Thursday Nights, 5781

These shiurim are being given on Thursday nights in Y.U. for the entire yeshiva. We hope to add each week’s shiur as the year progresses.

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See the table below the player for details about the shiurim in this series.

TrackTitleLength (mm:ss)Description
01Sin as the Fallout of One’s Orientation in Life. Personalizing Teshuva (Rambam Hil. Teshuva 3:4)20:35The Rambam (Teshuva 3:4) first addresses those who are sleeping, preoccupied with emptiness, etc., and only then mentions sin, since since is the outcome of the aforementioned orientation in life. Later the Rambam switches from lashon rabbim to lashon yachid because teshuvamust be personalized.
02Din and Simcha on Rosh Hashana17:12Din and Simcha are found together not just on Rosh Hashana, but on each of the shalosh regalim as well (see mishna begining of R”H.) We have simcha not despite din, but because of din, 1) because din represents revelation of kvod Shomayim, and that is the occassion of simcha 2) because being held accountable, albeit scary, also gives on the opportunity we know we need to hit the reset button
03Why Rabbis Shouldn’t Endorse Candidates. The Importance of Voting and of Keeping a Low Profile in Chutz La’aretz.29:47The Rav zt”l refused to endorse political parties. Figuring out who to vote for involves venturing outside Torah (into politics, economics, etc.), and when people venture outside of Torah in the name of Torah, Torah becomes politicized, which it shouldn’t be. It’s important to vote because we have a responsibility to others. Also important for Jews to maintain a low profile in all elections in chutz La’aretz, as we are only guests here. Especially important in this election. When we fail to remember lagor ba’aretz banu, HKB”H sends us reminders.
04The Role of Nisayon in Living up to our Potential23:17The role of nisyonos in pushing us to grow. Adversity as an opportunity. Setting realistically ambitious goals for ourselves to achieve that which we are capable of.
05The Exquisite Balance of Torah: Ger V’Toshav27:56Torah is exquisitely balanced in all dimensions / ways. One of the those couplets of balance is “ger v’toshav” – being foreigners and residents in the world. It may feel more “righteous” to be out of balance in one direction or another, but any imbalance is a distortion of Torah which yields bad results. Maintaining that balance is more emmes-dik.
06Derech Eretz: Torah’s Balance Between Physical and Spiritual35:29“Derech eretz” can mean livelihood/melacha or proper behavior/middos (R’ Yona, Rambam). Is there a connection between the two meanings? Rambam (Peirush Mishanyos, Avos 5:6) defines am ha’aretz as having the necessary middos to live in society successfully and smoothly with other people. The natural state for people is to live in society. “Derech eretz” indicates a naturalness, i.e. functioning the way things are supposed to be. This means proper behavior, and livelihood/melacha as well, for one to function in the world the way he is supposed to. Being involved with melacha is itself (independent of the paycheck) part of what we are supposed to do. Balancing things differently than how the Torah dictated results in spiritual damage. The way to succeed in avodas Hashem / in spirituality is to be mindful of that balance and maintain it.
07A Contemporary, Empirical Perspective on Secular Studies16:55A complete discussion would be ahistorical, and discuss what role chochmo should play in the studies of a ben Torah. This would not be as productive to do b’rabbim since the conclusion would very much depend on the individual. But there is also a historical dimension, i.e. the time in which we live. First, many professions today require advanced secular education. An individual may decide his kochos are best suited to being a car mechanic, and thus secular studies are not relevant to him, but on the communal level we are well served by having our own expert doctors, scientists, etc. The other factor present in our day: empirically, sociologically, absent a secular education, do we find that we, and our children, have a correct and accurate understanding of the state of secular knowledge and the secular world? Without the education/exposure, do we, practically and empirically, know how to discriminate between what is bad and whatever there is of value? Do we find in our generation that without the education we resort to inaccurate stereotypes and indiscriminate generalizations? Even if one says from the ahistorical perspective, given his abilities he doesn’t see a place for secular studies, and even if he doesn’t need it for parnassa, what do we see empirically in terms of people resorting to inaccurate stereotypes due to lack of knowledge?
08Self-Love vs. Selfishness, and the Role Thereof in the COVID Pandemic35:49Ramban: it’s impossible to love someone else as much as oneself; V’ahavta l’reia’cha kamocha means love others in all respects in which you love yourself. HKBH created us with a self-love greater than all other loves because our greatest responsibility is for ourselves, and HKBH gives love commensurate to our level of responsibility (hence parents having such great love for children). Feeling sorry for ourselves, however, and feeling that the world owes us something, means we are expecting/demanding that the world take care of us instead of taking care of ourselves.
We should not be self-centered, and the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel places boundaries on self-love; everything we want for ourselves we should want for other Jews. The reality of the pandemic is that the magnitude of suffering and death has been self-imposed. If the appropriate preventative measures would’ve been taken universally, hundreds of thousands of lives would’ve been saved. One of the leading factors in people not being careful is selfishness; healthy people decide it is not worth the disruption to their lives to be careful. But a person doesn’t have to wear a mask because HE is vulnerable, but because it is inevitable that if we do not do it people will die. We have to be aware of and understand what we are seeing, and we have to ask ourselves if it has infiltrated ourselves and/or our community as well.
09Chanukah & COVID: Acknowledging the Darkness and Working to Increase the Light36:20Mitzvas Ner Chanukah is a source of illumination in the world. Rambam – as a result of Chanukah we ended up in a better place than before Chanukah, i.e. we had malchus Yisroel, which we did not have before. Dafka from the darkness of Yavan, the light of Chanukah emerged. When darkness descends, it demands we create greater illumination. Each Yom Tov is a special time with special qualities every year. None of us have lived through a Chanukah where there was such darkness before. We have to recognize the darkness, take all precautionary measures as is demanded by halacha, and respond with teshuva and increased Torah.
10The Power of Speech25:19Torah teaches us about koach hadibbur. On the natural level: speech 1) can be persuasive and 2) can trigger emotional reactions, and can thus result in action. On the metaphysical level, ba’asara ma’amaros nivrah ha’olam, b’dvar Hashem ha’shomayim na’asu: speech itself creates a reality. Two applications/context for awareness of koach hadibbur: 1) We should be as concerned with reckless speech as we are with reckless behavior. 2) More challenging: sometimes it is warranted and mandated to unequivocally, and repeatedly, condemn certain behavior, it has to be done in a way that doesn’t r”l incite or inflame. One deplorable development among shomrei Torah is use of the term “Nazi”, which distorts and diminishes the unparalleled magnitude of the holocaust. Koach hadibbur defines a person and we can take the measure of someone via their speech.
11Urgency to Change. Dangers of Superficiality.37:44The prospect of the end of the pandemic should instill within us a sense of urgency, because it can’t shouldn’t be that after a catastrophe of this magnitude we just pick up our lives and resume as if nothing happened. We have to be in a different place when it ends than when it started. Nothing external creates change within me – I have to arose myself (e.g., see the lack of change after the mabul.) This has to happen not just individually, but communally as well. Talking about our community of sincerely committed bnai Torah, one of our Achilles heels is superficiality, and it represents a danger. Superficiality can result in distortion, e.g. taking something very important and exaggerating its importance to the point that you make it eclipse something that is even more important. Something may be an extraordinarily important ikar (e.g. talmud Torah), but blowing its importance out of proportion to eclipse something that is one of the ikarei haIkarim (e.g. middos tovos) is a distortion of Torah. Similarly, when we don’t balance things the way Torah says to, Torah gets distorted and terrible things can be done in the name of Torah. When we look where to live and where to enroll our children, we should, in fact, look at the ikarim, but not be mindless and ignore the ikarei haikarim.
12Cling to Emmes Uncompromisingly26:23Cling to emmes b/c 1) mandated by v’holachta b’drachav 2) if one compromises emmes on “small” things, that bad habit will spill over into big things. 3) If one genuinely loves something, that entails hating its opposite. If I love Torah, which is emmes, I hate sheker. There’s no partial credit in truth, and a lack of being emmes-dik taints everything else.
13Derech Beinonis: The Need for Balance31:03Rambam Hilchos Dei’os: Derech Beinonis is derech hayashara and is derech Hashem. Rambam says it is not “ra’oy” to veer from derech beinonis. Rambam uses “ra’oy” to mean a chiyuv which emerges from sechel. Hence Rambam mentions that derech beinonis is derech hayashara before metioning that it is derech Hashem. Man was created in such a way that he needs balance; Darchei Hashem with v’holachto b’d’rachav require it as well. It is no wonder that they converge, since our entire understanding of HKBH is his creation of us and how He relates to the world.
The Rav, commenting on the Mechilta saying “ein Elokim ela dayan” – mishpatim are the natural moral laws of the world; just as there are consequences when one ignores natural physical laws, e.g. if one tried to deny gravity by stepping out of a window he’d be hurt or killed, same thing with mishpatim – there are immediate consequences to ignoring mishpatim. When our society, 50+ years ago, challenged all the natural morality, it caused the disintegration of our society. The total chaos is a result of defying natural moral law.
This is true of the middah beinonis as well; we pay a price here and now when there is imbalance. The price is present and discernable.
14Emunah Must be Shared31:22We see from many sources that emunah must be shared. Why?
1) ahavas Hashem
2) One aspect of yichud Hashem is how much people perceive the reality of HKB”H
3) Emunah belongs to everyone, not just the person who “finds” it; it belongs to the Klal.
Hence the obligation leil to teach children even if they don’t ask.
15The Modesty and Chessed of HKB”H’s Creation of Torah16:24HKB”H created Torah, which provides us access to some of the infinite chochmo Elokis on our indescribably low level. The modest venue of Har Sinai is a symbol of this modesty of HKB”H. Torah crystalized when Moshe received (“kibeil”) it from HKB”H. he then passed that creation on (“u’mesara”) to Yeshoshua. HKB”H’s creation of Torah is an extraordinary chessed.
16Lag B’Omer 5781 Tragedy11:14
17Balance, Shavuos20:58Toras Hashem temima – demands living a balanced life (see Rambam.) Even when we have the correct ingredients for a recipe, we have to have the correct amount of each.
Have to balance physical and spiritual – enough physical but not too much. If we don’t have enough food, money, etc., it becomes our primary focus; not addressing physical needs ironically causes us to be focused primarily on the physical. Same thing with spiritual things – must be able to filter out good from the bad when it comes to ideas, knowledge – accept truth even from a society that generates lots of sheker.
Therefore on Shavuos need chetzyo l’Hashem v’chetzyo lachem – the day we receive Torah has to exemplify balance.