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Showing posts from February, 2016

Thought for the Day: First Comes First, Even Inanimate Objects

My grandson has a very highly refined sense of what's fair; particularly when it comes to going first.  Note that I said "highly refined" and not "correct"; he is always convinced that his sister was first last time.  Being as he is four, his conviction can express itself with some enthusiasm.  Being as he is four, there is a good chance he can grow out of that enthusiasm, of course.

I saw a wonderful question (and answer, Baruch HaShem) in זבח משפחה by R' C.T. Hollander, שליט''א.  The background is that Moshe Rabeinu had come back from his conference with the Holy One, Blessed Be He/Creator and Author of Reality with (among other things) instructions on building the משכן/Tabernacle.  The man chosen to manage every detail of the construction was בְּצַלְאֵל.  Moshe Rabeinu carefully the work to be done, including the order of construction; vessels first and finishing with the משכן itself.  After receiving these instructions from the highest prophet e…

Thought for the Day: Diaspora in Eretz Yisrael and Avoda Outside of Eretz Yisrael

So why am I listening to a shiur now about Chanuka?  The long answer is that I recently started listening to shiurim on t'fila by the rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu in Peterson Park.  The shiurim were suggested to me by a close friend and I started listening to them recently because I had run through my other sources.  (R' Fuerst only has one shiur recorded a week, I need shiurim during exercise at least four to 10 times a week; so I am always looking for more shiurim.)  Those shiurim (which include a shiur that was the basis/inspiration for the TftD on אשר יצר) started a few weeks before Chanuka (apparently), and there were two shiurim on Chanuka in the middle.  I, of course (being a pretty boring guy), just listen in order.

The short answer is, as always, hashgacha pratis.

Of course we all know that Chanuka celebrates the triumph of the Chashmonaim over the Assyrian-Greeks.  So far, so good.  Two questions: How can it be called גלות יון/"the Greek Exile" whe…

Thought for the Day: Praying for the Return of Eliyahu ha'Navi on Motzei Shabbos

Today (that is, the day on which this was written, for those of you reading this in the future on the blog or after release of the forthcoming book...) is the 5th yahrtzeit of my father, יעקב בן יוסף/Jerry Allen; a"h, and I ask that the learning done as a result of this d'var torah should stand as a זכות לעילוי נשמתו/merit for the elevation of his eternal soul.

One of the fun things about learning the Dirshu edition of the Mishna Brura is that you'll pretty much see a little bit of every dimension of Jewish Law and philosophy; all within the "dalad amos" of the laws of daily living.  Not shocking, I suppose, but some of the connections still surprise me from time to time.  For example, I hadn't thought that learning the relatively dry and almost esoteric halachos of תחום/allowed territory would lead to a discussion of how far angels can travel on Shabbos and what day of the week the mashiach might come.  Even better (for my misnagid mind) is that it comes fr…

Thought for the Day: What Category of Bracha is אשר יצר?

Great taste!  Less filling!  While I realize that a beer advertising campaign may not be the most traditional way to begin a d'var Torah, it also happens to set just the right mindset for those who remember it.  Anyway, the beer is kosher and I have never been accused of being a traditional anything.

Besides ברכות המצוות (blessings for the opportunities we have to connect directly to the Creator), we have three basic categories of ברכות:

הנהנין -- On pleasures that we are about to experience, such as tastes and fragrances.שבח/הודיה -- praise/thanksgiving (closely linked in Hebrew); basically all of the brachos we make every morning for vision, being a Jew, having shoes, etc.תפילה -- prayers and supplications; the 13 middle ברכות of of Shmone Esrei, for example. So... what category is אשר יצר?  There is nothing in the wording to help decide.  There is certainly praise for HaShem's Wisdom (and/or for giving us wisdom) and the wonders He performs. However, there is also an acknowl…

Thought for the Day: Why the Presence of a Chosson Exempts Us from Tachanun

I work with a lot of very young programmers who are from India.  Most of them have never hear of Jews before, but because of their caste system, they are familiar with different groups have different religious obligations.  They also have a system for getting married that not so much different from ours: The family and/or friends recommend a possible match, the young people meet (usually in person, but sometimes over skype), and (if the couple is agreeable) they make a wedding.  So we understand each other.  In fact, I say a young man being congratulated, so I went and asked him if he was getting married.  He replied in the affirmative.  I congratulated him and asked (because of the look on his face): Are you more excited or nervous?  He was very nervous.  So I told him, "Good!  Your marriage has a good chance of being successful!"

It's a huge thing to get married.  Two Jews who are as opposite as opposite can be (one boy and one girl), who grew in different families, us…

Thought for the Day: Aveilus and Tachanun

Baruch HaShem, most of us are not aveilus very often.  On the other hand, we very often do daven in a minyan that includes one or more aveilim.  Usually, though we are not davening with an aveil who is still within his week of shiva at shul.  It does happen, though; my proof: it happened to me yesterday in the Loop Synagogue.  So I looked up the relevant halachos and I am here now share my findings with my little world.

Let's start with siman 131:4, where we find that the custom (read: halacha) is to not say tachanun in the following circumstances:
house of  mournerin the wedding hall in the presence of the chossonin the shul where they are performing a bris milain shul when a chosson is in attendance What is the unifying factor?  Great question; and there is a great answer: there isn't one.  Again: there is no unifying factor.  We don't say tachanun in a beis aveil (ie, notes the Mishna Brura sk 20: specifically during the week of shiva) because there is the pall of the at…

Thought for the Day: Of Onions and Eggs

Look, I enjoy a good s'gula as much as the next guy.  Well... to be honest, that's only true if the next guy is my friend who says that if it were possible to think, chas v'shalom, that HaShem made a mistake, it would be in not referring to the 10 fundamental concepts of existence that are engraved on the two tablets He gave to Moshe as, "The 10 S'gulos".  A guy may come late to davening, be lax with kashrus, and not give a hoot as to the quality of an eiruv; but a s'gula?  That's יהרוג ולא יעבור/die rather than transgress and more.

That being said, I am very, very careful not to eat hard-boiled eggs nor (raw) onions that were left over night.  Those aren't s'gulos, those are straight from Chazal as being dangerous.  Why are they dangerous?  That, as they say, is shrouded in mystery; or, if you prefer to be more frum about it, על פי סוד.  Please note, "shrouded in mystery" is not at all the same is "I don't know".  Phil…

Thought for the Day: Two Types of Mixtures -- עירוב חצירות and בין השמשות

Most of us at least give lip service to wanting to live a life free of contradictions.  In fact, there is a very strong style of proof in mathematics called "Proof by contradiction", where one asserts that the thing he wants to prove is actually false and then shows that such an assertion leads to a logical contradiction, thus proving the assertion much be false; ie, that his original proposition is true.

None the less, the practicalities of living often force us into contradictory situation.  For example, this afternoon I plan to daven mincha right before sundown and ma'ariv immediately afterwards.  I am allowed to daven mincha up till nightfall according to the majority opinion of Chazal, and I am allowed to daven ma'ariv as early as פלג המנחה (an hour and a quarter  or so before nightfall) according to R' Yehuda.  Those two opinions are contradictory (according to R' Yehuda I am not allowed to daven mincha after פלג המנחה and according to the majority opin…

Thought for the Day: Ingesting Non-Kosher Ingredients for Medicinal Purposes

Today's TftD is rated ITYB (Irresistible to Twelve Year Old Boys), and the men in whose psyche they live.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yorah Dei'ah 81:2) says that milk from a non-kosher animal is not kosher, the kashrus of the urine from a non-kosher animal is a machlokes, but everyone agrees that human urine is kosher.  Eeyeww (your mother/wife/sister/daughter) opine... GROSS!  They are correct, and all urine is really forbidden because of בל תשקצו/don't be disgusting; so why in the world is the kashrus of any urine even relevant?!  We'll get to that, but first let's just get p'shat in this siman.  Why do I need to be told that milk from a non-kosher animal is not kosher (isn't that like saying putting a milchig spoon into a milchig pot remains milchig?), what is the source of the machlokes regarding animal urine, and why is there is there a difference between human and animal urine.

The answer the question of why I need to be told that milk from non-kosher animal…

Thought for the Day: More On Not Saying שהחיינו On Friday Night

I am very excited to report that a TftD topic ended up as a discussion topic at someone's Shabbos table (not mine :) ).  I am even more excited that questions were generated.  I am just over the top that the questions were forwarded to me.  I shall therefore endeavor to answer those questions in the very same venue that generated them.  That itself is exciting for me, as I have confidence that at least one person will actually read this.  Woo-hoo!  Livin' the good life.

Recall that there are two factors that determine when the bracha of שהחיינו is required:  The event brings one enjoyment/fun and it happens from time to time, not continuously.  Even though Shabbos seems to fit these criteria, R' Moshe says (as reported here) that one is always either celebrating Shabbos or preparing for it.  Shabbos, therefore, does not come from time to time and, ipso facto, a שהחיינו is not required (nor, of course, even permitted).

The questions on the table are:
One the "time to tim…

Thought for the Day: So What, Precisely, Does Obligate One in the Bracha of שהחיינו, Anyway?

As preparation, let's try a simple word association exercise.  The word is: anticipation.  If the first word that came to your mind was "ketchup", then the rest of this will go down a little easier.

Here's the easy part: שהחיינו is only made for things that occur from time to time; which is to say, not continuously.  For example שהחיינו wouldn't apply to buying laundry detergent or deodorant because they are always available and one buys them (and their ilk) whenever they are needed.  That brings us to the second requirement: it has to be something that gives you enjoyment; which is to say, not something that is just part of daily living.  For example, you wouldn't make a שהחיינו on wearing a new pair of socks for the first time; socks are socks, new or old, as long as they protect your feet form chaffing and/or getting cold.  (If you feel differently, don't make a שהחיינו, but please do get a life.)

That's why we always make a שהחיינו on a Yom Tov; i…

Thought for the Day: Dreams Do Come True

It is certainly a pleasure to spend a day at Disney's Magic Kingdom with one's grandchildren.  I highly recommend it.  There is a greater and even poignant pleasure that I can only recommend to the very young:  Spend a day at Disneyland with your grandparents when you are four years old, then go fifty years later with your own grandchildren.  Not only do you get to experience the unbridled exuberance and enthusiasm vicariously through your grandchildren, but you also get to re-experience your own exuberance and enthusiasm; all in the context of that special love that binds grandchildren and grandparents.

I am not going to tell you about the roller coaster rides that only my granddaughter and I enjoy; that's too obvious.  What I'd like to share, though, is one extraordinary experience that I shared with my 5 year old grandson, whose name means "Life is Glorious!" (cf  ישעיהו כח:ה)

Sundown was at 6:00PM.  I had resigned myself early in the day to davening minch…