Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Make Your Learning Real

Chances are you have learned or at least heard of a case from the talmud that just, well, seemed more than a little far-fetched.  My early morning chavrusa and I have been struggling through one of those for a few days now.  Yehuda's innocent ox gored Shimon's ox, which fell (before it died) into Levi's pit, where it finally died (Bava Kama, 53a).  That happens every day in downtown Chicago, right?  The main issue is that the owner of a pit pays full damages, whereas the owner of an innocent ox pays half damages.  In this case Yehuda and Levi were equal in there contribution to the death of Shimon's ox, but their individual obligations to pay are different.  The gemara tries different s'varas as to how much each should pay.

Along comes R' Nosson and says a new pshat that is (at first) difficult to understand, but the gemara goes with it and Tosofos works with it even more.  Why?  R' Nosson was a dayan (actually Av Beis Din) and therefore understood the depth and intent of the halacha.  A dayan, apparently, has a different perspective.  There is actually a famous ma'aseh regarding an issue on how to address an invitation to an intermarried couple.  I called R' Fuerst and got a p'sak.  My wife heard the p'sak and felt I had not adequately explained the situation (which involved a family member) to the dayan.  I suggested she call to explain it better.  She called and explained the situation much better and with a measure of passion to be sure the dayan appreciated all the nuances of our particular situation.  R' Fuerst gave a different p'sak.  In retrospect, when I called we were essentially speaking in learning.  When my wife called it was to get to the depth of the intent of the halacha and be sure we did everything correctly.

Now I suppose you are wondering what brought all this up.  I was riding my bike to work yesterday when suddenly the dread of every bike commuter happened in front of me: a car door opened in my path.  A cab had stopped (without pulling over) and the passenger opened the back door toward the curb.  I saw it in time and was able to go around it, so no worries.  My first thought was, "Hey!  This is that case in the gemara!"  The cab (bor) was owned by one person and the ox (idiot opening the back door) was another person!  I started wondering how they would have split up the damages.  (Ok... my first thought was really, "BREATHE, Michael, BREATHE!"  It was also really after my heart started again.)

In any case, I looked at that gemara a whole different way this morning and my chavrusa and I were able to get p'shat in the gemara and tosofos.  Ah... that's living!


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…