Ken (Chanoch) Bloom's Blog

3rd July 2008

Sepharadi and Ashkenazi

Since someone (who doesn't actually read this blog) asked:

There are definite cultural differences between sepharadim and ashkenazim. For one, the askhenazim have fractured into numerous different groups over the course of history. The oldest of the groups to split are Chassidim, but Reform and Conservative Judaism have mostly eaten up any idea of having a community that includes Jews who are not personally observant, but retain a connection to the Torah community and correct Torah values. Not that Jews who are not personally observant are a good thing, but it's better than institutionalizing kefira. I think the most recent split is between Haredim and Dati Leumi, Modern Orthodox, and black hat orthodox. The sepharadi world really doesn't have that split (though they may be inheriting it a bit in Israel, I don't know well enough to say). Most sepharadi communities have a range of observance levels and are welcoming to people at their level. Besides that, hiloni sepharadim keep some mitzvot that hiloni ashkenazim would never even think existed, like niddah. Sepharadim have different emphasis on some mitzvot, like a serious emphasis on kavod for talmedi chachamim, and kavod for the bet kenesset. Sepharadim also have a more authority based style of psak, while Ashkenazi psak seems to be much more lomdish. Sepharadim see less need for chumrot, though they have a few good ones of their own. (Gefilte fish, it seems, is the result of a specific chumra of the Rema in the melacha of borer on shabbat. On the other hand, I think one reason for the sepharadi emphasis on kavod for talmedei chachamim comes from a single chumra in the halachot: we have to stand every time the talmid chacham comes within 4 amot, unlike the Rema who poskins that only the first time is required. And I'm not even getting into the obvious things like selichot, pesach, and bet yosef meat.)

Sepharadim seem to read everybody's books. Ashkenazim, on the other hand, seem to reject or emphasize certain books based on the hashkafa they want to teach. For example, many haredi communities will have have nothing to do with Rav Kook, or Rav YB Soloveitchik.

There's a definite blurring of distinctions between sepharadim and ashkenazim in some communities. Many sepharadim in the US are influenced by the much larger ashkenazi community that surrounds them. I'm not sure how the cultural differences I have described would affect the family I hope to create, but even minhag differences are no small thing. Many Ashkenazi girls in the US do not wish to change from what they were raised with.

Permalink | random.
26th July 2008

Parshat Mattot

I composed this post on Thursday afteroon, but got delayed a bit in actually posting it, as I spent Friday afternoon reflecting on a very exciting week, rather than running to the computer to post this.

In Parshat Matot, the torah tells us in great detail the disposition of the spoils of the war against Midian (במדבר לא׃כה־נד), providing multiple reduntant counts of how the spoils were divided between the men who fought, the rest of the nation, and the kohanim. Why so much detail? Our clue is in Sifre in Parshat Balak.

"They conquered sixty cities [in Bashan], all fit to be the capitol of a kingdom, as it says ששים איר כל חבל ארגוב ממלכת בשן (Sixty cities, the entire region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in the Bashan דברים ג׃ד). And Israel came and makde war with them, and took all that was theirs, but when Israel became full from the booth, the soldiers wasted the spoils, tore the garments [they found], and killed the anmials, because they only wanted silver and gold vessels, as it says וכל הבהמ׳ ושלל הערים בזונו לנו (And all of the animals and spoils in the cities we looted for ourselves (דברים ג׃ז)."

The war against Og, King of Bashan, came after the war with Sihon, king of Heshbon. The Jews were filled up with the spoils from Sihon, and didn't feel they needed any more when they conquered Og. The Netziv explains the progression: the soldiers wasted the spoils, this was the beginning of the sin, they devalued the great kindness that Hashem did for them. They tore the garments, thereby transgressing the commandment of בל תשחית (don't waste/destory) and killed the anmials, thereby coming to cruelty to animals. Then end was that they came to idol worship and sexual immorality in the plains of Moav, with the incident of Ba'al Peor (מבדבר כה׃א־ט). The war against Midian was commanded to fix the sin of Ba'al Peor by destroying the nation that had enticed the Jews to sexual immorailty and idol worship. But since the root of this sin was their cavalier attitude toward the spoils of war, the Torah tells us that in this war they fixed up the root of that sin too, by giving us a meticulous accounting of the spoils of that war, that none of it was wasted.

It appears to me (and I found my words were confirmed by the Maharal's Gur Aryeh in Parshat Vayishlach) that the root of the commandment of בל תשחית (don't waste/destory) can be found that God gives us everything we need, and everything Hashem gives us is useful for us in our mission to serve him. By using not using it properly, we deny that we need everything that Hashem has given us, and we thereby do not use it for the mission that Hashem intended it.

Permalink | torah.
30th July 2008

Looking for a place in WRP

I'm coming back from Ohr Somayach Yerushalyim on August 12 and looking for a place to live in West Rogers Park. I'm particularly interested in finding a basement apartment, boarding with a family, or a 1 bedroom apartment, but I'm also interested in roommate offers (though tired of dealing with turnover every few months). Anybody have any leads?

Permalink | random.
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