Machshavah Lab

Machshavah Lab

My name is Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss. My goal as a Torah educator is not merely to teach my students my OWN hashkafah. Rather, my goal is to equip them with the foundations, the methodological training, and the tools which will enable them to arrive at their OWN understanding of Judaism and cultivate their OWN relationship with Hashem and His Torah. This podcast is devoted to the shiurim I give which are geared specifically towards that end. As such, the range of topics covered here will be diverse. There will be shiurim on Jewish philosophy, Chumash methodology, aggadic midrashim, maybe even some non-Jewish philosophy as well. Merriam-Webster defines "laboratory" as a place providing opportunity for experimentation, observation, or practice in a field of study. I call this podcast "Machshavah Lab" because this is where we will conduct Torah "experiments" by exploring questions, texts, and ideas in an effort to develop our machshavah in a "hands on," exploratory, firsthand manner.

Episodes

October 22, 2021 81 min

Every year when we read about Sedom and Amorah, I can't help but feel like I'm watching a "reverse auction," in which Avraham Avinu quantitatively "bargains" for the lowest number of tzadikim that Hashem would be willing to save. This morning (10/22/21), in our "Machshavah Lab" series for women, we learn through Sforno's commentary which sheds an entirely new light on the dialogue. Sforno shows h...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page dvar Torah I wrote entitled, Avraham and Islam. Were YOU aware that Hashem alludes to the rise of Islam in one of his statements to Avraham? That's what R' Avraham ben ha'Rambam thinks. And lest one view his statement as inappropriately "pro-Islamic," then perhaps you should consider the OTHER comment he makes in this parashah, in which he's critical of Islam...

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Tonight (10/20/21) we continued our multi-part series of shiurim on "The Saga of Kayin." The bulk of this shiur was spent analyzing a mishnah in Pirkei Avos. Why? Because the Meiri's explanation of this mishnah is the basis of my unifying theory for the Saga of Kayin. After we arrived at the theory, we only had time to apply it to two out of the thirteen episodes in the Saga of Kayin. Next time we will attempt to apply ...

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Last year (9/16/20, 9/23/20, and 10/1/20) I gave a series of three shiurim on the Ralbag's approach to Torah, as outlined in the introduction to his commentary on Chumash. This Sunday Shiur (10/17/21) is intended to be a more concise presentation of that series with the aim of showcasing the Ralbag's unique approach to Torah.

For the more complete presentation from last year, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
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מקור...

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This morning (10/15/21), in our "Machshavah Lab" series for women, we aimed to answer two major questions: (1) What do Chazal mean when they say that some of the builders of Migdal Bavel were punished by being transformed into "monkeys, spirits, demons, and liliths"? and (2) Why does the Torah say that Sheis was born to Adam "in his likeness, like his form" but it doesn't say this by Kayin and Hevel? The...

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Tonight (10/13/21) we continued our multi-part series of shiurim on "The Saga of Kayin," in an effort to achieve our goal of understanding the unity of Kayin's entire story which is told in Bereishis Perek 4. We picked up where we last left off in our "close read" and continued identifying every question, problem, and nuance we could - and we finished! Next time we shall attempt to come up with a theory which un...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page dvar Torah I wrote entitled, Migdal Bavel and the Hindu Account of the Mabul. The midrash states that the Dor Haflagah built Migdal Bavel to prevent another Mabul, which they believed to be a cyclical phenomenon. As it so happens, Hindus believe the same thing. But there is a key difference: the Dor Haflagah had access to Noach but denied his prophetic account, whereas the Hindus di...

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This morning (10/8/21), in our "Machshavah Lab" series for women, we attempted to understand the pshat of the Migdal Bavel story, free from any midrashic biases. With the Ibn Ezra and Ralbag as our guides, we learned through the story and emerged with a fresh (and somewhat radical) view with implications for our present day lives. Perhaps more important was the showcasing of Ibn Ezra's pshat-oriented approach to the tex...

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Tonight (10/6/21) we began a multi-part series of shiurim on "The Saga of Kayin." In previous years I had learned specific parts of Kayin's story (i.e. his korban, Hashem's pep talk, his murder of hevel), but I had never asked questions like: What is the unity of Chapter 4? How does each part contribute to the whole? What are we supposed to get from the entire saga? It's all one parashah in the Torah, including ...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page dvar Torah I wrote entitled, Bereishis: (How) Did Hashem Speak to Kayin? The problem is that Kayin doesn't seem cut out to be a navi. Radak offers a shocking interpretation in his "esoteric commentary." Although I do not believe that this interpretation adequately solves our problem, it does provide us with an interesting methodological tool which might open the door to ...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, Does Hashem Actually Care What We Call Shemini Atzeres?  The title might make it seem like it's about Shemini Atzeres, but it's actually about why we should care about even the most trivial nuances in the nusach ha'tefilah.
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This week's Torah content has been sponsored by an anonymous donor in memory of her grandmother, Golda Henya b...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, The Joyful Progression from Yom ha’Kippurim through Sukkos. I have long been troubled by the fact that on Yom ha'Kippurim we act as though our fate is hanging in the balance, but after Yom ha'Kippurim we act as though our teshuvah and tefilos were accepted, without any doubt. In this 1-page article we attempt to reconcile these two antithetical mood...

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This morning (9/10/21) in our "Machshavah Lab" series for women, we revisited an old question: What is the difference between the year-round mitzvah of vidui (confession) and the special mitzvah of vidui Yom ha'Kippurim? After reviewing the facts and noting the differences, we develop an approach for understanding those differences - based on a Rambam in the Moreh ha'Nevuchim, but inspired by an encounter I had with...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the informal article/reflection I wrote LAST Rosh ha'Shanah, entitled Meditations on Rosh ha'Shanah 5781 - The Meaning of "Shanah Tovah." I'm sharing this today for five reasons:
(1) This year I did something which I've never systematically done in the past: I went back and reviewed my whole year! That's when I was reminded of this.
(2) It is SO easy for us to forge...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and the 42-Letter Name of God. I wasn't planning on writing anything for today, but last night I became obsessed with the name Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and its connection to the Rambam in the Moreh ha'Nevuchim, and I knew that I had to write this. Plus, I really wanted to record it. :)
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Today's Tor...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, Ki Teitzei: On the Merit of Giving Bad Explanations of Mitzvos, in which we examine the Sefer ha'Chinuch's reasons for giving less-than-stellar explanations of taamei ha'mitzvos (the reasons for the commandments), and consider the practical implications for teaching.
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Today's Torah content is sponsored by an anonymous donor, out of g...

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August 18, 2021 4 min

Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, When to Dance Between Two Opinions, in which I attempted to capture a burgeoning realization, which I anticipate will be a "leveling up" of a major shift in the most important shiur I gave last year: Of Wolves, Men, and Methodology.
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Today's Torah content has been brought to you by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon.
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If you...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, Halacha as a Playground of Mindfulness, which is my rebuttal to a cartoon I saw which depicts "religion" as a prison and "spirituality" as freedom.
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Today's Torah content has been brought to you by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon.
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If you have questions, comments, or feedback, I would love to hear from you! Pleas...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, The Insidious Nature of Metaphysical and Epistemological Premises, in which I reflect on two opposing but equally alluring fantasies: the fantasy that we can learn non-Torah sources while guarding ourselves against adopting their false metaphysical and epistemological premises, and the fantasy that we can close ourselves off from non-Torah sources and devel...

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Synopsis: This is the audio version of the 1-page article I wrote entitled, Tallis as a Vehicle of Gratitude and a Reminder of Death. In it, I share my current practice of putting on my tallis in the morning, which incorporates elements from halacha, aggadah, Stoicism, and meditation.
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Today's Torah content has been brought to you by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon.
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If you have questions, comments, or ...

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