Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Staying Above Suspicion Even From Scoffers

There is a very funny halacha by Chanuka licht in Eretz Yisrael where the lights need to visible to the passing public  (as opposed to chutz la'aretz where the Rema paskens that it is not necessary, though the Mishna Brura says its a nice thing... ok... I think I've covered my bases).  If you have two openings that cannot both be seen at the same time from the outside (eg, there are on two sides of your house and they face two different streets), then you need to light in both openings so that people who don't know that both openings are to one household will not have reason to suspect that one household didn't light.  Curious, because it's a strange suspicion; wouldn't you expect that people are required to give you the benefit of the doubt?  Curiouser, because if the candles go out you are not (mi'ikar ha'din) required to relight them (though it is recommended that you do).  That means that we are only worried about the suspicion for the first few moments when everyone is lighting.  Halichos Shlomo explains that this extra level of care is required davka because the mitzvah is for "pisuma nisa"/publicizing the miracle.  If you want people to take notice, you have to scrupulous in your behavior... even things that are tangential to your intent.

Parshas Toldos (B'reishis 25:19)begins:
וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק, בֶּן-אַבְרָהָם:  אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת-יִצְחָק:
These are the generations of Yitzchak son of Avraham.  Avraham caused Yitzchak to be born.  Sorry for the stilted translation, but we need that to get a good grasp of what the Torah wants to tell us.  The question is obvious: Given that Yitzchak is a son of Avraham, obviously Avraham caused Yitzchak to be born.  That answer is equally obvious:  Until the Torah referred to Yitzchak as "ben Avraham", I knew he was Avraham's son.  Telling me that Yitzchak is Avraham's son is like someone on a job interview announcing, out of the blue, with no prompting, "I am not a crook!"  That only begs the question: So... why would I have thought that you were a crook?  And that's the real question: Why did the Torah need to stress that Yitzchak was Avrham's son?  What would I have thought?

On that question, Rashi gives two answers.  The Torah wants to stress that Avraham -- not Avram -- was the father of Yitzchak.  Hence: It was the work that Avraham, who worked so hard to raise himself from Avram to Avraham, had done that produced the setting that brought Yitzchak into the world.  I need to know that to emphasize this is no ordinary biological event; this is a spiritual event.

Alternatively, Avraham -- not Avimelech -- was the father of Avraham.  Since Yitzchak produced a tzadik and a rasha, the scoffers of that generation used that as proof that Avimelech was Yitzchak's father; the tzadik coming from Sarah, the rasha from Avimelech.  HaShem therefore ensured that Yitzchak had physically identical features to Avraham as proof of his paternity.

HaShem didn't refrain from creating the sun, moon, and stars even though people would make a mistake and serve them.  HaShem said, "Let us make man", even though people could make a mistake and think there is more than One in control.  But let the scoffers of the generation have second thoughts about His beloved Avraham?!  His Avraham, whom he asked (cf Rashi to B'reishis 22:2) to please stand up to the nisayon of Akeidas Yitzchak so He would have what to answer the umos ha'olam?!  No way!

There's a lesson there somewhere....


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…