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Thought for the Day: When You Don't Have to Pick Up a Lost Object to Return

If ever there was mitzvah that seems absolutely logical, returning lost objects seems to exemplify that genre to perfection.  And yet, a good fraction of Bava Metzia discusses its intricacies.  In fact, though, one finds that most of the discussion is when the mitzvah to return lost objects does not, in fact, apply.  That tactic is often used by Chazal when mapping the applicability of this or that mitzvah.  By delineating the borders -- even if there is some small uncertainty (machlokes), we achieve clarity on what is definitely inside and what is definitely excluded.

Here are the primary exclusions to the obligation to even pick up a lost object.

First and foremost, you need to be sure it is a lost object you are retrieving.  As obvious as that sounds, it has quite practical implications.  First, an object that is lying in a protected area is not lost.  It may have been sitting there for months or years, as evidenced by the thick layer of dust and confirmed by carbon dating.  No mat…
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Thought for the Day: Preparation for Tisha b'Av -- Improve Interpersonal Relationships Now

I had a rough time at the end of the day on Tisha b'Av this year.  In fact, I had to end my fast early (based on p'sak from a rav, of course).  When my granddaughter saw me eating and heard that the rav has told me I needed to eat, her comment was, "Oh.  Yes, I have heard that old people have trouble fasting."

Me?!  Old?!  Yes... me; old.  I didn't prepare any differently this year than previous years.  That was a mistake, because there is a big difference between this year and previous years; namely, the intervening years.  My first "take away" is that I need to start now preparing for Yom Kippur.  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

My second take away is that I should really start now preparing for next Tisha b'Av.  As noted, the current observance of the Tisha b'Av season is lamenting our deficiency in our interpersonal relationships.  But we also know that the messiah is born (that is, the ultimate redemption begins) on …

Thought for the Day: Why Aveilus on Tisha b'Av? Fixing Our Relationship with HaShem by Fixing Our Relationship with Fellow Jews

I did not ride my bike to work today.  It is erev Tisha b'Av, 5777; though it is certainly permissible during the nine days to shower enough to not offend my coworkers, I felt that on erev Tisha b'Av itself there was no reason to bring myself to a situation of relying on a leniency that was easy to avoid.  I did, though, ride many of the nine days and certainly several days during the three weeks.  Since the whole period is one of increased danger, I listened to fewer shiurim than usual in order to pay more attention to the traffic.  Having that extra time (even with heightened vigilance, my mind had a chance to wander here and there), I was struck by two questions on the way we conduct ourselves during the three weeks, nine days, and week during which Tisha b'Av falls.

The Orach Chaim section of Shulchan Aruch is the section on laws of daily living.  The organization is basically chronological by most frequent.  You will therefore first find laws of waking, getting dresse…

Thought for the Day: Hell, Reincarnation, and Ghosts are All Torah Concepts

My granddaughter wanted to know if there was really any such thing as ghosts.  I told her that of course there are ghosts!  Dovid HaMelech mentions them in Psalms (88:11): "Will You do wonders for the dead, do ghosts give You praise? Sela!"  You will probably see רפאים  quite inaccurately translated as "spirits" or "shades" or "the departed" or "the dead"; but I'm all about calling רפאים רפאים -- ghosts is ghosts.

I also ran across a reference to ghosts recently in Mishlei (21:16):
A person who wanders from the path of reason will repose in the community of ghosts. The G"ra explains this with a gemara (Pesachim 28a, in response to one Amora being refuted with his own arguments): R' Yosef said it's like the common expression, "the craftsman is burned by the mustard in his bowl";  Abaye said, "the carpenter is bound his stocks"; Rava said, "the fletcher is killed by his own arrows."   (I che…

Thought for the Day: Helping the Sinner Repent/Bringing Back the Beis HaMikdash

Rashi explains the difference between a חכם and a נבון.  (Google, by the way, translates both as intelligent, but adds wise for חכם and sagacious/discerning נבון.)  Rashi says that חכם is like a wealthy שולחני/money changer; bring him money and he can change it for you, and he is also content to wait for business.  A נבון on the other hand, is like a שולחני תגר/money dealer; if no one is bringing him business, he's out drumming it up.  The difference was really brought home to me yesterday while walking with my six year old grandson.  He stopped short and asked (really out of the blue): "Wait!  Our cousins cousins are... us?!?"  I was a bit startled, but managed to confirm his conclusion.  We were walking to look at some new houses being build (big machines and big holes in the ground are irresistible to boys of all ages), but apparently he had been thinking about his cousins who are planning to come for a visit and just had that insight.  That's a נבון; his mind nev…

Thought for the Day: Crackers, Cake, and Bentching

Remember the Uncrustables discussion?  R' Fuerst told me then that he was planning to do a series of shiurim on the topic of פת הבאה בכיסנין; ie, crackers/cake/pizza/what have you.  That series is now, Baruch HaShem, in full swing.  It's complicated stuff; the rav told me he has spent 50 - 60 hours preparing.  Last week (July 16, 2017), the shiur was on how much crackers/cake/sweet rolls you can eat -- and in what context -- before one would be required to wash and bentch.  I found two things particularly surprising/interesting (though not shocking) to me, which I present herewith.  However, due to the complexity of the topic, I feel compelled to make explicit the usual disclaimer:
The information contained in this posting in particular (as well as this blog in general) is for general information purposes only. Whilst I endeavour to keep the information up-to-date and correct, I make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accur…

Thought for the Day: How. When, Why of אמן/Awmein

As well document in Home Alone, even a very important mission can be ruined by failing to get all the participants at the right place at the right time.  Saying אמן with the correct intention, as mentioned, is important.  Still, if the אמן is misplaced or mispronounced, the entire mission can turn disastrous.

There are three defective sorts of אמן about which the Shulchan Aruch (124:8) warns: חטופה/hurried or snatched, קטופה/plucked, and יתומה/orphaned.  חטופה/hurried means either swallowing the first syllable (and just saying: 'mein) or saying the אמן before the bracha has been finished.  קטופה/plucked means dropping a hole letter or pronouncing the whole word as one syllable.  יתומה/orphaned means to just say אמן, but not as an answer or response to anything.  (That can happen if you walk into shul and hear everyone else answering אמן, so you figure, "heck!  I'll answer also!"  It can also happen if you have been in shul the whole time but your mind has been wander…