If you’ve been listening and studying with us, you know we just finished the book of Acts. This concludes Part 3 of our study. We are taking a week off to celebrate finishing the majority of the Apostolic Writings.

No class tomorrow – 28 November. We will meet at The Residence next Tuesday evening, 5 December at 7:30pm.

Part 4 of our study will pick up with Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Remaining books in our walk through include the prison epistles: Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, Timothy, and Titus. Then Peter, Hebrews, Jude, John and Revelation. It will fly by!

Part 4, Lesson 43 will be available before Shabbat. Read Colossians!

Shavuah tov!

Yosef ben Yosef

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Here is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on marriage. It’s by Matt Walsh on Daily Wire. Well said, Matt, I agree completely and hope my children do too.

My Marriage Is Not An Equal Partnership

And I Don’t Want It To Be

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in my marriage is that my wife is not me. She is herself, emphatically. And her self is a very different self, an unequal self. The joy and challenge and pleasure and hardship of the marital vocation — the whole point of it, really — is found in this fact: that I am not her, and she is not me, and we are not equal because we are not the same.

So many marriages fall apart these days because both partners have been raised on the lie of marital and gender “equality.” They’ve been told that there is no difference between a husband and a wife, the two are interchangeable, exactly the same in every way that matters, and so they approach the altar with the expectation that they’re marrying mirror images of themselves. They imagine that they won’t need to make any serious changes or sacrifices in their new life as a married couple because they’ve partnered with someone just like them. Everything can just be split down the middle, they think, 50/50, easy as pie.

“Equal partnership,” they call it. Like it’s a business proposition. Like they’re starting a law firm. Like marriage comes with a scorecard. And many marriages do have score cards. The spouses keep a running tally of who is doing what and how much and for how long, and at the end of the day it must be determined that the husband and wife have exerted themselves to the same degree, done the same number of chores, relaxed for the same amount of time, experienced the same stress, carried the same burdens, and done everything equally and fairly and without the slightest discrepancy.

The husband works so the wife must work. The wife cleaned for an hour today so the husband must clean for an hour. The husband mowed the lawn last week, now it’s the wife’s turn. The wife changed two poopy diapers, now the husband must change two. The husband has this or that stress on his mind so he unloads it on his wife. “Why should I be the only one worrying about this?” The answer never occurs to him: Because this is your cross.

The equal marriage doesn’t work for the same reason that a football team with 22 starting quarterbacks won’t win any games. Marriage is built upon difference, not sameness. The union thrives when the complementary differences between the two spouses are embraced and harnessed for the good of the family. The family itself is literally created through these differences. A truly “equal” marriage is sterile, functionless, confused, and pointless.

In the whole history of marriage, I’m not sure that any spouse has ever insisted on increased “equality” for selfless or loving reasons. I can say, personally, I’ve never stressed about “making things equal” in my home out of generosity. I’ve never done something for my wife in the interest of ensuring that we have an “equal partnership.” My passion for equality always involves things I want her to do, or things I don’t want to do anymore, or things that I want to do less often. I am an egalitarian when I check the scorecard, realize that I’m several points ahead by my count (a horribly skewed count, most likely), and then sit on the couch so as to thoughtfully afford my wife the opportunity to catch up.

It just doesn’t go the other way. I don’t say to myself, “She’s ahead on the scorecard. I should do exactly enough to make it equal again.” No, if I’m being a good husband, it means that I’ve forgotten the scorecard completely. And if it ever crosses my mind that I may in fact be doing more than her in some area, or that I’m carrying more of a particular burden than she, I ought to take joy in that fact. I ought to delight in the “inequality” of it because I know that I’m actually fulfilling my purpose. That purpose, again, is not to be an “equal partner” to my wife, but to give all of myself with absolutely no regard to how much she has given (although she gives so much of herself that it would be difficult for me to ever give more).

There’s a common slogan that says a marriage ought to be 100/100, not 50/50. It’s true that 100/100 is better than 50/50, yet even 100/100 is not equal. One hundred percent of an apple is not the same as one hundred percent of an orange. The most self-sacrificial apple cannot turn itself into an orange. It can only be what it is, and that’s all it can give. It can ring itself dry but it’s only ever going to produce apple juice. One hundred percent of a husband is not equal to one hundred percent of a wife. That doesn’t mean one is inferior — just that one is not the same as the other, and therefore not equal.

I think a lot of marital strife stems especially from this point. A husband may give something close to one hundred percent of himself, but he has not given it in the same way, doing the same sorts of things, so the wife will imagine that he hasn’t given hardly anything at all. The wife does not know what it’s like to be the man in the house, to carry the special burdens and responsibilities that come with the man’s particular vocation, so she judges him and his contributions using the wrong scale. The man does the same with respect to his wife, both failing to realize that the other carries their cross in a way that is unique to them. They both give something distinct, filling a role that the other is not capable of filling.

Of course, the other problem with the 100/100 formula is that it’s impossible. Nobody gives one hundred percent all the time. Even the best marriages are probably more like 87/82 or 74/83 or somewhere in that range. Point being: your spouse may well be giving less than you. Or more. The statistical odds that they’re giving the same is very low, but who cares? Every moment we spend trying to calculate our spouse’s contribution is a moment we are giving entirely to ourselves. We are feeding our egos and our sense of entitlement, and in the process our own number is dropping rapidly from 86 to 83 to 72 to 61 and before long we’re moving into an apartment and fighting over who gets to keep the dog.

Indeed, “equality” is a matter for divorce, not marriage. Equality is what you worry about when you’re splitting apart. Equality is the goal in court hearings and custody arrangements. (Although, ironically, the results will almost always be even less equal than the marriage ever was.) Marriage has a more transcendent aim. Marriage is fueled by love and sacrifice. Equality has nothing to do with it.

 

 

I celebrated my birthday with my entire family yesterday. It was delightful! Now we’re back at it, studying to show ourselves approved unto G-d, accurately handling the word of G-d. We’re studying to teach our wives. We’re studying to teach our children. We study, because He gave us His word to study. We mine the riches of His wisdom.

We’re pulling into the last chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. This is good stuff. We’re seeing how Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, directed those Gentiles. We’re seeing the passion he had for his kinsmen. We’re seeing the commitment he had to finishing the race, to the endurance necessary to run well. He’s a great example to us all.

I’m praying, literally, for each of you studying with us. I pray you have the diligence, the endurance, the faith – to finish the course… to say, “I studied the Apostolic Scriptures, from one end to the other – and I can say with confidence…” (Far be it from me to put words in your mouth. 🙂

The next several lessons will roll by quickly, and Paul will be gone. There will be several letters to communities, and we’ll review those. Then we’ll get some other authors who have a different focus… It will be a great study. It will finish with John. We will review his visions and the revelation he received of Our Master. Once completed, we will take a few weeks off, to give your hearts and minds some time to reflect. Then we’ll jump back in with a study of eschatology, the study of the last days.

May your days be filled with laughter, with mitzvot, with love, and with many birthdays.

This past month the world lost a great man. He was committed to the L-rd. He was a patriot, a veteran, a servant. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather – and a nice guy. We should feel loss. He is with His Master. What we do now is emulate his faithfulness, and strive to be better than him. Tall order. Buckle up! We can do this, unless we get distracted…

The latest study guide has been posted. See you all tomorrow night.

Shalom Aleichem,

Yosef ben Yosef

 

Dennis Prager has an excellent article on Truth Revolt that is worth sharing.

Prager: Conservatives in America – Like Marranos in Medieval Spain

Many fear that coming out as conservative or pro-Trump is not worth the persecution.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Marranos was the name given to Jews in medieval Spain, especially in the fifteenth century during the Spanish Inquisition, who secretly maintained their Judaism while living as Catholics in public.

There is, of course, no Spanish Inquisition in America today – no one is being tortured into confessing what they really believe, and no one is being burned at the stake. But there are millions of Marrano-like Americans: Americans who hold conservative views – especially those who hold to conservative positions on social issues and those who voted for Donald Trump for president.

Millions of Americans who hold conservative and/or pro-Trump views rationally fear being ostracized by their peers, public humiliation, ruined reputations, broken families, losing their job, and being unable to work in their field. Under these circumstances, they have decided that coming out as conservative or pro-Trump is not worth the persecution they would face.

In terms of the percentage of the population affected, there is no parallel in American history. Coming out as a homosexual prior to the 1960s-70s, or publicly announcing that one was member of the Communist Party in the 1950s would have often led to similar dire consequences in one’s social, work and family life. But gays and Communist Party members comprised a tiny percentage of the American population. And one of them, Communists, supported true evil.

I wish I could share all the emails sent to me from professional musicians who play in some of the premier orchestras of America. They wrote to me following the nationally publicized attempts by left-wing members of the orchestra and of the Santa Monica city government to prevent me from conducting: they publicly called on members of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra to refuse to play, and members of the public to refuse to attend, when I conducted a Haydn symphony at the Walt Disney Concert Hall three weeks ago.

These emails were written to encourage me, and to tell me how they are compelled to hide their conservative views – how they live, in effect, as Marranos.

A violist with one of the most prestigious orchestras in the country (I figured out which orchestra using the Internet; she was afraid to tell even me) wrote to me last week about how quiet she is about her conservatism. While she could not be fired for it, she said, she would be socially ostracized within the orchestra with which she has played for decades.

Another middle-aged professional musician told me that he wears his hair very long in order to appear hippie-like as a decoy to camouflage his conservative politics. He is no more likely to tell fellow musicians that he supports President Trump than a Marrano in medieval Spain would have gone public with his Jewish beliefs.

And here’s part of an email to me from a musician in Minnesota: “I was a professional musician from the age of 17. I wanted you to know that I, too, lost my career because of my views. My choice, actually; I just could no longer take the abuse.”

I’m fortunate. As a radio talk-show host and columnist, I’m paid to express my opinions. And as to my avocation of conducting orchestras, I’m lucky there, too. Because the permanent conductor of the Santa Monica Symphony and the orchestra’s board remained principled, and because so many people support me and my values, the efforts to thwart me failed. Disney Hall, all 2,000-plus seats, was sold out – a first for a community orchestra in that venue.

Of course, American conservative Marranos don’t only live in the world of music. They are in every profession. We know about the high-profile cases, the conservatives whose careers have been ruined by saying the “wrong” thing or supporting the “wrong” candidate or ballot proposition; we know about the conservative speakers who have been physically attacked and prevented from speaking on college campuses. But we don’t know about the millions who are just afraid to speak up, who remain silent in a business meeting or at a dinner party when someone casually expresses a view that they strongly disagree with. These Americans live in fear, legitimately so in many cases, that if they do speak out, there will be severe consequences – a job lost, a promotion not given, even a child who will no longer speak to them.

This is all new in our country.

Had anyone ever predicted that in America – the land renowned more than any other for liberty and free speech – the word “Marrano” would ever accurately characterize any of its citizens, let alone close to half the voting population, that individual would have been regarded as a charlatan.

But, given the intolerance and hatred on the left and its dominance over almost every area of American life, such an individual would have been a prophet.

Just in time for you to shine like Torah scholars tomorrow night at Joshua Spurlock’s house, Lesson Thirty-One is ready for you.

I was behind in publishing… again. I shall endeavor to do better. In the spirit of the month of Elul, please forgive me.

Shalom,

Yosef

Corrected: The night before the #babyspurlock brit milah this Wednesday, all of his cousins will gather to have a traditional festive meal together this Tuesday night. Afterwards, the Men of Torah class will start at its normal time (7:30pm) at the Spurlock residence.

The men are invited to stay late after class (Joshua is hoping for midnight!) to study Torah with Joshua (who greatly desires your attendance and participation!).

Once again, HaShem has provided a wonderful opportunity to bless Him through the normal steps of our life together. I pray your families will participate, and enhance the Spurlock’s simchah on Tuesday night for additional Torah study after class and at the brit milah on the eighth day of #babyspurlock’s life.

Men of Torah class this Tuesday is at Joshua Spurlock’s house, 1002 Ridgefield Circle, Indian Trail, NC 28079.

See you all tomorrow for Shabbos prayers.

Good Shabbos!

Yosef Ben Yosef

Lesson 30 of What About Me? has been posted. The diagram of the various peoples, based on the now famous coaster placements of Lesson 22 has been updated per our last class discussion.

See everyone tomorrow night! It’s Rosh Chodesh Elul. The King is in the field!!

Chodesh tov,

Yosef

Reprinted from Fox News. A great perspective for everyone… especially the skeptic.

Eric Metaxas

On Monday something will happen in the U.S. that should startle — or at least perplex — anyone who gives it any thought. I am referring to the full solar eclipse you may already be anticipating. To be clear, thinking about what is about to happen has little to do with the sheer visceral experience of being amazed by it, as we must be. Before thinking about it, we should perhaps first simply goggle at it, at the monumental majesty of these monstrously large heavenly orbs, both of which we typically take mostly for granted.

Is it not remarkable that these ever-present objects — though separated by nearly one hundred million miles — should once in a very great while perform this curiously perfect dance? But to what end?

So this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in our solar system. But our planet has just one moon that happens to be just the right size and just the right distance from Earth.

But what might make us start to think a bit about this event is that this celestial pas de deux is being performed only for us.  Anywhere but here on this planet on Monday, the view of these two objects is nothing special. It is only what we see from our terrestrial vantage point that is special. It’s almost as though what we will marvel at was artfully arranged specifically for our benefit. Which brings us to the curious and startling part of the story.

About fifteen years ago an odd idea popped into my head.  Google was just a gurgling infant. But I happened to have a sturdy Brittanica nearby and I pulled out a dusty volume and quickly discovered the diameter of the sun. It is precisely 864,576 miles. The diameter of the moon was listed at 2,159 miles. I then looked up the distance from Earth to the sun, which varies slightly, but is generally given as 93 million miles. And then I found the distance from Earth to the moon. That varies slightly too, so the average is given as 239,000 miles.

Armed with these four figures, I did some simple math. I divided the sun’s diameter (864,576) by the moon’s (2,159) and got 400.452. If my strange hunch was correct, dividing the distance from the Earth to the sun (93,000,000) by the distance from the Earth to the moon (239,000) should give me something similar. It certainly did. My calculations yielded 389.121. And there it was. I stared at the numbers, amazed. Was the correlation in these ratios mere coincidence?

Of course what this all meant was simply that these immemorially ancient and vast objects, though as different in size as a single BB and a super gigantic beach ball — one that was over six feet in diameter — would from our perspective here on Earth seem almost precisely the same size.  So if they ever just happened to align in the sky, they would match up perfectly. Not almost perfectly. But perfectly, and bizarrely so. 

What might be the odds of this just happening randomly? Almost all the planets in our solar system have no moons or many moons (Jupiter has 60) of incredibly varying sizes. So this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in our solar system. But our planet has just one moon that happens to be just the right size and just the right distance from Earth.

I found the precision necessary for all of this unbelievable. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that there was no way this could be a mere coincidence. It seemed almost planned. In fact, it seemed utterly planned, as all things of such precision must be.

To bring this closer to home, imagine holding a BB twelve inches from our face and then asking a friend to carry the six-foot diameter beach ball as far down the beach as necessary — until it appeared precisely the same size from our perspective as the tiny BB. Keep in mind our beach ball is six-feet in diameter while a normal large beach ball is less than two feet in diameter. Our friend would have to hike 400 feet before the giant beach ball and the tiny BB matched up in size. That’s about the distance from home plate to the centerfield fence in most major league baseball stadiums.

So can the sun’s and moon’s diameters — and distances from Earth — be merely coincidentally matched up this perfectly? Everything about it makes that seem ridiculous. But of course you can decide for yourself.

Three thousand years ago a man in Israel wrote:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” That man didn’t have a telescope or a Brittanica, but he saw something many of us today still do not see. He saw a God behind it all. It may be true that seeing a Grand Designer behind these breath-taking events requires what we call a leap of faith; but it may also be true that seeing mere coincidence behind them requires an even greater leap of faith. In my mind, much greater. But on Monday, you may be the judge.

Eric Metaxas is the author of several bestselling books, including “Bonhoeffer” and “Amazing Grace.” His latest book is “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty” (Viking, June 14, 2016).

The study guide for “What About Me? – Part 3” has been updated. The discussion at the end of lesson 22 has received a great deal of feedback. This was when Scott decided to use the coasters to describe the various people in the world and how they relate (or don’t relate) to the Almighty.

I have added a diagram of that discussion to the end of Lesson 28 in the study guide. Before reviewing the material in Lesson 29, which we will discuss this Tuesday, please review the end of Lesson 28 and bring your thoughts with you to class. This includes all of you distance learners who may chat online during class using the MixLR app.

Today is the first day of the Sabbath. May HaShem grant you a blessed shavuah tov.

Shalom,

Ben Yosef

“Who is ha’ish so chochmah that he can binah this?
To whom has the mouth of HaShem spoken, that he may declare it?

Why is ha’eretz ruined and laid waste like a midbar, so that no one passes through?

And HaShem says: “Because they have forsaken my Torah that I set before them, and did not sh’mah my voice or had this halachah, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.

Therefore thus says HaShem Tzeva’otElohim Yis’rael: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the goyim whom neither they nor their fathers have da’at, and I will sh’lichah the cherev after them, until I have consumed them.””

(Jeremiah 9:12–16 ESV, Hebrew and emphasis mine)

If you know any Hebrew at all, you will recognize that I haven’t conjugated or perhaps even spelled these words correctly. My point is to demonstrate how many words in this short, mournful passage, read on Tisha B’Av, are familiar to our community.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder during your fast today. Nothing spectacular or earth shattering, just thoughts…

  1. Forsaking G-d’s Torah is the specific reason given by the prophet for the destruction of the Temple and ultimately the exile from the Land.
  2. Sh’mah is something I need to focus on more each hour. Do I really listen and obey His commands? Or do I rationalize that they somehow don’t apply to me, at this time, or in this place? The mention of halachah means that their actions were a regular routine, perhaps something that becomes thought-less. Hmmm…
  3. The green words above, chochmah, binah, da’at, are the words which make up the acronym, CHaBaD, the chasidic sect started by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I find it curious that all three appear here.

Traditionally we only practice the mitzvah of tefillin once each day, during the morning prayers. On Tisha B’Av, since the tefillin are called our glory, we skip the mitzvah until the afternoon prayers. I’m always taken aback by the seriousness of the prayers that precede the donning of tefillin.

Behold, in putting on tefillin I intend to fulfill the commandment of my Creator, Who has commanded us to put on tefillin, as is written in His Torah: “Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes.” These four portions, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Exodus 13:1-10 and 11-16, contain His Oneness and Unity, may His Name be blessed, in the universe; so that we will remember the miracles and wonders that He did wth us when He took us from Egypt; and that He has the strength and dominion over those above and those below to do with them as He wishes.

He has commanded us to put tefillin upon the arm to recall the “outstretched arm” of the Exodus and that it be opposite the heart so that it will subjugate the desires and thoughts of our heart to His service, may His Name be blessed; and upon the head opposite the brain, so that the soul that is in the brain, together with my other senses and potentials, may all be subjugated to His service, may His Name be blessed.

May some of the spiritual influence of the commandment of tefillin be extended upon me so that I have a long life, a flow of holiness, and holy thoughts, without even an inkling of sin or iniquity; and that the Evil Inclination will not secure us nor incite against us, and that it permit us to serve HaShem as is our heart’s desire.

May it be Your will, HaShem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that the commandment of putting on tefillin be considered as worthy before the Holy One, blessed is He, as if I had fulfilled it in all its details, implications, and intentions, as well as the six hundred thirteen commandments that are dependent upon it. Amen, Selah.

(The Expanded ArtScroll Siddur, Wasserman Edition, Page 7)

My sins are no different than those of His people which caused the Temple to be destroyed, and they were spewed from the Land He had promised to the Patriarchs. My work of teshuvah can bring about the redemption, and Mashiach will come. His people will be gathered to Him, He will reign in Jerusalem, and the Torah will go forth from Zion.

Tzom kal,

Yosef b. Yosef

 

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