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Showing posts from April, 2014

Thought for the Day: Milk After Meat -- Doubt About How Long It Has Been

I was once spending Shabbos with some good friends (whom we had just met... they really did become good friends, though).  I went to make a cup of coffee for myself, took a mug and... "Aaagh!  Don't do that! Those mugs are fleishig!!", exclaimed my hostess.  "That's ok, I just want coffee.", I replied.  "Aaagh!  Right!  Those mugs are fleishig!!"  After some back and forth we finally communicated; I don't put milk in my coffee, never have, tried it once and didn't even like it.  A gift from my Dad, alav ha'shalom.  My hostess, however, thought "coffee without milk" was like "bread without flour".

For those of you who do drink milk in your coffee, though, here's a cute question: You finished your cholent 12:30-ish, it's now 6:15-ish and you really, really want a cup of coffee.  You are not certain when you finished your cholent, it really could have been 12:15, but you know with certainty that you finished yo…

Thought for the Day: Chatzi LaShem, Chatzi Lachem

I'll honest.  I can be a  bit of a smart alec.  We spent Pesach (including tosafos pesach before and after to prepare/clean up) in Boca Raton.  I never remember whether it is East or West Boca, so I just say, "the new side."  My children are part of a new, young community under the leadership of R' Light, congregation Yagdil Torah.  I haven't met much of the actual congregation because I have only gone for Yom Tov, when the regulars are gone and the snow bird wanna bees are there.

Before ma'ariv of the first seder night, Rabbi Light wanted to make a point.  "What are the three mitzvos d'oraisa that we will fulfill tonight?"  After some discussion (no, maror is only d'rabanan now a days), we came to: (1) sipur y'tzi'as mitzrayim, aka "hagada"; (2) achilas matzah; (3) simchas he'chag.  His point was, of course, that the evening should not be lacking in simcha.  A very nice message, so at least I kept my smart alecky remar…

Thought for the Day: Miracles As Basis For Emuna -- Or Not -- Or Maybe

In 1983, David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty appear to disappear.  Everyone who was there and who saw the televised presentation indeed saw the grand lady disappear and then re-appear.  We even saw planes flying across the sky and not disappearing from view when they flew behind where the statue should have been.  Very impressive.

Yet, as far as I know, not a single one of us entertained the thought for even a moment that David Seth Kotkin (his real name) had actually made the statue disappear.  Everyone's comment was, "Wow!  I wonder how he did that!?"  If you are interested enough, you can google "copperfield statue of liberty disappear" and you'll get some thoughts on the topic.  Mr. Copperfield himself, of course, has not endorsed any of the explanations nor offered his own.

People sometimes say, "If I had been in Mitzrayim and seen all those miracles myself, my emuna would surely be stronger.  Being so far removed makes it much harder.&qu…

Thought for the Day: What Defines a Bracha

I heard that a certain ba'al ha'bayis wanted to buy a set of Chazon Ish for himself and each of his sons-in-law.  The Chazon Ish asked if they were all planning to learn together in a chabura.  Since the ba'al ha'bayis answered that he just wanted each to have his own set, the Chazon Ish decided to only sell him one set.  "I am not in the business of selling furniture.  I am sure you can all get by with one set."

The last time I received furniture as a gift was when my first child was born (a beautiful and well used armoire; thank you, Dad).  When someone gives me a sefer, however, I do my best to be sure it retains its status and does not get relegated to dusty furniture.  Since I was going to Florida for Pesach, a good friend gave me my very own copy of Masores Moshe.  The sefer has two advantages for me as a traveler.  First, the format is a collection of sh'eilos and t'shuvos in conversational format.  R' Mordechai Tendler, one of R' Moshe…

Thought for the Day: Coming to Loving HaShem Through Mitzvah Observance

It's one of those topics you just don't discuss in polite company.  If you are careful, you can mention "ahavas HaShem"; when you say it in Hebrew it takes the sting out and, besides, you also sound more frum.  Try this, though: say (out loud), "I love you, HaShem."

How did that go?  I know... not so well.  R' Avigdor Miller, z"tzl, said that one should try that exercise once a day in total privacy.  His estimate that after a few years it won't feel too weird, and in a few decades it might even have some sincerity.  Why it's so hard is pretty obvious.  Even belief in HaShem seems to be a completely intellectual exercise.  Appreciating that the Creator and Author of reality wants to have a relationship -- a personal relationship -- with me is a real abstraction.  Now I am supposed to love -- not like I love broccoli or chocolate, but actually "be in love with" seems way beyond the pale.

And is it really so important?  Well... it is

Thought for the Day: Yetzer HaRa -- Spiritual Force of Tuma vs Physical Ta'avos

In any project planning, there are two basic approaches: top down and bottom up.  Top down starts with describing what you want done at the highest level that seems reasonable.  You then break that down into a list of things that are smaller in scope (they only accomplish part of the job) and are therefore easier to actually accomplish.  That process can is then repeated with each sub-project.  Each iteration produces a new set of smaller projects.  For any of the projects, the level above provides the "why" for the project of interest, and the projects below provide the "how" for the current project.  Bottom up starts, as it's name suggests, from the lowest level -- here is stuff I know I can do, and proceeds by asking "what can I do by putting this stuff together?"

For example, I have a project to slake my thirst.  Top down would start by a requirement to get a cool drink into a container from which I can drink.  That breaks down into: (1) find a co…

Thought for the Day: Matza -- Bread of Affliction, Symbol for Humility

I know "schar mitzvah b'hai alma leika" -- one does not experience the true reward of performing a mitzvah in this world, but hearing my granddaughter's excitement our seder this year -- warming up with the four questions, then lots of "Please Zeidy, I want to read more!", and topped off with singing "Who knows One?" -- well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Matzah, of course, is the star of the show all Pesach.  At the seder it is uncovered to fulfil Chazal's play on words -- lechem ani (bread of affliction)/lechem oni (bread over which a lot of words are said) -- and we eat it reclining.  Why do we eat it?  Because it is the bread of affliction and slavery, of course.  How do we eat it?  Reclining, to show our freedom, of course.  And a man forgets to recline (there have been, after all, two cups of wine already), then he has to eat it again.  Because he didn't eat it like a free man.  So he has to eat it again.  He is not f…

Thought for the Day: Makkos in Mitzrayim as a Foundation of Emuna

I was talking to a recent ba'al t'shuva (this is only his second year of making Pesach properly); part of the discussion centered on how to keep the seder fresh and new every time; especially when we celebrate two s'darim back to back.  I think that's one of the reasons that new hagados come out every year with yet another angle.  However, at this point I have more than enough hagados to keep things fresh for decades; all I have to do is learn a paragraph or two starting from where I left off last year (or the year before or the year before...)

None the less, I did (of course) buy a new hadaga; Matnas Chaim.  It wasn't just my yeitzer harah, this hagada was published l'ilu'i nishmas (as an elevation for the soul of) Ita Rivka Zucker, ale'ha shalom.  This hagada is unique as it is not simply filled with divrei torah (from HaRav Matisyahu Chaim Solomon, shlita), but all the divrei torah are designed purposely as preparation for enhancement of the seder ex…

Thought for the Day: Why the Transition From This World to the Next Is So Darn Scary

One of the complaints that religions (xtianity, evolutionism, etc) have against reality is, "If your G-d is so nice, why is gehinom so bad?"  Xtianity and Muslim just defined the problem away by declaring -- with absolute blind faith -- that if are a member of their religion, the you get a free pass to heave (though their view of heavens have significant differences).  Evolutionism defined the problem away by declaring  -- with absolute blind faith --  "spirituality?  what spirituality?  next world?  what next world?"

Those of us who are more interested in dealing with reality than in sticking our head into an illusory sand pit, though, need to deal with the question: How dohard to es all this strict measure for measure punishment and depth of judgement go along with "v'rachamav al kol ha'ma'asim"/His mercy extends over all of His works (T'hilim 145:9)?  What, after all, is the point of eternal punishment and no chance for redemption?  Wer…

Thought for the Day: Incurring a Small Issur to Save Another Jew From a Large Issur

Tis the season to be nervous about issurim.  We are are running around getting rid of chameitz and selling chameitz...and even sellling chameitz for Jew who might not otherwise sell their chameitz.  How does that work?  There is a general principle of "zoche adam sh'lo b'fanav" -- you are allowed to do something for another Jew even without his knowledge and it even works as long as it is a benefit for him.  For example, you want to create an eruv in your apartment building, so you can have one person acquire a portion of the eruv for each of the other Jews in the building.  It is clearly a benefit to all to have the eruv, so it works.

However, when selling another Jew's chameitz, not everything is too his benefit.  First of all, the Torah takes the chameitz away from him on Pesach, so we know with certainty that he would want you to act as his agent to sell if he understood the situation.  But he doesn't, so he didn't.  You saved him from kares, but turn…

Thought for the Day: Seven Awesome Reasons To Do T'shuva At Least A Day Before You Die

Since this is cheshbon ha'income time, I figured I'd help ease the tax pain by reporting the G"ra's description of what happens when a person is leaving this world.  Once you see how much preparation is needed just to get to gehinom, you may want to rethink some of your plans to today.  There are seven steps from the moment one takes leave of this world to get to gehinom; of course, after that you are good to go on to olam habah, none the less, the way there may give pause.

First, as one is leaving this world, he is greeted by three malachim.  These guys are not even as cheery as Scrooge's ghost of xmas future.  They are more like your worst nightmare IRS agents doing an audit; not just the last few years, though... your whole life.  The first goes over with you every moment that was spent not doing Ratzon HaShem.  The second has a list of each of your aveiros -- none too big, none too small; he'll be to reviewing each with you.  The third is really scary; he&…

Thought for the Day: You Really Need to Make Every Effort Eat the Afikomen While Reclining

My granddaughter stumped her parents again.  She wanted to know, "How does a mermaid go potty?"  The last time this happened and they told her they didn't know, she replied, "Let's ask Zeidy; he'll know."  I'd like to keep my status as all knowing as long as possible, so I googled it.  There are a surprising number of sites that address that question.  In fact, Google guessed when I had only gotten halfway through typing "mermaid".  The best answers I found were:

One: The part of a mermaid that would be involved in going potty is the fish part; b'stama they go potty the same way a fish does.  (I actually have a question on that answer, because I am not sure a mermaid eats like a fish, and the equipment necessary to process and dispose of waste certainly will different depending on the food to be processed.  Also, I am not sure how far the internal organs go; they don't have gills, so there is a very real question about how their in…

Thought for the Day: As Bad As a Thief and Robber Are... There Is Redemption

The Torah is much kinder to r'shaim that have an understandable reason for their evil doings.  As Shlomo HaMelech tells us (Mishlei, 6; y own so free translation, as if you couldn't tell...):
ל:  לֹא-יָבוּזוּ לַגַּנָּב, כִּי יִגְנוֹב--    לְמַלֵּא נַפְשׁוֹ, כִּי יִרְעָב
לא: וְנִמְצָא, יְשַׁלֵּם שִׁבְעָתָיִם:    אֶת-כָּל-הוֹן בֵּיתוֹ יִתֵּן. 30: Do not despise the thief; he steals to fill his soul, which is hungry.
31: When found he will repay sevenfold; his entire fortune may need to give. The G"ra explains both why the Torah does not want you to despise someone for stealing.  A person only steals for one of two reasons.  One, he does not have enough to eat; his life is at stake.  That does not excuse the stealing, but it makes it understandable.  The second reason is because he wants something that he doesn't have; he needs it.  As noted, halacha even allows burial to be delayed in case the grave diggers are hungry for chameitz on erev Pesach and they would not be abl…

Thought for the Day: Freedom of Choice Does Not Grant Right to Choose Evil

I did a quick poll and discovered two things about the fact I am about to post to a "public forum" (I have that in quotes because I am not sure my blog counts a public forum, based on the stats of visits each day.)  None the less, there was unanimous agreement among everyone I polled on two points: (1) What I am about to say is true.  (2) I shouldn't say it in public.  You have been warned.

I know there are gangs in the south side of Chicago, and other inner cities, that engage in lawless behavior.  They are known for stealing and even murder.  They have their own rules.  I do not believe a person has a right to engage in such behaviors.  It's not just that I believe that membership in a gang like that would be wrong for me, I actually believe it is wrong for anyone.  There; I said it.  I know they have freedom of choice, but I do not believe that a choice to belong to a gang is a choice I have to say they have a right to make.  You want to live in the United States,…

Thought for the Day: Dipping at the Seder -- Freedom From External and Internal Tyranny

My grandson (2.x years old) is not among the better nappers.  They tried a new tactic at day care yesterday... wrapping him tightly in his blanket to help him "stay down and relax."  Uh huh.  It turns out that he has really been paying attention to all the stories about y'tzi'as mitzrayim.  He turned to the unsuspecting (and, I am sure, frustrated) teacher and declared (defiantly, I am sure): "Let my people go!"

The main function of the seder is to relay to the children, in a question and answer format, the miracles down for us by HaShem to extricate us from bondage.  As soon as the children are able to understand slavery and freedom, the father obligated by Torah law to pass this masora onto his children.  One of the vehicles Chazal have given us is the four questions.  The Mishna Brura calls "Foul!" on those parents who keep the kids at the table long enough to ask the questions, but then hussle them off to bed without answering their question. …