Tanya. A delightful myse:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chochma Ba-goyim

Where Sin Leads

לזכות עדינה בת שבע בת נעכא גיטל

We revisit the pasuk שת [שַׁתָּה] עֲו‍ֹנֹתֵינוּ לְנֶגְדֶּךָ עֲלֻמֵנוּ לִמְאוֹר פָּנֶיךָ.

It doesn't sound good.... Hashem is placing our sins before him. Our hidden one's must face his shining countenance. Scary. 

But we know that all of the evil must bring to good, all pain and sorrow to pleasure and joy. 

Life goes and goes and goes. We are on a path. The path is to lead us ultimately to a MUCH BETTER place. That will happen when our dark and limited existence is swallowed up by a much greater Divine light. In the meantime we are FILLED with deficiencies and faults, sins of omission and commission. They will ultimately be swallowed up and absorbed into the Divine light, creating something much greater and holier.

So yes, you place our sins before you, both our hidden ones and revealed ones. But that is in order to bring them to מאור פניך - The light of Hashem's face. The light of justice and Divine kindness. A brand new, shiny world!

The siddur Olas Ri-iya renders as follows [tell me how you understand it]:  


Yaakov Avinu Lo Meis - The Maharal And Rav Hutner

The Maharal says that we are talking about spiritual life. Rav Hutner says that just as in Torah there are four levels - Pshat Drash Remez and Sod, so in reality there are also four levels. In Pshat, Yaakov died. In Drash, he lives on. 

The Difference

There is a delightful old book from 1920 entitled Fundamentals of Prosperity by Roger Babson. He ended his book by asking the president of the Argentine Republic why South America, with all of its natural resources and wonders, was so far behind North America in terms of progress and marketing. 

 The president replied: “I have come to this conclusion. South America was settled by the Spanish who came to South America in search of gold, but North America was settled by the Pilgrim fathers who went there in search of God.”

Trump And The Holocaust

There was a big stir in the news that Trump mentioned the holocaust and didn't say that 6 million Jews were killed. His spokesman was quick to explain the omission. 

I would like to add a bit of perspective. Donald is just a really rich guy who used his money, fame and connections to get elected President. That is all. He is not a philosopher. He is not a theologian. He is not a historian. He is not a particularly sensitive person. He also wouldn't be classified as a deep thinker or spiritual person. He is just a guy who was given by Hashem loads and loads of money which he used to catapult himself to power.

That being the case I would like to make a suggestion for the next four years: Don't pay close attention to anything he says. It is not worth your time. The media will be dissecting every word and the media, by and large despises him, but we have better things to do with our time. 

Like Rashi. 

Dissect Rashi's.

HE was a very intelligent and spiritual man. 

We have many other texts. Analyze them. 

Don't waste your time on Donald. Politics is a big game. It is a like a cake that is filled with chocolate and also has chocolate layers. Chocolate inside and out. Politics is sheker inside and out. Whether you follow all the sheker or not won't change anything. So unless you are on the "throne of honor" [i.e. the washroom] it is a waste of time. And frankly - even in there one can probably find better things to read. 

One more note while on the topic: The President is privy to a lot of information to which we are not. People are AWFULLY quick to criticize without knowing all of the details and facts. That is a rule in public as well as private life. 

So I say: Cut the guy some slack.... 

To summarize: Don't trust politicians but don't be too quick to criticize either.  

Link: The Holy Depths Of Sin

A novel explanation to a pasuk in Tehillim quoted in the previous post and said by us every Shabbos morning. 

Bi-siyata Di-shmaya!!!

The Joy Of Teshuva

לרפואת הרב בנימין יהודה בן רחל בתוך שח"י

The idea of teshuva, that is ALWAYS within a person, is the foundation of all positive qualities. This is a critical point. Teshuva is not something "out there" that one has to reach. It is in the very nature of a person's soul to desire "return" to Hashem. To do teshuva is to look inwards.

The sadness and melancholy that often accompanies teshuva is really the source of great joy!! Teshuva is appreciating the  greatness of G-d. When one is cognizant of this, he realizes that his sins are readily visible and apparent to Hashem, in all of their evil and destructive results. As the pasuk says [Tehillim 90-8] שתה עונותינו לנגדך עלמנו למאור פניך -  You place our sins before you, our hidden ones to the light of your face. You are aware of everything. That can be QUITE a "downer" - to say the least. 

But once we realize that this awareness of sin comes from the shining of Divine light on the neshama, a person is filled with TREMENDOUS joy and empowerment, and this celestial feeling of joy increases togther with the low feeling of one's nefesh. Note: The neshama, the higher more spiritual part of man rejoices, while the lower part of man, the nefesh, feels remorse and regret. 

At this point man is REDEEMED. He has been freed from all external forces of evil that previously ruled over him. To do teshuva is to extricate oneself from the bonds of bad habits, destructive thoughts, harmful behaviors etc. etc. and basking in the Light Of Hashem.

Is there anything better than THAT??

Now we have insight into the pasuk והוא יפדה את ישראל מכל עוונותיו- Hashem REDEEMS man from all of his sins. What does this MEAN? Is man in captivity? No!! He is "living it up". He is enjoying life. Women, food, parties etc, etc, A mechaye!!!

The truth is that there is NO GREATER bondage than one who is in the firm grasp of his lower, base desires. Redemption is to break free and allow himself to return to his soul and it's Divine source. At that time the Light of Hashem shines on him.

That also explains why in Shmoneh Esrei, after the bracha of teshuva and סלח לנו - Forgiveness from sin, we then say the bracha of redemption - גאל ישראל. 


Bilshon Ha-tzadik: 

 רעיון התשובה, השרוי באדם תמיד, הוא יסוד כל המעלות הטובות. המחשבה העצבנית, שבאה מתוך הקשר אל עומק התשובה, היא מקור השמחה. התכונה היסודית של התשובה היא ההשערה בגדל השלמות העליונה של האלהות, ומתוך כך העונות בולטים הרבה מאד. שתה עונותינו לנגדך, עלומנו למאור פניך. וכיון שמרגישים, שההרגשה של החטא בכל אופן באה היא מתוך ההבהקה האלהית על הנשמה, מתמלאים מזה הרעיון עצמו גיל וגודל אין סוף, וחדות השמחה האצילית הולכת ומתגברת יחד עם דכאות הלב של לבוש הנפש, העומדת בדרגת התשובה. התשובה, לפי זה, מביאה לידי גאולה בפרטיות. מתוך הבהירות האלהית, שמתגברת בקרבו, נגאל האדם מכל שעבוד של הכחות הזרים השולטים עליו, והכלל כולו, בהיותו מוכן להרגיש את רעיון התשובה, מיד הוא נגאל, מתוך בהיקות האורה האלהית השופעת עליו, יחד עם הרעיון של התשובה.

[שמונה קבצים ח' רל"ד]

Talmud Torah And Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim

Today, gimmel shvat, is the yahrtzeit of Hagaon Rav Moshe Soloveitchik. His son Hagaon Rav Yosef Dov would give a special yahrtzieit shiur on this day in Lamport Auditorium, attended by throngs. Here is the transcription of one such shiur. 

Please learn and enjoy!!

Talmud Torah and Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim [1]
Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik zt"l

Before I start, I would like to discharge another duty; believe me I do it with sadness in my heart. You know me; I have never criticized anybody, never attacked anybody, and I have never set myself up as judge and arbiter, to approve or disapprove of statements made by others. However, today I feel it is my duty to make the following statement, and I am very sad that I have to do it. But somehow, I have no choice in the matter; there is no alternative. What I am going to say, I want you to understand, is my credo about Torah and about the way Torah should be taught and Torah should be studied.

I have been a Rosh Yeshiva and a teacher of Talmud all my life, at least the major part of my adult life. I have taught many, many people – I don't know how many, but many people -- and when I do teach, time comes to a stop for me. I don't look at the timepiece, the clock, or at my wristwatch. I just teach.

Teaching has a tremendous and very strange impact on me. I simply feel that when I teach Torah, I feel the breath of eternity on my face. Even now that I am old, or certainly not young, teaching Torah and giving shiurim relieves me of the fear of death, and all the blues and depressive moments which other people go through. When I do teach, I feel rejuvenated, as if I were 25 or 30 years old. If not for the study and teaching of Torah, I would have lost my sanity in the year of triple aveilus in sixty-seven [2] -- I was on the verge of mental collapse and breakdown. I did not. I emerged victorious, and this is due to one thing only -- I would say my mad dedication to Torah. I am not trying to brag or to boast; I am telling you the truth. I was [hit] that year and the following years; I felt somehow that I was not alone, that I had somebody; there was somebody invisible but whose presence I felt, to confide in; there was somebody on whose shoulder I could cry; there was somebody from whom I could almost demand words of solace and comfort. People don't know, and again, please take the proper spirit, I'm not bragging, they don't know how much my schedule is. They know I say shiurim here. Alright, fine, I say shiur three times a week in Yeshiva; even though the shiurim are an hour and a half, it never happens that I should get through in an hour and a half -- two hours, sometimes three hours, sometimes more than three hours. It is very strange -- the boys that sit in my class are very young, perhaps one quarter, one third of my age, but they come out exhausted, and I come out refreshed. That is shiur. Then I come to Boston, and every Friday morning from half past eight, for three hours until half past eleven, I study with my son-in-law. On Saturday, believe me that I cannot afford to take a nap on Saturday morning and I have not taken a nap on Saturday morning for the last, I would say twenty years perhaps, because I study with my grandchildren. I study with Moshe three hours at least, and I study with Meir two and a half hours. The same is Sunday, the same is Monday. I have no time sometimes, just to sit down and to relax. 

The study of Torah has a great cathartic impact upon me. It is rooted in the wondrous experience I always have when I open up a gemara. Somehow, when I open a gemara, either alone or when I am in company, when I teach others, I have the impression -- don't call it hallucination -- I have the impression that I hear soft footsteps of somebody, invisible, who comes in and sits down with me, sometimes looking over my shoulder. The idea is not a mystical idea -- the mishna in avos, the gemara in Brachos says yachid sheyoshev v'osek batorah, shechina shruya [3]. We all believe that the nosein hatorah, the One who gave us the Torah, has never deserted the Torah. And He simply accompanies the Torah; wherever the Torah has a rendezvous, an appointment, a date with somebody, He is there. 

Therefore, the study of Torah has never been for me dry formal intellectual performance, no matter how important a role the intellect plays in limud hatorah. You know very well that I place a great deal of emphasis upon the intellectual understanding and the analysis of the halachos; you know that this is actually what my grandfather zt"l introduced, and you know -- I have said it so many times, and I will say it again -- our methodology, our analysis, and our manner of conceptualizing, inferring, classifying, and defining halachic matters does not lag behind the most modern philosophical analyses I happen to know something about. We are far ahead of it; the tools, the logical tools, the epistemological instruments which we employ in order to analyze a sugya in shabbos or bava kama are the most modern -- they are very impressive, the creations of my grandfather. Anyway, we avail ourselves of the most modern methods of understanding, of constructing, of inferring, of classifying, of defining, and so forth and so on. So there is no doubt that the intellect plays a tremendous role in limud hatorah.

However, talmud torah is more than intellectual performance. It is a total, all-encompassing and all-embracing involvement -- mind and heart, will and feeling, the center of the human personality -- emotional man, logical man, volunteristic man -- all of them are involved in the study of Torah. Talmud torah is basically for me an ecstatic experience, in which one meets G-d. And again I want to say that whatever I told you now is not just mysticism or, due to my mystical inclinations; it isn't so. The gemara says so -- chazal have equated talmud torah with revelation, and the great event, the drama of Jewish [living] is reenacted, and restaged, and relived, every time a Jew opens up a gemara. The Talmud in Brachos, while discussing the problem of baal keri, the issur torah of baal keri [4], expressed itself as follows: d'sanya: v'hodotam l'vanecha v'livnei vanecha uch'siv basriha yom asher amadta lifnei hashem elokecha b'chorev, mah lehalen b'ima uv'yira uv'reses uv'ziya, af kan b'ima uv'yira uv'reses uv'ziya [5] -- "make them known unto thy children and thy children's children, the day thou stoodest before the Lord thy G-d in Chorev." The Torah did not say "make known the halachos," more than that. Make known simply your rendezvous with G-d, which means they should experience exactly what you did experience, when you stood before thy G-d in Chorev. How did your people stand before G-d in Chorev? With fear, awe, and with a tremor of the heart, trembling. So must every Jew who engages in talmud torah stand before G-d with fear, awe, and tremor. That is why a baal keri is assur b'divrei torah. It is not the tumah [6]; rather, he is not in the mood to experience the presence of the Almighty, to experience revelation every time he engages in study. If a Jew cannot experience revelation when he is busy studying, then he is assur b'talmud torah. 

In other words, the study of the Torah is an ecstatic, metaphysical performance; the study of Torah is an act of surrender. That is why chazal stress so many times the importance of humility, and that the proud person can never be a great scholar, only the humble person. Why is humility necessary? Because the study of Torah means meeting the Almighty, and if a finite being meets the infinite, the Almighty, the Maker of the world, of course this meeting must precipitate a mood of humility, and humility results in surrender [7]. What do we surrender to the Almighty? We surrender two things: first, we surrender to the Almighty the every-day logic, or what I call mercantile logic the logic of the businessman or the utilitarian person, and we embrace another logic -- the logic m'sinai. Second, we surrender the everyday will, which is very utilitarian and superficial, and we embrace another will – the will m'sinai. This is not, as I told you before, just drush, homiletics: when the Rambam explains kabalas ol malchus shamayim [8] in krias shma, and when he explains the gemara lama kadma parshas shma l'parshas v'haya im shamoa? sheyikabel alav ol malchus shamayim t'chila [9], he enumerates the elements of ol malchus shamayim: ahavaso v'yiraso v'talmudo, and talmud torah shehu ha-ikar hagadol shehakol taluy bo [10]. Talmud torah is an act; talmud torah means kabalas ol malchus shamayim. This is the reason that one must not study Torah unless one says birkas hatorah; this is the reason for kadish d'rabanan: because talmud torah constitutes an act of surrender, of kabalas ol malchus shamayim, of accepting the harness of mitzvos. It is interesting that chazal said ol malchus shamayim; why not kabalas malchus shamayim? Because kabalas malchus shamayim means when malchus shamayim is convenient, when man has the impression that malchus shamayim is out to promote his every day business, when malchus shamayim is good, is acceptable, from a purely pragmatic or purely utilitarian viewpoint. That is why chazal have always inserted the word ol -- harness. Harness means regardless of the fact that kabalas malchus shamayim is sometimes very uncomfortable and requires of man sacrificial action, and that it is a heavy yoke. It is a yoke, but still the kabala must take place.

What does kabalas ol malchus shamayim require of the lomeid hatorah, person who studies Torah? First, we must pursue the truth, nothing else but the truth; however, the truth in talmud torah can only be achieved through singular halachic Torah thinking, and Torah understanding. The truth is attained from within, in accord with the methodology given to Moses and passed on from generation to generation. The truth can be discovered only by joining the ranks of the chachmei hamesorah [11]. It is ridiculous to say "I have discovered something of which the Rashba didn't know, the Ktzos didn't know, the Vilna Gaon had no knowledge, I have discovered an approach to the interpretation of Torah which is completely new." One must join the ranks of the chachmei hamesorah -- chazal, rishonim, gedolei achronim -- and must not try to rationalize from without the chukei hatorah [12] and must not judge the chukei mishpatim [13] in terms of the secular system of things. Such an attempt, be it historicism, be it psychologism, be it utilitarianism, undermines the very foundations of torah umesorah, and it leads eventually to the most tragic consequences of assimilationism and nihilism, no matter how good the original intentions. Second, we must not yield -- I mean emotionally, it is very important -- we must not feel inferior, experience or develop an inferiority complex, and because of that complex yield to the charm -- usually it is a transient and passing charm -- of modern political and ideological sevoros (logic). I say not only not to compromise -- certainly not to compromise -- but even not to yield emotionally, not to feel inferior, not to experience an inferiority complex. The thought should never occur that it is important to cooperate just a little bit with the modern trend or with the secular, modern philosophy. In my opinion, yehadus (Judaism) does not have to apologize either to the modern woman or to the modern representatives of religious subjectivism. There is no need for apology -- we should have pride in our mesorah, in our heritage. And of course, certainly it goes without saying one must not try to compromise with these cultural trends, and one must not try to gear the halachic norm to the transient ways of a neurotic society, which is what our society is. 

A thought. Kabalas ol malchus shamayim -- which is an identical act with talmud torah -- requires of us to revere and to love and to admire the words of the chachmei hamesorah, be they tannaim, be they amoraim, be they rishonim. This is our prime duty. They are the final authorities, and an irresponsible statement about chazal borders on, I don't like to use the word but according to Maimonides, the heretic. When the Rambam says about tzadukim [14], perek gimmel hilchos t'shuva halachah ches, v'chen hakofer b'perusha v'hu torah she- b'al peh v'hamach'chish magideha k'gon tzadok ubaitos [15] -- it's very strange, I wanted to discuss it with my father zt"l. Whoever denies the truthfulness or the authenticity of the torah she-b'al peh is a tzaduki. Why did he add v'hamach'chish magideha -- whoever denies the authority of the scholars, the chachmei hamesorah? Apparently the Rambam says that under the category of kofrim batorah [16] are classified not only those who deny for instance that nisuch hamayim [17] or avodas beis hamikdash [18] is required, or those who deny the torah she b'al peh -- there is no doubt about it in those cases. But moreover, even those who admit the truthfulness of the torah she b'al peh but who are critical of chachmei chazal as personalities, who find fault with chachmei chazal, fault in their character, their behavior, or their conduct, who say that chachmei chazal were prejudiced, which actually has no impact upon the halachah; nevertheless, he is to be considered as a kofer. V'chen hakofer b'perusha v'hu torah she b'al peh v'hamach'chish magideha; he who denies the perfection and the truthfulness of chachmei chazal -- not of the Torah, but of the chachmei chazal as personalities, as real persona as far as their character, their philosophy, or their outlook on the world is concerned -- is a kofer. Let me add something that is very important: not only the halachos but also the chazakos [19] which chachmei chazal have introduced are indestructible. We must not tamper, not only with the halachos, but even with the chazakos, for the chazakos of which chazal spoke rest not upon transient psychological behavioral patterns, but upon permanent ontological principles rooted in the very depth of the human personality, in the metaphysical human personality, which is as changeless as the heavens above. Let us take for example the chazaka that I was told about: the chazaka tav l'meisiv tan du mil'meisiv armalo [20] has absolutely nothing to do with the social and political status of women in antiquity. This chazaka is based not upon sociological factors, but upon a verse in breishis -- harba arbeh itz'voneich v'heironeich b'etzev teildi vanim v'el isheich t'shukaseich v'hu yimshal bach -- "I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" [21]. It is a metaphysical curse rooted in the feminine personality -- she suffers incomparably more that the male who is in solitude. Solitude to the male is not as terrible an experience, as horrifying an experience, as is solitude to the woman. And this will never change, mayid shamayim vaaretz [22]. This is not a psychological fact; it is an existential fact, which is due not to the inferior status of the woman, but rather to the difference, the basic distinction, between the female personality and the male personality. Loneliness frightens the woman, and an old spinster's life is much more miserable and tragic than the life of an old bachelor. This was true in antiquity; it is still true, and it will be true a thousand years from now. So, to say that tan du mil'meisiv armalo was or is due to the inferior political or social status of the woman is simply misinterpreting the chazaka tan du mil'meisiv armalo. No legislation can alleviate the pain of the single woman, and no legislation can change this role. She was burdened by the Almighty, after she violated the first [law]. Let me ask you a question -- ribono shel olam, G-d Almighty, if you should start modifying and reassessing the chazakos upon which a multitude of halachos rest, you will destroy yehadus. So instead of philosophizing, let us rather light a match and set fire to the beis yisrael, and get rid of our problems.

I also was told that it was recommended that the method afkinu rabanan l'kidushin minei [23] be reintroduced. If this recommendation is accepted, and I hope it will not be accepted, but if it is accepted, then there will be no need for a get. Ha-isha niknes b'shalosh d'rachim: b'kesef b'shtar ub'bia [24], the get of a gerushah (divorced woman) – we will be able to cross out this mishna, this halachah; every rabbi will suspend the kidushin. Why should there be this halachah if such a privilege exists? Why should this privilege be monopolized by rabanus haroshis [25] in eretz yisrael? Why couldn't the Rabbinic Council do just as well as the rabanus haroshis, if the problem is afkinu rabbanan l'kidushin minei? [ribono shel olam], what are you, out to destroy all of it? I will be relieved of two masechtos; I will not have to say shiurim on Gitin and Kidushin, and then Yevamos as well.

I want to be frank and open. Do you expect to survive as Orthodox rabbis? Do you expect to carry on the mesorah under such circumstances? I hope that those who are present will join me in simply objecting to such symposia and to such discussion and debate at the Rabbinical Convention. When I was told about it, I thought, "would it be possible?" I can not imagine at the Republican or Democratic National Convention that they would introduce a symposium on communism and democracy, that perhaps communism should replace democracy in the United States. Could you imagine such a possibility? I could not. There is a certain system of postulates to which people are committed, and such a discussion, for instance at the National Convention of the Republican party, would be outside the system of postulates to which the American people are committed. And to speak about changing the halachos of chazal is, of course, at least as nonsensical as discussions about communism at the Republican National Convention. It is discussing self-destruction, a method of self-destruction and suicide. I know; you don't have to tell it to me -- b'sochacha ani yoshev [26] -- I don't live in an ivory tower or in a fool's paradise. I know that modern life is very complex. I know your problems; many of them are passed on to me. We are confronted with horrible problems -- social, political, cultural, and economic – problems of the family, of the community, and of the society in general. We feel, and I sometimes feel like you, as if we are swimming against the tide; the tide is moving rapidly, with tremendous force, in the direction opposite of the way in which we are going. I feel it; I know it; you don't have to tell it to me. The crowd, the great majority, has deserted us, and cares for nothing. I know the danger of taruvos (mixtures) of weddings, of church weddings, in which a Jew or a Jewess is united in marriage by a priest and some Reform rabbi. We are facing an awesome challenge, and I am mindful of all that. However, if you think that the solution lies in the reformist philosophy, or in an extraneous interpretation of the halachah, you are badly mistaken. It is self-evident -- many problems are unsolvable, you can't help it. For instance, the problem of mamzerim in eretz yisrael [27] -- you can't help it. All we have it the Jewish nachalah (heritage) -- no one can abandon it -- neither me, nor the rav haroshis, nor the rosh hagula [28]. It cannot be abandoned. It is a pasuk in chumash: lo yavo mamzer bi k'hal hashem [29]. It is very tragic, the midrash already spoke about it, for instance [divros hashukim] [30], but it's a reality, a religious reality. If we say to our opponents, or to the dissident Jews, "that is our stand" -- they will dislike us, say that we are inflexible, we are ruthless, we are queer. But they will respect us. However, if you try to cooperate with them, or if halachic schemes are introduced from without, you will not command love, and you will not get their love, and you will certainly lose their respect. That is exactly what happened in eretz yisrael. What can we do? This is toras moshe; this is surrender; this is kabalas ol malchus shamayim. We surrender. The Torah summons the Jew to live halachically. We cannot allow an eishes ish (married woman), no matter how tragic the case, to remarry without a get. We cannot permit a giores [31] to marry a kohein, and sometimes the cases are very tragic, as I know from my own experience. I had a case in Rochester: a gentile girl became a giores before she met the boy. She was a real giores hatzedek; she did not join our fold because she wanted to marry somebody. Then she met a Jewish boy, became . . . He had absolutely no knowledge of yehadus, she brought him close to yehadus. They got engaged, and he visited the cemetery. Since he had come closer to yehadus, he wanted to find out about his family, about his family tree, so he visited the cemetery in which his grandfather was buried, and he saw a strange symbol -- ten fingers [32]. So they began to ask -- they thought it was a mystical symbol, and then they discovered that he is a kohein. What can you do? This is the halachah -- the kohein is assur to the giores. We surrender to the will of the Almighty [33]. On the other hand, to say that the halachah is not sensitive to problems, not responsive to the needs of the people, is an outright falsehood. The halachah is responsive to the needs of both the community and the individual. But the halachah has its own orbit, moves at its own certain definite speed, has its own pattern of responding to a challenge, its own criteria and principles. I come from a rabbinic house; it is called beis harav, the house into which I was born, and believe me, Rav Chaim used to try his best to be a meikil (lenient). However, there were limits even to Rav Chaim's skills. When you reach the boundary line, it is all you can say -- "I surrender to the will of the Almighty." This is a sadness in my heart, and I share in the suffering of the poor woman, who was instrumental in bringing him back to the fold, and then she had to lose him; she lost him; she walked away.

This is why the Rambam says that talmud torah is identical to kabalas ol malchus shamayim, and to speak about halachah as a fossil, rachmana latzlom, is ridiculous. Because we know, those who study halachah know, it is a living, dynamic discipline which was given to man in order to redeem him and to save him. We are opposed to sh'nuim (changes) of course, but chidush [34] is certainly the very essence of halachah. There are no sh'nuim in halachah, but there are great chidushim. But the chidushim are within the system, not from the outside. You cannot psychologize halachah, historicize halachah, or rationalize halachah, because this is something foreign, something extraneous. As a matter of fact, not only halachah -- can you psychologize mathematics? I will ask you a question about mathematics -- let us take Euclidian geometry. I cannot give many psychological reasons why Euclid said two parallels do not cross, or why the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If I were a psychologist I could not interpret it in psychological terms. Would it change the postulate, the mathematical postulate? And when it comes to Torah, which is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, all the instruments of psychology and history, utilitarian morality, are being used to undermine the very authority of the halachah. The human being is invited to be creative, inventive, and engage in inspiring research from within, but not from without. Instead of complaining against the inflexibility of halachah, let us explore its endless spaces, and enjoy talmud torah, and find in talmud torah a redemptive, cathartic, and inspiring reality. That is all I wanted to say; now let us get to the shiur. 


1. Partial transcript of an address of Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchik zt"l to the RCA Convention, 1975, on the topic of gerut. This is a preamble to the shiur. Transcribed by Eitan Fiorino. Thanks to Hillel Becker, Caroline Peyser, and Larry Teitelman for help in deciphering the Rav's accent and/or for help with some of the references. A transcript of part of this talk appeared as "Surrendering to the Almighty" in the magazine Light, 17, Kislev 5736 (1976), p.13. Rather than a reconstruction or summarization of the talk, this is a nearly word-for-word transcript. In this way, there is no question of my interpretations of the Rav's words. However, the patterns of oral discourse are different than those of writing, and that must be kept in mind while reading. Needless to say, all mistakes and errors are my fault. Ellipses ( . . . ) in the text indicate unclear portions of the tape, and brackets ( [ ] ) indicate unclear words.

2. Aveilus is mourning. In 1967, the Rav lost his mother, his wife, and his brother.

3. One who sits and involves himself with Torah, the Divine presence rests with him. I could not find this exact quote. Pirkei Avot 3:6 reads: . . . asara sheyoshvin v'oskin batorah sh'china shruyah . . . uminayin afilu echad? sheneemar b'chol hamakom asher azkir et sh'mi avo eilecha uveirachticha {when ten sit together and involve themselves with Torah, the Divine presence rests with them . . . how do we know it applies to one? For it is said "in every place that my name is remembered, I will come to you and bless you" (Exodus 20:21)}. Brachot 6a reads: uminayin sheafilu echad sheyoshev v'osek batorah shesh'china imo? sheneemar b'chol hamakom asher azkir et sh'mi avo eilecha uveirachticha {and how do you know that even if one sits and is involved in Torah the Divine presence is with him? For it is said "in every place that my name is remembered, I will come to you and bless you" (Exodus 20:21)}. See also Pirkei Avot 3:3.

4. A baal keri is a man who has had a seminal emission. A baal keri must immerse in a mikveh in order to study Torah. This is a takanat Ezra {a decree of Ezra}. The gemera in bava kama (82a) discusses the decrees of Ezra, and states regarding a baal keri (82b) v'tikan t'vilah l'baalei kerain. d'oraita hu dichtiv v'ish ki titzei mimenu shichvat zara v'rachatz bamayim. d'oraita hu l'trumah ukadshim ata hu tikan afilu l'divrei torah. {And he [Ezra] decreed immersion for a baal keri. Is this not from the Torah? As it says, "and if a man has an emission of semen, he shall immerse in water" (Leviticus 15:16). That which is from the Torah applies to the priest's offering and to sacrifices; he [Ezra] came and decreed even for the words of Torah [immersion is needed]}. The gemara in Brachot (20b to 22b) discusses this further, concluding that a baal keri is assur b'divrei torah, forbidden in the words (and in the study) of Torah. 

5. As we learned in a braita: "and you shall make them known to your children and your children's children (Deuteronomy 4:9)," and it is written afterwards, "the day that you stood before the Lord your God in Chorev (Deuteronomy 4:10)." Just as there it was in dread and fear and trembling and quaking, so too in this case it must be in dread and fear and trembling and quaking. Brachot 22a. See also Brachot 21b, Moed Katan 15a. The gemara is connecting the Jews who stood at Mount Sinai with a Jew engaging in talmud torah -- just as those Jews had to stand in dread and fear (thus they were prohibited from cohabitation -- Exodus 14:15), so too a person who studies Torah must be in the proper frame of mind. Thus, the baal keri is prohibited from studying Torah. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 61:1), quoting the Tur quoting Rav Amram gaon , states that such a frame of mind is necessary when fulfilling the mitzvah of kriat shma as well; thus, one must read b'ima b'yira b'retet v'ziya {with dread, with fear, with trembling and quaking}.

6. Ritual impurity. A man who experiences an emission becomes ritually impure and must immerse in a mikveh (see note 4); however, being ritually impure does not cause a prohibition of talmud torah. Brachot 22a states tanya: rav yehuda ben batira omer ein divrei torah m'kablin tumah {we learned in a braita: R. Yehuda ben Batira says the words of Torah do not accept ritual impurity}. See also Mishneh Torah Hilchot Kriat Shma 4:8, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 88.

7. See "Torah and Humility" in Shiurei haRav, A Conspectus of the Public Lectures of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (NY: Hamevaser-Yeshiva University/Tova Press, 1974) p.34-37. A summary of the Rav's yahrzeit shiur delivered March 5, 1971.

8. Accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is fulfilled with the first verse of shma -- Hear Israel, the Lord is your G-d, the Lord is One (Deuteronomy 6:4) -- see Brachot 13a/b, Mishneh Torah Hilchot Kriat Shma 2:1, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 60:5 and the Mishnah Brura there. The Rav discusses this in Shiurim l'Zecher Avi Mori zt"l volume 1, p.20-39.

9. Why was the section of "hear" (shma) placed before the section of "and it shall come to pass" (v'haya im shamoa)? So that one should accept the yoke of the Kingdom of heaven first. Brachot 13a (mishna 2:1).

10. Love, fear, and study, and the study of Torah is the fundamental principle upon which everything is based. Based on Mishneh Torah Hilchot Kriat Shma 1:2, which reads umakdimin likrot parshat shma mipnei sheyeish bah yichud hasem, v'ahavato, v'talmudo, shehu ha-ikar hagadol shehakol taluy bo {we begin with the section "Hear" (shma) because it contains the unity of G-d, and love, and study, which is the fundamental principle upon which everything is based}. Possibly, the Rav quoted "ahavato v'yirato v'talmudo" from another source, but I was unable to locate it.

11. The Sages of the tradition. Included in this term, in chronological order, are: chazal, the Sages of the Talmud, divided into tanaim, the sages of the mishna (200 BCE to 200 CE) and amoraim, the sages of the gemara (200 CE to 500 CE); the geonim, the gifted ones (600 to 1000); the rishonim, the first or early ones (1000 to 1500); and the achronim, the later ones (1500 to the present).

12. The laws of the Torah for which no explanation is given.

13. The laws of judgments.

14. Sadducees. A priestly sect active during Second Temple times, which denied the validity of the Oral Law.

15. [Three are deniers of the Torah . . . ] one who denies the explanations [of Torah] -- the Oral Torah, and one who denies the authority of the Sages, for example Tzadok and Baitos. Mishneh Torah hilchot t'shuvah 3:8. Tzadok was the founder of the Sadducees, and Baitos the founder of the Boethusians, a similar sect. See Avot d'Rabi Natan 5.

16. Deniers of the Torah, a class of heretic.

17. Pouring of the waters; part of the ceremony for the sacrifices in the Temple.

18. Service of the Temple; the sacrificial rites.

19. Statements about human nature which have halachic ramifications stated by the Sages and recorded in the Talmud.

20. It is better to live two together than to live alone (Rashi defines tan du as "two bodies"); or, It is better to live in trouble than to live alone (Jastrow defines tan du as "in trouble"). Yevamot 118b; Ketubot 75a; Kidushin 7a, 41a; Bava Kama 111a. R. Emanuel Rackman had stated or written that this Talmudic dictum does not apply anymore.

21. Genesis 3:16.

22. Heaven and Earth are witnesses.

23. Afterwards the Rabbis can take the marriage away from him. Yevamot 90b, 110a; Ketubot 3a; Gitin 33a, 73a; Bava Batra 48b. This is the retroactive annulment of a marriage discussed in the gemara as applicable in the case that a man sends a get {religious divorce} by messenger, then cancels it while it is on route to his wife. Thus, the get is canceled, but the wife has no way of knowing, so she will think she is free to marry another person when in fact she is still married and thus may not remarry. In this circumstance, the Sages discussed the possibility of retroactively dissolving the marriage. The retroactive
annulment of the marriage had been proposed as a possible solution to the problem of agunot, those women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get.

24. A woman may be acquired in three ways: through money, through a document, or through cohabitation. Based on the first mishna in Kidushin (2a), which reads ha-isha niknet b'shalosh d'rachim, v'kona et atzma bish'tei d'rachim. niknet b'kesef b'shtar uv'via {a woman may be acquired three ways, and she acquires herself [back] in two ways. She may be acquired through money, through a document, or through cohabitation}.

25 The Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.

26. Amongst you I dwell.

27. A mamzer is the offspring of a forbidden union, loosely translated as bastard (the JPS Tanakh translates it as "misbegotten"). A mamzer may not marry a Jew, and mamzerut, the status of mamzer, is passed on to one's children for all generations. See Sefer haMitzvot, negative commandments 353 and 354. For contemporary halachic issues involving mamzerut, see R. J. D. Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. I, (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1977), p. 159-173.

28. The head (the leading rabbi) of the diaspora; this position existed in ancient times.

29. A mamzer shall not enter the congregation of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:3.

30. The Rav quotes the first few words of a midrash, but the tape is unclear. He may have been referring Kohelet Rabah 4:10, which, in discussing mamzerim, asks zeh mah chatah v'zeh mah ichpat lei? {what sin has he done and what concern is it of his?} See also Vayikra Rabah (parshat emor) 32:8. The midrash is concerned with the understanding how the children seem to be held responsible for the acts of the parents. In Moreh Nevuchim 3:49, the Rambam answers this question: in order to create a horror of illicit marriages, the Torah taught that those involved in such unions will bring irreparable injury upon their offspring.

31. A female convert. A kohein {priest} is prohibited from marrying certain women, including a divorced woman and a convert. See Leviticus 21:7 and 26:7, and the Sefer haMitzvot, negative commandments 158 to 162.

32. Symbolic of the raised hands of the kohein when he is performing the Priestly Blessing. This indicates that his paternal grandfather was a kohein, therefore he is a kohein.

33. This idea is also explored in "Surrendering our Minds to G-d," in Reflections of the Rav by R. Abraham R. Besdin (Jerusalem: World Zionist Organization, 1979; now distributed by Ktav, Hoboken, NJ). p99-106.

34. Innovation. The gemara in Chagigah (3a) states i efshar l'beit hamidrash b'lo chidush {there is no house of study without innovation}. In Halakhic Man (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1983), the Rav discusses the importance of chidush in the world view of halachah (see especially Part Two): "The power of creative interpretation (chiddush) is the very foundation of the received tradition." p.81. "Halakhic man is a man who longs to create, to bring into being something new, something original. The study of Torah, by definition, means gleaning new, creative insights from the Torah (chidushei Torah)." p.99.