Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2015

Thought for the Day: The Argument for Leniency is More Powerful -- Living the Dream

As you may recall (or you can refresh your memory here), I have been going 'round and 'round about whether I can drink a certain beer that I had already purchased before any concerns were known.  The concern was and is: חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח; the brewery in question is Jewish owned (100% Jewish owned, in fact, which is a relevant factor, as will be explained shortly) and they do not sell nor otherwise divest themselves of חמץ during Passover.  That makes any beer that is produced from said חמץ forbidden to all Jews forever by rabbinic decree as a קנס/penalty.

There several reasons I have spent so much time on this.  The least reason was that I like that beer and I was at risk of losing $15 worth of it; that is: the remaining 18 bottles from the case I had bought before the news broke.  I will not buy this beer again unless/until they come under kosher supervision, but $15 is $15 dollars.  A vastly more important reason I have spent so much time on this is that the halachic princi…

Thought for the Day: Doing the Right Thing, Not the Expedient Thing

My brother, he should rest in peace, spent one reasonably uncomfortable summer in a cast that covered his entire chest.  He had been riding his bike and -- like most 10 year old boys -- not paying a lot of attention to where he was going.  He ended up running into a parked car (don't ask, but if you had known my brother, you would just be smiling and thinking "that's so him") and breaking his collar bone.  He was really sorry that he had done it, he was determined to be more careful in the future, and he was definitely very sorry that he had to wear that heavy cast all summer.  Unfortunately, reality is reality; all the good intentions in the world couldn't change that.

Even more unfortunately, there are religions that define themselves by ignoring reality.  Here's a cool quote from one of them:
One of the hallmarks of modern living, including modern Jewish living, is the opportunity we have to either follow tradition or invent new traditions. Here's one t…

Thought for the Day: Why You Need to Know Halacha to Really Enjoy a Good Beer

I like a good beer.  Technically, it is a good ale that I like, but in halacha they are both שֵׁכָר  (in fact, Google translate dutifully translates that noun as "beer, ale").  I know that some people think that "good beer" is an oxymoron, but I respectfully disagree.  After all, when one does not have wine for religious ceremonies, beer is the next logical choice.  (Yes, I know חמר מדינה can technically be Diet Coke or orange juice, but let's get real.)  Moreover, the G"ra, as noted by the Mishna Brura, specifically used beer and not wine for the havdala service marking the conclusion of Pesach.  Basically beer is to wine as ארמית is to לשון הקודש.  Another great thing about beer is that is is all kosher... or so I thought.

A couple of weeks ago I received and email from the cRc informing me that one of my favorite brands of beer was now on the "Not Recommended" list.  Why?  חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח.  Apparently it had just come to light that the comp…

Thought for the Day: Fulfilling One's Obligation to Make a Bracha Via a Proxy Who Is Not Obligated in Said Bracha

This is not advice, it's just a fact.  If you want to know what is doing in someone's life, do not ask his chavrusa.  Maybe it is different in yeshiva; I wouldn't know, as I never had the merit of attending yeshiva.  Us בעל הבתים/regular Yossies who are at work all day take are precious few minutes in בית מדרש very seriously.  Not to say we don't have fun!  Just this morning I came home late because of having so much fun that I lost track of time.  What happened?  Well...

We learn two (usually, sometimes more) halachos after (in the summer, before in the winter) davening from the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch as explained by the Mishna Brura and with color commentary by R' Dovid (the Chicago Vasikiner Rebbe).  We are currently learning hilchos brachos; in particular, the thanksgiving blessing (סימן רי''ט).  The general rule is that one makes that bracha after surviving one of four situations: being released from a prison where you could have die…

Thought for the Day: The Power of Good Midos

My naiveté knows few bounds.  For example, I was shocked to discover that one could be outside a city one day.  I had seen maps of the world, the USA, and California; countries, states, and counties all filled the available space, so I assumed that cities did the same.  I was about 12 years old at the time.  I was somewhat older when I learned that salesmen actually do something more than take your money in exchange for product.  I learned that watching my father, עליו השלום, at work; he was a master salesman and I learned from him that "sales" is actually a transitive verb.  I was about 18 by then.  Somewhat later I learned there is even another level -- putting seller and buyer together is also a skill.  Perhaps the most refined (and oft maligned) of those are the שדכנים/matchmakers.  Finding the right buyer for a house is one thing, but bringing together soul mates is huge!  It can only happen with סיעתא דשמיא/help from Above and anyone who has been involved has seen the …

Thought for the Day: Making a Shidduch with Geirim and Their Descendants... or Not

It's called the Cocktail Party Effect.  Try this sometime you are having a conversation in a room filled with other groups of people have their own independent conversations: Put your tape recorder (I am sure there is an app for that) in your shirt pocket and record a few minutes of your conversation.  When you listen to it later, you'll hear nothing but a sort of blur of white noise.  (Of course, this experiment is only interesting if your original conversation was itself more than a blur of white noise; choose carefully, grasshopper.)  Your mind is able to pick out the relevant bits of sound and present you with a clear channel for communication.  I am kind of like that with shiurim... I have a buzz of thoughts going on in my head while I try -- with varying level of success -- to focus on the content of the shiur.  However, mention something that touches me directly and I am right there.

The topic was making shidduchim with geirim and their descendants; at one time the newe…

Thought for the Day: Permitted Actions on the First Day of Yom Tov That Benefit the Second

One of my most pleasurable preparations on erev Shabbos is to receive a d'var torah from my eldest granddaughter (2nd grade).  This last week I was treated to a more interactive than usual conversation, as the d'var torah included a quiz; she described a Yom Tov, and I had to guess it.  Of course when she described Yom Kippur, I said, "Purim!"  (המבין יבין; of course she just thought I was being funny).  When she started describing Sukkos, I started right away saying, "Oh!  Oh!  I know! I know!"  She replied that I needed to wait till she finished the question.  Of course, I didn't; but started right away saying I knew.  This time, with her best serious teacher voice, she told me, "Zeidy; you need to work on your self-control."  (Apparently she had come home from school the previous week with two new vocabulary words: self-control and impulsiveness; המבין יבין.)

Granted, one is not permitted to prepare on the first day of Yom Tov for the next

Thought for the Day: Preparing From One Day Of Yom Tov To Another

The Shulchan Aruch, O.Ch. תקג, rules that one is not permitted to prepare from one day of Yom Tov to the next day.  Not even if the next day is Shabbos, nor second day of Yom Tov (for us in the diaspora), nor even from one day for Rosh HaShana to the next.  That order is known as "לא זו אף זו"/not only this, but also this; that is, increasing order of surprise.

First, I am not allowed to prepare for Shabbos, even though I cannot do any preparations at all on Shabbos itself.  Why not?  It is a rule revealed explicitly in the Torah, aka גזירת הכתוב.  At this point, our question if of "why not?" is tantamount to asking "why are protons almost 2000 times heavier than electrons, but have exactly the same opposite charge?"  'Cause they do and 'cause you can't.

Even more surprising, I may not prepare for one day of Yom Tov to the next, even though the whole reason for the second day is because I might have been wrong about the first day.  (Yes, yes, …

Thought for the Day: Jewish Philosophy -- Rambam vs Rabbeinu Yona

Even though Newton (Sir Isaac) is claimed by physics as one of their own, that is not entirely true.  Newton's field was really philosophy.  In fact, Newton spent a good deal more time trying to derive the exact date and time of Creation than he did on his physics.  Over time, his methodologies of analysis and mathematical language -- including his newly invented calculus -- became the norm for describing the physical world; and those are what has lasted.  Even in that, though, you will find a fair amount of philosophy.  Newton's universal law of gravitation makes the bold and totally untested (perhaps even untestable) assumption that the entire universe is run by a single set of principles and by studying what is happening on earth, one understands what is happening everywhere.  Since nearly all of our data comes from earth based laboratories and observations, it's a safe statement to make.

The Talmud is not at all interested in making safe statements; it is wholly and on…

Thought for the Day: Kiddush Must Be With the Meal

As you surely know (since I ensure everyone knows), I have a background in physics, specializing in General Relativity.  One of the cool concepts that relativity introduced into our vocabulary is "space-time".  All that really means is that space (extent) and time (duration) are really just two aspects of the same underlying physical quantity.  Measuring time in seconds and distance in miles, while convenient for everyday practical use, actually makes no more sense than measuring North/South in miles and East/West in millimeters.  Being a nerd and enjoying a good "I told you so" as much as anyone; I was, of course, gratified to see this concept expressed in halacha.  To wit: קידוש במקום סעודה -- the work מקום/place means physical location and time.  The kiddush and the meal must, as much as is practically possible, be in the same place and at the same time.

Let's begin with the words of the Shulchan Aruch, O. Ch., 273:3.  First R' Yosef Karo notes that if o…