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Showing posts from June, 2015

Thought for the Day: Being G-d Fearing Means Doing the Right Thing, Regardless of Whether It Is a Leniency or a Stringency

I was looking at a book about the human body with my five year old granddaughter and her four year old brother after the recent ברית מילה of their newest brother.  Of course, they had both asked about why he had one and she didn't.  I, being the grandfather, answered straight and let their parents deal with any embarrassing follow on questions.  In any case, we turned to the nervous system and my grandson, with the confidence and certainty that only a four year old boy can muster, declared, "Boys do not have brains."  His sister, in that tone of voice that will some day be used to once again explain to her husband that no, he can't wear that tie with that suit, said, "Of course boys have brains; if they didn't have brains they couldn't think and they would just kick and hit all the time."  I am not really sure who won that argument...

I recently heard a shiur from R' Yisroel Reisman given on the occasion of a siyum for a daf yomi completing Bava…

Thought for the Day: Surrogate Motherhood -- Argument That It Is Impossible to Determine Whether Birth Or Genetic Mother is Halachic Mother

On the issue of who is the halachic mother in the case of surrogate motherhood, we have seen an argument for the genetic mother and an argument for the birth mother.  Both had proponents, but neither had the universal acceptance.  (Ok... almost nothing this complex has universal acceptance, but neither has even enough acceptance to definitively declare, "This is the halacha.")  There is one more argument, that it is impossible to make such a determination.  (Spoiler alert: this argument will suffer the same fate as the other two; we'll deal with that shortly.)

For those of you who do not live in Chicago or Eretz Yisrael: let's review the relevant halachos of חדש (new grain) and ישן (older grain).  The Torah forbids the use of new grain until after הקרבת העומר/the Omer offering is brought, which is on the second day of Pesach -- 16 Nissan.  When we have the בית המקדש, then חדש grain changes status to ישן with הקרבת העומר; nowadays, we wait till 17 Nissan.  You may be …

Thought for the Day: Surrogate Motherhood -- Argument That Birth Mother is Halachic Mother

More on the details of determining the halachic mother in case of surrogate motherhood.  We tried proving that the genetic mother is the halachic mother, but ran into issues; still no proof.

Let's try the other way, to prove that the birth mother is the halachic mother.  Of course, all gemaras have their own personality and are, well, gemara; there are no "easy" ones.  None the less, there are certainly some mesachtos that are more approachable than others.  Then there are the big three, whose acronym is עני/poverty: עירובין, נידה, יבמות; because they really consume a lot of mental resources just to get a surface understanding.  Of course, therefore, this arguments begins with a gemara in יבמות; daf 97b, in fact.

Chazal there discuss the case of a non-Jewish woman who has twin boys.  In the first scenario, the three of them converted to Judaism.  The halacha regarding converts is: גר שנתגייר, כקטן שנולד דמי/one who converts [to Judaism] is considered to be a newly born h…

Thought for the Day: Surrogate Motherhood -- Argument That Genetic Mother is Halachic Mother

As I am sure you recall (since am quite certain you have nothing to do but to wait expectantly for your next installment of TftD; on the off chance I am wrong, however, you can review the salient issues here), there are three main schools of thought on the halachic mother in the case of surrogate motherhood.  Today we shall, בעזרת השם, explore the first alternative: the genetic mother is the halachic mother.  (Based on my understanding of shiur I hear from Rabbi Noach Oelbaum.)

Among the children of Shimon who came down to Egypt with Yaakov was: שָׁאוּל בֶּן הַכְּנַעֲנִית; literally: Shaul, son of the Canaanite woman.  Rashi finds it untenable that Yaakov would make such a shidduch and therefore prefers the explanation found in Gen. Rabbah (80:11):
The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite. When they killed Shechem, Dinah did not want to leave until Shimon swore to her that he would marry her. A little background, also from the medrash: Dina felt horribly damaged and dis…

Thought for the Day: Naming for Our Ancestors

I am working from Southern California this week.  The primary motivation was traveling to meet my new grandson, יהושע אהרן דנבן Yehoshua Aharon Donovan (more about the name soon).  As השגחה would have it, my company just happens to have an office 30 miles from where my new grandson currently resides, and I just happen to have recently been assigned to an issue that relates to the product that is developed in this office, and it just happens the discovery of the root cause of the issue required me to sit together with a developer here so we had expertise from both areas of the code base looking at the same screen and discovering the problem together.  What luck!

Anyway, I use the navigation system on my cell phone (a small, hand-held computer with more memory and compute power than the computers that landed a man safely on the moon, and by the way can also enable real-time voice communication between two parties even while traveling nearly anywhere on the globe) to get most efficiently…

Thought for the Day: Ova or Uterus -- Who's the Mother?

This question -- consciously expressed or not -- is at the basis of a many discussions of Torah observance in the modern world:
What if the Torah were given now?  I mean, we have all this cool, gee-whiz technology and stuff that the ancients didn't, so the Torah would be different, right? That question is something like asking, "If the engineers who built this drop on the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland had known that we would be on this cart carrying our cell phones, would they have built it differently?  I mean, wouldn't they have taken into account that I might have something in my pocket that could fall out?"  Actually then engineers who built that ride most certainly knew that people might have something expensive in their pockets that might fall out.  They engineered for it, the made provisions for it.  You won't see a mention of cell phones in the original plans, but you certainly will see provisions for people with pockets and stuff in those pocket…

Thought for the Day: Yes, Virginia, HaShem Runs the World

I offer the following story with some trepidation, but it is inspiring and I believe the possible damage can be mitigated.

There was an Israeli solder in one of the elite military units who began turning toward the Torah.  He went to a shiur here and there, read this and that, and so on.  At one point he came to a point in his תשובה process where he had to, as it were, "fish or cut bait".  His unit was all volunteer and he made the decision to not reenlist for another tour of duty.  He came home, through himself into becoming a בעל תשובה.  It wasn't 30 days later that he died.  The particulars are absolutely irrelevant to what follows and the point of this story.

The young man's rav was preparing to make a shiva call, but had no idea how to answer the most obvious question/challenge he was going to get from the parents: "He turns toward HaShem, he wants to become more religious... and he dies in barely a month?!"

Of course, this is an old question.  When Ru…

Thought for the Day: מוקצה ובורר -- Two Great Reasons to be Jewish!

Every day when I leave Beis Medrash I thank the Good Lord for the opportunity to be in the community of those who learn Torah.  Some days are just plain amazing,  Other days, though, are over the top fun.  That was the kind of day I had yesterday.  Two gems in hilchos Yom Tov, siman 510: Several things that you are forbidden to do on Yom Tov, and which of them are permitted if you do them a little differently than usual.

First of all, you just gotta love a title like that.  Of course, anything necessary for food preparation that could not have been done the day before without compromising the quality of the food is permitted.  That's why you are allowed to bake bread and even slaughter a cow on Yom Tov; you can't compare the taste of fresh baked bread and cow-to-bbq-in-less-than-an-hour to the stale bread and leftover meatloaf.  On the other hand, you may not sharpen the knife to slaughter the cow nor grind the wheat into flour on Yom Tov. The activities in this siman are rega…

Thought for the Day: Oaths and Vows for Which You Off the Hook

If you want an inkling of the greatness of Dovid HaMelech, consider the end of his life.  He was bedridden and physically unable to generate any body heat.  One beloved son had already rebelled and been put to death.  Another had raped his Dovid's daughter (the son's half-sister) and been dispatched by the first son.  Now another son was mounting a rebellion.  What else could happen?  Bat Sheva comes in, unannounced and without being summoned, and says: "But you promised!" -- referring to the fact that Dovid had sworn an oath that her son, Shlomo would be the next king.  Where do you see his greatness?  Think back to last time one of your kids came back with, "But you promised!"  How calm, cool, and collected were you?  And the only stress you have is tuition.

Dovid HaMelech, though, retained his composure; nay, he sprang into action.  That's greatness.  Yet... it does beg the question: how was Dovid able to swear to such a thing?  When people are work …