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.
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
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
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
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
September 2, 2010
In this paragraph Rav Wolbe introduces an important concept to which he returns a number of times through out his work – the importance of individuality. Every human being must understand their own place in the world – that the world was created for me. He works off the very important Mishna in Sanhedrin 4:5 (link).
I have heard Rabbi Yitz Greenberg teach this Mishna on a number of occasions. He outlines three fundamental values that emerge from this passage: 1) The infinite value of every human being, 2) the complete equality of every human being, 3) the unique nature of every human being. This grows from the core notion that every human being was created b’tzelem elohim, in the divine image. Rav Wolbe uses this Mishna to bring out the importance of human individuality.
Alei Shur – v2 shaar 3 chapter 12 – hodesh harachamin (3)
August 31, 2010
Rav Wolbe moves us forward in the building of the theme is individuality. He quotes the famous gemara where the term kivnei maron is defined. (You can see the gemara with its attendant commentaries at this link.) All three definitions describe a process of judgement whereby the human being passes before hashem by him or herself. This can be a terrifying notion. However, Rav Wolbe uses this sense of being alone as a model for finding our own path and simply being stam adam – any person.
You can listen to the audio below:
Alei Shur – v2 shaar 3 chapter 12 – hodesh harachamim (2)