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Thought for the Day: Havdalah Declaration Before First Supplication After Shabbos

I do not learn gemara via the daf yomi schedule. The reason is simple, I cannot learn an entire daf of gemara in one day. I am currently learning Bava Metzia and worked out my learning rate: a bit less than a daf per week. I have resigned myself to that fact. There certainly is an energy to a daily learning program.  How about mishna yomi?  Sigh... I am also just a bit slow for that, as well.  One last chance: halacha yomi! Do be fair, I am also not able to keep up with that program, either. However, I am able to keep up with daily emails that summarize the daily halacha; whew!  (I recommend that avail yourself of the program: Daf Halacha | Daf HaYomi B'Halacha Resources.  You can sign up for the daily emails here.)

They also send out a question of the month.  Interesting questions one can use to check and deepen his understanding. Here is the question from the Teves-Shevat bulletin:
TheMishna Berurah (294:§2) writes thatthereason Havdalah is recited intheblessingofKnowledge (‘Chone…
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Thought for the Day: Juices and Soups/Fruits and Vegetables -- What's the Bracha?

A quick Google search reveals that a smoothie is:
A smoothie is a thick beverage made from blended raw fruit or vegetables with other ingredients such as water, ice, or sweeteners. Hmm... raw fruit or vegetables (I would actually include "and/or", but I'm not Google), thick and blended (that is, puréed), raw (that is, not cooked), beverage (so meant to be imbibed, not eaten).  What's the bracha?  I could tell you right now, but where's the fun in that?

There are two gemaras in Brachos that have a bearing on this question. One says that the bracha on all fruit juices (save two) is שהכל. (The two exceptions are: grape juice/wine, which is בורא פרי הגפן ; olive juice/oil, which is בורא פרי העץ.) The other gemara says that the bracha on vegetable soup is בורא פרי האדמה. What is the deciding factor? Obviously one talks about fruit and one about vegetables, but that only is not enough of a difference to account for the change in halacha. Let's see what differences w…

Thought for the Day: Washing After a Meal/Kabbalistic Nuances in Rabbinic Decrees

Have you ever seriously wondered if Kansas is really flatter than a pancake?  Perhaps you have thought disdainfully that it's just a thing to say; like, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."  Well, wonder no more... Kansas is much flatter than a pancake!  How do they determine that?  Well, first you need a baseline.  The baseline of both Kansas and a pancake is flat.  Then you measure difference of every point on the pancake (and Kansas) from its own baseline and determine an average (RMS, actually) deviation from baseline and add 1.0.  Hence, perfectly flat would be 1.0 (which is why we added the 1.0, so that flat would 1.0 and not 0.0; as that just seems wrong.)  When the dust (flour and dirt, respectively) settles, the flatness of a pancake is 0.957, while Kansas is 0.9997.

One more thing: It is precisely those deviations from flatness that are the interesting features of Kansas.  The "deviations from flatness" include, after all, buildings, trees, …

Thought for the Day: Shabbos Is for Connecting to HaShem

One of the most difficult classes I had in graduate school was quantum mechanics. One of the most difficult problems we solved was to construct the complete description of the hydrogen atom. It used all the math we had learned until that time and added more.  It took us three weeks; every class period for three weeks was dedicated to nothing but determining that solution.  (You can check here, if you like, to get a flavor of the complexity.)  About two weeks in, I stopped the professor and asked, "Wait... what are we doing?"  All I saw was three chalkboards filled with equations.  When I looked in my notes, all I saw was page after page of equations. He looked at me a bit quizzically and said, "We're solving the hydrogen atom." I was so mired in the details that I needed a reminder of the big picture.

I spent a very nice week working from Boca Raton last week.  (Long story about why and how that worked out; but it did.) The rabbi there likes to present a halach…

Thought for the Day: So If There are More Than 10 Commandments, Why Did We Get the 10 Commandments?

It was a small Shabbos morning s'udo parashas Yisro.  (I know that sounds distressingly like "it was a dark and stormy night"... but what can I do?) I, of course, was pontificating about how it's called the עשרת הדיברות which translates to "The Ten Utterances" and not "The Ten Commandments". Moreover, the next parasha starts with the conjunctive וְאֵ֨לֶּה֙ הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּשִׂ֖ים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם/and these -- in continuation of what was just begun (see Rashi) -- are the statutes you shall place before them (the Jewish people).  So you see clearly that everything was said at Har Sinai. Furthermore, our sages had to actually forbid public, formal, recitations of the -- ahem -- so-called Ten Commandments because the Christians used that as proof that really those are the important commandments. (They also conveniently ignore the phrase "Who took you out of Mitzrayim", clearly indicating that these laws -- whatever they may be -- were …

Thought for the Day: There is Nothing Fun About Sin

"I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun," goes the 70s pop hit. Let's talk.

Consider the former world renowned sports doctor who was recently sentenced to (up to) 175 years in prison.  His crime? Molesting -- over a span of more than two decades -- girls as young as eight years old. As hackneyed as the phrase may be, it breathes the only words that begin to convey our shock, dismay, and horror: There are no words to express our shock, dismay, and horror. Here's another hackneyed but distressingly appropriate phrase: death is too good for him. There is really only one punishment that might possibly fit the crime and thereby fulfill the demands of justice: for him to live and relive the shame and anguish he feels facing his victims turned accusers recounting his actions for the whole world; to feel and feel again the disgust the world feels for him; to deepen his own self-loathing for having used his abilities and …

Thought for the Day: Jewish Marriage is a Spiritual Re-Unification

I saw a quite distressing article entitled: "My husband’s Orthodox Jewish family pressured us to call off our wedding."; just to drive home the point, a subtitle was added: "I thought parental disapproval of marriage was a problem of the past. I was wrong."

Why are we so, so ...  well... orthodox and unbending in our refusal to allow the slightest change or breach in this ancient taboo?

Here's what's it's not.  It's not about similar culture, thus easing the integration of two people's lives -- including all their family and extended family.  It may not be easy for a Jew from Flushing, NY to integrate his life with a Jew from Irvine, CA; not a Jew from Sweden with a Jew from Egypt.  Surprise!  Marriage is not designed for nor meant to be easy.

It's also not about having a shared experience about customs.  A S'fardi (of Spanish/African/Turkish descent) Jew from Israel and a Chassidic (of eastern European descent) Jew from have customs as …