Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch. 2 va’adim 1 & 2

January 1, 2011

In the first va’ad Rav Wolbe sets up the importance of a moment of silence before prayer.  Simply sitting still and focusing on your thoughts for about a minute can truly transform your experience of tefilfa.  I know from my own experience how powerful this can be as a tool of meditation.

What Rav Wolbe points out is that in order to get to shul five minutes early you need to wake up a little earlier.  In order to wake up earlier you have to go sleep earlier.  So – you preparation for shacharit begins at bedtime of the night before.

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 va’ad 1 – Preparations begin at bedtime

In the second va’ad he begins to work through Birkot ha-Shachar.  He starts with an analysis of the word “barch.”  This is a word that has always puzzled me and I have often struggled with the correct translation.  In addition he deals with the word “sechvi.”  It is interesting to note that in this beracha we are thanking God for the natural instincts of the rooster.

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 va’ad 2 – Baruch

He then moves on to the first two berachot of self identity.  Here we see some of his prejudices against non-Jews.  While his language is painful to read I think that he raises an important question of how much we allow the outside world to impact on who we are (assuming that we can make a distinction between “outside” and “inside”).

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 va’ad 2 – goy and eved

Next time he will deal with she-lo asani isha.  I will also attempt to place that beracha in a broader  context and give my own approach as to what it means to me.


Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 – Tefila

January 1, 2011

In this chapter Rav Wolbe sets up a core paradox regarding prayer.  What does it mean to ask for something from God?  Doesn’t hashem already know what I need?  Rav Wolbe expands this into a broader issue from the world of Mussar.  He opens up the issue of causality as a fundamental contradiction to the notion of divine providence.

This issue features prominently in the works of Rav Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement, as well as Rav Simcha Zissel (the Saba) of Kelm.  Rav Wolbe in other places represents this same apparent contradiction as Athens vs. Jerusalem.  Likely drawing on the work of Moses Hess and perhaps Leo Strauss.  This conflict represents a core debate between religion and science that flows through out many religious thinkers.

These four shiurim cover the opening piece of the chapter

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch. 2 – Tefila – Job

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch. 2 – Tefila for Shleimut

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 – Tefila as the spring of nature

Alei Shur v.2 Sha’ar 3 ch.2 – Tefila causality


Alei Shur v.2 – Hakdama l’vaadim b’inyan tefila

November 16, 2010

Here Rav Wolbe introduces us to the need for passion in prayer.  He reminds us that ultimate goal of prayer is to connect to the Master of the World.  He outlines his goals as focused on giving us the skeleton of prayer so that we can create our own understanding.  He will not give us biurei tefila (those we can find on our own in the siddur ha-gr”a) but rather will give us a method of approach to the siddur.

Alei Shur vol 2 – Hakdama lvaadim b’inyan Tefila – Passion


Alei Shur – v. 2 – Hakdama l’vaadim b’inyan tefila

November 16, 2010

In this session we concluded Rav Wolbe’s introduction to the Va’adim on Tefilah. He explains that his goal in these shiurim is not to explain the various component parts of tefilah and their meaning.  Rather, Rav Wolbe’s goal is to give over a method and approach to prayer that we can then apply ourselves.

If only more teachers in the Modern Orthodox Day School system would focus on a method and approach to prayer over the exact meaning and pronunciation of the words.  It seems that schools are so concerned with metrics that can be evaluated: can you read and translate with precision; that they are sacrificing the spiritual connections that children (and adults) can make in the tefilah setting.  If only schools could use those 20 to 30 minutes to actually build a relationship between the students and hashem, if only…

Alei Shur – Hakdama lvaadim binyan tefila (conclusion)


Alei Shur – Pathways to Prayer

November 15, 2010

This was the concluding section of the Alei Shur vol 1 on Tefila.  He sets up the notion of different pathways into prayer and the need for each of us to find the “way in” that works for us.

Alei Shur – Pathways to Prayer


Alei Shur – Mussar Shiur #4 Kivnei Maron

September 28, 2010

This shiur functions as the background for the next Alei Shur shiur.  It also stands by itself as a foundational set of texts and ideas relating to Rosh ha-Shanna.  The gemara contains a basic contradiction regarding the nature of the judgment that takes place at this time of the year.  On the one hand we pass before hashem as sheep before the shepherd – one at a time.  On the other hand, God looks at all of us with a single gaze.  In certain respects we stand in judgment alone as individuals and in certain respects we stand with a community behind us.  This fundamental paradox describes, for me, some of the anxiety of these days.  To what extent do we feel like we can withstand such an intimate type of encounter with hashem?  Do we feel that our community will protect us along the way?

Another, deeper question is to what extent do we put ourselves out in front of the community in an attempt to lead people in a direction that we think they ought to take.  And, perhaps the hardest question – what is our community?  How broadly do we want to draw the boundaries around the people whom we think of as part of “our community?”  Do we mean only those who observe mitzvot like us?  What about those who daven in non-Orthodox shuls and are shomer shabbat?  What about the rest of world Jewry for whom the intricacies of Halakha are nothing more than foolish folk ways – are they part of my community?  What about non-Jews?

Here are the classic sources.

Here is the audio:

Alei Shur – Kivnei Maron – Individual & collective


Alei Shur – Mussar Shiur #4

September 14, 2010

In this section Rav Wolbe drives home the importance of individual creativity and expression as part of sense of self.  He then goes on to blast the conformity that he sees in the Yeshiva world.

Alei Shur – Hodesh Harachamim – the need for individuality