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: 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…