07 Jan

Chapter 9: Man and Society

When the Evil Inclination Serves the Good

The Evil Inclination. Man has an inclination to do evil, and this makes life rather pessimistic. How should we deal with the fact that we have within us a desire for evil?

A desire for all sorts of evil, without going into detail for the moment. On the other hand, we also have within ourselves an intense inclination to do good. We call this the Good Inclination. How can we explain this duality? I am a single person, so how can I contain both an inclination for good and an inclination for evil?

Read More

07 Jan

Chapter 8: Israel and the Nations

The Heart and the Limbs

There is a famous quote from one of the greatest Jewish thinkers, Rabbi Judah Halevi, “Israel is to the nations as a heart is to the limbs.” We must try to understand this statement. All of humanity is a single, living, incredibly large organism that exists throughout generations and cannot be reduced to any particular generation. Within this totality there is a vector, a direction to humanity. Since prehistory, and the beginning of history, though all cultures, we feel that humanity has a direction, a goal.

And for there to be a direction there must be a center that will serve as the memory that retains the chronicles of the whole.

Read More

07 Jan

Chapter 7: The Land of Israel

The Place Where God Rests his Presence

What is a holy place? Modern man has a justifiable hesitancy to acknowledge the holiness of holy places. Great wars have been fought because of holy places and here we must understand something.

The common mistake in the religious traditions over the generations has been to ascribe holiness to the actual space. This is actually the basis of paganism. On the other hand, we cannot have monotheistic belief without acknowledging the divine presence in places. If not, we would have to make all our worship exclusively spiritual, that has nothing to do with geography or topography. But we want a world that is whole, that is abundant, that is one.

Read More

07 Jan

Chapter 6: The Written Torah and the Oral Torah

Can We Understand the Tanach?

What is the written Torah? The written Torah is made up of five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This the first section of the general codex called “Tanach,” which is an acronym for “Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim,” (Torah, Prophets, Writings). What most characterizes the written Torah? The most central feature is that the written Torah cannot be understood by the modern state of mind.

This is because it is part of a historical era where prophecy was present in humanity.

Read More

07 Jan

Chapter 5: The Commandments

To Fill the Vessel and Love God
There are many commandments. 613 commandments. This is a lot. But don’t worry, many of them are simply prohibitive in nature. For example, do not murder, and who really desires to murder? Only few. It can be said that as we sit here with each other and don’t murder, we fulfill one of the commandments. Another example is do not steal. If I do no wrong, then I don’t steal. These are prohibitive commandments, called “shalt nots.”

Read More

19 Dec

Chapter 4: The Essence of the Soul

The Lower Soul, the Higher Soul and the Spirit

What is the soul? There are many theories. Some see the soul as simply a biological phenomenon. When man dies, so does his soul. Others say no. That the soul is, in essence biological, but that it can become eternal. The classic philosophers said that if someone achieves ‘intellect’ his soul will change from being mortal to eternal. Others say no. That the soul is, in essence, a spark of divinity, a sort of deity within man. What is the truth?

Read More

19 Dec

Chapter 3: Morality

Man’s Free Will is Absolute

Man is a creature of free will. God created man with free will: i.e. the ability to decide his fate, to choose between good and, God forbid, evil. This choice is an absolute choice. There is no boundary to the ability of man to choose to do good or to do evil. Such our sages have taught us. Rabbi Akiva has said “the permission is granted,” the permission is granted to man to do good or to do evil and he is therefore worthy of reward for doing good and punishment for doing evil. All this because he has absolute responsibility for his actions.

Read More