Archive for the ‘Halachah/Jewish Law’ Category

The matter of the controversy between the Academy of Hillel and the Academy of Shamai was a difficult matter for Israel, because of the great controversy that persisted between them. Ultimately, it was concluded that the halachah (law) would follow the opinion of the Academy of Hillel always. Therefore, that this conclusion should remain in full force forever and ever, and should not weaken under any circumstances, is the upkeep of the Torah, so that the Torah should not be made into two separate Torahs. Therefore… it is more pious to hold like the Academy of Hillel, even when this constitutes a leniency, rather than to act stringently like the Academy of Shamai. This principle should be as eyes for us to see upon which path dwells the light in truth and faithfulness to do that which is right in the eyes of God.”

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, The Path of the Just, Ch. 20

The virtue of piety also requires that one should not cause any creature to suffer, even animals, and should show mercy and compassion toward them. Similarly, it says (Proverbs 12:10): ‘The righteous man knows the soul of his beast.’ And there are those who are of the opinion that ‘causing an animal to suffer is a prohibition of the Torah’ (Shabbos 128B). And at the very least it is a Rabbinic enactment.

-Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, The Path of the Just, Ch. 19

And this is one of the ways teshuvah (repentance), that at a time when trouble arrives, and the people will cry out over it, and sound the shofar (trumpet), everyone will know that due to their wicked deeds has this evil befallen them… and this will cause the trouble to be removed from them. But if they will not cry out and not sound the shofar, but will say this matter has occurred because it is the way of the world, and this trouble is coincidental, behold, this is the way of cruelty, and causes them to cling to their wicked ways, and upon this trouble shall be added other troubles.

          -Mishnah Berurah 576:1

Naftali Herz Wessely, Divrey Shalom veEmeth, Ch. 6DShvE3


MB-131-3-6In the above exerpt from Mishnah Berurah, the author cites as a halachic source the book Tanya, written by the famed Chasidic master Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. He goes on to say that the view of the Tanya is opposed by the book Dagul meRevavah, written by Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (aka the Noda bYhudah, after the name of his great work of responsa), but rules in favor of the Tanya’s opinion. The irony here is that Rabbi Landau was among the most vehement opponents (“misnagdim”) of Chasidism in his time, even though Rabbi Landau’s own cousin was the wife of none other than the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem), the founder of the Chasidic movement. The further irony is that Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, author of Mishnah Berurah, while certainly in his time took no part in the feud between the Chasidim and Misnagdim (the feud had mostly died away by his time), could squarely be identified as a leader of the non-Chasidic segment of Eastern European Jewry. Nevertheless, clearly, with no pro-Chasidic bias on his side, armed with purely legal tools of judgment, rules in favor of the view of Tanya against that of Dagul meRevavah. Fascinating.


In the area of study known as Quantum Physics, there is a remarkable phenomenon known as “quantum entanglement.”

Without going into too much detail, the relevant information about quantum entanglement for the purposes of this post is to understand that particles that are part of a system react to a change that occurs to another particle in the system simultaneous with that change, without even the delay necessary for the information to travel at the speed of light from one particle to the other. In other words, you and I cannot know about anything that has happened anywhere else until the information reaches us. Then we can react. But this information takes time to travel. In quantum entanglement, particles that are part of a system react to one another IMMEDIATELY, without the necessary time it would take for the information regarding the change of one particle to reach the other particle(s) even if that information were travelling at the speed of light. Since faster than light travel is not possible, there must be some other factor that causes these particles to be “entangled” with one another at all times and places, despite the space between them. This is sometimes called, “spooky action at a distance.”

Here is a question someone emailed me:

Since TIME is one of the dimensions of the universe, shouldn’t entanglement not only be “spooky action at a (linear) distance”, but, also, “spooky action across expanses of time”?!  Cannot an action taken or decision made “now” impact events in the future — even the distance future?  Since, according to physics, the past, present, and future are not fundamentally different, could not an action taken in the “present” affect even PAST events?!!  Is it possible that a righteous act done today can mitigate the suffering undergone by someone in our distant past?  What do you think of this idea?  Did any of our Gaonim (sages) have similar thoughts? Am I way off the mark? or is this possible?
      I would like to propose that this is indeed plausable, based on an incident in the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), according to our Oral Tradition. Let us examine a passage in I Samuel 14:
      At the end of a (successful) war against the Philistines, the Israelite army is famished and desperate to eat. They begin slaughtering animals for food, but word reaches King Saul that the people, in their haste, are not allowing the blood of the animal to drain sufficiently before eating it, thereby violating the prohibition against eating blood. Saul calls for the people to gather and he oversees the slaughtering of the animals to ensure no one eats meat before the blood is properly drained.
      Verse 34 contains a puzzle. Saul commands the people, “ושחטתם בזה,” meaning, “slaughter in this,” or “slaughter with this,” but the verse does not tell us what the “this” was that Saul referred to. Rashi offers that the plain meaning is either “in this place,” or “with this knife,” though it is peculiar that the verse leaves these specifics out of the narrative.
      Indeed, the Midrash (VaYikra Rabah 25) tells us that Saul referred to a knife, and the wording was chosen to hint that the word בזה — “with this” — is a description of the knife itself. How so?
      The numerical value of the word בזה is 14. According to the Midrash, the knife Saul showed the people to use for slaughter was a knife 14 “fingerlengths” long (about 14 inches). Until the time, it was typical to use a smaller knife, which complicated slaughter and often caused problems that rendered the animal unkosher. Saul’s knife, however allowed the slaughter to be performed more easily and with less risk of botching the procedure. This knife-length was thenceforth embraced as standard Jewish halachic (legal) practice. According to the Midrash, Saul was the innovator of this improvement in the practice of kosher slaughter.
      The Midrash goes on to ask: “When was Saul rewarded by G-d” for this? The Midrash answers: On the day the Israelites went to war against the Philistines, and cites a verse at the end of Chapter 13:
“And it was on the day of the war, there was no sword nor spear found in the hand of the entire nation that was with Saul and Jonathan, and it was found for Saul and Jonathan.”
      Without getting into too much analysis, on the face of it, the verse appears to contradict itself. At first it says no weapons were found for anyone, and then it says they were found for Saul and Jonathan. According to Rashi (apparently based on the above Midrash), the verse indicates a sequence of events. At first there were no weapons, but then, miraculously, weapons become found by Saul and Jonathan such that now the Israelite army could fight and defeat the Philistines.
      According to the Midrash, THIS was the reward for Saul having upheld and enhanced kosher meat slaughter in the above incident. As a reward for using knives to uphold the Torah, Saul was rewarded with knives (swords, etc.) when he needed them.

      But there’s something MAJORLY difficult here. You may have noticed that the CAUSE of the reward (Saul’s actions in Ch. 14) come AFTER effect (the reward in Ch. 13). How is this possible?

Most classic commentaries choose to understand that the Midrash means to identify the incident with Saul and the knife as an example of many similar incidents in which Saul introduced this reform. The Midrash cites this one because this is where it appears in the text. But undoubtedly, there were many similar incidents to this prior to the one in Ch. 14 for which Saul was rewarded in Ch. 13. This resolves the apparent paradox.

However, the Etz Yoseph commentary shares a different and radical view.


According to Etz Yoseph, since G-d knows the future, in this incident G-d payed Saul the reward for his future merit, even though he had not yet performed the act for which he would merit the reward.

If we were to reword the Etz Yoseph‘s comments in the terminology of modern quantum mechanics, we might say that this is no paradox at all, since all moments in time are linked along a dimensional plane. That being the case, just as we find “entanglement” between two particles within a system across the dimension of space, the same could be said about events across an expanse of time (even “backwards” in time). So that Saul’s CAUSAL action in the (so-called) future produced an EFFECT in the past.

More on quantum entanglement in time, from a purely scientific (not religious) perspective here: