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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And all the people saw the sounds

An apropos Shavuot vort by Rabbi Chanan Morrison: (from here)

"And all the people saw the sounds ..."[Ex. 20:15].

The Midrash calls our attention to an amazing aspect of the revelation at Sinai: the Jewish people were able to see what is normally only heard. What does this mean?

At their source, sound and sight are united. Only in our limited, physical world, in this "alma deperuda" (disjointed world), are these phenomena disconnected and detached. It is similar to our perception of lightning and thunder, which become increasingly separated from one another as the observer is more distanced from the source.

If we are bound and limited to the current framework, if we can only perceive the universe through the viewpoint of the temporal and the material, then we will always be aware of the divide between sight and sound. The prophetic vision at Mount Sinai, however, granted the people a unique perspective, as if they were standing near the source of Creation. From that vantage point, they were able to witness the underlying unity of the universe. They were capable of seeing sounds and hearing sights. God's revelation at Sinai was registered by all their senses simultaneously, as a single, undivided perception.

[adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah p. 491]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt"l on religious tolerance

We live in an age where, more and more, people speak in absolutes. As is common on the j-blogs, each person entrenches themselves in their position and the end of winning the debate wipe out any shred of nuance in the discussion and any respect for the other side to disagree. I am as guilty of this as anyone else [except for S. who seems to have a superhuman ability to always see the nuances in the issues] and often take positions aimed more at winning the debate than arriving at truth. Sometimes it is useful to stop and remember that all fellow Jews who learn the Torah Lishma, from the students of Rav Soloveitchik to the Satmar Chassidim, are entitled to follow those hashkafos and halachos which they received from their rabbis and gedolim. Often time one feels extreme anxiety when one hears Torah opinions which are anathema to their own subjective perspective. The mature mind, however, remembers that Hashem is running the show and whether or not you will convince this one person is unlikely to change the path of history. Actually, often the heated debate serves to clarify your own positions in a better light. Thus, I was delighted to find the following teshuva by Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt"l. Unlike some of the other teshuvas I have seen on the topic of the heter mechira, Rav Moshe's derech baKodesh stands out as a beacon of tolerance in an increasingly hostile world where the quest for truth is often used as an excuse to break the peace:
Here is the teshuva in question (Iggrot Moshe, O"H 1,186):

Regarding the etrogim imported from Eretz Yisrael this year, the end of 5712 [1952] - a Sabbatical year, as prescribed by the Chief Rabbinate: This rabbinic court allows for the sale [of Jewish lands] to a Gentile, a heter that many rabbis disapprove of. Do the ones who follow the more stringent view need to worry about failing to fulfill the mitzvah [of the Four Species] or reciting a blessing [over such etrogim]? ...

The prohibitions of [placing an obstacle] before the blind and abetting a sinner clearly do not apply, because [the farmers] act in accordance with [their rabbis'] instructions. For, someone who follows [his rabbi's] instructions does no sin whatsoever, even if the halacha is contrary to [that rabbi's opinion], as long as all of the generation's scholars have not convened and established the halacha otherwise. Accordingly, [the residents of] R. Yossi HaGalilee's town did nothing wrong by eating fowl and milk together (see Shabbat 130a). And those who followed R. Eliezer's rulings were even rewarded for fashioning a knife on the Sabbath for the sake of circumcision, even though the true halacha is that one who does so deserves death by stoning. Therefore, it makes no sense whatsoever to penalize [the farmers or say that one who buys from them] is abetting sinners...

May we merit such leaders as Rav Moshe speedily in our day.

Well, it ain't cold turkey, but i'll take it anyway

JoeSettler reports some good news:

Apparently, this is the last year Israel will receive any economic aid from the USA. I have not verified this but I certainly hope it is true. Time to stop leaning on the Kaneh Ratzutz.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The bigger picture

Sometime we have to stop and see the bigger picture.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Land for peace II

For all those j-bloggsters who tend to follow Rav Soloveitchik's Zt"l assertion that the issur of giving land to our enemies can be overturned if the expert generals give their blessing (**cough** Gil **cough**), you might be interested in reading about the speech the previous chief of staff of the Israeli army just gave in New York.

Of course those of us who follow the derech of Rav Kook Zt"l (and the minchat chinuch) already understood the impossibility of concessions leading to "peace." But sometimes it is a worthy endeavor to confront those with whom you disagree with arguments formulated using their own basic assumptions.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Two types of guarding of the tongue

Rabbi Chanan Morrison has a website where he adapts the Torah of Maran HaRav Kook Ttvk"l into the English language. The whole website is excellent and I highly recommend for everyone to visit it. I would like to post the adaptation of Rav Kook's comments on Psalm 34 in Olat Re'iyah. (I feel this is particularly relevant to the world of Jblogs where many people are not as careful about the quality of their speech as they should be):

How does one live a good life? The psalmist reveals the secret to good living:
"Who is the person who desires life, who loves days to see good? Watch your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." [Psalm 34:13-15]

The recipe for good living, the psalm teaches, lies in good speech. Why does speech play such a critical role?

Two Worlds

We live in two worlds. The first is the outer world, consisting of our various needs and activities, both as individuals and as members of society. The second world is our inner life, a sublime realm of holiness and purity. The psalm appears to be repetitive because it relates to both of these aspects of life.

"Who desires life?" This refers to our inner world, a realm of life itself, unrestrained by the framework of time. "Loving days to see good," on the other hand, refers to our outer world of beneficial activities that we perform over the years. Like an outer peel protecting the inner fruit, these actions are means to a goal; they acquire meaning as they lead towards their ultimate objective. Thus, the verse refers to our natural desire for purity and goodness of life in both aspects: our inner world of life itself, and longevity of days to allow us to perform many actions benefiting the world.

Inner and Outer Speech

Just as we live in two realms, so too, we have a form of speech for each realm. One is directed inwards, while the other is directed outwards for interpersonal relations. Our inner speech is connected to spiritual values, such as prayer and Torah study. (The mitzvah of Torah study is only truly performed when it is verbalized. See Eiruvin 53b; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 47:4.) Our outer speech, on the other hand, is verbal communication for the sake of fulfilling our various needs, both personal and social.

The two phrases, guarding the "tongue from evil" and "lips from speaking guile," correspond to these two forms of speech. The tongue and lips are the principle organs used to form words. The tongue, situated inside the mouth, is a metaphor for our elevated, inner speech; while the lips, located outside the mouth, represent our practical, external speech.

We need to be careful in both types of speech. We protect our inner life by watching over the tongue, the faculty of inner speech. This form of speech needs to be protected from evil itself, by avoiding the expression of spiritually-damaging thoughts and concepts. "Watch your tongue from evil." Thus, the Torah prohibits even mentioning the names of idolatry [Ex. 23:13]. When we carefully guard our inner speech, our soul preserves its pristine purity, and our spirit retains the energy needed to perform beneficial actions. By guarding the tongue, we "avoid evil and (are free to) do good."

The faculty of external speech, represented by the lips, is used primarily for interpersonal relations. The psalmist warns us to guard our "lips from speaking guile," for if we do not properly restrain our external speech, our social interactions will be contaminated by guile and deception. But when we watch over this form of speech, then we may attain social harmony and peace — "seek peace and pursue it."

[adapted from Olat Re'iyah vol. II pp. 65-66]

Friday, May 05, 2006

They must be scared

Wow! I knew they would punish the soldier who refused to shake the hand of generalissimo Halutz, but I had no idea how far they would go.

In a quick kangaroo court the army prosecutor took away the soldier's $1,500 prize as well as the award. They then removed him from his unit and took away his ability to serve as an officer in the army.

Keep in mind, that there are no army protocols which demand that the soldier shake thee hand of the top general nor was such an order ever given. And Dayan did salute Halutz as army regulations require.

My eyebrows are raised when even a decorated lefty such as MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) declares that the punishment is totally out of proportion.

So what is happening here? Certain people are VERY scared that the RZ community is showing the budding signs of leadership. They are VERY scared that they are slowly losing their oligarchy. What we are witnessing is a realigning of the Israeli political world. What used to be a left/right division is becoming a religious/secular one. Shimon Peres declared that Kadima and Labor should join into one party since there is really no difference between the two. He is right. Kadima is the new Mapai, a bully with more of a hunger for power than an ideology. The RZ are the new Cheirut party. It took 30 years for Menachem Begin to break the Mapai oligarchy only to lead the path for the likud to become the new Mapai. Let's hope it takes less time for us to break the new/old ruling regime.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Yashar Koach

On this independence day, one soldier exhibited spiritual independence of the highest order in publicly refusing to honor those forces which advance the distruction of our people, its all over the Israel newspapers, below is the story from Arutz 7:

One of the soldiers officially recognized today for outstanding soldiery refused to shake the hand of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Dan Halutz at the award ceremony in the President's Residence in Jerusalem. The reason for his refusal, the soldier explained, was the fact that members of his family were among those uprooted by the army from their homes in Gush Katif last August. The soldier, Staff Sergeant Hananel Dayan, is a tank driver in the Northern Command and a resident of the Binyamin region town of Psagot.

During the ceremony, at the time the Chief of Staff was handing the soldiers their awards, St. Sgt. Dayan informed Lt. Gen. Halutz that he was not able to shake the commander's hand, as would be customary. In reply to a direct question from President Moshe Katzav about his refusal, Dayan replied, "My family was expelled from Gush Katif." After an uncomfortable moment, St. Sgt. Dayan saluted Chief of Staff Halutz and descended from the dais.

After the ceremony, the Head of IDF Personnel, Major General Elazar Stern, chastised the young soldier and insisted that he apologize to Lt. Gen. Halutz. Dayan explained that seeing Halutz reminded him of the tractors and bulldozers demolishing his grandfather's home and he adamantly refused to apologize.