Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Echad b'Yisrael

Many years ago when I was a gabbai in Dallas, I asked a guest (marginally religious Israeli) if he was cohain or levi.  When he said he was not, I joked, "Oh, just a yisrael, huh?"  He sat straight up, held up his forefinger and declared proudly, "Lo! Echad b'Yisrael!".  Since that day I have never thought of any Jew as "just" anything.

This morning I learned a new dimension the meaning of echad b'yisrael from R' Dovid Siegel, shlita, who is visting from Eretz Yisrael on his annual trip to the US.  Rabbi Siegel showed me a startling Gr'a (Shnos Eliyahu, Brachos, 5:1).  The Gr'a holds that it is forbidden (yes, that is a direct quote) to daven for oneself in shmone esrei.  Shmonei esrei is a t'filla for the needs of klal yisrael; one's personal needs/bakashos may not be addressed until elokai n'tzor.  Rabbi Siegel explained to me that the the Torah was not given to an individual, it was given to klal yisrael -- that is, HaShem's connection to this world is via klal yisrael, not through a lot of Jews.  A person's heart, liver, kidneys, etc are vial organs and the person cannot live with out them, but each on its own is both unimportant and, in fact, not even survivable.  So to each of us are vital to the survival and vitality of Klal Yisrael, but our importance is entirely that we contribute to the health and functioning of the klal.

Why put the personal requests at the end?  Maybe I would daven better for the klal after I had taken care of my own needs?  The answer is that I can't really know what my needs are until I recognize that I am part of that larger community.  Only then can I daven properly for myself and even for other individuals; only then do I appreciate that "needs" are those things that enable me to fulfill my mission as Echad b'Yisrael.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…