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Showing posts from August, 2015

Thought for the Day: Why the Torah Demands So Many Actions With So Many Details -- Bridging the Gap From Creator to Creation

Anyone who has taught physics will have heard this line: "I understand the physics, I just can't do the problems."  Pretty much anyone who has taken a physics class will have said that, as well.  The answer is always the same: If you can't do the problems, you don't understand the material.  Why is that?  In fact, why would someone even think such a statement makes sense in the first place?  No one would think that they could learn to play tennis by just reading about how to do it.  Obviously, one must actually play tennis at some point.  Of course, you will answer, playing tennis is a purely physical activity, whereas physics is a purely mental activity.  That is not quite true, though.  Even after learning how to tennis, one must learn techniques and strategies that must be practiced before they become part of one's game.  So the question is even stronger -- from the purely cerebral to the purely physical, both body and mind must be involved.  Why is that?

Thought for the Day: The Torah Expects/Demands Precision in Performance

When Newton first proposed his laws of mechanics, he was ridiculed.  The basis of the ridicule was a simple question: How could physical objects know to follow a rule?  That question, and therefore the push-back against Newtonian mechanics, doesn't make any sense to us.  To understand the objection, we need to really understand the pre-Enlightenment mindset; a mindset really architected by Aristotle.  Aristotle's view of matter and motion was that all physical objects had a preferred place in the universe; move them from that place, and they seek to return.  They could get back lots of ways, it might take a while or go quickly, or they might just hang out a while in discomfort.  (I think whimsically think that Aristotle would have said that all objects in the world are basically νεαρός; teenagers, for those of you who don't read Greek.)  Newton changed the entire world view by proposing and then demonstrating that the physical world actually operates according to a set of …

Thought for the Day: HaShem Has No Physicality At All

I got a text from my son-in-law one day asking what I had possibly said to my granddaughter that had her asking about the balloons in her body.  (Note: my kids had no doubt that anything crazy their children said like that could surely be traced to their grandfather.)  I told him that we had been discussing the circulatory system and I had explained lungs to her as a type of balloon.  (Yes; I know the lungs are part of the respiratory system, but she was only five and I didn't want to confuse the issue.)  A few weeks later they sent me a picture of a stick figure my little budding physician had drawn of her (then pregnant) mother; complete with two sets of balloon lungs, one for her and one for the fetus.

I have been listening to a series of shiurim on "Intro to Judaism", by R' Aharon Lopiansky, that (judging from the content) he gave to not-frum-but-definitely-interested-and-receptive college aged boys.  One reason I am listening to them is to learn better how to an…

Thought for the Day: We Are Descendents of the Avos, So We Get to Talk Directly With the Creator of the Universe

Here are two very bad ideas:
If you are working in the mail room of a large, multinational corporation and you need a pad of paper and pencil, just march up to the CEOs office, tell his secretary that you have an appointment, walk in to his office, ask him to wait just a moment while you check your email and Facebook, then say hastily and with obvious impatience, "Wow.  You run this operation that you single-handedly created and architected really, really well.  I really need a pencil and pad of paper and you are ultimately in charge of all office supplies.  Thank you very much for always being there for all of us."  Back out while checking your email again.If you are ever, rachmana latzlan, standing in front of a judge for sentencing after having been convicted of several heinous crimes, just say, "Judge Bob, you are good friends with both my dad and grandfather, who have always been law-abiding citizens and helped you out in your re-election campaigns several times.  S…

Thought for the Day: Prayer Is the Ultimate Relationship Building Activity, and It Happens Through Asking

For years I have come home from davening/learning in the morning, change into my biking clothes, pack my lunch, have a quick bite to eat with my wife, then off to work.  Since the last couple of months, the routine has an addition: get breakfast for the grandchildren; it's one of the favorite parts of my day, Baruch HaShem.  Part of the routine goes like this:
Grandchild(heretofore known as gc): May I have a waffle please?
Me: sure, just let me finish ....
Gc: May I have a waffle please?
Me: sure, just let me finish ....
Gc: May I have a waffle please?
Me: sure, just let me finish getting cereal for gc1.
Gc: May I have a waffle please?
... ...
Gc: Thank you! Even better, they often all three (the baby is too young to chime in, yet) make their requests and request repeats all at the same time.  So I started wondering if that's how I sound.  Every day, three times a day, six days a week, I ask for the same things.  Moreover, HaShem knows what I want before I even ask. …

Thought for the Day: Making Mistakes in Avodas HaShem

My seven year old grandson has a quite advanced sense of humor.  One afternoon at carpool, his mother said good night to one of her students, Mayer.  My grandson, in mock shock said, "Mom!  You are so mean!"  She didn't know what he was talking about, so... with a huge smile on his face, he said, "You told him he should have a bad dream when you told him to have a good nightmare."  He got a lot of positive feedback on that joke.

Here's one where he got less than positive feedback.  He asked his mother for something, was told no, and replied, "Perhaps you'd like to think about it and give me a different answer."  If it had been a sitcom 30 years ago (last time I saw one), then the laugh track would have been guffawing at that parent being once again upstaged by the precocious child (or at least, made up to be child looking) star.  However, this was real life in an Orthodox Jewish home.  He got appropriate mussar and I suspect he will not repeat…

Thought for the Day: Choosing to Battle the Yeitzer HaRa Is the Most Fun

My two year old granddaughter discovered a really fun (for her) game.  Since it was the last Sunday that all the cousins would be together for a while, we took them to the Shedd Aquarium.  Its a great place for a big age range because there is plenty to look at in each exhibit; each according to his level.  We had four adults and eight children; what could go wrong?  Right; plenty.  My daughter turned from one child to another and then back again.... oh no!  where is she!  In a panic, she started searching the area (we were in the amphibian exhibit), finally turning a corner to see her toddler crouching (to make herself as small as possible) in a corner, squealing with laughter and explaining to her mother, "I HIDING!", followed by more giggling.  Her mom, though not amused, was enjoying being able to breathe again.

I, as grandparent who only learned about the situation after its happy conclusion, contemplated what was so fun for her (my granddaughter, not her mother).  She …

Thought for the Day: Three Dimensions of Bracha

I always like to hear a shiur that quotes the Abarbanel.  The commentaries of the Arbabanel tend to be lengthy, so given my long list of priorities, my paucity of time for learning, and my relatively weak Hebrew reading skills, I just can't justify the time investment required.  I am therefore always happy when I hear a reputable magid shiur bringing in an Abarbanel.  You need "reputable", of course, because you are getting a synopsis of the important/main points of a long essay and that is a highly subjective determination.  This is more from R' Ahron Lopiansky.  So when I say "the Abarbanel says", I really mean, "my understanding of R' Ahron Lopiansky's synopsis of what the Abarbanel has to say is".

The Abarbanel says that the word "bracha" is used for more than once concept, and it means different things depending on the context, and by context he means the one using the word and the one to whom the word is being applied.  R&#…