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Thought for the Day: Using This World Efficiently

The second book of our chumash begins with a listing by name of Yaakov Avinu and his 12 .  Rashi tells us that they are beloved to HaShem and likened to the stars that He brings out and takes back in by name (Y'shayahu 40:26).  It was only after that exalted generation was gone that the harsh treatment of Klal Yisrael at the hands of the Miztri'im began, and from there got steadily and progressively worse.  Seems a bit unfair, no?  Here they are in a foreign land, forced their by a famine, and now they are being treated to the worst kind of unfounded xenophobia.  Where is G-d?  Oh... there He is; after things have gotten so bad that their babies are being ripped from their mothers' arms and thrown into the Nile to drown, after decades and decades of backbreaking and fruitless labor, finally, finally... "HaShem heard their groaning and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitchak, and with Yaakov."  (Sh'mos 2:24).  He couldn't have paid attention…

Thought for the Day: Ma'aseh Merkava, Ma'aseh B'reishis, Arayos

More from the first introduction to G'vuros HaShem; after all, it's good to know about reality.

The gemara (Chagiga 11a) says that one may expound on ma'aseh merkava only to himself, ma'aseh b'reishis to a single talmid (at a time) only, and arayos to two (at a time) talmidim.  Why these three topics have restrictions in how they are taught and why these particular restrictions is the topic d'jour.

There are three dimensions to creating a new system: the thought to create the system, the creation of the parts, and the creation of the rules by which the parts interact.  The Maharal does not use these terms, but they are also called different "olamos" (worlds) and there are four: olam ha'atzilus, olam ha'bri'a, olam ha'y'tzira, and olam ha'asi'a.  The Maharal has lumped bri'a (yeish mei'ayin -- something from nothing) and y'tzira (yeish mi'yeish -- something from something) into one concept of creation.  That …

Thought for the Day: Zimun Topics (And How to Read the Mishna Brura)

Here's a game I like to play.  I learn up a sugya in Mishna Brura and get a really good understanding, then I call R' Fuerst and he corrects me.  It never fails.  I am amazed by his patience.  I think he is probably amazed by my tenacity.

First question was on zimum when 10 men have eaten together.  To make a zimun for three, you need at least two who have eaten bread, then you can combine another person who has eaten pretty much anything except water and salt (I believe soda, coffee, and tea also don't work).  At 10, though, you get to add "elokeinu".  The Shulchan Aruch, OC 197:2 says you need a "recognizable majority", ie seven (not just six), to add sheim haShem.  The wording, though, is interesting: "one who ate bread should be the leader, and even seven who ate grain and three ate vegetables can combine".  Interesting!  The m'chaber uses both the words "pas" (bread) and "dagan" (grain product) in one sentence.  It…

Thought for the Day: Yagati u'Matzati -- I BELIEVE!

Dramatic teaser:
Second paragraph of note 31 in Dirshu edition of Mishna Brura to si'ef koton 20 in the Mishna Brura commenting on siman 206, si'ef 5 in the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch.

I had the z'chus to hear many divrei torah from R' Henoch Leibowitz, ztz"l.  The rosh yeshiva was once explaining the chazal, "yagati u'matzati" -- if someone says that he worked hard and found the solution, believe him.  "Which is it?  Yigi'a (exertion) or m'tzi'a (a find)?  Either you work hard and develop a solution, or you find a solution; not both!  What does it mean?  Solutions and understanding in torah cannot be developed, they are all a find; like a beautiful gem.  However, HaShem only gives you the gem if he sees you will appreciate it; which you do by working hard.  If you work hard (enough), HaShem will surely reward you."

I have had a question for months.  Suppose you have an apple and a banana in front of you, you plan…

Thought for the Day: Why the Torah Does Not Mention Olam HaBa

The Written Torah does not once mention eternal reward, life in a coming world, enjoying the radiance of HaShem's presence for ever.  Nothing, nada, not a single time.  Hints here and there; but try debating with your standard non-believer with with compelling arguments like:
Look!  The verse clearly says "then Moshe and the children of Israel will sing" (Song at the Sea, Shmos 15:1)!  Future tense!!!  Clear proof that the idea of resurrection of the dead is straight from the Torah and not, chas v'shalom, a later rabbinic infusion of foreign philosophies. For those of you who think that's all the need be said on the subject, you can stop reading now.  In fact, you can stop doing lots of things since you are more than likely patur from mitzvos.  For the rest of us who need some sanity in our discussions, the Marharal (first introduction to G'vuros HaShem) offers two reasons that the Written Torah has no references to olam haba.  One because of the essential na…

Thought for the Day: Keren v'Keifel -- Principle and Fine

The Torah tells us that when a robber is caught and the courts find him guilty, he must pay both keren and, since he did not own up to his crime, keifel.  Keren (principle) means that he must return  either the item he stole, or its value if the item is gone.  Keifel (double) is a fine equal to the value of what he stole.  Seems simple enough.  The complications come from the fact that it might be a long time since the commission of the crime and the payment for said crime.  For example, if he stole your Lexus and the drove it around for a few months before being caught, you may be miffed at the condition of your returned vehicle.  Certainly an interesting issue, but for another time.  I'd like to discuss keifel today.  (Why?  'Cause I learned something interesting about keifel recently.)  The case under discussion in the gemara (Bava Kama 65a) is stolen livestock; I am sure the discussion can be applied to your Lexus, but I'm sticking with the case I learned.  There is p…

Thought for the Day: There Are 613 Independent Mitzvos

The first mishna in Chulin discusses what it takes to make sh'chita kosher.  Basically, a Jew who is chayiv in mitzvos must have intent to shecht, then the meat will be kosher.  If a goy shechts, the animal is n'veila; ie, just dead, but not kosher.  See there for more details.  The one that really surprised me, however, was the last case of the mishna: a Jew who shechts on Shabbos -- even though he has incurred the death penalty -- the animal is kosher.

To have incurred the death penalty means that there was nothing accidental about the act.  Two kosher witnesses warned him that today is Shabbos and that slaughtering an animal in Shabbos is a capital crime.  He responded, "I understand.  I know it is Shabbos, I know that to slaughter and animal is a capital crime.  Even so, I am choosing to violate Shabbos with full knowledge and intent."  Then he slaughters the animal toch k'dei dibur (within 3 or 4 seconds).  Even so, the meat is kosher.

For the meat to be kos…

Thought for the Day: Choosing You Way to Eternity

In the introductions to both sefer Chafeitz Chaim and the Mishna Brura there is a quite kabbalistic explanation of the function of mitzvos.  Both s'farim are all about the details of "rules of the road" for living in this world.  Perhaps the author was worried that people would either get so overwhelmed by the vast minutia that the would just give up, or so embroiled in them that they would forget what it's all about.  While a person's main occupation besides doing mitzvos has got to be learning how to do them correctly, it is (apparently) worth taking a few moments once in a while to remember what we are actually accomplishing.

"Ein od milvado" -- there is nothing besides HaShem.  Yet... we exist!  How is there room for me if there is nothing besides Him?  The real answer is beyond the scope of this work.  (I love saying that.)  In this case "this work" means "the entirety of creation", so those words were never more true.  We can n…

Thought for the Day: Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin, Oy Lanu mi'Yom haTochacha

There is a particularly beautiful Beis haLeivi on the final events that culminate in the reunification of Yosef with his brothers.  Yehuda has very poignantly expressed that he cannot possibly go home with out Binyamin; the pain would be too much for his father and would surely die.  Yosef can no longer restrain himself and declares: "I am Yosef.  Is my father still alive?"  (B'reishis 45:3).  The brothers are stunned and shocked; they cannot even answer.

The Beis haLeivi notes at least three difficulties in the pasuk itself.  First, in the very next pasuk, Yosef (seemingly) again declares, "I am your brother, Yosef".  Second, the whole crux of this drama is that Yaakov is alive, after all.  Finally, no answer is given; the question is just forgotten!?  The medrash offers only more confusion by commenting: Oy Lanu mi'Yom haDin, Oy Lanu mi'Yom Tochacha!  Ummm... what?  Besides the fact that this seems to be a totally unrelated thought, why are two days m…

Thought for the Day: Yes; the Avos Even Lit Chanuka Licht

I think it was about fifth grade, when we started learning about earth sciences, that the term "Law of Gravity" came up.  We enjoyed joking, "Wow; I wonder what people did before that law was passed!"  Peals of laughter among the chevra.  Yes; I was a dweeb from a very early age.  (In case you don't know what a dweeb is, here is the definition from Thesarus.com: geekisanysmartpersonwithanobsessiveinterest,anerdisthesamebutalsolackssocialgrace,andadweebisamega-nerd.  Btw... the fact that I bothered to look that up and note it should remove any lingering doubts you may have had about my dweebishness.)

Obviously, the laws of physics have existed since sheishes y'mei b'reishis.  The Greeks could have had laptop computers; they just didn't.  Imagine you could time transport the disk from a laptop computer back to the 1950s.  After much time they might be able to work out that there is a very tiny magnetic field around the disk with even tinier variations.…

Thought for the Day: Learning Disaster Management from the Shvatim

One of the most important lessons I learned early in my transition to Orthodoxy Judaism was how to view ishei tanach.  As one of my rabaim put it, "Did HaShem put your story in the Tanach?  No.  So think very carefully before criticizing their behaviour."  Basically, if Chazal didn't report a criticism, then you best determine where your misunderstanding lies rather then theirs.  The incidents from Yaakov's return to Eretz Kana'an till his exile to Mitzrayim certainly bear much analysis.

Case in point: The 10 brothers go to Mitzrayim to buy food and look for Yosef.  They are hauled in front of Yosef (whom they do not recognize), are accused of being spies, and are informed the only way to prove their innocence is to bring Binyamin.  The brothers are completely subdued in their behaviour and admit to each other that they deserve this because they did not act more mercifully to Yosef when they saw how distressed he was in the pit.  (Ummm... but nothing wrong with t…

Thought for the Day: Leadership Qualities Taught by the Shvatim

It is with some trepidation that I write this TftD.  First, I generally try to have a defined source (whether I reference it explicitly or not) for what I am writing.  Today I am expressing my own opinion and p'shat synthesized from what I have learned and heard over the years.  Not entirely baseless, but still out on a limb.  You have been warned.

A more serious problem is that I am using the way certain historical events are portrayed in the Torah narrative to draw these lessons.  I do not want to give the impression that I am in any way, shape, or form judging the actions of our exalted and holy ancestors.  Even more: I do not pretend to have any clue whatsoever what they were really thinking.  I express only how what I glean from the events given the way HaShem has decided to portray them to us.

That said, I feel justified in what I am about to say because of and idea I have heard (and myself oft repeated): davening is talking to HaShem, learning is HaShem talking to you.  T…

Thought for the Day: Arisus, S'chirus, Kablanus (Oh my!)

I have tried once again to understand how it works to permissibly partner with a goy to make money with your stuff on Shabbos.  I am writing it down quickly before that understanding all leaks out of my brain (again).  (I feel like Bones in the Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain", who went from "Even a child could do it!" to "It's impossible!" in 10 short minutes.  If you don't know what I am talking about... oh well.)  All of this is taken from the Mishna Brura's hakdama to siman 243; see there for elucidation and, of course, lots more details.

I find there are two main sources of confusion in that siman.  First, the word "s'chirus" (renting/leasing/etc) sometimes means the topic in general of partnering with a goy to use your stuff on Shabbos to make money, and sometimes means on the the three ways in which that can happen.  Second, there are two external issues (maris ayin and havla'a) that implicitly affect the halacha …

Thought for the Day: Keeping Mitzvos Lishma

As was mentioned, the issur of milk with meat only applies if both are derived from a kosher species of animal (if the animal was not slaughtered appropriately or otherwise rendered unfit).  Therefore, if a ger tzedek had ham bits and bacon grease stuck in/on his teeth from before immersing l'sheim gerus (so he did nothing wrong when eating it), then he could have a milkshake immediately upon surfacing -- even though it was less that an hour since his last treifa feast.  The question is... why in the world would he do such a thing?  (The ham and bacon, not the milkshake; it's always a good time for a milkshake, after all.)  Why, indeed...

A ma'aseh and the interpretation I heard once from R' Ezriel Tauber will provide the basis for an answer.
A chashuva rebbitzin in Eretz Yisrael needed a delicate surgery.  She refused to allow anyone to perform the surgery except one doctor; he was known as the expert in that surgery (and others), but it took months to even get an app…

Thought for the Day: The Torah Determines What is Kosher

You are thinking... "I can skip this one; obviously the Torah determines what's kosher and what's not.  Duh."  But you are also thinking, "What does he have up his sleeve?"

So here is the starting point: There is an interesting halacha that if an unmarked package of meat is found outside a row of butcher shops, 5 kosher and 4 treif, then the meat is kosher.  Not "considered kosher", not "if you ate it, b'di'avad you are ok", not even "you are permitted to be meikel."  To the contrary, l'chatchila you are permitted to eat it; b'tei'avon.  The technical term is, "kol ha'poresh, min ha'rov poresh" -- anything that is separated [from it's source] is [treated as having been] separated from [whichever source] is the majority.  This package of meat is separated from it's source (a butcher shop), the majority of butcher shops (from which it could have come) are kosher; so it is kosher.

Now …

Thought for the Day: What's Wrong With Eating Milk After Meat

[BEGIN Introductory prose to demonstrate my flair for writing]
At least one person will be very happy to read this post.  He (you know who you are) asked me a question that I more or less pushed off.  First, I thought I knew the answer, but I had no proof.  Second, it's the kind of question that you really need a posek for, but it's not l'ma'asah, so I was nervous about bothering the poskim I know.  Well... I had a few seconds with a posek this morning while we were getting our coats (I even "accidentally" stole his t'fillin to get a few extra seconds with him...)  I am glad I did, because I was wrong about what I had thought was the answer.  Moreover, I was gleefully enlightened about how to judge the relevant factors (I was wrong about that also.)  So now... what was the question, what did I incorrectly think, and what was the correct answer?
[END Introductory prose to demonstrate my flair for writing]

Suppose a soon to be ger eats a a nice, grilled rib …

Thought for the Day: Aveilus and Kaddish

I tend to link aveilus and the of saying kaddish together.  That is, kaddish is being said either by someone who is in aveilus or on behalf of someone in aveilus.  The truth is, though, they are two different activities and serve different functions.  Aveilus provides a n'chama to the nifter and to the avel.  Kaddish provides merits to the nifter and an elevation of the soul in the olam shel emes.  It is possible to have cases where one is applicable and the other not.  For example, I am saying kaddish now for my wife's brother, who had no children of his own.  Halichos Shlomo discusses a few other special cases and how to handle them.

First, I was interested to see a halachic reference to adoption.  Halichos Shlomo says it is appropriate for an adoptee to sit shiva and accept n'chama for a the adopter out of hakaras hatov.  Of course, this is only l'chumra; the "avel" would still need to put on t'fillin on the first day, not be patur from talmud torah, e…

Thought for the Day: Know Your Issurim

We have a game at home (I believe brought in by my son when he was a teen).  It is a box of cards that offer choices.  The rules are simple: each person draws a card and must choose one of the alternatives.  The alternatives are designed to be roughly equally bad, such as: Would you rather wear wet socks or socks with pebbles in them all day?  (Of course, being as the purpose of this game is to entertain teenage boy who are in the mood to be revolted, the real choices are quite a bit more revolting.)  I bring this up only because I have a chavrusa who also likes to propose wild choices.  Not to be revolting, of course, but to bring clarity to complicated halachik issues.

Imagine our hero, Berol, is in a situation of piku'ach nefesh and must eat one k'zayis of food.  His choices are: cheese burger (1/2 k'zayis of cheese, 1/2 k'zayis of ground beef, no bun), beef stroganoff (1/3 kazayis cream, 1/3 kazayis beef, 1/3 kazayis noodles), ham and cheese (1/2 kazayis of each, t…

Thought for the Day: Sh'ma and T'fila, Emuna and Bitachon

My wife and I are learning Pirkei Avos l'zecher nishmas her brother, Yaakov Yosef ben Aaron Dovid, a"h.  Learning with my wife is always interesting.  She simply learns the mishna for what it says without a lot of preconceived notions, so I am pressed hard to explain properly without skirting over things.  (Yes; pun intended.)  Case in point: R' Shimon says, "Be careful to say sh'ma and to daven.  And when you daven ensure that it is not simply out of habit, but is a plea for mercy before the Creator."  (Avos 2:13) Heavy stuff.

Two immediate questions: why put these two mitzvos together?  On the surface they are only tangentially related.  Sh'ma is the mission statement of Klal Yisrael.  Prayer is a request for stuff.  When I go to my boss for something at work, I have never started with a declaration of the company's mission.  That declaration is usually reserved for motivational posters and company wide meetings; not really the time to ask for anyt…

Thought for the Day: Brachos on Foods During a Meal

I find the rules of when and which brachos to make on foods during a s'uda (bread/washing meal) to be confusing.  I feel I have some clarity now, so I'll share my understanding and then y'all can tell me where I am wrong; please don't be shy.  Here's the rule of thumb: a bracha rishona is required when the food is not subordinate to the bread, while a bracha acharon is required when the food is not relevant to the meal.  Now to flesh that out a bit.

A food is going to require a bracha rishona when the food is not subordinate to the bread.  The problem with that rule is that most of us do not consider the bread the main part of the meal (thank you Drs. Atkins and South Beach), but we know that no one makes a bracha on chicken during a s'uda.  In fact, however, the word "lechem" actually means "food that is a normal part of a meal that is eaten with the intent to become satiated".  (Sigh... Webster's is never going to hire me...)  Th…

Thought for the Day: T'shuva Is a Bigger Gift Than You Thought

The Mabit says that t'shuva is primarily for Klal Yisrael.  Besides bringing proof from scripture and Chazal, he gives a simple s'vara.  Goyim have seven very basic mitzvos, the equivalent of "don't smoke in the theater during the play"  There is not much excuse for not being able to be careful about them, so there is very little motivation to give them the gift of t'shuva.  Jews, on the other hand, have so many obligations that is impossible to go long without transgressing and prohibition and/or failing to fulfill an imperative.  (In case you think it's just hard and not impossible, learn through M'silas Y'sharim and get back to me.)  So HaShem created t'shuva for us and the goyim also benefit.  However, even though they get t'shuva, it is quite limited.  The Mabit notes three major areas in which t'shuva works differently for us than for goyim.

First, the t'shuva of a goy only helps for this world and not the next.  That is, the…

Thought for the Day: Washing for Bread; Don't be Stingy

When I first moved to Chicago I had the z'chus of joining a Mishna Brura shiur given by R' Shmuel Fuerst, shlita, to ba'alei batim.  The venue was basically to go straight through each halacha, doing every Mishna Brura inside, though we occasionally (often) veered into interesting cases that the rav had handled on the topic (I believe the rav had a lot of fun with us).  The exception he made to going through every M'chaber, Rema. and Mishna Brura was washing for a bread meal.  "Just use at least a r'vi'is of water on each hand, and you'll be fine."  Then we skipped two pages and continued.  I balked.  You can imagine how far that got me.  In fact, if one does go through the Mishna Bruras on that sugya, one will find at the end of nearly every other Mishna Brura, "So use at least a revi'is of water on each hand."  Here's why.

Chazal decreed a certain level/aspect of tuma on the hands.  Rinsing the hands with a full r'vi'is…

Thought for the Day: Fighting for K'dusha

Rivka Imeina was in such distress during her pregnancy that she even asked, "im kein, lama zeh anochi?" -- why is this happening to me?  Obviously there was something about the pregnancy that was causing her terrible distress, but what?  We must remember that this is the woman who chosen for Yitzchak because of her extraordinary devotion to chesed and avodas HaShem.  Rivka surely understood the importance of this pregnancy and was dedicated to accepting whatever was required to build klal Yisrael.  Then we have the response that addressed her concerns: "There are two nations in your womb", which Chazal tells means, "There are two great men -- Rebbi and Antoninus -- who will be descended from you."

Obviously, then, Rivka Imeinu was distressed about the fate of her descendents.  Whenever she would walk by a beis avoda zara, she would feel one of her progeny fighting to get out.  The Shallal Tov brings from a R' Kotziner that she wondered why she was car…

Thought for the Day: Keeping the Yeitzer HaRa Honest

My daughter was reading a Curious George book to my grandson, Henoch.  They are all pretty much the same; this was the one where he messes up the train schedule, causes havoc since no one can find which train is on which track, angry mob runs after Curious George, Curious George saves child, father of said child declares Curious George a hero, mob changes from angry to gleeful, Curious George gets to ride in the front of the train.  You know the script.  Henoch, however, is relatively new to Curious George and so he doesn't know the script.  He looked at his Mommy and said, "That didn't solve the problem; people still can't find their trains."

The problem with us and our yeitzer hara (ok... one of our problems...) is that we know the script.  They say that one cold winter morning in Radun the Chafeitz Chaim was accosted by his yeitzer hara, "You are an old man; it's too early for you to get up."  The Chafeitz Chaim realized that staying in bed would…

Thought for the Day: The Importance of Chanuka Lights

Davening with a minyan is important.  Shabbos is important.  Eating is important.  Shtayim mikra v'echad targum is important.  Getting enough sleep is important.  Chanuka licht are important.  We have lots and lots of draws on our time and we are forced to make trade offs all the time.  I first discovered how important shtayim mikra v'echad targum was while attending a shiur on Mishna Brura given by Rabbi Fuerst.  We got to the siman on shtayim mikra v'echad targum and I asked (in all innocence), "That's extra credit, right?"  The Rav answered, ending my innocence, "You have to put on t'fillin each day and ma'avir sedra every week."  Oh.

I recently saw an interesting p'sak in Halichos Shlomo regarding chanuka licht.  Imagine that one can either light chanuka licht at night or daven the next morning.  It could be a case where there is a plane leaving before plag ha'mincha (before it is possible to light chanuka candles) that would get…

Thought for the Day: Shomer Mitzvos Means More Than Simply Keeping Mitzvos

You are not going to find a mishna or gemara that says straight out that pork is not kosher.  Why not?  Simple: Duh!  Of course it isn't kosher.  The mishna and gemara is interested in packing as much information into as small a space as possible.  The most efficient way to do that is to tell you boundaries.  Which, of course, as the old joke goes: and that's when the fight started.  To a certain degree, the same is true of halacha.  Interestingly enough, I find that looking at boundaries and trade offs in halacha is a fertile territory for clarifying very basic hashkafa issues.

Halichos Shlomo makes the following p'sak about someone who is so sick that they have a heter to eat pachos pachos min ha'shiur on Yom Kippur.  If going to shul would increase the likelihood that he would have to eat or drink more often -- even still well within the heter -- then don't go to shul.  Whether its the walk or the heat or the cold or the dryness; just stay home and eat/drink as …

Thought for the Day: Choosing a Proper Wife for Yitzchak

The Magid of Dubno was once asked how he always had a ready mashal for any situation.  He answered with a mashal.
A man was walking through the forest and saw several targets with arrows dead center.  Some were in very tricky spots, and so he wanted to find this expert archer.  He finally found the archer and asked how he had been able to hone his skills to such a high degree.  The archer answered that he simply shot the arrow first, then drew the target around the arrow. I do something similar.  I have a huge backlog of questions for which I don't have a good answer.  Some are my own, many are from shiurim and talks that posed questions that were much better than the answer.  In any case, whenever I hear a new idea I look to see if it helps with any of those question.  I heard nice vort at a sheva brachos last night that made a nice bull's eye to a big arrow of a question.

Avraham Avinu sent Eliezer off to his birthplace to find an appropriate shidduch for Yitzchak (who was …

Thought for the Day: Avraham Avinu Becomes the First Jew

Avraham Avinu was careful with all the mitzvos.  As his understanding of what HaShem wanted from mankind deepened, so to his avodas HaShem increased.  But Avraham Avinu was cognizant also of his status; or, better, lack of status.  Was he a Jew or not?  This was not simply a philosophical question for our illustrious ancestor; it led to some very practical problems.  For example, a Jew is obligated to keep Shabbos while a goy is forbidden to keep Shabbos.  The s'farim say he navigated that one by wearing a garment with tzitzis while taking walks outside on Shabbos.  How does that help?  If he was a Jew and obligated in tzitzis, then they are part of his clothing.  If he was a goy, then the tzitzis are just strings and walking outside violates the m'lacha of carrying.

But if Avraham Avinu knew that, then certainly he knew also knew that is is assur for a goy to learn torah sh'b'al peh.  Given that all of the m'lachos of Shabbos are torah sh'b'al peh, then...…

Thought for the Day: Why Avraham Avinu Waited For Bris Mila

While working through the process of conversion, the budding erstwhile proselyte is expected to do all the mitzvos.  Sort of a dry run, if you will, to really ensure his sincerity.  He also has to learn, of course, both to know what he is getting into (yeah, right...) and so he will actually know what he needs to do as a Jew.  At some point I learned about the mitzvah of t'vilas keilim.  I was all set to fulfill that mitzvah when it dawned on me that I couldn't.  Since the mitvah is to tovel keilim that used to belong to a goy and now belong to a Jew, this mitzvah was just going to have to wait.  (My wife didn't have the mitzvah either since they were my keilim.  We realized later that I had been feeding my family treif m'd'rabanan because of bishul Abba-the-goy; but that's another story.)

Avraham Avinu (and all the avos) fulfilled all of the mitzvos: matzah, korban pesach, shabbos (some interesting details there); and even mitzvos d'rabanan, such as eiruv …

Thought for the Day: When You See a Rainbow

There is a bracha to make upon seeing a rainbow; yet one not supposed to go around telling everyone, "Hey!  There's a beautiful rainbow outside!  Come out and make a bracha!"  Why not?  We are usually pro bracha making; even use the expression to mean, "Let's have a bit to eat."  It's a nice way to remind ourselves to make a bracha before deriving benefit from this world.  Besides which, a rainbow is so incredibly beautiful, so it reminds us how kind HaShem is to us.  And have you ever seen a double rainbow?  Amazing!  Nifla'os ha'Borei!  It should be a Kiddush HaShem to see a rainbow!  So what's up?

The nusach of the bracha may help: "... Who remembers the covenant, is faithful/reliable concerning His covenant/promise and fulfills His word."  What's the promise and His word that we are thankful He is keeping?  His promise to remember that humans are frail creatures with big yeitzer hara's, so He won't be so fast to wip…

Thought for the Day: What Adam haRishon Should Have Done

It is all well and good to talk about the mistake that Adam haRishon made, but it is also important to understand what he should have done.  The simple reason, of course, is because the Torah wants us to know that so we can learn and apply the lessons learned to our own life.

So what should Adam have done when confronted with the fact that he had transgressed the one and only request that HaShem had made of him?  Says the S'porno, he should have said, "Chatasi" -- "I made a mistake".  But the S'porno didn't stop there; he puts it in context, "he should have answered as Dovid haMelech did."  Isn't that odd?  What does Dovid haMelech have to do with this?  Of course we know the medrash that Adam haRishon (who lived to be 930) gave 70 of his years to Dovid.  Meaning to say, that Dovid is the one who repaired the damage done by Adam haRishon.  And the S'porno tells us that the repair was effected -- not by avoiding the sin (as we might …

Thought for the Day: Accepting Responsibility

Non-regulars at the vasikin minyan are oft annoyed that our "early" minyan isn't so early this time of year.  Right; we daven k'vasikin (like those who love mitzvos and want to do them the best possible way), not hashkama (early, for people who want to just get davening over with already).  So we have a ready answer.  When they complain to the gabai, he says, "Talk to that guy; he puts the time sheets up every morning!"  (That's me, and quite proud of it.)  When they come to complain to me, I say, "Talk to the isha chashuva who prints the time sheets!"  When they talk to the isha chashuva, she says, "Please direct your comments to the gabai; he is the one who gives me the list of times."  Chozer v'chalila, round and round; it's our way of playing "kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh".

What, exactly, was the sin of Adam haRishon?  It takes a lot of work to really understand even how he could possibly sin at all.  For …

Thought for the Day: Managing the Yeitzer HaRa

Chava is taking a stroll through Gan Eden, when the snake comes up and says, "So... you're not allowed to eat from all of the trees in the garden?"  (true)  Chava answers, "From the fruit of the trees in the garden eat, but from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden G-d told us not to eat from it nor even touch it, lest we die."  (G-d certainly did not tell her not to touch it.  And what's with "lest"?  HaShem said straight out it would make them mortal.)  Snake: "You aren't going to die immediately from eating, but G-d know that on day you eat from it your minds will be opened up and you will know even how something bad can look good and good can look bad; that is you will understand even the riddle of free will."  (which is exactly what happened.  Compare what the snake said in 3:5 and what actually happened in 3:7.)  Then the woman saw that tree produced wonderful food that was a pleasure to behold, a precious thing to…