Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2014

Thought for the Day: First Priority Is Appreciating the Good

Chazal (Brachos 9b) relate that R' Yose ben Elyakim testifies in the name of the Holy Congregation of Yerushalyim that any one who immediately begins shomne esrei as he concludes the bracha of "ga'al yisrael"/who redeemed Yisrael [from Mitzrayim] (aka, "someich g'ula l't'fila") will not suffer any damages the entire day.  That's a pretty bold statement!  So bold, in fact, the R' Zeira challenged it.  "Really!?", exclaimed a perplexed R' Zeira, "I did that once and I hit with financial damage!"  R' Yose apparently knew what happened and replied, "Hang on... are you talking about the fact that you were forced to deliver a load of myrtle to the king's palace at great personal expense?  Pshaw!  That's not damage... it's worth spending a lot of money to be able to see a king!"
The marshals support from a statement by R' Yochanon: I person should always endeavor to run to see kings of Israe…

Thought for the Day: Chosen From Among the Nations, Because We Live Among the Nations -- Part II

As you recall from last time, we have a lot of questions about the whole incident with Yitzchak, Yaakov, and Eisav regarding the brachos.  Instead of asking more questions, let's take a look at the facts of the case.
Eisav really wants his father's bracha.  We, having the advantage of the Author giving us the back story, know that Eisav is not exactly what you'd call religious.  Yet he really, really wants his father's blessing.Yaakov really doesn't want that bracha.  However, when he is leaving to find his soul mate (which actually turns out to four soul mates), he very much wants his father's bracha.Yitzchak really wants to give this particular bracha to Eisav.  Yet, as soon as the subterfuge is revealed, Yitzchak declares that the bracha stands.  More than that, he keeps putting Eisav off when he asks for some kind of bracha.  Eisav has to ask three times and then actually start crying (really tears, mind you; there is nothing fake at this point) before Yitzc…

Thought for the Day: Chosen From Among the Nations, Because We Live Among the Nations -- Part I

In birkas ha'torah, we thank HaShem for choosing us from among all the nations to give us His Torah.  What difference does is make who else was in the running?  We were chosen!  Thus begins R' Efraim Twerski in his shiur regarding the bracha of "asher bachar banu".  Whether or not you feel the question is compelling; the answer is astounding!

To answer we need to go back to that first break from the nations of the world that the world even noticed: when Yitzchak Avinu gave the brachos to Yaakov Avinu instead of to Esav HaRasha.  (Oops...is my bias showing?  Good!  I am fine with being charged with preferring good to evil even when it's not -- well... especially when it's not, actually -- politically correct.)  We need a few more questions to stir up enthusiasm before proceeding to the answer.

Why, for instance, did Yitzchak want to give the brachos to Eisav anyway?  Hint: it was not because he did not recognize Eisav's nature; Yitzchak knew his nature ver…

Thought for the Day: Tomorrow Is Rosh Chodesh -- Change Your World

During Yom Tov and even during Chol Ha'Mo'ed, we take out a second sefer Torah and read the appropriate mussaf portion from parshas Pinchas.  We don't do that on Shabbos.  Tosefos (as soon as I remember or am reminded of the location, I will -- bli neder -- fill it in here) gives two reasons.  First, he (well... "they", technically)  says (sigh... yes, then this would have to be "say"; can we just get on with this now, please?  Thank you.) that there are only two p'sukim and we don't take out a sefer Torah for less than three p'sukim.  The truth is, though, that is not a very strong reason.  After all, even though the general rule is not to have a Torah reading session that is less than 10 p'sukim, the reading for Purim is only nine p'sukim.  The poskim all say that is allowed because the rule of 10 p'sukim applies when you aren't reading an entire topic, but if the entire topic is only nine p'sukim, then no problem.  May…

Thought for the Day: Lashon HaKodesh and Targum -- Reality, Appearance, Explanation

While still living in Dallas, so early in my career as an Orthodox Jew, I had the merit to attend a lecture by R' Berol Wein.  The rosh kollel, who had arranged the lecture, come over the me very excitedly and said, "R' Wein is here already and you are early, so take the opportunity to speak with him personally!"  "Great!", I thought... then I realized that I had nothing to say.  Since then, I've tried to always have a mental list of questions I have that still need resolution.  Some are big, some are small.  It is not unusual for one of those "small" questions to turn into big principles.

I have wondered for decades what the difference is between "adon", as in "adon olam", and "ribon", as in "ribono shel olam".  The siddur translates both as adon and ribon as "lord"; so what's the difference?  The simple answer is quite a let down: ribon is the aramaic translation of adon.  See, for exampl…

Thought for the Day: After the Washroom -- Thanking the Creator for Holes and Cavaties

I think most fathers and zeidys will appreciate this story, most mothers will be aghast, and most bubbies will just shake their heads.  We were on a chol ha'mo'ed trip last Pesach and it involved a significant (hour or two) car ride to reach our destination.  I was playing the alphabet game with the older (6 and 7 year old) grandchildren.  The game is to look for an "A", then look for a "B", etc.  License plates, road signs, billboards, etc all provide fodder for the game.  Each time they found a letter, I'd say, "Ok... and what comes after C?", they would answer "D!", and the game continued.  Great way to practice the alphabet and keep everyone engaged.  We were most of the way through the alphabet when I asked, "What comes after P?"  They answered, "Q".  I said, "No; asher yatzar."  Puzzled looks turned to beaming smiles.  My grandson (the 6 year old) must have told that joke at least a dozen times ove…

Thought for the Day: Wisdom Comes from Information/Disaster Follows Expressing Baseless Opinions

The second section (chapters 10 through 24) of sefer Mishlei (Proverbs) is where you find all the advice that traditionally think of as "proverbs".  They are statements in the format "Being  leads to , but being leads to ".  Without the insight and explanations provided by our sages, however, they can sound like "Do you take your lunch or the bus?"

One such statement is "When willful wickedness comes, then infamy will follow; but with the modest is wisdom."  (Mishlei 11:2)  First, I am not surprised that willfully wicked people can become infamous, but what does that have to do with wisdom or modesty?  The G"ra opens this up by explaining that "willful wickedness" means to come to beis medrash only for the intellectual stimulation of debate with smart people.  This is not Al Capone, it's the guy who constantly asks questions that are not intended to reveal the full intent of the mishna/gemara/halacha.  They may be really coo…

Thought for the Day: Patched Keilim Vs. Usable Broken Keilim

Tahor and tamei are words best left untranslated.  Lest you really want to translate "tahor" as "pure" and "tamei" as "contaminated", just remember that even a simply ingot of 24 karat gold is tamei, while even a complete vessel made of cow manure is tahor.  The terms "tahor" and "tuma" here do not actually refer to the state of the ingot or vessel, rather to their potential to become tamei.  Gold ingots can become tamei, vessels of cow manure cannot.  You might be wondering how it even entered my mind to consider what happens to a barrel made from cow manure (then baked, I suppose to be usable) when one dangles a dead rat into it.  It was not, I assure you, my simple (albeit warped) sense of intellectual curiosity.  In point of fact, there are several mishnayos in masechta keilim that discuss vessels that have either been made entirely from, strengthened by, or repaired with manure.  Gives new meaning to "any port in a …

Thought for the Day: The Advantage of Communal Prayer

At the bottom of daf 7b in masechta Brachos, R' Yitzchak asked R' Nachman why he hadn't come to shul to daven ma'ariv the night before.  R' Nachman answered that he was feeling a bit shvach ("weak" for you yankee doodle dandies).  R' Yitzchak asked if R' Nachman would like him to arrange for a minyan at his home.  R' Nacham demurred as he didn't feel it was worth bothering everyone for that.  R' Yitzchak rejoined that he should at least have the shaliach tzibur come tell R' Nachman that they were about to daven so he could daven at the same time.  R' Nachman expressed some surprise that there was any advantage to davening at the same time as the tzibur/community was davening.  R' Yitzchak said, "Oh, yes!  As R' Yochanan said in the name of R' Shimon ben Yochai..."

At this point, the story continues onto 8a, so just like I was left with that cliff hanger, I'll take this opportunity while I have your rap…

Thought for the Day: The Soul Opens Your Eyes to Divinity

More from R' Efraim Twerski's insightful t'fila shiurim.

There is a reasonably cut and dried halacha that long brachos -- not the one liners, but the ones that have a beginning, middle, and end -- always end with "baruch atah HaShem..." and must either start with "baruch atah HaShem" or be cuddled up to a preceding bracha; aka "samuch l'chaverta".  "asher yastzar" is an example of a long bracha.  Each bracha in shmone esrei and in birkas ha'mazon are also long brachos.  The first bracha of each starts and ends with "baruch atah HaShem...", while the subsequent brachos only end with said prescription.  (The fourth bracha of birkas ha'mazon is actually a later addition and is d'rabanan, so it starts again with "baruch atah HaShem".  I know it doesn't end that way; that's because it's really a short bracha that kept getting longer.  A story for another time.)

What about "elokai nesham…

Thought for the Day: Transmission of Tuma and Differences for Earthenware Vessels

"Wow!" you are thinking, "I always wanted to know about the details of how tuma can be transmitted and especially how earthenware vessels are different!  At last I can take all the worry and stress I have suffered because of this hole in my knowledge off my plate!"  Or maybe not.  None the less, I am interested because I am once again learning the mishnayos of masechta keilim.  (Since I have asked for participation in learning mishnayos l'zecher nishmas Aaron Dovid ben Yitzchak, a"h, I decided to act quickly to get one of the fun ones before they all got snapped up.  If you hurry, I am sure you can still find something you'll enjoy; just click here and let the good times roll!)  I chose keilim because it's not one the more popular masechtos (it is long and complicated).  I figured this way I'd get the better part of a year to go through it carefully and get some understanding.

The word "keilim" in lashon ha'kodesh is quite flexibl…

Thought for the Day: L'zecher Nishmas Aaron Dovid ben Yitzchak

I don't use the expression, "I'll never forget ...", because umm... well... darn, I had a good reason; really!  But if I did use it, I would certainly apply it to a conversation I heard between my dad and a new-ish uncle (ie, he had recently-ish married my step-aunt).  He had gotten his MBA and was being invited into his (new-ish) father-in-law's business; a very successful shoe store.  My uncle wanted to make all sorts of changes based on his deep understanding of business, as evidenced by the fact he had earned an MBA.  My father suggested he might want to learn why his father-in-law did things the way he did, based on the fact that the store was successful.

I have tried to apply that lesson to my daily life ever since.  The brilliance of that simple idea was never more evident than when I was recently called upon to give a eulogy for my late father-in-law, Aaron Dovid ben Yitzchak, a"h.  We had had many disagreements in the 38 years I had known him, but I…