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Showing posts from August, 2014

Thought for the Day: Minhag Is for Men (But Not Women) to Light a Personal Candle on Yom Kippur

I had three months of chemotherapy almost 20 years ago.  I got four cycles of three weeks each; each cycle was every day for one week, about six hours each day, then two weeks off.  (The treatments were spread out like that in order to give my body the time it needed to cleanup the resulting dead tumor tissue.)  All the treatments were in the doctor's office, along with a dozen or so other victims.  In the course of my visits over those three months, I saw lots of different chemicals being delivered by various means (mine was all IV, others got pills).  I was never once jealous of the other patients; I never even thought to why this one got a pretty blue pill, while all I got was a clear tube.  That's obviously a silly way to approach the issue.  You don't ask, "Why don't I get such and such a medicine?"; you might ask, though, "Why does get/need such and such a medicine?"

I am similarly surprised when people ask, "Why don't orthodox women …

Thought for the Day: What Foods Come Under the Bishul Akum Rule

Bishul Akum (literally, "cooked by a non-Jew") is a real, live issur.  That is, if a non-Jew cooks certain kosher foods, the resulting food is not kosher ("treif") and the pots/pans/spoons/spatulai/etc require kashering.  That's serious business.  Note that this is only relevant for certain kosher foods and only when the non-Jew cooks it.  In halacha "cooking" sometimes means generally to improve/make edible with heat, but other times means cooked (with liquid), as opposed to baking (dry heat in container) or roasting (dry heat directly on fire).  Frying is more or less cooking; leaving in liquid (even cold) for 24 or more hours can also render something "cooked".  But I don't want to talk about that now; I am interested in which foods are a concern.

In order to be a problem, the food under consideration must be something that is not eaten raw and is appropriate to serve at a royal banquet.  Being as we don't have real royalty any mo…

Thought for the Day: Eternal Healthy Living Is HaShem's Plan for You

I more or less ignored the Sha'ar HaTziyun for a long time.  You know, the footnotes on the Mishna Brura that cite the sources for the Mishna Brura's p'sak halacha.  Usually a string of acronyms -- t"z, m"a, sh"a, b"ch, etc.  Ho hum.  Once in a while you'll see a "gemara" or "acharonim" (well, that certainly narrows things down, now doesn't it), or the ever popular "pashut".  Over time, though, I've been looking down more and more, looking especially for the long entries.  I've heard the Mishna Brura called a "lecket"/compilation; that's really missing the point.  Those long entries in the Sha'ar HaTzyun are a beautifully concise explanation of R' Yisroel Meir Kagan's halachic methodology.  The one I saw this morning, however, left me stunned.

The Shulchan Aruch (622:2) discusses the Torah reading for mincha on Yom Kippur, where we have a special hatara: Yona.  The Mishna Brura, sk …

Thought for the Day: The Halachically Fertile Moment Between End of Eating and Beginning of Bentching

Siman 271, Hilchos Kiddush on Wine (erev Shabbos) is a really cool siman to learn.  First, it's certainly relevant; we all make kiddush and Friday is sure to occur.  Second, it discusses all sorts of cases that leave most of us asking, "Why would anyone get himself into that situation?!"  The benefit of going through all those cases is a beautiful clarification of all the different issues that are being seamlessly handled by our usual Friday evening ceremony.  As you delve into each question, you all gain an appreciation of how precise and robust our halachic process is -- you have to push really hard to find machlokes.

Let's get started; Syef 4: Yehuda and his guests were eating a nice meal on Friday afternoon (hey... you're not supposed to be doing that...) and are now finished eating.  They are about to bentch and they notice... whoops!  It's really dark out there... yikes!  It's Shabbos!!  To understand the "yikes", you need to know that the…

Thought for the Day: Stopping Eating Vs. Starting Fasting Before Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is an important day.  (Thank you, Capt. Obvious.)  It is very important not to eat on Yom Kippur.  (Aye, Cap'n; bucking for promotion to Major, 'er yah?)  It is, in fact, a Torah obligation to add a margin to Yom Kippur and stop eating before that; d'oraisa.  (Umm... what?)

The Shulchan Aruch, O.Ch. 608 discusses that s'uda mafsekes/last supper needs to be finished in time to add a margin -- known as tosef Yom Kippur -- that takes away from the weekday and adds onto Yom Kippur.  That siman also discusses when, to whom, and it what manner to give reproof to a fellow Jew; that is not our topic today.  What is our topic is how to stop eating and how to start fasting.  Syef 3 tells us that it finished the last supper while it is still daytime, one is allowed to eat again again so long as he hasn't accepted upon himself to fast.  The Rema adds that accepting the fast in his mind is not a sufficient acceptance of the fast, so I may resume eating.  The Mishna B…

Thought for the Day: Immersing Electrical Appliances

I am not the fastest reader of Hebrew on the block, so I take advantage of every possible gap during the various prayer services to catch up.  Of course that also means I have less opportunities to talk during davening; oh well.  The truth is, I look for opportunities throughout the day to be more efficient.  For example, the dentist wants to me brush my teeth for a full two minutes, so I walk downstairs to start my coffee while brushing.  There's more, but we are approaching "TMI" territory.  Here's one thing that I absolutely do not do: I don't make toast while I am taking a shower.  Besides the fact that it is very frustrating to try to crisp up bread under water, it's a very, VERY bad idea to take a toaster (any electrical appliance that is plugged in to the wall, actually) with you in the shower.  You probably knew that (in fact, I'll bet you never even contemplated taking a toaster into the shower with you); but do you know why it is such a bad idea…

Thought for the Day: Immersing Erev Yom Kippur and When a Minhag Doesn't Gets a Bracha

The Shulchan Aruch, OC 606:4 says you are allowed to immerse in a mikvah on erev Yom Kippur any time you want as long as you immerse before sunset and that you shouldn't make a bracha on that immersion.  Being given permission to immerse implies that I was afraid it was forbidden; being told not to make a bracha on said immersion implies that I thought that I should make a bracha.  Now we have four questions:
Why would I think it is forbidden to immerse?That being the case; why am I allowed to?Why would I think I should make a bracha on that immersion?That being the case; why don't I? The first two questions arise because Shulchan Aruch is starting in the middle of a sentence, as the Mishna Brura explains.  The Shulchan Aruch should have started by mentioning that there is a minhag for everyone -- even unmarried young men and women -- to immerse erev Yom Kippur.  So the answer to question (1) is that usually unmarried men and women do not immerse now a days because we don't…

Thought for the Day: We Work and Get Paid... A LOT!

I believe (as in, I know it happened to me) that most children have heard and all parents have said: "Don't worry about what your brother/sister/cousin/Timmy is doing!  Just worry about yourself!"  This is, in fact, a fundamental dimension of avodas HaShem and the basis of every good Jewish marriage.  In fact, as has been noted, there is not word for "rights" in classic Hebrew (aka Lashon haKodesh/the Holy Tongue); only responsibilities.

Therefore it is somewhat surprising that in that thanks we proclaim at a siyum (and some of us each morning on leaving the beis medrash, as recommended by the Mishna Brura) includes a statement about them: heim ameilim v'anu ameilim.  heim ameilim v'einam m'kablim s'char; any ameilim u'm'kablim s'char/They work and we work.  They work don't get paid; we work and do get paid.  There are at least two obvious questions on this.  First, it sure seems that they get paid for working!  Why would they wo…

Thought for the Day: Chinuch HaBanim -- Education Is Preparation

My granddaughter was doing something she was not supposed to do and had been told (at least once or a million times) not to do.  That's not lashon ha'rah because that's what four year olds do; in fact, it would be a cause for concern if she didn't do anything she wasn't supposed to do (and had been told that at least once or a million times).  Her mother (my daughter) told her to stop.  My granddaughter (her daughter) told her, "Don't tell me to stop; I'm only four!"  Her brother parroted, "Don't tell me to stop; I'm only three!"  While my enjoyment of my daughter's predicament may be construed as n'kama/revenge, I am sure there is an exemption for grandparents.

We Torah observant Jews have a lot of things to do and rules to observe.  Obviously, an infant fresh from the womb cannot be expected to say a sh'he'chi'yanu on being born; he is still working out breathing and whatnot, after all.  On the other hand, a…

Thought for the Day: It's A Wonderful Life; As Little Losses and Restrictions Remind Us

In case you don't already know this, the major difference between a girl's bike and a boy's bike is that a boy's bike has a horizontal bar from the seat stem to the handlebar stem.  Girl's bikes are missing that bar; presumably to accommodate riding in a skirt.  The cross bar, however, allows for lighter/stronger frames.  Girl's bike frames also tend to be smaller, since women are on average smaller than men.  Why all this sudden interest?  Because I rode a Schwinn to work this morning that would be perfect for a 5'4" girl; a loaner from the bike shop while they are fixing my brakes.  I felt like one of those clowns riding a teensy bike around the circus ring for a laugh; except I was riding 9+ miles to get to work.  Oh, yeah... and it fell over when I went to open the door to bike garage because it doesn't have that cross beam to rest against my thigh while I reached for the door.

How did I feel running riding that bike to work this morning?  Amaz…