Akedat Yitzchak

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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Moshe Put the World in its Place, as Did the Flood

by R. Gidon Rothstein It turns out Pesach is coming, so I am going to skip ahead to a sha’ar of R. Arama’s from early in Shemot, about freewill and whether Hashem withdraws it as a punishment. I hope to have the first installment next week, but might have to take a week off. Moshe Put the World in its Place, as ...

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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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The Definitions of Good People

by R. Gidon Rothstein With the upcoming Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni (which means Purim and then Pesach), I want to mention As If We Were There, a book I published three years ago. It’s a set of daily readings, starting with Rosh Chodesh Nisan taking us through the end of Pesach which I honestly believe will reshape a reader’s experience of ...

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Balance in the Intellectualism

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Yitzchak Arama’s Parashat Bereshit (week of 20 Adar Aleph): Balance in the Intellectualism with Which Humans Build Gd’s World Parshat Bereshit takes up more than a tenth of ‘Akedat Yitzchak. We already paused once in his exposition, after the four she’arim which gave his view of the seven days of Creation. I will briefly summarize what we said then, and ...

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R. Arama Finishes Parshat Bereshit

by R. Gidon Rothstein We ended last time with R. Arama’s idea Hashem turned towards Hevel’s sacrifice and ignored Kayin’s to make a point about avoiding overemphasis on the physical. Kayin’s annoyance at the lesson shows why it was necessary. R. Arama thinks Kayin resented both the idea he could not indulge his desires at will as well as Hashem’s ...

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The Physical Wants to Express Itself

by R. Gidon Rothstein At the outset of this series, I pointed out R. Arama does not give equal attention to all parts of the Torah. Of his 105 she’arim, eleven study Parshat Bereshit, and thirty-three look at the book of Bereshit. The sha’ar we embark on this time ends his explanation of the first portion of the Torah, after which we will pause to see ...

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Over-Focus on the Tree of Knowledge

by R. Gidon Rothstein How to Rectify the Damage Caused by Over-Focus on the Tree of Knowledge Ethics Are Universals Philosophers opposed the idea angels know ethics partially because they viewed ethics as particulars, a matter each culture chooses for itself, too specific to be of interest or concern to higher beings. R. Arama objects; in his view, they miss ...

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