Author: Micha Berger

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Neo-Chassidic Spirituality and Self-Focus – a Pothole to Avoid

A big problem, and perhaps The Big Problem, of the Orthodox community as it revived post-Shoah has been “Frumkeit”, as Rabbi Wolbe defines the term. Doing mitzvos out of an instinct that I need to be holier, rather than out of a desire that Hashem’s Will be done. It is a self-centered and self-serving orientation, as are all instincts. Rav Dessler would say it is coming from one’s Will to Take rather than one’s Will to Give. … Neo-Chassidus, with its focus on my relationship with G-d, doesn’t have many tools to fix that. Going to a kumzitz or a singing minyan to have an inspirational moment certainly don’t. All it offers is a hope that one internalizes one’s studies.

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The True Hero

Don’t picture a single jar of oil found amidst the rubble. The Beis haMiqdash wasn’t trashed, it was perverted into a Temple of Zeus. … That single jar oil needed to be searched for because it had been hidden. Who hid it?

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Dispelling the Dark

So, Adam saw the return of darkness, the same darkness the opening medrash identified with the spiritual decimation attempted by the Hellenists in the years before Chanukah. He mourned and fasted for 8 days. We have 8 days, but with an opposite theme — mourning and fasting are prohibited, and praise and gratitude dominate. And in both cases, the message was only seen in retrospect, the next year.

There is one major difference: Adam concluded that the darkness and the return of light was just “the natural cycle”. In Chanukah, we initiated the light manually, and Hashem responded with a miracle. Where Adam saw Hashem’s Light in nature, we see Him bestowing it in a covenantal union with us.

Adam was the start of this world. The Jewish People were given the Torah, handed a burning torch, to bring light to the world that follows.

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The Besh”t on Knowing What You’re Davening

I just wanted to share this beautiful quote from Toledos Yaaqov Yoseif, (Parashas VaEschanan, p. 176c, via Baal Shem Tov al ha-Torah, Amud ha-Tefilla 76). You think the Baal Shem Tov would be discussing kavvanh during davening...

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Aggadic Stories and Peshat – Narrative Styles

Midrash makes for far more 2-dimensional people than you have in peshat. Let me explain with a mashal. The first Star Wars series was a classic Hero’s Journey plotline. And the characters — good...

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Widen Your Tent, ep. 4-6 / Relationship ep. 30-32 (end)

On Wednesday November 9th, 16th and 23rd at 8pm, we concluded our discussion of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher, by Rav Shimon Shkop, starting from the tail of the second paragraph in the original edition (section 1.2 in Widen Your Tent) through the end of paragraph 4 (section 1.4). The remainder of the introduction is more related to Shaarei Yosher itself, and wasn’t in scope or the chaburah.

These were the last meetings of the Beyond Meaningful Relationship – Relationshipful Meaning chaburah. Next: in January we start Derashos haRan!

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Universal Hashgachah Peratis (notes)

Back in 2002, Rav Yitzchok Zirkind zt”l (COLlive obituary) brought the last Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Igeres (Igeres haQodesh 1:93) to the attention of the gang at Avodah. I was motivated to summarize it on list,...

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Widen Your Tent, ep. 2-3 / Relationship ep. 28-29

On Wednesday October 26th and Nobember 2nd at 8pm, we continued our discussion of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher, by Rav Shimon Shkop. This meetings covered the majority of the second paragraph in the original edition (section 1.2 in Widen Your Tent).

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Widen Your Tent, ep. 1 / Relationship ep. 27

On Wednesday Chol haMo’eid Sukkos (October 12th) at 8pm, started our discussion of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher, by Rav Shimon Shkop. This is the last text in the Beyond Meaningful Relationship – Relationshipful Meaning chaburah,

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Mishum Eivah and Darkhei Shalom

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l proved that the common knowledge is simply wrong….

Mishum eivah is “merely” the importance of keeping hatred out of the world.

Whereas darkei Shalom is the ultimate – to walk in Hashem’s and His Torah’s ways.