Thursday, September 22, 2011


In nature as a whole - and especially in its systematic regularity and in the technical character of its processes, in the scientific drama occurring within it, in the exact mathematical relationships between the natural phenomena and especially in the permanent laws of physics - the primeval will of the Master of the Universe is reflected. A man goes outdoors on a fair summer's day and sees the whole world blossoming; that man comes "to know" that there exists a Primary Being Who is the originator of all that is; in every budding flower, in every rose opening its petals, in each ray of light and in every drop of rain - "to know that there is a Primary Being and that He is the Originator of all that is." - Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Repentance and Free Choice, On Repentance
This paragraph jumped out at me late last night, as I was trying to steal a little time to read some really valuable material. Symmetry is a wonderful thing, and we naturally strive to find it in the world around us. To some extent, this is the basis for Pythagoras' theory of mind, but our seforim haKedoshim have expounded on this idea for eons.

According to chassidus, this is a valuable tool towards reaching true emunah, but it isn't the highest point; rather, the highest point of emunah is recognizing the fact that we have a deeply personal relationship with the One Above - the fact that we are able to address Him in the accusatory tense in our prayers, that we converse with Him as if we are speaking to a contemporary, or (as it were) an equal in a relationship, a beloved companion in a reciprocal pairing.

And yet, despite this loftier ideal of emunah, the Rav's expression guides us toward a level of knowledge, a security that perhaps reinforces the faith, bolstering the relationship. With security, even when the "object" of the relationship is not present, or not attending to the current situation, we still rest assured that the relationship is robust, and we can trust.

The laws of nature with their immutable continuity remind us of the symmetry that can only be maintained by the Creator of all things. That same "dedication" bolsters our faith in the symmetry of our relationship with Him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A parable concerning a group of bandits held captive in the King's dungeon: They dug a tunnel, broke through, and escaped - but one of them stayed behind. When the warden came and saw the escape tunnel, and this man had remained, he began beating him with his truncheon. He [the warden] said to him: "Fool! There is a tunnel leading to freedom; how can you not hurry to save your life?!"
So too, the time will come when the Holy One, Blessed is He will say to the wicked "Repentance was laid before you, and you did not return?!" (Medrash, Kohelet Rabbah)

Rabbeinu Yonah learned from this (Sha'arei Teshuvah 1:2) the gravity of the punishment reserved for the sinner who delays in repenting from his sins:

His punishment grows heavy upon him with every day, for he knows that there will be wrath upon him and that he has a way to allay that wrath...that is, repentance, yet he stands in his rebelliousness..."

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Day To Disconnect

Neil posted about the "Day to Disconnect" initiative a short while ago on his blog. I just found this video ad for it via Hirhurim:


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Elul: Unity and Repentance

In honor of the yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook OBM. Some timely words to begin our month-long preparation for the High Holy Days:

As we stand before the beginning of a new year, it is incumbent upon us to draw near to the path of teshuvah (repentance), which brings redemption and healing to the world.The Jewish people have become divided into two camps, through the categorization of Jews as Charedi (religious) and Chofshi(secular). These are new terms, which were not used in the past. Of course, not everyone is identical, especially in spiritual matters; but there was never a specific term to describe each faction and group. In this respect, we can certainly say that previous generations were superior to ours.Emphasizing this categorization obstructs the way towards improvement for both camps. One who feels that he belongs to theCharedi camp looks down upon the secular camp. If he thinks aboutteshuvah and improvement, he immediately casts his eyes in the direction of the Chofshi camp, devoid of Torah and mitzvot. He is confident that full repentance is required by the irreligious, not by him.The secular Jew, on the other hand, is convinced that any notion of penitence is a Charedi concept, completely irrelevant to him.It would be better if each person would concentrate on discerning his own defects, and judge others generously. It could very well be that others have treasure-troves of merits, hidden from sight. We must recognize that there exists in all of the camps a latent force leading towards goodness. Each camp has much to improve upon, and is capable of learning much from the light and goodness of the other camp.Let us be known to each other by one name — "Klal Yisrael". And let our prayer be fulfilled:
"May they all become one group, to perform Your Will whole- heartedly" (from the High Holiday prayers).
(adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah, p. 58)
For more Torah from Rav Kook adapted into English, see here. I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Song of Teshuva Vol. I, which has been delayed several weeks already...