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Mesillas Yesharim 05/17/09

This week we ventured further into the detriments to watchfulness.

The last two weeks (catch up here and here) have focused on setting aside time for Torah and spiritual growth. This is to avoid becoming mired in materiality and neglected our spiritual needs.

Today we moved on to the next detriment. The next thing Ramchal teaches us to avoid is an overarching lack of seriousness. Perhaps it could be more precisely defined as immaturity.

Ramchal says that being un able to take things seriously and scoffing anything important is going to impede our growth.

Find out how by clicking below.

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Green Post

Green.

It used to be an innocent color. Now, it means so much more.

Previously, I talked about the Torah approach to Earth Day. Today, I am going to take a brief dip into Green Politics. Normally, I steer clear of politics. One exception was when I wrote about Political Discrimination. Now that technology gives us the ability to figure out who believes in what politics, it is possible to discriminate against people whom you never knew, because of their politics.

My general opinion in politics is Read the rest of this entry »

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Structure and Philosophy of Torah 2 | Connections 5/4/09

Happy Lag B’Omer.

We had a great turnout this week despite the fact that we lost some attendees to Lag B’Omer celebrations this week.

This week Connections was the second of a series of classes about the history, philosophy, structure and benefits to Torah study.

In preparation for Shavuos, when the Jewish people accepted the Torah, this was the perfect time for the series.

Tonight we did a quick review of last week, though listening online would be a better option. You will get the full picture that way.

Our journey this week took us from the writing of the Mishna through the the beginnings of the formation of the Talmud.

There was a great discussion about “machlokes” and the differing opinions among Tanaic and Amoraic literature.

To be continued next week. See you there (or here).

Click through to listen to the class.

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Mesillas Yesharim 05/10/09

Moving right along in Chapter 5

We quickly reviewed last week and continued until we wrapped up category number 1 of “things to avoid’ so as not to hinder our “Zehirus”.

The main idea is to avoid overwhelming oneself in materiality.

Also, a discussion ensued regarding our natural resistance to morality. It’s like a magnet pulling us towards our instincts.

It was a great class with super pace and as always great questions.

Click through to listen online.

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Structure and Philosophy of Torah | Connections 5/4/09

This week Connections was the first of a series of classes about the history, philosophy, structure and benefits to Torah study.

In preparation for Shavuos, when the Jewish people accepted the Torah, this was the perfect time to begin the series.

This class is the foundation for the next few classes so I highly recommend checking it out. The reviews of the class were great and we hope more people will join us next week.

Our discussion ranged from history of the Jewish people, the connection between the spiritual and material world, astrology and much, much more.

Looking forward to next week. See you there (or here).

Click through to listen to the class right now.

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Mesillas Yesharim 05/03/09

Mesillas Yesharim was electric today!

The 5th Chapter is all about avoiding the things that may hinder our ability to be “watchful”. We need to know what we are doing before we can improve our actions. We need to avoid traps that will take our minds off of watching what we are doing.

This is in the spirit of “Sur Merah, Vaaseh Tov” – Psalms 34. First we must turn away from evil and then we go towards good.

Ramchal gives us 3 things to avoid. We began the first of these today.

During the class we had 3 really great discussion.

Our first discussion was about the distance from our heads to our hearts and Tefillin.

The second discussion was about working for a living. The Torah approach is that one should earn a living to take care of our material needs and set aside time for Torah study to take care of our spiritual needs.

We ended with a lengthy discussion about absolute truth. Our Rabbis teach us that one can only become righteous and moral if they study Torah. What is the meaning behind this? Why is intellectual information a prerequisite for moral growth?

Click through to find out.

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Genius: The Modern View and the Torah View

The most emailed column on NYTimes.com today is this column on genius. In this Op-Ed column, from David Brooks the old question of nature vs. nurture is raised.

Are there people born with elevated talents and skill or are some people the lucky ones who were in the right place at the right time and were nurtured into their high level abilities?

I am not sure what compelled Mr. Brooks to write this column, it seems random and disconnected from today’s news.
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Israel & The Jewish People | Connections 4/27/09

With the upcoming Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim holidays I felt it was a perfect time to discuss the role Israel plays within the Torah system.

For many people Israel serves as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East, for others it is a Jewish homeland where no Jew will be denied access, for others it holds tremendous historical value, there are others who cherish its spiritual significance and there are yet others who pine for the elevated Torah study of the Land of Israel.

Our goal was to find the meaning of the Land of Israel and its connection to the Jewish people from the Torah. We went to the source to find why there is an intrinsic connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

This relationship did not begin in 1948.

The class ended with some really interesting anecdotes (I don’t want to give anything away – but suffice to say, very interesting stuff) and a few great points from our Connections attendees.

Click through to listen to the class right now.

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Mesillas Yesharim 04/26/09

…And we’re back. After a brief hiatus the Mesillas Yesharim class returned today with a bang.

We completed the fourth chapter of Mesillas Yesharim!

We began our class today with a re-reading of what we studied during our last class (just added – sorry about that).

It was just as incredible as the first time we studied this idea – it truly blows my mind.

We wrapped up the class with the final thoughts of Chapter 4 and next week we will begin Chapter 5.

Click through to hear the end of Chapter 4.

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Earth Day and Torah

Happy Earth day everyone.

Wait. Is that the correct salutation? Is Earth Day a “happy” day?

I’m not so sure. Sometimes, it seems that Earth Day is marked by doom and gloom about the environment. It used to exclusively be an opportunity to lambaste those who were not as concerned with the environment. Tempers have generally cooled but there is still some tension on Earth Day. I think this is the wrong approach to Earth Day.

To me Earth Day is Read the rest of this entry »

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The Omer & Channeling Our Materiality | Connections 4/20/09

Tonight, Connections returned.

Our mission: to understand the difference between our Pesach celebration and the Shavuos celebration. More specifically, why is our Pesach celebration of freedom accomplished via the non-descript Matzah and our celebration of receiving the Torah is with a physically pleasurable celebration.

We also learned the Torah way of approaching character development and how to use our natural instincts and tendencies for spirituality.

The evening ended with a few great questions and an important clarification on my part.

It’s all online and you can click through to listen to the class.

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Mesillas Yesharim 03/15/09

Incredible.

Today we learned about an amazing concept in Judaism. We learned Ramchal’s reconciliation of a very important conceptual contradiction.

We learned recently that we believe GD’s judgment is exact. He is truth and truth is absolute justice. We use this to contemplate the consequences of our actions. When we contemplate the consequences of our actions we may be able to control our animal instincts.

What about GD’s mercy? What about His compassion. How are we to understand mercy in the context of judgment? If we deserve to suffer the consequences of our actions how can GD “overlook” those consequences and show mercy?

You will be absolutely blown away by Ramchal’s answer.

Click through for the secret.

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Purim Night! | Connections 3/9/09

Purim Night at the Shul on the Beach was amazing.

On Sunday a number of volunteers from the community distributed Hamentaschen to passersby on the Venice Boardwalk. They met so many interesting Jewish people from Venice / Santa Monica and the rest of the world.

A lot of those people joined us for the Purim Party at the Shul on the Beach Monday night. We hope we will see them again soon!

I spoke briefly and put a bow on all our Purim talks up to this point.

It’s all online and you can click through to listen to the class.

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Messilas Yesharim 03/08/09

We changed the clocks the night previous to this class. You can tell because I sound extra groggy!

Walking along Ramchal’s “straight path” we continued to analyze the impact of our actions.

There are no small things, nothing gets brushed under the carpet. Meditating on this idea can help us remember that all of our actions all have consequences – that is Ramchal’s goal in this section.

The questions were insightful and I really enjoyed the class despite the effects of the clocks moving ahead an hour…

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Yom Kippur and Purim | Connections 3/2/09

As we have learned more and more about Purim many people have danced around the subject of Yom Kippur and Purim.

There is a connection there and tonight we explored that connection. Quoting great Rabbis like the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer and R’ Yitzchak Hutner we went deeper than ever before into the world of Purim.

You will definitely enjoy the class especially if you have been following throughout the Purim series. To catch up you can listen to our first Purim class by clicking here and the second by clicking here. The conclusion of the series will be at the PJC Purim party on Monday night March 9, 2009 at the Shul on the Beach at 7:40 PM. See you then!

In the meantime enjoy this week’s edition.

It’s all online and you can click through to listen to the class.

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