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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Recap for 18 Adar I, 5776 (parsha Ki Tisa)

This Shabbos we discussed parsha Ki Tisa, including commentary by Rav Yeager. We discussed some of the fundamental beliefs of our religion. And we continued our discussion of Purim and Purim Katan.  David Schlesinger led discussion.

We discussed some thoughts about the world to come, and how it would appear upside-down to many of us. Those who are most humble in this world, would be on top in the next world, and many of those who seem to be on top in this world would be at the bottom in the next world. David talked about the great importance of humility, and shared some thoughts from his father, Rav. Dr. George N Schlesinger. These thoughts are that a humble person still acknowledges his assets, but the assets of others have equal importance in his mind.

We discussed the idea that Hashem created the most perfect world, which is not necessarily one in which everything is “good”. David has shared from his father, the idea that the most perfect world is one which maximizes our opportunity to do mitzvah. Norm shared that the most perfect world is one in which human beings have free will, which is why Hashem remains hidden. If Hashem gave us immediate rewards and punishments, we would perform actions automatically, and free will would no longer be necessary.

We discussed how Hashem wanted human beings that would choose to believe in him. He also wanted human beings that would help finish the act of creation. Norm pointed out that all this requires that we have scientific laws and order. If I build a machine and don’t know how it is going to work - because there is no order - how can I help finish the act of creation?

Although Hashem does remain hidden, there is plenty of evidence for his existence. There is just not overwhelming evidence, that we have no choice but to believe in him. We use our free will to conclude that the most reasonable explanation for things, is the existence of Hashem. Norm pointed out the complexities of DNA molecules and how they work as a blueprint for life. It is a far more reasonable explanation that these came about through the intervention of a creator, however it still may seem possible to some that DNA happened to develop randomly.

We discussed the parsha and the sin of the Golden Calf.  Brett pointed out that in Judaism, we believe in Hashem, which is not something we can touch or see, however through out history we have shown a tendency to want something we can touch or see.  We discussed that the people had been using Moshe as a way to connect to Hashem. But when Moshe did not come back as expected, the people needed something else in order to make a spiritual connection, so they created a Golden Calf. Dave W pointed out that the people did not have much patience, as it was a matter of hours before Moshe did come back.

We discussed how unlike other religions, we embrace the physical. However, we must differentiate between the physical and our creator. We have physical things such as the tabernacle, which helps us connect to Hashem, but we do not warship the tabernacle as our creator. We have limits on our engagement in the physical world. One of the examples we discussed is milk and meat. We are allowed to consume both of these. But we can not benefit from their mixture. We discussed how the cow represents physicality to us, but there are limits to this physicality, such as not mixing it with dairy.  The Golden Calf represents going overboard with physicality, in a way that no longer applies spirituality. This happens when we do not follow the Torah, and commit averas. 

We discussed Purim some more this Shabbos. Purim is all about applying spirituality to the physical world. And Purim is also about Hashem remaining hidden.

David relayed a dvar Torah from Ariav, which compares Purim Katan to the moon, and Purim to the sun. The moon represents our potential, and the sun represents the actualization of our potential. When we have a leap year, we help the lunar cycle catch up to the solar cycle. During this leap year our potential gets actualized. When we celebrate Purim Katan we celebrate our potential, and when we celebrate Purim, we celebrate the actualization of our potential.

Finally, David shared with us his father’s definition of knowledge. There are 2 things that are necessary to define a thought or idea as knowledge. First, the thought or idea has to be true. And secondly, the thought or idea has to be believed.

This is a summary of what we discussed.  No halachic rulings are intended or should be inferred.

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