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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Recap for 17 Tamuz, 5776 (Parsha Balak)

This Shabbos we continued our discussion of Torah v’Derech Eretz from Leo Levy. We discussed parsha Balak.  This Shabbos, the learning was in honor and memory of David’s father, Dr. Rav. Natan Schlesinger, whose yeirzeit is this coming Monday. We studied the article “The First Commandment” written by Dr. Schlesinger.

We welcome back Yaki, and honor and remember his mother, Hannah Ben Shmuel. Yaki spoke about his Mom, and how she was from Romania. Yaki spoke about how her Father (Yaki's grandfather) was a very famous Rabbi in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with Yaki and his family.

David spoke about his father, HaRav Natan ben Harav Shmuel, whose yeirzeit is this coming Monday. Much of the material in our learning originates with David’s father. We have a website that contains much of his Dad’s material, at

David spoke about growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and how they went to the Hillel on Shabbos, where Rabbi Schlesinger would often give talks to the congregants. David shared how they would often be walking in the opposite direction from everyone else on campus.

David spoke about some of the topics that interested his father. He had a very strong interest in time, and has authored many articles and a book on this subject. One of the questions we discussed this Shabbos, is how time works in the world to come, if our soul travels outside of space and time when our life is over.  

Dr. Schlesinger developed a lot of material on the idea that Hashem created the world in a way that maximizes our opportunity to do mitzvah, rather than maximizes our opportunity to experience good feelings and pleasure.  Our material on the idea of the virtuous response to suffering comes from Dr. Schlesinger. Of course, there does seem to be a lot of suffering that we cannot alleviate, and we do not wish suffering on others. But if something negative does happen, Dr. Schlesinger’s ideas, helps lead us towards healthy ways of dealing with things.

We discussed the article, “The First Commandment”, by Dr. Rabbi Schlesinger. We discussed how it can be possible to command someone to believe something. We discussed how once someone has a belief in their core, it is nearly impossible to talk them out of it.

The article suggests that one way we can carry out this commandment is to be honest in all our affairs.  The article discusses how being dishonest towards others, leads to being dishonest with ourselves and self-deception.  It is self-deception which causes us to not follow the first commandment.  Self-deception, explain why some are atheist, in spite of overwhelming evidence that Hashem does in fact exists, created and controls the world.

The article postulates that we all have a basic yearning for Hashem, but many of us block this out due to dishonesty and deception. Although we are always on the look out to counteract dishonesty in others, we often do not bother to counter self-dishonesty. We discussed how when we really wish something to be true, for whatever reason, we tend to look for arguments in favor of our belief, and ignore those that are contrary.

We discussed that the best way to follow the first commandment, is to be honest in all our affairs, because this will lead us to be honest to ourselves, in which we will have no choice but to believe in the obvious. Some of the ways in which we must be honest, which are mentioned in the article, include more than just with our words. We must be honest with our deeds to not mislead people. This includes such things as not to dress up used articles to fool people into thinking they are new, and not pretending to be sad at a funeral, when this sadness is due to something else.

This Shabbos we continued our discussion of Torah v’Derech Eretz. We discussed the idea that  work is not just a necessary burden, but in fact has intrinsic value. Someone who wins the lottery, or inherits a lot of money, should work even though he doesn’t have to. If we do not work we tend to be bored, and/or have an empty feeling.  Hashem created us to have these feelings because he wants us to participate and work and finish his act of creation.

We discussed that parents have an obligation to teach a trade to their children. And we discussed that if we are between jobs, we should continue to do work, such as creating and maintaining a garden. We discussed that it is Hashem’s will that we create and work, but we must make this decision with our free will. Hashem created us to have free will, because there was not much desire in him to be the king of a world with a bunch of robots.

This Shabbos, Dave W talked about how Israel is a home for us, just like going to where our families may live. And we wish Mazel Tov to Ariav, and to everyone else celebrating Simchas in our community.

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

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