Archive for the ‘Talmud’ Category

After explaining that the ultimate intent of tefillah (prayer) is to cause the Almighty’s divine light to shine upon the earth and thereby repair it in through the establishment of His Kingship (see this post), Nefesh haChayim (Gate II, Ch. 11) goes on to explain what prayer ought not to be:

Though the Talmud (Sandhedrin 8A) teaches that an individual may insert their own words into their prayer concerning their personal needs and troubles, within the blessing related to that particular matter, even in doing so, one’s ultimate intent should not be to address one’s own trouble [rather to increase the glory of the Almighty by removing this evil], and this is not the proper path for those who are upright in their hearts.

Midrash Eleh Ezkerah is a dramatized narrative describing (with poetic license) the tragic executions of ten of Israel’s greatest sages at the hands of the Romans. The story depicts these ten as having lived contemporaneously and having been executed more or less in the same time and place, though this was not actually the case.

Nevertheless, in this work, the body of the sage Rabbi Akiva is carried by Elijah the Prophet. Elijah meets Rabbi Yehoshua haGarsi, who asks Elijah how he could carry Akiva’s dead body when Elijah is a Kohen, and a Kohen is forbidden to come into contact with a dead body, lest he become tamei — spiritually contaminated. Elijah replies, “The bodies of the righteous do not render spiritual contamination.”

It appears that the author of this narrative was of the opinion that Elijah was a Kohen, and therefore would line up with the opinion that Elijah was in fact Pinchas.

To the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” these new lyrics (by me) capture the Biblical and midrashic stories about the enigmatic giant known as Og.

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

In the rain Og traveled, as the Teivah sailed,

It bobbed and rocked and shook and lurched, what a whale of a tale! Oh…

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

When Lot was living in Sedom, the Five Kings went to war,

Lot was captured when the five kings lost against the four.

 

Og tried to be clever, came and told Avram,

He hoped Avram would die but Avram fought with dirt and won.

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

Mighty King of Bashan, later Og became,

Everyone would tremble at the mention of his name.

 

Old King Og would try to destroy Avraham’s children,

Tried to squash B’ney Yisrael with a big mountain.

 

Humble Moshe jumped and struck Og’s ankle with his staff,

That’s how Og met his mighty end, he had not the last laugh.

 

Og, the Mighty Giant, thought that he was brave,

He didn’t know only Hashem has the power to save. Oh…

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

 

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

The Path of the Just (מסילת ישרים), Ch. 24:

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We have already found that the great transcendent angels tremble and shudder constantly before the awesomeness of the Eternal, to such a degree that our Sages of blessed memory have said in a wise allegory (Chagigah 13B): ‘From where does the [Heavenly] River of Fire originate? From the sweat of the holy creatures [who serve the Eternal].’ And this is because of their awe of the exaltedness of the Blessed One that is constantly upon them, lest they detract, even if only in a small way, from the glory and sanctity that befits Him.

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 every man should hasten to repent, and should be afraid that he will be punished for his sin before he [repents], as it is said, ‘Give honor to the Lord your God before it gets dark’ (Jeremiah 13:16), and it says, ‘And remember your Creator in the days of your youth, while the days of evil have not yet come…’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1). And it also is taught in Tractate Shabbath (153A), ‘Rabbi Eliezer says, ‘Repent one day before you die.’ Rabbi Eliezer’s students asked him, ‘Does a person know on which day he will die?’ He said to them, ‘All the more so should a person repent today, lest he die tomorrow. Thence all his days he will be in repentance.’ And our Sages of blessed memory said in the first chapter of Tractace Rosh haShanah: ”Fortunate is the man who fears God.’ Fortunate is the man, and not the woman? It means, ‘Fortunate is the person who repents while he is a man.” And Rashi explains [this means] while he is a young man, in his strength, that is to say, he hurries to recognize his Creator before the days of old age, while he is a mighty man. And even though all repentence is excellent, even in one’s old age, as the verse states: ‘You cause man to repent until contrition (דכא)’ (Psalms 90:3), and our Sages of blessed memory said [this means] ‘until the time when life is crushed (דכדוכא) [i.e. old age]’ (Ruth Rabah to Ruth 3:13), nevertheless, the repentance that a man does during his youth, in his strength, is more desirable and acceptable before God.

(B’rith Avraham, Chapter 5)