Category Archives: Torah

Audio Shiurim

Classes I’ve taught at Yeshivat Torat Yosef – Hamivtar can be downloaded here

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Exilic Chanukah Vs. Israeli Chanukah

Between the two miracles of Chanukah (the oil and the victory), the more important one is unquestionably the victory. This is evidenced by the fact that it is the one we give thanks for. That is the one we couldn’t live without. The miracle of the oil isn’t that miraculous. There are many, far more miraculous events in our history without a holiday. The oil miracle is more an idea (hence, we study it). But, what is that idea?
The common answer is that it represents the battle between physicality and spirituality The Greeks were all about materialism and the physical while the Jews were all about the spiritual. The Greeks tried to rob us of our spirituality and convert us to materialism and physicality. The miracle of the oil demonstrates the laws of nature and the material world being broken to show the dominance of spirituality. A perfect message for life in exile. Torah=spirituality, the world=physicality. Torah > world.
That is why the miracle of oil became so central in the exile.
But, the truth is that the miracle of the oil was secondary. We don’t even mention it in על הניסים. The battle was about our obligation and right to live a physical life infused by spirituality and holiness. That’s why the decrees were ones involving action: don’t circumcise, don’t rest on Shabbat, don’t purify in a Mikve etc… all of which represent the holiness of the physical.
The Greeks saw the physical and spiritual as separate and contradictory. Chanukah comes to show that they are not inherently separate, rather are both vessels for a deeper meaning and purpose – holiness.
That is what the miracle of the oil demonstrates and the victory miracle embodies – the ability of the physical to be “stretched” and hold more than just physicality; that the physical is a vessel for more.

That is the difference between an exilic and redemptive understanding of Chanukah as well as the key to understanding the past century of Zionism… 

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Filed under Chagim/Holidays, Israel and Galut

Torah Awaits a Revival

Torah should be what propel the State of Israel forward in social and cultural matters (in the wide sense of those terms) and not just cause us to man the barricades of the Shulchan Aruch to preserve the status quo. Is there anyone who has a clue how to run a modern economy according to the Torah? is there anyone who even has a suggestion for it? is there anyone capable of imagining what “Jewish” foreign relations look like in a global village? So, are we doomed to wait for a prophet and until then we should just hold down the fort dreaming of the return of the good old days? Although we’re doing the best we can in translating the language we know into a new reality, we need someone from the outside to expand the language we’re using, or better yet, just start speaking it and we will have to follow suit. For instance – if the Knesset were to legislate that all immigrants who live in the country for 10 years, serve in the army and identify with core values of Judaism are considered Jewish for the purposes of marriage, burial, etc… Halacha would eventually find a way to except it – without breaching Halacha, as it would already be a reality.
To what is this analogous?
When Eliezer Ben Yehudah revived the Hebrew language he used as much of what he could from Jewish sources but, obviously, it wasn’t nearly sufficient. The Hebrew of the sources just wasn’t rich enough to relate to the realities of modern times. Out of his familiarity with the new realities he tried to fit them into constructs that may have already existed but the result included many completely brand new words.
The Torah awaits its revival, too.

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Filed under Halacha, Torah