17 mayo 2017

True love

"9. The thirteen articles of Maimonides, in setting forth a Jewish Credo, formed a vigorous opposition to the Christian and Mohammedan creeds; they therefore met almost universal acceptance among the Jewish people, and were given a place in the common prayerbook, in spite of their deficiencies, as shown by Crescas and his school. Nevertheless, we must admit that Crescas shows the deeper insight into the nature of religion when he observes that the main fallacy of the Maimonidean system lies in founding the Jewish faith on speculative knowledge, which is a matter of the intellect, rather than love which flows from the heart, and which alone leads to piety and goodness. True love, he says, requires the belief neither in retribution nor in immortality. Moreover, in striking contrast to the insistence of Maimonides or the immutability of the Mosaic Law, Crescas maintains the possibility of its continuous progress in accordance with the intellectual and spiritual needs of the time, or, what amounts to the same thing, the continuous perfectibility of the revealed Law itself. Thus the criticism of Crescas leads at once to a radically different theology than that of Maimonides, and one which appeals far more to our own religious thought.
10. Another doctrine of Judaism, which was greatly underrated by medieval scholars, and which has been emphasized in modern times only in contrast to the Christian theory of original sin, is that man was created in the image of God. Judaism holds that the soul of man came forth pure from the hand of its Maker, endowed with freedom, unsullied by any inherent evil or inherited sin. Thus man is, through the exercise of his own free will, capable of attaining to an ever higher degree his mental, moral, and spiritual powers in the course of history. This is the Biblical idea of God's spirit as immanent in man; all prophetic truth is based upon it; and though it was often obscured, this theory was voiced by many of the masters of Rabbinical lore, such as R. Akiba and others."

Chapter IV. The Jewish Articles of Faith
Jewish Theology by Kaufmann Kohler

03 septiembre 2016

Menuchat Ha'Nefesh -

What guidance does our Jewish tradition offer in the way of inner calmness?
In his letter to his son, Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (the Ramban) advises: "distance yourself from anger." And in the Orchos Chaim [Ways of Life] of the Rosh, we are advised, "distance yourself from pride." This phrase, "distance yourself," shows up elsewhere as well. We are surely not being told never to be angry, proud, jealous, etc., because Mussar teachers consistently assert that this would be an unrealistic goal -- everyone experiences the full range of inner states, and in and of themselves, every inner trait is neither good nor bad. More important is how we respond to what we feel.
"Distance yourself," then, can mean only two things. Either we are to stay physically far from people who are angry, proud, etc., or we are being directed to develop some kind of inner distance from the experience of our own anger, pride, and other incendiary middot.
Although there are definitely times when we ought to stand away from powerful outer forces, we should be less concerned about falling under external influences than we should the impulses that arise in us. We are solely responsible for the powerful inner forces that can lead us astray and so these are our first priority. The guidance we are being given here is to cultivate an inner attitude that creates some distance between the stimulus that comes at us and our reactions to it. We make this space by cultivating an inner stance as witness.
When you have a strong inner witness, outer influences are seen for what they are and that will help you keep from being infected by sentiments that swirl around you. That same inner faculty also keeps you from being pushed around by the forces that arise within you -- the distanced witness is not susceptible to the tides of doubt, temptation, jealousy, etc., that wash through the interior world.
Do we still face real struggles? Yes. Do the consequences matter? Yes. Do we still feel the full range of human emotions and drives? Yes. In other words, every aspect of your current life is real and important. You would be wise to embrace it because it's your curriculum. But cultivate the witness who will make you the master of the inner realm and not the victim.
The most touted way to cultivate an inner witness is through meditation. While sitting still and silent, many inner states will arise, and over time you can get quite good at living in their presence without feeling that you are a slave to any of them, whether repugnant or alluring.
I'd like to offer another way to practice to the same end, one that encourages the experience of the witness in every context in which you might find yourself. Rabbi Steinsaltz describes the Jewish spiritual experience as a constant beckoning to the light. If we take that word "constant" seriously, then the light we seek must be present at all times and in all situations, no matter how murky or even dark they appear to us.
It is the job of the witness to keep an eye out for that light. When you realize that, and assign this task to the inner witness, and strengthen that practice, then over time you will grow to be increasingly aware of the radiant Presence that is a constant in the ever-shifting contexts in which you live.
An inner eye connected to the constant light won't give you a life of fewer challenges and struggles, but it will give you equanimity from which to engage and triumph. It's hard to imagine a better way to be as you take on the trials that come your way. Perhaps that is why the Alter of the Kelm school of Mussar tells us: "A person who has mastered peace of mind has gained everything."

From "Everyday Holiness" pp.104-106, by Alan Morinis
© Alan Morinis


אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי בחוקותי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם
If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them
Leviticus - Chapter 26:3

26 octubre 2015

About love: love of delight vs. love of desire (Chasidic thought by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz)

Long Shorter Way : Discourses on Chasidic Thought [Adin Steinsaltz]
Chapter Nine. The animal soul

07 octubre 2015

Ona'at devarim (oppression by means of words - verbal abuse)

Bava Metzia 58b

The Mishnah teaches that ona'ah - a term that we have defined as "unfair business transactions" applies not only to buying and selling, but to other areas of personal interaction, as well. Thus, it is prohibited for a person to ask a shopkeeper for the price of an object that he has no interest in purchasing. This ona'at devarim applies in a range of other situations, as well - the Mishnah includes reminding a ba'al teshuvah (a penitent) of his earlier sins, or the child of a convert of the sins of his parents. According to the Me'iri, the main concept of ona'at devarim is the emotional pain and suffering that one person causes to another, whose linguistic root can be found in a passage in Yeshayahu (49:21). As we have seen, the Mishnah opens by describing a case of ona'at devarim that is connected with a commercial transaction, but then continues by including personal matters in this category, as well. The baraita quoted by the Gemara assigns a passage in Vayikra (25:14) as the source for ordinary, commercial, ona'ah, and a later pasuk, or verse (Vayikra 25:17) as the source for ona'at devarim. Rabbi Yohanan quotes Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai as teaching that ona'at devarim is the more severe of the two, since the Torah includes a comment that "you should fear God" in the passage from which we learn ona'at devarim. The Maharsha explains that this may stem from the fact that a person who is committing ona'at devarim will often deny the accusation, showing that he fears his fellow man - who cannot know his true intention - more than he fears God, who certainly knows what truly is his intent. Sages in the Gemara are quoted as pointing to a number of reasons that ona'at devarim is considered so severe - Rabbi Elazar suggests that it is the difference between making the individual suffer personally or making his money suffer; Rabbi Shmu'el bar Nahmani argues that money can always be returned, but ona'at devarim cannot be undone.
This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.  To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.
 Copyright 2015 ©The Aleph Society. All rights reserved. 25 West 45th Street, Suite 1405, New York, NY 10036| Phone: 212-840-1166 | E-mail:info@steinsaltz.org

17 mayo 2015


"Il popolo, vedendo che Mose tardava a scendere dalla montagna, si affollo attorno ad Aronne e gli disse:'Facci un Dio che camini alla nostra testa'..."(Es 32:1)

Titolo: Le dieci parole. Il Decalogo riletto e commentato dai Maestri ebrei antichi e moderni
Autore: Ouaknin Marc-Alain

27 febrero 2015

Purim, the Bible, and a Vengeful God

From: http://www.reformjudaism.org/print/116526

Cruelty and bloodshed abound in the Bible as, for example, the Pharaoh's ruthless treatment of his Israelite slaves and Moses' vengeful slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster in the Passover story. But one biblical story in particular dismayed theologian Martin Buber: the prophet Samuel's vengeful killing of Agag, king of the Amalekites. In I Samuel 15:3, God commands King Saul to kill all the Amalekites, "men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." Saul proceeds to kill the Amalekites, the eternal enemies of Israel, but chooses to spare Agag. In response, the prophet Samuel travels to Saul's camp, interrupts the victory celebration, denounces Saul for allowing Agag to live, and then savagely slays the Amalekite king.
What bothered Buber most was the reason Samuel gives for his slaying of Agag: God commanded the slaughter of all the Amalekites.
The portrayal of a vengeful God full of wrath has led many people to reject the Bible as the fountainhead of faith. Buber himself was moving in that direction when he experienced a chance encounter with an old Orthodox Jew on a train. Buber told him of being very troubled by this episode. He admitted that he did not believe that God had commanded Saul to kill every Amalekite. The old man responded in a gruff tone:
"So, you do not believe it?" "No," I answered, "I do not believe it." "What do you believe then?" "I believe," I replied without reflecting, "that Samuel has misunderstood God." And he again slowly but more softly than before: "So? You do not believe that?" And I: "Yes." Then we were both silent. But now something happened….The angry countenance opposite me became transformed…."Well," said the man with a positively gentle tender clarity, "I think so too." [Martin Buber, Autographical Fragments]
Buber concluded: "An observant Jew…when he has to choose between God and the Bible, chooses God."
What a magnificent declaration of faith! Buber understood that those who recorded and preserved our sacred texts were human beings, fallible mortals who may have occasionally misunderstood the biblical intent. "Nothing," Buber declared, "can make me believe in a God who punishes Saul because he did not murder his enemy."
Did Samuel indeed kill Agag at the command of God? Or is it possible that a zealous scribe, one who might have had reason to despise the memory of the cruel Amalekites whose treachery had gone back to the days of Moses (Deut. 25:17), believed that Samuel would have hacked Agag to pieces?
A Talmudic story relating to Purim (during which time we read the Saul, Samuel, and Agag account) sheds additional light on the matter.
Rabba and Rabbi Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They got drunk and Rabba arose and killed Rabbi Zera. On the following day, he prayed for mercy, and Rabbi Zera revived.
For those who think our Talmudic sages lacked senses of humor, the story continues:
The next year Rabba said: "Sir, shall we get together for the Purim feast again?" Rabbi Zera answered: "One cannot depend on the regular occurrence of miracles."
Did one of the greatest sages of fourth-century Babylonia really murder a colleague? Incredulous that a great teacher of Torah would act like a drunken hooligan, the 17th-century Venetian scholar Rabbi Azariah Figo inquired:
How is it possible to establish a celebration and the remembrance of God's miracle on the kind of drunkenness that would cause a person to lose the power of common sense and judgment which are the essence of our humanity, the kind of drunkenness that can lead to injury?
Figo went on to contrast the performance of mitzvot, such as eating matzah and bitter herbs on Passover, which are intended to increase our understanding of God's miracles, with that of drinking excessively on Purim, which would decrease our understanding of the miraculous process by which God switches the fates of Haman and Mordecai-vizier Haman to the gallows and the Jew Mordecai to royal purple. For Figo, therefore, the mitzvah of imbibing on Purim has a limit-just up to that point when the distinction between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai" begins to blur.
Returning to the incident of Rabba killing Rabbi Zera, Figo asserts that as the two men argued, Rabba did not destroy Rabbi Zera physically but intellectually. Indeed, the more wine they drank, the more vehement and confused they became, until Rabba finally demolished Zera.
The next day, again according to Figo's reconstruction of the story, Rabba felt so badly about how he had treated his friend, he went to Rabbi Zera's home and apologized. This apology revived Rabbi Zera's spirits, but not so thoroughly that he was willing to chance being similarly annihilated the subsequent year.
It is notable that Azariah Figo, a traditional interpreter, would have had the temerity to disagree with the clear text of this Talmudic story, ruling out homicide because such an act offended his ethical sensibilities.
The person of faith must resolve for her or himself the tension between the word of God and that word as transcribed in our sacred texts by human beings. Like Figo, Martin Buber was able to keep his faith by rejecting a text which he considered to be in conflict with the will of the God who commanded that we be holy as God is holy. A truly believing Jew who has to choose between a time-hallowed text and God will choose the God whom she or he seeks to humbly imitate.

Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin is a past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the author of several books and numerous articles on Jewish practices. This article is adapted from an essay in his book, And Turn it Again. His latest book is Uncle Sol's Women .