So many new shiurim BS"D. Some linked on the side of the page.
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website
I received the following note in my mail from some unknown source: "Great news! Until now, in vitro fertilization was available only to couples with fertility problems – now everybody else can also avail themselves of this procedure! Any couple who wants to guarantee that they will have a healthier child can now turn to our clinic! Using a unique and advanced technique, we will perform a selection by which you can choose who to bring into this world and who not to bring. We will weed out fetuses that are genetically inclined to develop cancer, diabetes, and other medical problems. You will know in advance that your baby will not be prone to sickness."
What is your reaction to such an announcement? Surprise? Happiness? Do you immediately reach for the phone and make an appointment in this new clinic? Or do you perhaps react with greater caution? The rapid development of science carries along with it quite a few serious ethical dilemmas and moral problems which must be considered very carefully. We must not be blinded by the wonders of technology, which can lead us to ignore the significance of new developments and their cost to us.
The pace of the world's development is beyond our comprehension. Devices that twenty years ago would have seemed to be science fiction are sitting in our pockets today and we take them for granted. What will things look like twenty years from now? It is hard to say, but based on our experience we might feel that nothing is impossible. However, the enthusiasm with which we accept every innovation and the way we get excited about the latest science discoveries leads us to miss out on the critical analysis of its moral, spiritual, and cultural meaning. This may lead to terrible damage. Just imagine a nine-year-old boy who is sitting behind the wheel of a large truck and who presses the gas pedal. This might lead to a lethal result. When a driver with a fourth-grade mentality and skills takes charge of a monster with such great power, he is liable to run over many objects on the road.
In his book "Eder Hayakar," Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook describes the advances in the world in just these terms. Two forces lead the world – the "will" and the "ability." Ability refers to scientific and technological advances. "Will" refers to awareness, understanding, and the realm of morality. The world plods along on two feet, and the one that almost always leads is the one representing ability. Man has landed on the moon and sent spaceships that went beyond the solar system, he has decoded the secrets of the human genome and has achieved amazing results in the realm of cloning. He holds remarkable smartphones in his hand, and he has developed shared applications and social networks which link billions of people together.
However, the world rushed to accomplish all of this without analyzing the moral significance of it all. What impact does this rapid development have on society? What effect does it have on the family unit? What does it do to the spiritual development of children and to their social interactions? How can we utilize these inventions for the good and in an ethical way, without leading to a commercial takeover, and to a cynical exploitation of these great capabilities at the price of important values?
Which one Should Lead?
As people of faith, we have no doubt that the advancement of the world is a good thing. There is something in the world which pushes it to ever higher achievements, there is an angel who constantly demands more and more growth. The mending of the world in the Kingdom of G-d includes not only the spiritual issues but also the material side - eradication of sickness and conquering the forces of nature, improving the quality of life and the development of communications tools and transfer of information from one person to another. However, in the real world the rule is that every bit of light casts a shadow. And the gap between the two feet on which mankind advances createsan abyss which all too many people fall into.
Our task as parents, educators, and people of faith is to minimize this gap as much as possible. We must awaken the awareness of the fact that a tool is not just a technical object for our use but that it also brings with it a message that has an effect on the one who uses it, and that it forms his character. (Marshall Mcluhan said, "The medium is the message.") We must hold a broad and fundamental discussion of the spiritual and ethical significance of technological developments. We should sometimes be willing to pay the price of giving up some new invention when it has too big a moral, spiritual, or social price. It is wrong for parents to buy a smartphone for their children without first having a basic and courageous discussion about the issues involved. It is unthinkable that the Ministry of Science and Technology of our country is completely separate from the Ministry of Education or from humanists and social experts who can analyze the significance and the dilemmas which might stem from new developments, and to analyze these issues.
Perfection will in the end come from combining all the different forces – the spiritual-ethical and the technological-scientific, for the good of mankind as a whole. Meanwhile, if we must choose between upgrading an existing smartphone to the newest model and studying another chapter in "Messilat Yesharim," we should have a feeling that upgrading a person takes precedence over upgrading a machine.
|Moshe (Mussa) Berlin|
On Friday, before Shabbat, Rabbi Yisrael Lau (as a child) and his brother Naftali traveled from their home in Pietrikov to the camp in Chenstohova. From the far end of the cabin where they were sent, they heard a tune of "Mikdash Melech" ("The Temple of the King") from the poem, " Lecha Dodi." The Chazzan Yosef (Yoseleh) Mandelbaum was singing.
The melody somewhat eased the horrible suffering of Yisrael ("Lulik") and Naftali. Naftali guarded over his younger brother, as he had promised his mother to do when they were separated.
The daily schedule in the camp included hard labor that Naftali was required to do, while Yisrael, the younger brother, was left to fend for himself in the cabin. Day by day their hardship increased, but they were "consoled" somewhat by the sweet memory of the tune that they had heard, "Mikdash Melech."
The above is a summary of the story as it appears in Rabbi Lau's book, "Do Not Harm the Child."
My friend and fellow musician Berny Marinbach was searching for materials for a program for Holocaust Memorial Day, and he came across this story. Along the way to come to me for a visit, he met Barbara Mevorach, and she told him that her father attended the synagogue where the chazzan Yoseleh Mandelbaum prayed.
Mandelbaum had survived the Holocaust, and he returned to the Chassidic sect of Bobov, where he grew up, and where he composed many new tunes. This added another element to the story, and we now knew more about Yoseleh Mandelbaum.
However, the third element was still missing. Berny asked me: "What is the melody of Mikdash Melech?" I suggested a tune to him which I had known for some time, and I gave him a recording and the music written by Yoseleh Mandelbaum, the chazzan of Bobov.
And now we had to verify that our tune for Mikdash Melech was the same melody that the two brothers heard in the camp, in Chenstohova. I asked Naftali Lavie if he remembered the tune, and he said he did not. I asked if he would recognize it if I played it, and he said he would. When I sang it, Naftali agreed that this indeed seemed to be the right melody.
When Naftali celebrated his eightieth birthday, we came to his house and played Mikdash Melech. I cannot describe the excited tremor that took hold of all the people who were present.
Rabbi Benny Lau, Naftali's son, told me: "This tune has accompanied our family ever since that wonderful birthday celebration, nine years ago." When Naftali passed away, this melody was played at the burial ceremony.
Rabbi Benny Lau said, "The burial in the earth of Jerusalem accompanied by the tune of Mikdash Melech in the background was a perfect heart-wrenching ending to my father's life story."
|A little too harsh with and inaccurate about the mussar movement but I present this article nevertheless...|
Rabbi Atiel Gilady
Lecturer in the School for the Soul and Editor of the Writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg
On the nineteenth of Kislev, the New Year for Chassidut, the following verse is sung: "He redeemed my soul in peace from a battle against me" [Tehillim 55:19]. (This was the reaction of the Elder Rebbe when he was told that he was being released from prison.) The verse emphasizes that redemption of the soul and victory in the battle came through "peace" and not by war. How do we win wars of the soul with peace? What is the "sword of peace" (see Taanit 22a) which can bring victory?
One of the innovations of Chassidut as opposed to Mussar is the way evil in the soul (and therefore in all of reality) is treated. In general, the moral outlook of Mussar involves the revealed evil in the soul, while Chassidut also involves the hidden evil (after two hundred years, this was identified by psychology as unconscious thought). However, the way to cope with exposed evil is approached in different ways. Mussar saw direct confrontation with evil as the ideal, and only after victory was it possible to advance to strengthening the good. "Turn away from evil and [afterwards] do good" [Tehillim 34:15]. Our master, the Baal Shem Tov, read this verse differently – "Turn away from evil" by "doing good," since "a small amount of light can repulse a lot of darkness" (and "darkness cannot be sent away using sticks").
A direct struggle against evil can have adverse side effects:
Deal with the Positive
Enhancing the good in the soul – not by ignoring the reality of evil and the need to be wary of it (including the simple approach to "turning away from evil") but as an art of the best way to fight evil – can lead to much better results than the above approach:
The "sword of peace" comes to the struggle out of a sense of perfect faith in the eventual victory of good (like Shimon and Levi who attacked Shechem "with faith" [Bereishit 34:25] – "sure of the power of the elderly one"). It can become flexible and attack the faults of the soul from behind, from within the good and powerful realms of the soul, and not in a direct fight when a person may be exposed to injury and evil.
Adding to the light, which expels and transforms the darkness, is the main message of the month of Kislev, when we "add to and steadily increase" the number of Chanukah lamps. "The path of the righteous ones is like the glow of the sun, becoming brighter as noon approaches" [Mishlei 4:18]. The same is true of the nineteenth of Kislev. The Elderly Rebbe received a heavenly message that in spite of all the hindrances and the difficulties, he must redouble his efforts to disseminate the inner light of the Torah in order to mend and improve the world. Today too, with all the internal struggles among the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, what we must do most of all is to enhance the light.