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Studying T’hilim – Reciting the Tiqun HaK’lali of R. Nahman of Breslev PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harav   
Thursday, 27 January 2011 23:26

Question:

Rav Bar-Hayim,

Do you think it is wrong to say the 10 psalms that Rebbe Nachman recommended as the 'complete remedy' (Tikun Haklali)? I think maybe it could be a good thing to do, but I don't know. I have done so in the past but now I am questioning it. Of course, saying tehillim is okay, but to say this particular order, with the intention of repairing things that have been broken/damaged due to my sins, etc...is that okay or not?

What does the Rav recommend?

Thank you,

Yaakov

Answer:

1. We read and study T’hilim for our spiritual betterment: to gain insight, to receive instruction, to imbibe wisdom, to bring us closer to HASHEM. The idea of reciting T’hilim, other parts of the T’nakh or any other text (such as the Zohar), by way of an incantation which invokes magical powers to “fix” or “repair” things is without any basis in authentic Tora tradition. Hazal, the G’onim and the Rishonim knew nothing of this notion.

2. Hazal state explicitly that reciting verses or making use of holy objects such as a Sepher Tora or T’philin in order to heal sickness or achieve some other end is forbidden because it is perilously close to witchcraft, something to which the Tora is vehemently opposed (see Rambam’s MT ‘Avodha Zara 11:13; 11:12 in some editions). To “repair” one’s past sins by reading T’hilim is not that different. When Rambam z’l writes that Tora is for healing the soul rather than the body, he means that by studying, internalizing and living Tora one supplies the soul with wholesome nutrition which in turn promotes spiritual health; he was not condoning treating the Tora as a charm which miraculously “repairs” one’s sins.

3. Reciting T'hilim is always an extremely positive thing. Every pereq of T’hilim is precious; each has its own theme, each one teaches and elevates us. There is no reason to single out certain chapters. If one finds, however, that particular p’raqim speak to one in an especially meaningful way, it is perfectly legitimate to have one’s personal favourites.

4. The Book of T’hilim is unique and very special. It provides us with an authentic, Tora hashqapha (outlook) in all areas, in our national life as HASHEM’s chosen people-nation, and in our individual lives. The real question is how to read and study T’hilim; reciting without understanding is not very helpful.

5. I can do no better than to quote HaRav Shimshon R’phael Hirsch z’l (Collected Writings Vol. IV, pp. 259-260, quoted in the foreword to the English translation): “Truly, the happiest hours of my youth were those I spent attempting to identify with the mood and train of thought of one of the Psalms, to seek out the original thought that first inspired its writing and to find the central idea around which it is built. It was pure delight for me to see the structure of the entire Psalm with all its details emerging as a living unit, as it were, around the basic concept that forms its core…. Indeed, we must never think we truly understand a Psalm as long as we can view it only as a series of loosely-jointed verses and not recreate it in our own mind as a unified, harmonious whole. It is our task to delve into the basic thought underlying each Psalm and to meditate about it as the singer himself must have contemplated before choosing the precise words and sentences in their particular sequence of thought and perception. We should then endeavour to understand every sentence, every word and every literary nuance as we come upon them, relate them to the thoughts we have thus discovered, and accept each and every word in the text not only as well-chosen but as genuinely true and vitally necessary for the proper understanding of the ideals expressed therein.” I doubt that anyone has ever better expressed and formulated the correct attitude and methodology regarding reading and studying this unique Book.

6. One of HaRav Hirsch’s most important works is his commentary on T’hilim, which exists in both Hebrew and English translations from the original German. The English translation is excellent. I highly recommend studying T’hilim with this perush; it is unique and illuminating.


Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 February 2011 21:17
 
Redefining Religious Zionism: a Critique of Mercaz HaRav PDF Print E-mail
Written by David S.   
Tuesday, 22 March 2011 19:53

Download the Shiur

Last Updated on Friday, 25 March 2011 16:19
 
Did R. Shimon Bar Yohai Write the Zohar? PDF Print E-mail
Written by harav   
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 13:05

Did R. Shimon Bar Yohai Write the Zohar?

Question

Dear Kavod HaRav, Shalom U'Brachot.

What do you think about the Zohar's authenticity? Do you recognize it as the Holy Zohar/ Zohar HaKadosh or do you reject the claim that it comes from the Tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?

Response

1. The Zohar literature, which includes the Zohar, Zohar Hadash, Midrash HaNe'elam, Tiqune Zohar and several other works, was written, almost certainly by different authors, in 13th century Spain. None of it was written during Mishnaic or even Talmudic times. Much has been written on the subject, including the seminal work of the Ya'abess (R. Ya'aqov Emden) z'l, Mittpahath S’pharim (http://hebrewbooks.org/33319), written some 250 years ago, in which he adduces copious and convincing proof that the Zohar was written in Spain during the period of the Rishonim. Certain parties have endeavoured, with no small success, to make this book unavailable; this should tell you something about the book’s power. For those familiar with the works of the Ya’abess this will come as no surprise. A new edition was printed by HaRav Ben-Ssiyon Kohen z’l of Jerusalem about 15 years ago.

2. I will mention just one example of such proof. According to the Zohar (Sh’moth 48b) the T’kheleth dye was produced from the Hilazon (sea snail) that is found in the Kinereth. In the first place this contradicts Hazal who state (TB Shabath 26a) that the Hilazon is to be found along the Mediterranean coast. Secondly, it contradicts what was common knowledge in the ancient Mediterranean basin regarding the source of this and similar dyes, as described in Greek (Aristotle) and Roman (Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 9: 60-65) sources. Thirdly, no such creature does or can exist in the Kinereth or any body of fresh water, a fact mentioned by Pliny. Fourthly, only a Jewish mystic living and dreaming in 13th century Spain could have been so ignorant of what was common knowledge in Eress Yisrael in the days of Hazal.

3. For those whose perception and understanding of Tora is based upon misinformation, this truth is a bitter pill to swallow. To a person who has invested years, perhaps a lifetime, pursuing a phantom, this will come as a great shock. This is only to be expected. If you discuss this matter with such people and sense their inability to deal with the matter rationally, you might consider changing the subject.

4. The teachings of the Zohar range from profound to inane, from insightful and enlightening to misleading and even heretical. It should only be studied by those of superior intellect who have dedicated themselves for many years to the in-depth study of Tora based on the primary sources. The capacity for critical thought and caution are essential. The masses are to be discouraged from studying it.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 19:29
 
Romaine Lettuce is No Joke PDF Print E-mail
Written by harav   
Monday, 12 September 2011 19:24

Romaine Lettuce is No Joke

Letter

You wrote:

“Maror comes from the word ‘mar’ meaning bitter. As everyone knows ‘bitter’ is distinct from ‘hot’ or ‘sharp’. Horseradish and wasabi are sharp but most certainly not bitter; grapefruit and coffee are bitter but most certainly not sharp.”

I am not such a meivin to be able to distinguish between sharp and bitter, but certainly a lemon in halacha is called a davar hariph, and whatever lemon has got, grapefruit has got. If you eat the rind, it may be bitter, but the usually thing is to eat the soft parts which are sharp and sweet.
Romaine lettuce is not bitter and to say that it is is a joke. When I first brought the idea of Romaine lettuce as maror home from Yeshiva, my parents laughed at me. My mother snacked on the romaine lettuce throughout the seder, she couldn't even wait for the right time.
The part of horse raddish usually eaten is indeed the root, but we ate the leaves also.
Romaine lettuce is no more bitter than iceberg lettuce.

Response

1. When it comes to taste buds and the information they impart, I am no more a maven than the next person. Any healthy person, in any cultural context, can distinguish between sharp/hot/spicy and bitter flavours. Do you know of anyone who would describe a cayenne or chilli pepper as ‘bitter’?

2. davar hariph, for the purposes of ta'arovoth and ma'akhaloth asuroth, is a food stuff that, due to its astringency, seals in flavours; it has nothing to do with the taste. A lemon, which is sour (but not bitter) is hariph because it is acerbic and astringent due to its high acidity. Grapefruit too is acidic but is more bitter than sour. Lemons and grapefruit share acidity, not flavour. An onion is referred to as hariph because it too is astringent. These three items represent three distinct flavours which are detected by distinct sets of taste buds on the tongue. Their common feature is astringency.

3. Grapefruit is not sharp, nor is it truly sweet; its essential flavour is bitter. The level of bitterness varies from one cultivar to another. In the case of grapefruit bred to be only mildly bitter, the natural sugars come through more, resulting in the bitter-sweet taste common in Israeli grapefruits today. (The grapefruit we had growing in our back yard when I was a teenager were far more bitter than those I come across today.) 

4. Seeing that many people do not like foods with a decidedly bitter flavour, growers of grapefruit and romaine lettuce have successfully produced strains with a milder flavour. There are many varieties of lettuce, ranging from very bitter (like some red-topped varieties) to others (more common today) that retain only a trace of bitterness (particularly in the lower parts of the lettuce). According to Wikipedia (“Romaine Lettuce”): "The thick ribs, especially on the older outer leaves, should have a milky fluid which gives the romaine the typically fine-bitter herb taste."  I can taste it, and so can Wikipedia. A person who cannot should consult a physician.

5. Everyone knows that Ashkenazim used horseradish root for "maror". I have never seen anyone eat horseradish leaves, and have no idea how they taste; if you do, please tell me. Go to any store just before Pesah; you will see roots on sale, but not a single leaf.

6. See Rashi to Sh’moth 12:8 who writes (based on the Mishna and TB P’sahim 39a): “Any bitter herb is referred to as maror”. A herb is a plant eaten for its green leaves or stalks, such as lettuce, mint, basil, thyme and dill — not a plant eaten for its root, such as horseradish, wasabi, turnip, carrot and beet (also known as beetroot for this very reason). The former are all herbs but only lettuce has a fine-bitter flavour; the latter are not herbs but root vegetables.

7. The fact that your mother, together with millions if not billions of other people, likes the taste of romaine lettuce proves nothing. You seem to be labouring under the misconception that maror has to be so bitter as to be nearly inedible. Nothing could be further from the truth. See Da’ath Miqra to the above-mentioned pasuq: “והם ירקות שטעמן מר במקצת, אבל ערב לחך, ואוכלים אותן בסעודה כדי לעורר את תאות האכילה ולהרבות את הנאתה". Or HaHayim (ad loc.) states the same: כי כן דרך אוכלי צלי לאכול עמו דבר חד כי בזה יערב לחיך האוכל ויאכל בכל אותנפשו..”. (Note: the word “hadh” here refers to both sharp and bitter condiments and herbs which complement the taste of roast meat. Sharp condiments include s’hug, arissa, mustard, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and wasabi sauce. Bitter condiments are usually based on citrus peels (including the entire fruit of the ethrogh) or bitter melon. Olives too are naturally bitter when not pickled with too much salt.) The very idea that the Tora would command us to eat something that is nearly inedible is inane, and suggests a serious misapprehension of what Tora is all about.

8. You wrote: “Romaine lettuce is not bitter and to say that it is is a joke”. This is a curious statement coming from a talmidh hakhamim; the Talmudh Y’rushalmi (P’sahim 2:5) states that the Hazereth of the Mishna is known in the Aramaic vernacular as Hasin, while the Talmudh Bavli says it refers to Hasa, the very same word used today in Hebrew for romaine lettuce. The Talmudh Y’rushalmi remarks that Hazereth is only mildly bitter, particularly when young, but that nevertheless it is considered preferable to other types of maror because, like our sojourn in Egypt, it starts off sweet (i.e. very slightly bitter) but becomes more and more bitter as it grows and develops. See Ra’avya no. 473. Similar explanations are given in the TB (P’sahim 39a) as to why Hasa is to be preferred to other types of maror even though it is less bitter. From all this it is plain that maror need not be very bitter (even though it must be maror, i.e. a bitter herb, and not something else).

9. You wrote further: “Romaine lettuce is no more bitter than iceberg lettuce”. Not so. “Crisphead, also called Iceberg, forms tight, dense heads that resemble cabbage. They are generally the mildest of the lettuces, valued more for their crunchy texture than for flavour. Cultivars of iceberg lettuce are the most familiar lettuces in the USA…Some lettuces (especially iceberg) have been specifically bred to remove the bitterness from their leaves. These lettuces have high water content and so are less "nutritionally dense" than are the more bitter lettuces and those with darker leaves.” I rest my case.

10. I wish to express my amazement that you would adopt such a position and make such wild claims. To what end?

11. There is nothing new about any of this; it is not a great discovery, nor a view that required “resurrection” as suggested by one writer. Romaine lettuce, or other types of leafy maror, have been used for the misswa of maror on Pesah by all Jews in all parts of the world from time immemorial and up to the present day. HaRav Ovadhya Yoseph stresses this fact every year anew (with the addition of a few snide remarks directed at Ashk’nazim). The only exception were those Ashk’nazi Jews in Northern and Eastern Europe who could not obtain maror at that time of year, and were forced to come up with a substitute (see Arthur Schaffer’s article on the subject.) This is not intended to impute any fault or blame on the part of our Ashk’nazi forefathers. It is simply a fact.

12. In summary: this is a classic example of a Galuth-induced aberration. How thankful we ought to be to HASHEM that we can all now return to the authentic Tora tradition as recorded in the Mishna.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Last Updated on Monday, 12 March 2012 10:37
 
The Shalit Deal and the Dati Leumi World PDF Print E-mail
Written by Menachem Ben-Mordechai   
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 00:00

By Menachem Ben-Mordechai

 

In  his  perush  on  Tehillim  12:2,  Rav  Samson  Raphael  Hirsch  zt"l  refers  to "the  most
indispensable  instrument  in  all  human  relationships - namely   the  sacredness  of  the
human word."  He further observes:

 

"Man must be able  to put his  trust  in  the opinions, words, and deeds of his  fellows.   He
must know that his brother's mind recoils  from wrong and  is dedicated to the welfare of
others.  He must be sure that his brother will not say or promise anything other than that
which he  feels  to be true or possible of  fulfillment to the best of his knowledge and  that
his deeds are in conformity with his words..."

 

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 December 2011 13:27
 
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