Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Thinking is the Best Stress Reliever

Moshe Rabeinu was sent on a mission from G-d to tell Klal Yisrael, after 210 years of galus in Mitrayim and over a century of back and spirit breaking labor, that HaShem was going to rescue them.  Klal Yisrael, however, couldn't hear it -- "mi'kotzer ru'ach u'mei'avoda kasha".  "avoda kasha" means hard work.  "kotzer ru'ach", according to Rashi means, literally, shortness of breath.  The Sporno and Ohr Chayim, however, understand "kotzer ru'ach" to mean that Klal Yisrael didn't contemplate what they were hearing, so it didn't go in.  The Ohr Chayim adds that perhaps they didn't think further into the matter is because they were not b'nei Torah, and "Torah expands one's mind".

How does Torah expand one's mind?  My chavrusa and I ran into a very simple example of that last night.  The gemara (Brachos 29a) first brings a statement from R' Tanchum in the name of Rav Assi: One who mistakenly omits "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid hagashem" must repeat shmone esrei, if he omits "v'sein tal u'matar" he need not repeat because he can add it into "shomei'a t'fila", if he omits havdala he need not repeat because he will later be saying the havdala ceremony.  (This is not a quote, but a paraphrase.)  The gemara immediately notes a contradiction with another (unattributed) statement: One who mistakenly omits "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid hagashem" must repeat shmone esrei, if he omits "v'sein tal u'matar" he must also repeatshmone esrei, if he omits havdala he need not repeat because he will later be saying the havdala ceremony.

The first lesson in gemara is: read carefully.  The second statement only differs from the first in the second case.  The gemara brings the whole statement, however, because when you launch an investigation you want all the facts.  Who knows what is extra and what is necessary to understand how these go together.  If the tanna said all three cases together, there is a good reason to report them that way.  The gemara tries one resolution which is rejected.  The gemara kept that in the discussion to teach the proper way to approach an issue.  The proposal seemed to work, but generated more questions than it settled; so it was rejected.  Sometimes the gemara will reject all attempts at resolution, then circle back to re-evaluate if they might really work.  In this case the gemara finds a better resolution right away: one statement applies if the person has not yet reached "shomei'a t'fila", the other applies to a person who has already passed that part of shmone esrei.

Every line of gemara is like that.  Look to resolve apparent contradictions by taking a step back and viewing the situation with a broader perspective.  That's why gemara can feel frustrating to those who want to just know the bottom line.  The gemara's "bottom line", however, is to expand your mind and change your life.  Far out, as we said in a previous generation.


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: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…