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  • #16
    Parshat Emor (Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23)

    What Is Sabbath All About? ("The Sabbath, the prototype event, exists in the weekly cycle; what the Sabbath is to the week these weekly holidays are to the year. The Sabbath occurs every seventh day. These other holidays have their seventh flitting in and out of their dates. They are Sabbath-like events; it's almost like there is a solar system of Sabbath events. In the same way that planets all revolve around the sun but there are different arcs; some are farther out, some take longer to go around the sun, it's almost like Sabbath is the sun and everything goes around it – some take longer, some take shorter." And why did an omnipotent Being require a day of rest?)

    How Do You Breed a Gentleman?

    Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? (Is it ironic or just weird that one of the funniest vids on YouTube is about the problem of evil?)
    Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-09-2019, 12:53 AM.


    • #17
      Parshat Behar (Leviticus 25:1 - 26:2)

      WaIking with G-d: Where Are You?

      So Where Do I Get an Interest-Free Loan? ("Our entire existence is on loan from G-d. The question is, can we make the Divine loan into a Divine investment?")

      We live in a Theocracy. It's called the universe. ("We're not waiting for 'the end of the world' or 'doomsday' or the world burning up. We're waiting for the Kingdom of G-d on earth--literally. And what sane person doesn't want it to come as soon as possible?")

      Lag BaOmer celebrates (among other things) the anniversary of the passing of the great Sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
      Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-16-2019, 02:24 AM.


      • #18
        Parshat Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3 - 27:34)

        Get G-d? ("In order to get some intimation of the Infinite One Who is beyond all conception, the mind naturally fills in what is inconceivable with ideas that are logical and comprehensible. A still deeper appreciation of Infinity thus requires a certain hollowing out of the mind." Proceed with caution.)

        What Happens When The Covenant Is Broken?

        The Epic Conclusion to Leviticus
        Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-09-2019, 01:00 AM.


        • #19
          Parshat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1 - 4:20)

          Yes! If I have a "desert island" book of the Bible it's Numbers, conveniently set in a desert, read during the summer. Be on the lookout for an evil prophet, a talking donkey, a rebellion against Moses, and the most ill-timed complaining in the history of our species. Ever hear of the criterion of embarrassment as an argument for a document's historicity? Numbers takes it to an extreme. (You don't want to know what worshiping Baal Peor involved.) If you were composing mythical tales of your ancestors most of Numbers would have missed the final cut.

          Who Cares About Genealogy?

          The Lesson of the Degalim

          How Can We Transmit G-d's Values?

          A great book about the Book of Numbers, with a familiar cover. ("The Mosaic books, especially Exodus and Numbers, are about the journey from slavery to freedom and from oppression to law-governed liberty. On the map, the distance from Egypt to the Promised Land is not far. But the message of Numbers is that it always takes longer than you think. For the journey is not just physical, a walk across the desert. It is psychological, moral, and spiritual. It takes as long as the time needed for human beings to change. That, as we discover in Numbers, can be a very long time indeed.")

          The parshat ends on verse 4:20, speaking of which.
          Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-09-2019, 01:06 AM.


          • #20

            A two-day holiday from sunset on June 8 until nightfall on June 10 this year, Shavuot celebrates the most important event in the history of Time: the National Revelation at Sinai. It comes after 49 days of Omer counting. "The Revelation of Sinai isn't based on the authority of the Bible; the authority of the Bible is based on the Revelation at Sinai."

            One philosophical argument that receives explicit approval from A-mighty G-d is known as the Kuzari Principle: And the L-rd said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people hear when I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever." And Moses relayed the words of the people to the L-rd. (Exodus 19:9) G-d thought it was such good evidence it would work forever. He specifically cites, approves, and makes a prediction about it. The Kuzari isn’t saying a nation merely heard a voice and inferred it must be G-d. This was a singular instance of prophecy that created immediate certitude in a vast group. Other miracles require an argument to the best explanation culminating in “G-d did it.” At Sinai no syllogism was needed.

            Regarding the teeth of the argument, consider a modern version: "Do the members of this forum remember the time I sued the mods in court and the judge awarded me $50K? You were all there. We stayed at a Holiday Inn in Des Moines. (With a Tiki bar.) I have a PDF with the details. They can pay me in installments. And they have to give me POA authority." Not biting, eh? You may have been tempted by the Nigerian princesses who emailed you seeking cash to bribe palace guards, but this is a face-spitting insult. My claim is a different order of magnitude than "Something extraordinary happened to me." I'm saying it happened to you. What if the subject wasn't a bogus lawsuit, but an ontology, constitution, history, and moral code -- portions of which are suicidal?

            Did G-d Speak at Sinai?

            How Do We Know We Heard G-d at Sinai?

            A Rational Approach to the Divine Origin of Judaism

            The Kuzari Establishes the Reasonableness of the Belief

            Living Up to the Truth

            Living Up to the Truth Controversy

            Torah from Heaven by Rabbi Sacks

            One of The Many Chains of Torah Transmission (And here)

            Update to the Update on the Kuzari Principle

            Sam Lebens on the Kuzari Principle

            The Book of Deuteronomy predicts a dearth of national revelation claims. The alleged counterexamples fail to impress.

            Does the Book of Ruth Matter? Why is it read on Shavuot? Ruth the Moabite, great-grandmother of King David(!!), is like some latter-day Abraham. Both left everything behind for HaShem. But what does she have to do with the Ten Commandments? And what's up with her & Boaz?

            Shavuot and the Grateful Dead (I knew I wasn't the only one!)
            Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 06-11-2019, 12:08 AM.


            • #21
              Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21 - 7:89)

              Adding G-dliness To Our Lives

              Sages and Saints: Asceticism vs. the Golden Mean

              Do You Confess . . . ? ("Even the most insincere confession retains a special power to put one on the right track.")

              The aptly titled G-d Book summarizes classics like Derech HaShem and the Guide of the Perplexed. You've heard of the latter; the former can change your life:

              Originally posted by Rabbi Zeldman on Ramchal's opus
              We now have to radically alter our view of this whole world that we live in, and realize that it's really just a "pseudo-reality" compared to G-d's existence. We are living, so to speak, in G-d's mind! Inasmuch as this idea sounds very deep and mystical, The Torah actually states it explicitly in saying, "There is nothing but G-d." Deut. 4:35)

              As much as this idea seems logically sound, it is actually counter-intuitive. This world does not seem like an illusion. When you bang into a pole, it sure seems pretty real! Why is that? Because our existence is on the same sub-level of reality. You are just as real as the pole, but neither you nor the pole is a reality in the context of infinite existence.

              So in summation, we are saying that the dynamic of the relationship between G-d and the finite world is in many ways just like the relationship between you and your conscious thoughts.
              Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-09-2019, 01:09 AM.


              • #22
                Parshat Beha'alotecha (Numbers 8:1 - 12:16)

                Can I Be Vulnerable with G-d ("Many of us struggle with this part of Torah. It's just hard to relate to. We think: If I were around back then, I would never have sinned like that. But the Torah isn't an ancient history book. It's meant to have timeless lessons for all of us. So how can we understand and relate to this seemingly ungrateful, chutzpadik nation?")

                What's the Deal with Lashon Hara? ('Evil speech' is prohibited for Jews -- even if it's true. Try refraining from it for a day. With great effort I can stop for hours at a time.)

                Eldad and Medad: The Mysterious Prophets

                What Are You Worth, Actually? ("Extreme humility is sometimes confused with low self-esteem. For Moses, these were as different as day and night.")

                Part of an MVR Series (Most Valuable Rabbi): Aryeh Kaplan
                Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-16-2019, 01:56 AM.


                • #23
                  Aryeh Kaplan is great. I've read most of his books. He's best when he avoids polemics, though. A shame he passed away so young.


                  • #24
                    His Living Torah helped me see the Pentateuch with fresh eyes. It's an amazing translation. It reads like a ... page-turner.

                    Here's most of The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology.

                    I read somewhere that mystics tend to die young? Nachman of Breslov was in his 30s. His followers give me Grateful Dead concert flashbacks.


                    • Abraham
                      Abraham commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Moshe Haim Luzzatto died at age 39, and the Arizal (Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi) died at 38. Those two are the fathers of Kabbalah as we know it today. I don't know if that's coincidence or not, but it's definitely interesting.

                  • #25
                    Parshat Shelach (Numbers 13:1 - 15:41)

                    One of the darkest, most cringe-worthy passages in the Torah highlights a deep truth about human nature and "evidence." Everyone says "I wish there was more." It's not clear the Israelites could have had more and horrific lapses occurred often. Note the argument Moses uses to dissuade G-d from wiping out the entire nation. He used it after the golden calf. The chosen status of Israel isn't about their moral perfection; it's about G-d's Honor.

                    How Can We Relate To Such A Vengeful G-d?

                    How Can I Trust G-d When I Don't See Him?

                    Now for something completely different:: an awesome spy story, this week's Haftarah.

                    Debate of the Century: Brown vs. Blumenthal (I kid. This was the debate of the century.)


                    • #26
                      Oh, I had a pretty intense Kahane phase during my teenage years.I've outgrown his somewhat simplistic way of framing things, but my, that time of my life was exhilarating!


                      • Bamidbar 22
                        Bamidbar 22 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        He's like Joshua with a Brooklyn accent. Sometimes I need a blinding FLASH of simplicity.

                    • #27
                      Parshat Korach (Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)

                      Can We Influence G-d? ("So we know that Solomon was the wisest of all men. According to some legends, he spoke to the animals. but he could also speak to the Angel of Death. So, one day, the Talmud says, he meets up with the Angel of Death and the Angel of Death, the malach hamavet, is looking particularly dower. Solomon says, 'What's wrong, why you are so upset? Angel of Death said, 'Ah, forget it, I don't want to bother you with it. Why should I ruin your whole day?' Solomon says, 'No, really, tell me, maybe I could help you.' Angel of Death says ...)

                      Why Did Korach Rebel? ("Every once in a while names in Scripture have significance. In the Book of Samuel, for example, a king by the name of Nachash attacks Saul, the very first king of Israel. Can it be a coincidence that his name just happens to mean snake? There was something snake-like about the attack. Was there something Korach-like about Korach's rebellion? What would the name Korach mean if it were a word?")

                      Rejecting Israel's Leaders ("Faced with their new death sentence, the people are at a dead-end. They can't go back, and the only way forward is with the help of the Divine. Moses and Aaron, their demi-gods, had just informed them that they are all destined to die. There is no way out, nothing they can do to change things. But the people still think, how can we control our situation? Is there any other option? What if Moses and Aaron don't really represent God? What if this supposed death sentence doesn't really come from Him?")

                      Korach and Anarchy by Tzvi Freeman, creator of Kabbala Toons. ("Quite clearly, the children of Israel were not Eric Fromm's true believers.")

                      The Korach - Kabbalah Connection with Michon Shilo's Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

                      On the Genealogy of Christianity ("There is no agreement on which 'ancient' church is the one the others split off of and certainly no agreement on which 'restoration' has been the correct one (or even if it has been discovered). Yet everyone agrees absolutely that at one time Judaism was the One True Religion, that its Bible was undoubtedly true and that its Oral Tradition from Sinai was undoubtedly true. The problem is that people insist its place was taken by something else--and people have been fighting for two millennia about just what that 'something else' is!")
                      Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 06-30-2019, 02:19 PM.


                      • #28
                        Parshat Chukat (Numbers 19:1 - 22:1)

                        Why Was Hitting the Rock so Horrible? ("The Sages say that Moshe was barred from entering the land because there was a crucial, secret lesson that he needed to teach the Jewish people at this particular time in their history. It was a lesson that could only be conveyed by him speaking to the rock instead of hitting it – but by hitting the rock, he lost forever the ability to teach the Jews this lesson. And now, I am going to reveal to you this great lesson ...")

                        Why Did Moses Hit the Rock? ("Why such a drastic consequence was inflicted upon Moses for such an apparently trivial misdeed is one of the great and abiding mysteries of the Torah. But I think just as puzzling as why he can't go into the land is why Moshe hit the rock in the first place? I mean, God said, speak to the rock, what's the big deal, so just speak to the rock? Why did he insist on hitting the rock?")

                        Do Skeptics Make You Have a Cow? ("The Red Heifer is the single most incomprehensible commandment in the Torah. By the same token, it most accurately represents the most incomprehensible part of the soul.")

                        A Turning Point In Israel's Relationship with G-d ("This week, we get even more complaining from Israel – this time, about the lack of water. How can they continue to complain after everything God had done for them?")

                        RADICAL summer reading on Maimonides the Rationalist. "Quite possibly one of the most important [books] in the field of Jewish philosophy." Kenneth Seeskin

                        Originally posted by Menachem Kellner
                        There is no difference in essence between Jew and gentile, and the Jew per se enjoys no superiority over the gentile per se. The difference between Jew and gentile is grounded solely in the Torah: A Jew who observes the commandments thereby has an advantage over an ordinary gentile; but a moral and learned gentile certainly has an advantage over a coarse, ignorant Jew.

                        Israel’s election is the result of a historical accident, plain and simple: it was Abraham the Hebrew who discovered God. Had a Navajo Indian been the first person to discover God following the decline in humanity after the generation of Adam’s grandson Enosh, that person’s tribe would have become the chosen people; the Torah would have been given in the Navajo language; the historical parts of the Torah would have dealt with Navajo history; and the Promised Land, presumably, would have been in Nevada*.

                        Israel’s Torah, when all is said and done, is meant for all humanity; it was given to Israel to preserve (and observe) until messianic times, when all will be ready to accept it. At that time, all people will worship God “with one consent,” as equals in all respects. (The positions in this paper are defended at length in Kellner's book.)
                        Kellner argues that Maimonides believed knowledge of the first five principles is necessary and sufficient to attain a share in Olam HaBa. If this be the case, there is indeed an urgency in "doing philosophy" and doing it well. Knowing G-d exists, is one, incorporeal, ontologically ultimate, and that worshiping anything else is wrong actualizes your potential as a soul. "It is the actual intellect, Maimonides will make clear, and only the actual intellect, which survives death. ... If we fail to actualize our intellectual potential, that capacity with which we were born is wasted, and nothing survives the death of the body. ... One achieves immortality thanks and only thanks to the knowledge one has acquired. ... One's soul endures forever thanks to the knowledge one has acquired of the Creator. ... Could [Maimonides] be any clearer?" (pages 222-224)

                        I'd synopsize the chapter on angels but I keep dropping the book. The one meaning he won't attach to the concept is "that of a being with independent, continued existence, sent on missions by G-d and visible to human beings." My first impression is that he's naturalizing Angelology -- in the thirteenth century.

                        On the distinction between Jews and non-Jews: "[T]he logic of his position drove, or should have driven Maimonides into recognizing a third group, philosophical adherents of the essential teachings of the Torah who are not descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (p. 240)

                        Maimonides would be denying the existence of a primordial Torah, according to Kellner, which was alluded to in the OP: the Torah pre-existed Creation in words of black fire on parchment of white fire, almost logos-like. (Deep down I want to be a Rationalist but 15 minutes on and my rationalism goes kerflooey.)

                        Speaking of Chabad, July 6 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rebbe's passing. His call to the Children of Israel to compel the nations to observe Noahide Law, as codified by Maimonides, exploded my conception of the Official Non-Proselytizing nature of Judaism.

                        *Nevada may have been a better choice for other reasons: mellow neighbors. The possible world where the Irish were chosen would make a great novel.
                        Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 07-10-2019, 10:37 PM.


                        • #29
                          Parshat Balak (Numbers 22:2 - 25:9)

                          This compliment is long overdue. Balak contains comic brilliance worthy of Cervantes and Laurence Sterne. I can think of no greater compliment to an Author. It would make a great Coen brothers film. George Clooney as an increasingly exasperated Balak. The evil prophet, Javier Bardem. There are no possible worlds where Gilbert Gottfried isn't the donkey. The question is there and no one asks. Does G-d have a sense of humor? Exhibit B is the Book of Jonah. (I don't know what to make of the linked paper. At least someone is asking the question.)

                          Balaam, Prophet for Hire? You are about to enter the Mishnah Zone. What do Abraham and Balaam have in common?

                          What Is Israel's Purpose In The World? (What's the deal with "Those who bless you I shall bless"? Is John Hagee interpreting this right? Is anyone? "I mean, it sounds like something out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or something. Does it mean the people of Israel are supposed to put on their Talleisim and go to the top of the mountains and spread out their arms and bless everybody? Is that what it means? Does it mean they're supposed to go out and moralize to everybody, tell everybody what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong, maybe that's how blessing will come to the world? What does this exactly mean? I believe that our parsha of all things actually explains what that promise to Abraham meant.")

                          Balaam was one of seven Gentile Prophets. (Obadiah converted.) Balaam prophesied about the end of days. Blink and you'll miss it. (Check out the Rationalist approach to the Messianic Era.)

                          What Is Israel's National Mission? ("And while it's an interesting story, we can't help but wonder: why are we hearing this? I get that it's relevant to Israel, but the Torah isn't an all-inclusive history book. We never hear about the internal conversations and strategies of, say, Amalek. Why does the Torah tell us this story?")

                          What's wrong with Donkeyvision? What does a talking donkey have to do with free will?


                          • #30
                            That paper is bizarre. But the author is right; l found it pretty funny.