Monday, March 23, 2015

The End, For Now


It is with a great deal of regret that I announce that I do not expect to send out daily Torah Thought and daily Jewish Law emails in the foreseeable future.

I began sending out these emails in 1997, and I am grateful to those who have been with me since those days when this was a local email list confined to the Jewish community of Pawtucket/Providence, Rhode Island, as well as to those who joined more recently. I have enjoyed our on-line and off-line exchanges, and I have benefited from the pressure to come up with a new email each day. Some of these posts have come at sensitive times in my life, and have offered a chance to express what was on my mind. Some have just been whatever I opened up to that day. Some have been from source sheets for my classes. I take some pride in noting that there are more than 2,000 posts in each of my daily blogs, and the great, great majority are not duplicates.

However: at this stage in life I feel a strong need to impose strict priorities on how I use my time, in order to improve my chances of accomplishing some of the goals I have set for myself.

I am not going anywhere; I am still reachable by email, and I hope that the fact that I won't be in your Inbox each morning won't lead you to forget me. And who knows? Perhaps there will come a time when I will come back to this. I intend to leave these sites on-line; at the least, they may be useful for people who are researching a particular idea or law.

Thank you for reading, and please keep in touch,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Bond Between Gd, Moshe and Yehoshua


"'As Gd instructed His servant Moshe, so Moshe instructed Yehoshua and so Yehoshua did; he did not remove anything of what Gd had instructed Moshe. (Yehoshua 11:15)'

"It does not say 'of what Moshe had instructed him,' but 'of what Gd had instructed Moshe.' Even regarding that which he did not hear from Moshe, Yehoshua's mind matched that which had been told to Moshe at Sinai."

(Talmud Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1)

Have a great day,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reciprocal kindness


"One who eulogizes others – others will eulogize him. One who buries others – others will bury him. One who carries others – others will carry him. One who elevates his voice [in eulogy] – others will elevate their voices for him."

(Talmud, Moed Katan 28b)

Have a great day,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Goals of Rambam and Rabbi Yehudah haLevi


"Maimonides and Halevi both engaged in religious and social criticism. Maimonides lashes out against the idolatrous tendencies of popular religion, whereas Halevi engaged in social criticism that is surprisingly candid in its treatment of instances of Jewish hypocrisy. Both, however, aim to strengthen religious commitment. In contrast, the theological-political project of Spinoza, like that of Hobbes before him, includes a critique of religion that aims to eradicate its institutional structure. Ultimately, Maimonides accepte the responsibility of Jewish communal leadership, while Spinoza left the Jewish community."

(Prof. Menachem Lorberbaum, Medieval Jewish Political Thought, Medieval Jewish Philosophy pg. 194)

Have a great day,

Monday, March 9, 2015

Insincere conversion to Judaism?


"One who converts in order to partake of a royal table, or to be among Solomon's servants, is not a valid convert, per Rabbi Nechemiah. For Rabbi Nechemiah said: Those who have converted for fear of wild animals or due to dreams, and those who converted in the days of Mordechai and Esther, are not valid converts…

"Rav said: The law follows the view that they are all valid converts [after the fact]."

(Talmud, Yevamot 24b)

Have a great day,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Joy of Purim


On Purim:

"As physical life was threatened here and physical life saved, so, apart from the public recital of the story handed down to us perpetuating the event, Purim stresses the enjoyment of festivities, mutual gifts and consideration for our poorer brethren.

"Together with this we should joyfully remember how our life was given to us again, and in this feeling of joy we should each revive the spirit of our common brotherhood and give it greater scope by bringing cheer to our less fortunate ones."

(Rabbi Samshon Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, paragraph 247)

Have a great day,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Queen Esther's Strategy


"The sages taught: Why did Esther invite Haman to her meal with Achashverosh?

"R' Eliezer: She planted a trap for him, as it is written (Psalms 69), 'May your table be a trap before them.'

"R' Yehoshua: While in her father's household, she learned that it is written, 'If your enemy hungers, give him bread.'

"R' Meir: So that Haman wouldn't consult his advisors and plot a rebellion against Achashverosh (as he would think everything was fine).

"R' Yehudah: So they shouldn't realize she was Jewish.

"R' Nechemiah: So the Jews wouldn't rely on having a sister of theirs in the palace, and stop praying to Gd for mercy.

"R' Yosi: So that Haman would be before her (in the presence of the king, and she could make him stumble).

"R' Shimon ben Minasya: Perhaps Gd would see the depths to which she had to stoop, and have mercy and perform a miracle.

"R' Yehoshua ben Karcha: I'll be friendly to him before the king, and the king will kill both of us.

"Rabban Gamliel: Achashverosh was whimsical (and might change his mind if it would take time to carry out his decree).

"Rabban Gamliel said: We still require the words of Moda'i, as it is taught: R' Eliezer haModai said: To cause jealousy of Haman from both the King and his other officers.

"Rabbah said: It is written (Proverbs 16), 'Arrogance comes before one is broken.'

"Abayye and Rava said: It is written (Jeremiah 51), 'In anger I will set their feasts (punishment will come at their feasts).'

"Rabbah bar Avuha encountered Eliyahu (the Prophet), and asked: Which explanation is the one which Esther saw, which motivated her to do this?

"He replied: Esther saw all of the rationales of these various sages."

(Talmud, Megilah 15b)

Have a great day,