Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: How Avraham Avinu (and All the Avos, In Fact) Kept and Didn't Keep Shabbos

I listened to a shiur on Shavuos by R' Fuerst on my ride to work this mornig.  It was one of those shiurim that R' Fuerst himself introduced by saying, "This is going to be a really interesting shiur!"  There was palpable excitement in his delivery; he sounded like a kid in a candy shop.  It was one of those things where you start with a seemingly trivial question and it blows up into a titanic of fundamental questions.  The start was, "Since you know Shavous has to be on 6th of Sivan and that Shavous is 50 days after Pesach, then once you know rosh chodesh Nissan, you know exactly when both rosh chodesh Iyar and rosh chodesh Sivan; so why do you need testimony for those two months?  In the course of answering that question, we discovered that it is not so obvious that Shavous has to be on the 6th, nor even that Shavous and Matan Torah have to coincide.  I think you should listen to the shiur, if for no reason other than to hear R' Fuerst sounding like a kid with a new toy.

Along the way, we were introduced to several ways to understand both why there are two days of Shavuos outside of Eretz Yisrael.  One answer depends on a fundamental difference between Jews and goyim that is noted by the Hafla'ah: our 24 day is a night followed by a day; their 24 day is a day followed by a night.  So what, you ask.  So this: We know that the Avos kept all the mitzvos and we also that they were not Jews -- after all, the Torah had not yet been given/accepted.  One of the mitzvos, of course, is Shabbos.  Shabbos is so important that it is a capital crime for a Jew violate it.  However, it is also a sign/covenant between HaShem and his treasured nation, so it is a capital crime for a non-Jew to keep Shabbos!  A bit of a quandary, no?

One of the answers given to how the Avos dealt with this dilemma was to wear tzitzis: Jews are obligated to wear them so they have the status of clothing; non-Jews are not required to wear them, so they are just carrying strings.  I have not been comfortable with that answer for quite some time.  First, that means the Avos would have had to make a point of walking in a r'shus ha'rabim d'oraisa every Shabbos.  That's not as easy as you might think, especially since the Avos did not always live in metropolitan areas with 600,000 people milling about each day.  Worse, though, even if a Jew wears tzitzis that are only safeik kosher, there's no issur d'oraisa to wear them on Shabbos.  If the Avos were wearing them because of a safeik in their status (vis a vis Jew/goy), then it's very likely there is no issur at all to wear them even in a r'shus ha'rabim d'oraisa.

With the yesod of the Hafla'ah, though, there is a very simple answer.  Shabbos for a goy begins Saturday morning and ends Sunday morning.  As long as Avraham Avinu made havdalah on Saturday night, he had covered his bases.  Even better, there is not even a question of "malacha sh'ein tzricha l'gufa" -- one making havdala really wants to make a fire in order to have a fire.  Isn't that just way too cool for words!?

In case you think I am over-excited about this; here's the deal:  I was never told to violate Shabbos when I was going through my geirus process.  (Maybe I did out of sheer ignorance, but again; that's eino miskaven and only assur m'd'rabanan.)   As I learned more, I realized how  bad that was... violating a capital crime every week is not something I want on my record.  But I did make havdala every week once I started my conversion process in earnest, so I am covered!

Whew... I know it's only one thing off my plate, but every little bit helps.


Popular posts from this blog

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…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…