Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Divrei Torah

Two Kinds of Knowledge of Hashem

R. Arama introduces his readings of sections of the Torah with long theoretical discussions. Those have often been rich enough to make his textual readings of the actual parsha almost redundant, and I have often taken only snippets.

In this sha’ar, R. Arama offers a rich reading of Avraham’s

Yom Yerushalayim: A City of Magnets

The Book of Bereishit portrays three vastly different visits to Yerushalayim. Avraham first encounters this city after intervening in a raging world war. Years later, an acquiescent Avraham and his son voyage to the mountain to execute the Divine command and perform the akeidah. Finally, Yaakov flees his murderous brother and

Remembering Hashem’s Beneficial Control

Many times when I drive from a meeting or an errand and head for a quick stop at the grocery store, I find myself pulling up in front of my own house instead. I seem to have an automatic “home” setting in my brain, unless I really focus.

The midrash at the start of Parshas Bechukosai, which discusses

In This World and the Next 

Parshat Bechukotai

This week’s parsha lists rewards in this world for keeping mitzvot. Peace, prosperity and other gifts are mentioned. However, nothing is mentioned about Olam Haba! How can that be? Why would Hashem ever have us sacrifice eternal reward for money and peace in this

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

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