Akedat Yitzchak

Nature Includes Miracles

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama summarizes the fifteenth sha’ar with a proposition whose importance I have found increasingly clear in the past few years, Nature includes miracles [this is the reverse of the rationalist idea everything which looks miraculous to us is actually natural; it means Nature includes much more than the ordinary patterns we see, including things we would dismiss as ...

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Hashem Keeps the World Going and Sets People on Their Path

by R. Gidon Rothstein Hashem’s Reciprocity and the Rainbow Last time, we saw R. Arama argue the Flood had taught humanity a permanent lesson, Hashem has the power to punish severely. In return for people always remembering Hashem’s power to punish, and because humanity has three different offshoots, Hashem promises never to destroy them all at the same time. R. ...

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The Rainbow and the Flood

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama starts the fourteenth sha’ar with several statements from Chaza”l about how Jews should react upon seeing a rainbow, such as the blessing Berachot 59a prescribes to recite. As is his way, he will move off to other topics and work his way back here, but I wanted us to remember where he’s headed. The Impossibility of Divine Injustice From there, ...

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The Educating Plagues

by R. Gidon Rothstein After his long introduction, R. Arama addresses the verses in order, to show how his reading fits the way the Torah tells the story. I will try to avoid repetition, share only the points which strike me as new. It does mean I will jump around, skipping repeat or more minor points. Discontinuity is my fault, ...

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Plagues as Punishment and Education

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama started last time with the certainty Hashem will never remove freewill nor deny a sincere repentance. It left him wondering why Hashem would harden Par’oh’s heart during the course of the plagues. We’re ready for his answer. Sentences Come Regardless of Regret Three principles ground his view. First, people who incur punishments must undergo ...

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Hashem Does Not Withdraw Freewill

by R. Gidon Rothstein With Pesach around the corner, I am stepping out of our usual order to study one of R. Arama’s discussions of events of yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus. His thirty-sixth sha’ar starts with a discussion of freewill, including how the Jews ended up going down to Egypt and whether Par’oh was ever denied his freewill, and moves into an analysis of ...

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Miracles and Faith

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama intends this sha’ar to show the Flood fully proved Hashem’s having created the world from absolute nothingness (commonly referred to as ex nihilo, the Latin for absolute nothingness; I know none of us speak Latin anymore, but it is shorter than saying “from absolute nothingness” each time). Creation ex nihilo opens the possibility of miracles. [This last idea, Hashem created the world ...

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Noach Saves the World

by R. Gidon Rothstein Noach Redoes Adam The framework R. Arama used for the story of Adam, Kayin, Hevel, and then Shet (who R. Arama thinks combined the best qualities of Kayin and Hevel) repeats itself with Noach. As he was the first human after the Flood, his three sons parallel Adam’s three, Shem taking the place of Shet. The ...

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