Sunday, September 28, 2008


Hi Rabbi,

I have a clarification question about one of the side points in shiur this week. Matt asked regarding making brachos how we should go about seeing things in the ahava perspective. We can't pretend that we care about the systemic world if we really don't feel it, so should we force ourselves to see things in this perspective or should we allow the perspective to come naturally as we continue to learn? I understood your answer to be that brachos are meant to force you to come to terms with this framework and one must let his learning influence his life outside of learning in this area because that's simply what brachos are: tools to make you see things in the proper perspective.

And the method to do this is not simply to force yourself to see the ahava perspective, wait through that thought process, and then continue on your way. But you have to coax your psyche by allowing it to see how systemic reality as it is really is something to care about. Natural systems affect us in ways the psyche finds to be very important, and the realizing of this will allow the psyche to subject itself to the mind to provide its needs.

First of all, I want to know if I misunderstood anything from your answer. But after that, I was unclear if this degree and manner of forcing the ahava perspective was specifically regarding areas of mitzvos. It seems like you were saying that brachos are a tool and you have to use it as one. But outside mitzva performance, when you're just living your life, to what degree should you force himself to see things as a mind? Should you just allow yourself to experience the glimmers of the systemic perspective when they come or should you always be using this method of making the psyche see the systems and why they're important?

My intuition is that you should not be forcing yourself. This comes from an understanding I have from Rabbi Moskowitz about how to implement the ideas of mishlei. If you're forcing yourself to reject emotional choices, then you're not really being guided by the ideas, you're just being guided by a different emotion: the superego. That idea seems to apply here too. If a person forces himself to live like a mind much more than he is naturally to, its likely he's relating to being a mind as just another thing to dominate. And if he's forcing his psyche to live in a way its not ready for, he will overestimate his development and be caught off guard when it blows up in his face.

But on the other hand, there must be some degree of, like you mentioned today, learning leading to action. So what is the proper way to implement the objective framework into the rest of your life?

I was also wondering about the point you made about feeling shame about one's immaturity. I remember you covering the topic last year on a week when we were feeling particularly down about the whole framework meltdown. I mentioned how when I learned under Rabbi Moskowitz, there was no real reason for guilt over my imperfection because it was just missing out on the extra benefit of a happier life. But in learning with you, I felt very embarrassed about my immaturity because it was an actual distortion about what man is. Living like a god when intellectually you know you're not is definitely reason for shame.

The answer you gave, as I remember it, was that really there was no reason to feel guilt over these things because you're doing what man does. Man is a creature who is constantly reevaluating his idea of the Good. So no matter where you are in this development, as long as you're developing this way, you're living as man. You're removing false ideas of the good gradually, and even though you're not a perfect mind yet, the life of removing distortions in the idea of the Good is the life of man. So you should not feel ashamed over the distortions because that's what man is.

That idea seems to be different than the idea you said today. I understand acknowledging the distortions of your psyche as things that are wrong. But why should that lead to shame if that's what being a human is? Also, I don't ever see escaping from the shame, which doesn't seem like a good human life. So I'm not understanding why shame is a good and proper reaction here to man's natural process of development.

I forgot what protocol is for general questions, so I don't mind if you want to post this question on the blog or forward it or whatever. Anwyay, thanks for taking the questions,

Excellent questions Jonny. I will have to think before I respond.

Clearly there is a tension that must be resolved between the chiyuv to reflect on oneself in the framework of Shem Hashem in tefilla and Brachos vs the attitude of Mishlei. The issue of "shame" has to do with differentiating humility and recognition of the challenge and danger of being immature vs guilt.

Notes on Shiur 9/28/08 from Carolyn.

Feel free to suggest titles or ask questions or make comments.

Review of Chaburah from Shabbos
  • Jonny’s example of overeating- practical thinking- limited to world of my dalet amos [asopposed to theoretical thinking- focus on phenomenon of food supply of mankind (birkas hamazon- hazan es haolam kulo bituvo)] Cheit shebimidos bimachshava- miscategorization of meaning of food- just measure of woman’s accomplishment allowing animal power to supply principal (place in herd). True significance of food and klal yisrael not operational as governing principal of action in real time.
  • Q/ 2 extremes- 1. Just clarify ideas in learning, wait for implementation in real life to happen completely naturally, on its own. 2. Try to force natural perspective into every dimention of life. What is proper middle ground? A/Seek to remove mitzvah from mitzvas anashim milumada framework, make mitzvah instrument of shem Hashem (ex.- use tool of brachos- focus before say it, reorient sense of good).
  • Q/ How deal with disappointment of not living up to using all mitzvos as tools? A/ Az lo eivosh bihabiti el kol mitzvosechah- a certain amount of bushah is appropriate.

Connection to Ralbag’s Analogy of Building House

  • Clarification of concept of transformational change through use of this eatingexample- miscategorization of eating- not change in physical place, enslavement to Egyptian mentality. Rather- substantial change, food changes into fuel, human energy. Destroy old category, new one created. Geulah from domination by animal principles, immature state.
  • Q/ How bridge gap between true principal and what I care about in real time? A/ Start from general principal, get more particular until find part that’s my chelek,motivational to me. (If true significance is klal yisrael, go from there down to particular part of klal yisrael I care about.)
  • Human use of environment to develop self, organizing thins external to soul to facilitate its development (yishuv).
  • Shem Hashem- chachmas Hashem is not limited physical order, extends to human development. Shem Hashem extends into eating- an area it would not normally be, because we naturally calculate based on totally different, animal principles.

For next week: Connect eating example to Shem Hashem.

Carolyn’s question she didn’t get to ask: Re. answer to question of how to bridge gap between
principal and what I care about- Is this leaning too much to extreme of trying to apply true
principals to all aspects of life, rather than focusing on using mitzvah tools?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dan's Question about Keriat Shema / Tefilla

Here is Dan's Question. Any brave souls willing to help us with an answer? Note my comment in parentheses and in red.

Hi Rabbi,

I really enjoyed shiur today. I have a question. It is clear that the mindset that we are trying to achieve and that which kriat shema and tefila are aimed at is the "what am I in the universe scientifically" perspective(I would call this Cosmic zoom -comment by RS). But, I am unclear as to how they achieve this. You were explaining this point, but I did not understand.

I just want to note that I am extremely eager to understand this point. I say this because if the hype is true, and kriat shema and tefila do aid in achieving this perspective, since we do both of them every single day, the growth potential would seem to be enormous.

You could forward this to everyone if you like.