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Showing posts from May, 2012

Thought for the Day: I Made a Mistake and This is a Correction

I used to be shy about admitting mistakes in learning for fear that people would think that I am not a reliable source.  Just because I made little mistakes, I thought, shouldn't stop people from listening in general.  After all, continued my yeitzer hara, better for them to at least listen the to things I am right about about and the other things aren't really so bad.  As I have learned more and begun to really appreciate the depth and breadth of my ignorance, however, I am thrilled to have concrete examples of why you need to be an skeptical consumer.  I have enough problems with my own deficiencies in avodas HaShem, thank you.

Case in point, I reported in Thought for the Day: Some Things That Trump T'filla b'Tzibur, that the psak of the Mishna Brura is that if a person consistently comes late for davening that he should just daven in order; skipping, I erroneously reported, is only for the occasionally tardy.  A good friend challenged on on that statement.  I looked…

Thought for the Day: Takanos and Gezeiros from Chazal

You are going to have to trust me on this one, but this is something you never want to hear when you are sitting in a dentist chair, "Get the mallet."    On second thought, maybe you don't need to trust me on this one; it's pretty obviously a bad sign.  Just to complete the picture, though, the oral surgeon then told me to make to fists and put them under my chin to support my jaw while he "taps".  I thought about telling him I would be sending him a bill for being an assistant, but then I decided that being sarcastic with a guy who is whacking (oh, sorry... "tapping") a chisel into your jaw with a mallet is not a great idea.  That much common sense I do have.

How did I get into that position?  I had a cavity a few years ago that was too deep to fill and required a root canal.  A root canal is supposed to be followed by a crown.  A crown is expensive.  My first thought was that a crown is only for cosmetics, and I will be darned if I will spend $1…

Thought for the Day: Praising the Creator for His Investment in Me

Then there are three brachos we are required to make every day.  Even an onein who is patur from brachos until after an afternoon k'vura, would still make these brachos.  The three required brachos are: "she'lo asani goy", "she'lo asini eved", and either "she'lo asani isha" or "she'asini kirtzono" (depending on that flavor Jew  you are).  (O.Ch. 46:4)  The Mishna Brura says to be careful not to say "she'asani yisrael" (which is mistakenly printed in some siddurim, apparently) because then there are those who say that you can no longer make the brachos of  "she'lo asani goy" and "she'lo asini eved".  (s.k. 15)   But if "sh'asani yisrael" works b'di'avad, why isn't that the l'chatchila format of the bracha?  Another question: since chazal apparently didn't mind making a different brach for women than men, why don't women say "shelo asani goya&q…

Thought for the Day: No, It's Not Your Body and Not Your Life

When I was still learning to be frum... actually a better way to say it would be when I was even more ignorant of halacha and bereft of good midos than I am today, I learned about how important it is to make make your main residence the Sukkah during the week of Sukkos.  Therefore, say the s'farim, it is important to beautify your Sukkah with furniture and artwork, just like you would in your home the rest of the year.  I therefore unilaterally decided to override my wife's objections and put a framed "Eishes Chayil" I had bought for her into the Sukkah.  Of course it rained and damaged the artwork.  We had it re-matted; you can hardly tell where it was damaged and it looks just like new.  To me.  When we discussed the matter with a third party, his response (to me) was simply, "But it's not yours.  You wouldn't take something out of the neighbor's house would you?"  Oh.  Good point.

In America today, any discussion of gender roles is already in…

Thought for the Day: Zachar = Action, N'keiva = Potential

I once heard R' Berel Wein discussing a car ride he had with a well known and noted rosh yeshiva.  The conversation turned to chinuch habanim and R' Wein noted that he had gone to public school.  The noted said he also had attended public school.  R' Wein found that hard to believe, but the well known and noted rosh yeshiva insisted it was true.  R' Wein finally told him, "Oh , yeah?  Sing 'Silent Night' for me!"

Ok, so 50 years ago that was our biggest problem with the surrounding culture.  The problems are much bigger today.  I am not even discussing the internet and it's issues (though I heard recently that 30% of all internet traffic is associated with the basest sort of sites).  There is, it seems to me, even a worse issue; the infusion of their ideas and philosophies into our hashakafa.  Of course this is not a new problem, but davka because this is the information age, the infusion of their ideas have crept into the most sacred of our ideal…

Thought for the Day: Relinquishing Ownership

The Mishna Brura is only on one section of Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim, the laws of daily life.  I heard once the reason for that was that the author of the Mishna Brura was concerned that any sh'eila that required elucidation from the other chalakim should be taken to a rav, whereas anything in Orach Chaim was needed by every ba'al ha'bayis.  If that is true, then I wonder what he would think about our generation when the rabba'im use the Mishna Brura as a primary source.  It could also be that since the Mishna Brura took over 40 years to research and write, he simply ran out of time.

Be that as it may, one of  the beauties of Orach Chaim is that it touches many, many issues that get greater attention in other sections (which is their primary home).  After all, halacha by its nature is very down to earth and practicle, so if you are going to cover daily living, you are going to end up touching all sorts of area of halacha.  Case in point: relinquishing ownership.  Whe…

Thought for the Day: To Tovel or Not To Tovel...

Let's say -- hypothetically of course -- that you toured an American "beer" brewery.  I am saying hypothetically because what they are able to pass off as beer because of the crazy alcohol taxation policy is barely potable.  At the end of the tour they allow the victims/visitors to taste their concoction, fresh as a daisy and less than 5 hours old from 1000 gallon vats -- in a real, authentic beer glass.  Apparently even they have limits, and so to ease their consciences they allow the tourists to keep the glass.  To tour, then drink, but when one has shuckled off that mortal brew, the glass is his to keep as his own.  Aye, there's the rub!  For once having acquired that coveted kleii, a chiyuv is born.  To tovel and when to tovel, that becomes the question.


First order of business, if this brewery were in Israel, we would have a lot less to worry about.  First, because the beer would be much better.  Second, and more to the point, because you only have to tovel a kle…

Thought for the Day: Bitul b'Shishim

I have a chavrusa who loves hypotheticals.  When we first met, I think he thought we could be good friends because I also seemed to love hypotheticals.  He eventually learned, however, that his hypothetical was my l'ma'aseh.  That is, I don't really do hypotheticals.  To be honest, I think that realization came in less than or about 60 seconds.  We have been learning for years now, but I think he still reels from time to time by how l'ma'aseh I take nearly every one of his hypotheticals.  A match made in heaven.

So here was the hypothetical d'jour: you are eating steaming hot macaroni and cheese while talking with friends (and probably drinking a beer).  One bite seems "funny".  You look down and see half a meat ball!  What now?

So there are three issues here: the macaroni and cheese, the pot, and the (remaining bit of) meatball.  For argument's sake, we are going to say its a LOT of macaroni and cheese.  In fact, the volume of macaroni and cheese…

Thought for the Day: Bishvi Li Nivra ha'Olam

Not everyone was comfortable with my statement that "since I am watching this, there must be a lesson intended for me".  Can that really be true?  Have you checked that out with a rabbi?  Yes, it is true.  Yes, I have checked several times from different angles.

The clearest story I have heard on this issue relates how the Toldos Yaakov Yosef became a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov.  The Tolodos (from whom we know most of the stories of the Baal Shem Tov) was a misnagid but slowly coming to appreciate and accept the Baal Shem Tov.  One day the Baal Shem Tov told him that every thing that happens has a message for person.  The Toldos was struggling with the idea and arguing when a handy man (a goy) came into the bais medrash and, looking for a parnassa, asked if there was anything that needed fixing.  The Baal Shem Tov told him there wasn't any work for him today.  The goy said, "Rabbi; if you look, you'll find something that needs fixing!"  As he left, the Baa…

Thought for the Day: Responding with Derech Eretz

My first grandchild was born the night of the beginning of 20 Nissan.  In North Miami Beach Florida.  We were in Chicago.  That's approximately 1380 miles; 20 to 23 hours; depending on whose driving.  First grandchild.  Acharon shel Pesach starts in less than 20 hours.  There are four of us going, so flying (even if tickets would be available) are not an option.  Oh, yes, and we have to pack.  And its Pesach.  First grandchild.

Chasdei HaShem, we have amazing friends in Atlanta, GA; which just happens to be half way between Chicago and North Miami Beach.  Whew!  We packed, slept a couple of hours, drove, stopped to daven, drove some more, and made it to Atlanta with over an hour spare.

The rav, Rabbi Feldman, shilta, spoke between mincha and ma'ariv about an issue that was really upsetting him -- people walking out when there is a guest speaker.  The truth is, walking out when anyone -- even the rav -- speaks, is a at least a breach of derech eretz.  He ended with this message…

Thought for the Day: Asei L'cha Rav - Bein l'Chumra Bein l'Kula

Selma, after hearing a disturbing traffic report, calls her husband on his cell phone, "Sammy!  I just heard some nut is driving the wrong way on Route 89 and I know you sometimes take that home.  Are you ok?"  Sam, frantic, yells back at her, "One nut?  Good Lord, everyone is driving the wrong way!"

Despite my (admittedly earned) reputation for having a tendency toward extremes, I really do try to stay in the main stream.  Having become observant as an adult, I obviously cannot rely on what we did in my home growing up.  Since moving to Chicago, we have relied on R' Fuerst to guide us in what is normative practice.  While R' Fuerst will tell you he does not have time to be one's family rav, in fact those short conversations (usually delayed by, "one moment, other line") are packed with information.  You just have to listen carefully.  I then follow his counsel, bein l'chumra bein l'kula.

The importance of this attitude is exemplified …

Thought for the Day: Dealing With Ever Changing Challenges

If you liked the movie, "Karate Kid", you'd probably also like "Ip Man" (and "Ip Man 2").  Nice message, great martial arts.  After having shown himself to be the greatest kung fu master in China, then in Japan by taking on 10 attackers at once, and even defending himself and a student against dozens of attackers with knives, Master Ip faces his toughest challenge: the world's heavyweight boxing champion.  We are all thinking this is a drop kick, but Master Ip almost succumbs before finally winning a decisive victory and leaving us with a message of peace and mutual respect.  (Yada, yada... I liked the fight scenes.)  Why did he have some much trouble with the boxing?  I think it is because a martial arts fight is really just sparring to demonstrate to each other who has the great skill.  The one with the greater skill wins.  Boxing, on the other hand, has a single goal: bludgeon your opponent into unconsciousness.  Skill, shmill -- the one left s…

Thought for the Day: Oseik b'Mitzvah Patur Min ha'Mitzvah

I called Rabbi Fuerst a few years ago to ask about giving tzedaka during davening.  My question was motivated by the principle of "oseik b'mitzvah, patur min ha'mitzvah" -- one who is actively busy fulfilling a mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah.  I was not trying to be stingy about giving tzedaka; chas v'shalom!  That was not even a teensy part of my motivation.  (Hmm.... methinks the gentleman doth protest too much... hmmm).

We usually read "patur" as "you don't have to, but you can if you want to".  That is very often not the case in halacha.  For example, if one is preparing to eat an apple, accidentally says a "sh'hakol" instead of a "borei pri ha'eitz", then takes a bite, he is patur from having to make another bracha because the "sh'hakol" works b'di'avad.  That being the case, the person is actually forbidden from making a "borei pri ha'eitz" on that apple bec…

Thought for the Day: Avodas HaShem is Meant to be Challenging

You know why those birds are so angry?  It's because those awful pigs want to eat their eggs.  Not only that, but every time you think you have finally made the world safe for the unborn and defenseless, more pigs come; oh no!  New kinds of pigs (cute zeidy ones, helmeted ones, baby ones...) and new defenses.  Will it never end?  We certainly hope not; we are having way too much fun figuring out how to use our birds more effectively, how to use our birds different skills better, and also seeing what kinds of schemes those pigs concoct!  Well... of course I mean that the game creator has concocted.

The Mesilas Yesharim while describing the trait of z'rizus (alacrity/willingness/promptness/whatever) reveals to us that the merit of serving HaShem only accrues if we had to overcome obstacles and worked hard.  If we did the same actions, but without struggling, there would be no merit.  That means that the challenges we face in our lives are not impediments to avodas HaShem.  In fa…