Monday, May 20, 2019

Divrei Torah

Nature Includes Miracles

R. Arama summarizes the 15th sha’ar with a proposition whose importance I have found increasingly clear in the past few years, nature includes miracles [this is the reverse of the rationalist idea everything which looks miraculous to us is actually natural; it means nature includes much more than the ordinary patterns we see,

The Rainbow and the Flood

R. Arama starts the fourteenth sha’ar with several statements from Chaza”l about how Jews should react upon seeing a rainbow, such as the blessing Berachot 59a prescribes to recite. As is his way, he will move off to other topics and work his way back here, but I wanted us to remember where he’s headed.

Sefiras HaOmer: Building Our Character

I took my children to an indoor video game arcade on a rainy day of Chol Hamoed. Most of the people there were children and teenagers, but two people really caught my attention. One was an elderly man playing video games all alone in a motorized wheelchair with an oxygen tank. The second was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, accompanying her

The Educating Plagues

After his long introduction, R. Arama addresses the verses in order, to show how his reading fits the way the Torah tells the story. I will try to avoid repetition, share only the points that strike me as new. It does mean I will jump around, skipping repeat or more minor points. Discontinuity is my

Well, Bless My Soul Times Two 

Hachodesh - 5779

One of the more pleasant aspects of retiring and living in Jerusalem, is that my wife and I have begun celebrating Rosh Chodesh. Rivka comes with me to a shul, where they know how to sing Hallel.

Moshe Put the World in Its Place, as Did the Flood

Last time, we saw Rabbi Arama discuss the attempts of other Jewish thinkers to rationalize certain miracles, partially because they could not accept later prophets would outdo Moshe Rabbeinu. We have already reviewed one of Rabbi Arama’s replies, where he counters that miracles do not show the greatness

Lots and Lots: Purim 5779

Did you ever buy a lottery ticket? I did a few times. I never won anything, but I felt like the dollar spent was worth the visions in my brain about how to spend the loot. The dreams were never about luxury cars or yachts. They were always about financial security for my family and educational institutions

Noach Saves the World

Noach Redoes Adam

The framework Rabbi Arama used for the story of Adam, Kayin, Hevel and then Shet (who Rabbi Arama thinks combined the best qualities of Kayin and Hevel) repeats itself with Noach. As he was the

The Shining: Pekudei 5779

There are movie stars who transmit this feeling that they’re really nice people. Sadly, that often means that they’re just good actors. Chris Pratt from “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and the reboot of the “Jurassic Park” series is one such person, but in his case, I think that he’s truly a nice guy. He was on Stephen

Pikudei: Why Nisan, why Yitzchak and why Moshe?

Generally, we do not delay the performance of a mitzvah. For this reason, parshat Pikudei is problematic. In this parsha, Hashem informs Moshe that the final assembly of the Mishkan would take place on the first day of Nisan. In Shemot (52:2), the Midrash Rabbah teaches us that the Mishkan was ready to be assembled some three and a half

The Definitions of Good People

With the upcoming Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni (which means Purim and then Pesach), I want to mention, “As If We Were There,” a book I published three years ago. It’s a set of daily readings, starting with Rosh Chodesh Nisan taking us through the end of Pesach which I honestly believe will reshape a reader’s experience of the holiday and

Follow the Crowd: Ki Tisa 5779

The late author Michael Crichton was famous for many things, including being the tallest writer in captivity at 2.06m (6 foot 9). But his greatest claim to fame was taking cutting-edge technology and making it absolutely terrifying, like space exploration in the Andromeda

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