Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Jews From All Backgrounds

My family and I started our journey to Orthodoxy at Ohev Shalom, in Dallas.  The mission statement was and is, "Where Jews Of All Backgrounds Feel At Home".  It is a beautiful idea and implemented with sensitivity and good ol' southern hospitality.  I was reminded of that last week when a coworker came over to me with a big smile and asked if I knew any Jews because he had a question.

The question was, "What is that little box I see on the doorposts of Jewish homes?"  My answer was, of course, that there is a commandment in the Torah to affix a document of faith on our doorposts.  The document is a piece of parchment on which is written a selection from the Torah.  The document in its box is called a mezuzah, because mezuzah is the hebrew word for doorpost.  I continued that we actually put them on all our doorposts, not just the front door.

I saw a look of surprise on his face and realized the Jewish friends he has are very likely not Orthodox.  I quickly added that Jews who are less observant very often only have a mezuzah on the front door; and they are made of paper instead of parchment.  I went further and told him that no matter how far Jews are from observance, there are certain things that you will always find: mezuzah, chanuka candles, and a passover seder.  And so ended our conversation...

... but not my thinking about the conversation.  Many years ago I heard a vort from R' Nachman Bulman, z"tzal concerning tachanun.  There are three paragraphs in tachanun where we ask for particular mercy: shomer yisrael... ha'omrim "sh'ma yisrael"; shomer goy echad... ha'omrim "HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad"; shomer goy kadosh... ha'm'shal'shim b'shalosh k'dushos l'kadosh.  The last group, says R' Bulman, are the Orthodox/observant Jews.  The second group are the unobservant Jews who believe in G-d.  The first group are those Jews who are so distant that they only proclaim their Jewishness with no particular theology.  Amazing!  Just realizing and being proud of their Jewish heritage is enough for them to merit a special t'fillah for HaShem, the ultimate Shomer Yisrael, to protect them.  As much we must fight against foreign influences and philosophies, we must also remember that the Jews involved with those distortions are our brethren who need our help.  (Of course, the goyim is those groups do not merit that consideration in any way shape or form.)

They say that an ex-smoker is hardest on smokers; and ba'alei t'shuva can sometimes be hardest on those who have not yet done t'shuva.  So it's good to occasionally take a moment or two to reflect on how those we battle are also victims.


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…