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Showing posts from December, 2015

Thought for the Day: Preparation for Making a Bracha

This is a very bad idea: You are very busy doing something incredibly important; such as reading the comics, texting your buddy a :) (that used to be ":-)" when we had electronic bulletin boards instead of smart phones; I suppose the phone is smart so you don't have to be), or checking email -- stuff like that.  You notice out of the corner of your eye that your wife has come into the room.  You reach into your pocket, pull out a small box, say "Hey, honey, here."  (not actually looking at her because you are so busy now), toss the box to her, and add, "I found a nice pair of diamond earrings I thought you would like."

I am 87% confident that any many who has been married for more than a week or so will realize that is a bad idea.  (I am, however, 100% confident that every man who has been married more than a week so has actually perpetrated that crime or its moral equivalent.)  As much as she is going to love those diamond earrings and appreciate tha…

Thought for the Day: Moving Objects On Shabbos Comes In Two Flavors

The עירוב; much maligned, much abused.  Here are two of my favorite quotes (and my responses):
Oh yes, I know that R' SuchAndSuch, shlita/ztz"l doesn't believe in eiruvs [sic].Response: Hmmm... Given that there is a masechta eiruvin, I am pretty darn sure that R' SuchAndSuch, shlita/ztz"l, does actually believe in עירובים just as much as he believes in kashrus.  Maybe it is his knowledge of the issue that is the source of his concerns?I really don't know what the issues are with the eiruv, so I just use it.Response: Hmmm... In case of doubt about a Torah prohibition, the rule is always to stringent.  Using ignorance as an excuse to risk spiritual excision seems as reckless as walking along the Grand Canyon with your eyes closed. The problem is, of course, that people are all fired up that they are in broadcast mode before any discussion begins, so there is no dialog; only a lot of shouting.  My first Shavous in Dallas, the rabbi proposed that we discuss the To…

Thought for the Day: טהרה and טומאה and Cholent Friday Night

Chazal (as brought in mascechta Shabbos) decreed that non-Jews carry a certain level of טומא.  Now a days that fact of no real practical importance because we are all טמא anyway.  Back in the day, though, when we were careful about טהרה and טומאה, this decree had as big an impact as the fact that now a days Jewish men are not allowed physical contact -- including shaking hands -- with women (other than wife and daughters, of course).  In fact, Chazal made the decree to prevent the Jewish children from getting to close with certain elements of the non-Jewish world from whom they could learn bad (and decidedly non-Jewish) behaviors.

I found this decree fascinating because we have several decrees that lead to stringencies that we observe even though the original reason is no longer applicable.  Second day of Yom Tov, for example; even though we know precisely when the new moon occurs each month, none the less we still keep a second day of Yom Tov because of the original decree of םפקא די…

Thought for the Day: The Bracha of בורא עצי בשמים

It is part of nusach S'fard to read the ingredients of the קטורת/incense every morning.  Nusach Ashkenaz only reads it on Shabbos and Yom Tov.  I understood the Mishna Brura to say that even us Ashkenazim are allowed to read the קטורת every day, and it is even laudable; so I do.  Some of the spices (ok, smart guy, one of the spices) is something I recognize: cinnamon.  But  stacte, onycha, galbanum, frankincense,  myrrh, cassia, and spikenard... well, I really have no clue.  (Truthfully, spikenard and frankincense sound creepy to me.)  If you are ever thinking about what to get the chareidi man who has no sense of style, try this: Frankincense, Myrrh , Spikenard, Hyssop, Cedarwood, and Cinnamon essential oils  (it comes as a set).  If you want, you can add Jasmine as extra credit.

Enjoying pleasant aromas, like any other pleasure from this world, require a bracha before partaking.  Interestingly, many of us only run across this issue on Saturday night when making havdala.  One of …

Thought for the Day: Levels Of Eating "Together" And Why It Matters

Here is one of my favorite jokes about racism: A row broke out on a bus in the old south during the 50s (middle of last century).  They fight was over a passenger of color wanting to sit in a seat in the "persons of no color" section.  The bus driver we fed up and declared, "No more fighting!  This is ridiculous!  There's no white, there's no black; everyone on this bus is green!  Got it, y'all?!"  Everyone murmured their agreement and felt appropriately castigated.  The bus driver then announced, "Good.  Now, dark green in the back, light green in the front."

Let's analyze this joke.  במאי קמיפלגי/what is the source of their disagreement?  There must have been a sign at one row that said, "Dark green section."  מר סבר too exclude light green, but dark green can sit ahead of that row also; מר סבר dark green may only sit there and no where else.  Certainly, though, had there been two signs, "Light green here" and "D…

Thought for the Day: Four Kinds of Domains That Just Don't Fit

Of course, this is silly:
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
you know Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Obviously if he is the most famous reindeer of all you would remember him before the others, which the lyricist has already admitted that you know.  I would say it is a simple קל וחומר, but I feel a little sheepish applying a ש''ס concept to a carol of the avoda zara variety.

You know, of course, there are four main categories of domain regarding Shabbos: Public, private, exempt, and כרמלית/everything else.  But do you recall the all that goes into that most expansive domain of all; the "everything else"?  (Perhaps it is writing and allusions such as this that explains why the Yated -- nor Bina, nor Ami -- have yet to contact me regarding being a regular columnist for them...)  The Biur Halacha, siman 359, explains everything about כרמלית, but were afraid to ask.  (Another allusion that is not …

Thought for the Day: Pshat in Chanuka

When I was in college in California, they made all freshman take a sex education class.  I have no idea what they thought they were going to accomplish, but it actually wasn't a terrible class.  The instructor was quite a character and kept things from deteriorating to the kind of conversations that you might expect in a locker room.  One thing he said has really stuck with me: When a child/toddler asks about weather, you don't launch into a lecture on advanced meteorology.  Instead, you take him/her to the window and say, "Look at the rain."

Chanuka is an amazing holiday.  The gemara introduces the disussion (Shabbos 21a) with מאי חנוכה/what's Chanuka?  Rashi explains that gemara is seeking the precise miraculous event that serves as the source for the holiday, but the gemara could have said that straight out.  I think Chazal also wanted to impart a bit of wonder into the discussion.  מאי חנוכה?

There are lots of expositions on the significance of the number eig…

Thought for the Day: Moving Stuff in a Public Domain on Shabbos

There are lots of jokes like this: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an honest lawyer, and an old drunk were walking along when they simultaneously spotted a hundred-dollar bill laying in the street. Who gets it?  The old drunk, of course, the other three are mythological creatures.  (My apologies to all of the honest lawyers... hello... anyone there?)

Imagine you live in a community where there is no machlokes about the eiruv and so everyone agrees where the public domain (רשות הרבים) is.  The halacha is that one may -- לכתחילה -- move stuff within a perimeter of four אמות/cubits.  (I looked for a better word than "stuff".  The only word that even came close was "paraphernalia", and no one my age who went to college can keep a straight face when using that word.  I'm sticking with "stuff".)  There are a few interesting issues regarding just that simple halacha.  First, just how big is that cubit?  Second, we have a general principle of חצי שיעור אסור מדא…