Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Teaching the Importance of Mitzvos by How You Do Mitzvos

At the vasikin minyan we like to learn two halachos from Mishna Brura as a group either before (winter) or after (summer) davening.  That is to say, we are all actually quiet while the halacha is being learned.  I mean, there is even someone there who will shush you if you are talking during the learning!  (He's been spoken to, but he is incorrigible.)  This has allowed us to complete one cycle all the way through all six volumes of the Mishna Brura; sometimes even with audiovisual aids (Alice's Restaurant style -- circles and charts and stuff). If you are thinking, "Heck... you've been in business over 19 years!  What's taking so long?"  Firstly, "Oh yeah?!  You try it!"  Secondly, we don't learn straight through; we break to learn "inyanei d'yoma" -- halachos relevant to the upcoming holidays.

In fact, we just switched; and the switch itself gives one pause.  Until yesterday we were learning hilchos Tisha b'Av.  From today we started learning hilchos Rosh HaShana.  That should make an impression.  It says something about why we were learning hilchos Tisha b'Av.  If one just wants to know the technicalities of observance, then we could just as well start with hilchos Sukkah.  In fact, that would make a lot of sense. There are lots of details in sukkah construction and we never get through more than a tiny fraction in the two weeks between Rosh HaShanah and Sukkos.  Wouldn't it be more efficient to each year start back when we ended last year?

But learning halacha is not about being efficient.  They way we do things is not efficient in terms of covering ground.  On the other hand, it drives home the point that the sadness of Tisha b'Av is our distance from our Father, our King, our Creator.  Therefore we take are first opportunity to learn about being closer -- Rosh HaShanah; the celebration of our unique relationship with the Creator of the world.

In fact, Moshe Rabeinu did something similar when he separated the three cities of refuge on his side of the Jordan.  As Rashi notes, even though the cities would not come into use before all six were established, Moshe Rabeinu wanted to take the opportunity to do whatever mitzvah he could.  The S'porno explains more that it wasn't just that Moshe Rabeinu wanted to do a mitzvah that he could do, he wanted to do that particular miztvah.  Why that mitzvah?  Specifically because it could not be completed.  Moshe Rabeinu wanted to demonstrate that mitvah performance is not about efficiency and marking off some checklist of stuff to do.  Mitzvah performance is about relationship -- the relationship between each individual Jew and His Creator.

It pays to have good teachers.  It pays even more to follow their example.


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…