Friday, March 23, 2007


Posted by Dasi

As we break in the month of Adar, we begin to think about celebrating another holiday. We make preparations, think about the food and the plans, and invite the family. We also(hopefully) consider the meaning of the holiday. This year, during the Purim Megillah reading we see Nes Nistar, hidden miracles, occurring right and left.

Although it became part of the Bible, known in English as the Book of Esther, the account never mentions the name of God, though there are veiled allusions. This surprising omission actually reflects a central theme of this holiday. On Purim we celebrate the fact that the hand of God guides us, even at times when we do not see open miracles or obvious Divine intervention. When we read the Megillah, we are not awestruck by dramatic changes in the laws of nature, but by a series of seemingly disconnected events that ultimately resulted in the salvation of the Jewish people. Achashverosh executed his first wife and chose the beautiful Esther as his new queen. These are not miracles, but behavior to be expected from a despotic king. Nor was it a miracle that Mordechai once saved the king from an assassination plot, thereby earning his gratitude. Each event, in and of itself, was not miraculous or even exceptional. When seen in retrospect however, the series of events is seen as engineered from Above for the purpose of evoking repentance from the Jewish people and then saving them from danger.
Rabbi Mordechai Becher, March 1st, 2006

Thoguh the miracles are not of “sea splitting” magnitude, we feel the need to acknowledge the importance, the “central theme” of Nes, miracle in the holiday of Purim. Earlier during the year, during our unit about different types of Hashgachot, we learned many ways in which to look at the methods Hashem chooses to control the world. Among them were Nes Nistar, hidden miracles, and Nes Niglah, an obvious miracle. In addition, however, were more general ways in which Hashem could control the world. For example, Hashem controls events which affect just the Jewish nation, or Hashem controls the life of every individual Jew. Why aren’t these reasons or central themes for the story of Purim? Why are the majority of Jewish holidays centered on a Nes? Sukkot is centered on the Annenei Hakoavod; Passover the miraculous exodus. Shavuot is the divine incident at Mount Sinai. There are other elements of the holidays,(e.g. social factors, cultural occurances) but the focus tends to be on the Nes. We learned with Nevuah that the miracles are not meant to be the basis of our belief, rather their role is enforce our belief of the Nevuah.

So why so much with the Nes on all Jewish holidays?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reincarnation Blog

posted by Esti

Reincarnation means that ones soul comes back to the world after the body has died, and enters into a new body. But having this said, doesn’t Hashem know what our reincarnated soul will do, thus taking away our freewill? According to Judaism, reincarnation does not take away our free will, but rather allows us to act on our free will and come back to the world to perfect ‘ourselves/ our souls’ if we did not reach the state of perfection the first time around. The Holy Ari explains that every Jew must complete the 613 mitzvoth and will be reincarnated if he/she did not finish them in his/her first life. According to this understanding, our life is therefore made up of events that will lead us towards the mitzvoth that we have not yet fulfilled.
The torah does not outright write about reincarnation but it does allude to it. Ramban hints to reincarnation in Bereshit 38:8 when talking about yibum. He then says that Yehuda and his sons knew about reincarnation when they acted how they did with Tamar.
Can you think of any other places in the torah that reincarnation is hinted at?
Do you believe in reincarnation?
How would you convince a fellow Jew to believe in reincarnation?

Ramban on Gen 38:8
Yerachmiel Tilles
The Holy Ari

Unanswered Prayers

posted by Amanda

Many times throughout davening and especially the amidah we request specific things from Hashem. Yet, while sometimes, our prayers are successfully answered, other times our prayers are seemingly unanswered.
According to Helene Ciaravino in her book titled Unanswered Prayers and Spiritual Dry Spells, she writes about various possible reasons for Hashem to not answer our prayers. First she mentioned that true prayers takes patience and perseverance, in other words you cannot expect to daven for something one day and receive it the next day. Rather, only after one has davened a long time for a specific thing does one earn it. Next, she mentioned that sometimes we think that we know what is best for ourselves, when in fact Hashem having the greater picture in mind knows what is in fact best for us even when it may seem as if it is not the best. Nevertheless, Rashi said that prayer can change a Jew’s predetermined destiny from bad to good. Therefore, Rashi disagrees with Helene Ciaravino because he believes that by praying one can ultimately change one’s fate.

Why do you think Hashem doesn’t always answer our prayers? What do you think happens to our unanswered prayers?


Posted by Rebecca

In his book, The Guide to the Perplexed, Rambam writes extensively on the role and importance of angels throughout the Tanach. Rambam posits that angels deliver their messages to man only through prophecies. Furthermore, he explains that angels appear in the form of men to the greater prophets and appear as angels to the lesser prophets. Only one angel can perform one task – two angels cannot perform one task and one angel cannot perform two tasks.

In reference to Hashem’s choice of sending angels in the form of men to Abraham and angels in the form of angels to Lot, Nechama Leibowitz writes that Lot was less great than Abraham because he was unable to maintain hospitable ways. Lot tried to maintain Abraham’s way of life, even risking his own life, but his attempts were doomed to failure because he lived in Sodom.

So, my questions for this post are as follows: Why does G-d speak to man through angels? What is their overall purpose? Why can’t G-d speak more directly to man? Why must angels appear in a different form than they exist, and why is it greater to see them in the form of men? Which prophets merited seeing angels in the form of men, what made them great enough to merit this type of prophecy? Who merits prophecy with G-d alone?

Sukkot and its Nature

Posted by Iris

In class we discussed the role Sukkot plays in the outcomes of non- Jewish along with Jewish Nations. By developing this idea further Hashgacha can be better understood.
In Zechariah 14 Sukkot is celebrated by the Jews and non- Jews; the questions answered by Radak, Metzudat David, and Rashi is, ’Why Sukkot?’ Rashi’s answer is that it is a universal holiday when the nations, Jewish or not, are judged for rain. If the Nation doesn’t come to Jerusalem for Sukkot they may possibly not receive rain and even worse receive plague as a substitution. (Another Holiday when one was required to go to Jerusalem to sacrifice and recognize the Godly presence in the world is Passover. In Egypt Hashem used 10 plagues to show the Egyptians that he was present and that Pharoh should recognize that and release Bnei Yisrael. Plague’s as means of showing God’s presence seems to be a reoccurring theme, Coincidence? I think not.) Metzudat David and Radak explain that after the Mashiach and the war that will bring it, Goag OoMagoag, Sukkot will be a holiday to commemorate the war. Though each of the explanations are reasonable, logical, and somewhat self explanatory, there is a lot of irony found in accordance with Sukkot being the celebrated holiday instead of any of the other Jewish holiday. Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene says “By swapping his permanent building for a temporary booth exposed to the natural elements, the Jew affirms how he is in truth, ‘strictly under Divine Supervision’.” Not intended by this quote, the word “nature” can be looked into deeper and have added connotations.
According to Ramban matters of nature are under full Godly Supervision and any form of natural order is an illusion. Yet according to Rambam nature is nature. Hashem created the world in Bereisheit with a miraculous hand but then left it alone. Therefore, is being in a natural atmosphere on Sukkot really natural where each individual is control of their own fate, in this case rain?
Interestingly enough the Vilna Goan explains that the Cloud of Glory returned on Sukkot in order to tell Bnei Yisrael to atone for their sin. From this it can be deduced that God’s divine supervision left before Sukkot and returned to ‘protect’ Bnei Yisrael in the natural environment the holiday is in (similar to Ramban’s opinion.) Ramban, an elites, says that God involves himself more with the righteous and wicked than with the average person. The holiday of Sukkot was established in order for Bnei Yisrael to atone and construct the sanctuary. Through the transformation to a righteous being and having Hashem’s supervision return through the Cloud of Glory in a natural time is indeed in agreement with Ramban’s opinion.
According then to the ‘symbolism’ of the Sukkah being under the stars, or Clouds of Glory, and seeing Hashem’s miracles of creation first hand, it seems God’s Divine Supervision is present even at a time of natural circumstances. In conclusion can a statement be made that God involves himself in all affairs of everyone and everything according to these ideas putting the other various types of Hashgachot in jeopardy?

Thanks to Wikipedia, Concordance, Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene’s article on “Succah; Strictly Under Divine Supervision” and Rabbi Krestt’s lesson on Zechariya.