rabbis's blog

Tu Bishvat minhagim

Here are sources for a shiur on the cusoms of Tu Bishvat and their sources:

- Why do some people not say tahanun on Tu Bishvat?

- Why do some people eat fruits on Tu Bishvat?

- Why do some people have a Tu Bishvat seder?

- Why do some people plant trees on Tu Bishvat?

Sources of Tu Bishvat Minhagim

Heart and Soul

I gave a shiur today on what the word 'heart' means in the Torah, Rishonim and Acharonim. This is not a medical shiur (obviously) but a discussion of the changing meanings of the metaphor of heart.

The ancient Greeks also disagreed as to the meaning of the heart, and even in the earliest uses in the English language we find at least two different (opposite) uses.

This is a very important shiur because it defines how we should be serving G-d. Does He want our emotions and feelings, or our minds and intellects?

At the very least it will give you a better understanding of p'shat in the Talmud and in K'rias Shema when you say 'b'chol levavecha'

The audio is here:
Heart and Soul mp3 audio download

and the pdf of the sources is here:
Heart and Soul pdf download

27th Cheshvan - Rabbeinu Yonah

Today (27th Cheshvan) is the Yarzheit of my favourite Rishon (at the moment), Rabbeinu Yonah. His words are all classics of Jewish thought, and his commentary on Pirkei Avos is essential reading for every Jew (according to R' Wolbe in Alei Shur).

As you know, I have just translated this commentary into English, and you can get a copy either by e-mailing me, or from Amazon, or from the publisher - www.torahlab.org (If you order it from me I'll even sign it for you if you want).

Also from torahlab you can see a couple of pages from the book as a sample. This is Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on one Mishna

Here is a biography of Rabbienu Yonah written by Rabbi Yaacov Haber, taken from the book.


Rabbi Yaacov Haber

9th Cheshvan - R' Shimon Shkop

Known to all as simply R' Shimon, R' Shimon Shkop is one of the 'Roshei Yeshiva' who has become part of the staple diet of all yeshiva students. His chidushim in Shaarei Yosher with new and unique ways of looking at talmudic topics, revolutionised Torah study, and created a new foundation on which later novellae were built.

Today, 9th Cheshvan is the Yarzheit of this genius who refused to stay in America and returned to Europe before WWII at the request of the Chofetz Chaim and R' Chaim Ozer. He died during the war (though not in the holocaust).

Here is his biography from wikipedia

Rabbi Shimon Shkop (1860-1940) was a rosh yeshiva ("dean") in the Telshe yeshiva and a renowned Talmudic sholar. He was born in Tortz in 1860. At the age of twelve he went to study in the Mir yeshiva, and at fifteen he went to Volozhin yeshiva where he studied six years. His teachers were the Netziv and Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, with whom he was very close.


9th Cheshvan - The Rosh

The Rosh is one of the most crucial Rishonim on the Talmud. He is printed in the back of almost every Talmud, and is useful both as a halachacist, and also as one of the last tosafists he often clarifies and explains their position.

He is the bridge between Talmudic commentary and Halachic works. His son, the Tur (Yaakov ben Asher) is the author of the Arba Turim, which is the predecessor of the Shulchan Aruch. The Tur also wrote 'piskei harosh' which is a summary of the halacha derived from the Rosh's Talmudic commentary and is also printed in the back of most editions of the Talmud.

The Rosh was also the bridge between the Ashkenazi and Sefardi worlds, forced as he was to resettle and move from Northern Europe to Spain. His commentary is therefore an interesting commentary on the different customs of East and West at the time. R' Yosef Karo uses him as the 'Ashkenazi' amonst his three main sources (the other two being the Rif and Rambam).

This is from the OU:

4th Av - Rama m'Pano

Today is the yarzheit of R' Menachem Azariah me-Pano (the Rema me-Pano) who was a great 16th century kabbalist and halachicist (or in other words, a Rabbi who knew all areas of Torah).

28th Tamuz - Rashi

Today (28th Tamuz) is the yarzheit of probably the most famous and most influential of all Ashkenazi Rabbis - Rashi. Arguably he is still the most influential Jewish author since the time of the Talmud. It is virtually impossible to move in the world of Chumash (and Nach) or Talmud without Rashi's commentary.

He wrote on almost all areas of Torah, and was one of the first to write a linear commentary on the Torah and Talmud.

This is a small part of the wikipedia entry for Rashi (there is much more there which is recommended reading:

27th Tamuz - R' Shlomo Ganzfried

Yesterday (Shabbat, 27th Tamuz) was the Yarzheit of the author of the kitzur shulchan Aruch - Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.

He was born in Uzhhorod (Ungvar) in the Carpathian region of the Habsburg Empire (now Ukraine). His father Joseph died when he was eight. Rabbi Ganzfried was considered to be a child prodigy and Ungvar's chief rabbi and Rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Heller assumed legal guardianship; Heller was known as "Hershele the Sharp-witted" for his piercing insights into the Talmud. Heller later moved to the city of Bonyhád, and Ganzfried, then fifteen, followed him. He remained in Heller's yeshiva for almost a decade until his ordination and marriage. After his marriage he worked briefly as a wine-merchant.

In 1843 he abandoned commerce and accepted the position of rabbi of Brezevitz. In 1849, he returned to Ungvar as a dayan, a judge in the religious court.

23rd Tamuz - R' Moshe Cordovero

Today is the anniversary of the death of one of the greatest kabbalists before the Arizal. R' Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK) wrote extensively on the Zohar attempting to resolve apparent contradictions in this text.

After the Arizal brought his new methodology and kabbalistic insights, the RaMaK's writings became less popular (apparently the Arizal said of his writings that they were 'olam he tohu' - 'world of confusion'). However Tomer Devorah (Palm Tree of Devorah) is still learnt today, as one of the basic mussar seforim, and the pardes is still studied by those trying to come to a deeper understanding of the Zohar and kabbalistic worlds.

15th Tamuz - Shaagas Aryeh

Yesterday (15th Tamuz) was also the yarzheit of the Shaagas Aryeh, one of the most fiery and brilliant Rabbis of his time. He was also fiery in his temperament. Unfortunately I couldn't find very much about him using google, and don't have time just now to do the proper research.

I seem to remember a story about him putting a curse on Prague, and the city being destroyed by fire. (But I may have got it confused with another city and another Rabbi). If anyone can add details about his life I would appreciate it.

Here are the wikipedia article and a couple of stories I found on the web.

Rabbi Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg (aka Shaagat Aryeh) (Hebrew: ???? ??? ????????) was born in Lithuania, c. 1700, and died at Metz, France June 23, 1785. He was a Rabbinical casuist often referred to by the name of his most famous book, Shaagat Aryeh (Hebrew, ???? ????, for 'Roar of the Lion').

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