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Showing posts from July, 2016

Thought for the Day: Enhancing Observance of a Mitzvah vs Beautifying the Mitzvah Observance

I had forgotten to bring my Shabbos tallis back to shul since our return from visiting the grandchildren in Florida (we have children there also, but I only travel for grandchildren).  Being as it was Friday, I decided to drop it off on my way to work... by bike... in my shorts, helmet, and whatnot.  I got there before the throng of after davening learners had left.  They are all my friends, so of course the all gave my (good natured) grief about coming to shul dressed like that.  On the heels of the ribbing we all agreed, of course, that being embarrassed by the way he is dressed is no excuse to miss a minyan.

Halacha mandates that (besided t'fillin) a man should wear a tallis gadol and be dressed as one would for a formal meeting (I interpret that to mean as I would dress for a job interview).  Now, no matter how beautiful his suit and hat are, he can certainly wear them into the bathroom.  On the other hand, no matter how chintzy his tallis gadol is, he may not wear it into the…

Thought for the Day: Tastes From Absorbed Food, aka נ''ט בר נ''ט

Pretty much, people pouring milk into hot meat stew are not calling the CRC.  The people calling the CRC are more likely to have just stuck a dairy spoon into a meat pot in which they are cooking broccoli.  Let's explore that, shall we?  As usual, we need some background.

You know good and well that when you call the rav with that question, his first question is going to be, "Did you cook anything fleishig in that pot in the last 24 hours?  Did you use that spoon in any hot dairy in the last 24 hours?  Was the broccoli host when you stirred it?"  Why is he asking that?  Heat facilitates transferring taste.  Therefore, if you cooked something in the pot or stirred hot milk with that spoon, then taste has been transferred.  The Torah forbids eating foods that have intermingled taste of milk and meat.  So... when you cooked the broccoli, you caused a transfer of  meat taste from the meat taste absorbed in the pot.  When you stuck the spoon into the hot broccoli, you caused …

Thought for the Day: Is It Forbidden to Eat Mixtures of Milk and Meat OR Is Milk&Meat a New Forbidden Food?

When Klal Yisrael first came to Eretz Yisrael (nee K'na'an), Moshe Rabeinu decided that sending spies first was a good idea.  As we all know -- especially as we enter into the dark period of our year known as "the three weeks"; that decision was a disaster.  40 years later, Y'ho'shu'a also decided to send in spies before entering the land.  While everything turned out fine this time, many wonder why he took a chance like that, given the distressing historical precedent four decades earlier.  The Malbim has a lengthy piece on that topic, but the basic answer is that even though the execution was similar (spies were sent both times), the motivation and intent of the operation were completely different.  In a nutshell, the spies that Moshe sent were looking to see if entering the land was a good idea, whereas Y'ho'shu'a's (yikes that's a lot of apostrophes!) spies were looking for the best way to enter.

Almost 40 years ago to the day some…

Thought for the Day: Human Abortion is an Intensely Personal Issue for Me

I have learned how to deal with the hordes of hawkers who stand at Thompson Center downtown (Chicago, dude, Chicago) at lunch time; this one for food, this one for Green Peace, this one for... well, you'll see.  I run into them as I am walking to (and sometimes from) mincha.  I don't engage them, but neither do I avoid them.  My only interest is to get to mincha (or back to work); but if they accost me and invade my privacy, I have a ready answer.  To food hawkers I simply query, "Kosher?"  To Green Peace and Save the Children I request, "Please walk with me and explain why this is important."  To which they respond, "I can't."  I then call back, "Ah.  Well if it is not important enough for you to walk a few steps with me, then it's not important enough for me to stop."  The most pointed rejoinder I have received to that is, "Oh yeah!?"

That is how I came to have a "conversation" with Planned Parenthood volunt…

Thought for the Day: More on Spoons in Pots, This Time With חנ''ן!

You should never stick a milchig spoon into a bubbling pot of cholent.  But in case it does happen, you know can always refer to the TftD on that topic understand the issues.  I even covered the case for both s'fardim and ashkenazim.  I only mentioned the case of sticking the same spoon in twice, since that's the case of the Shulchan Aruch.  A chaver of mine noted that two is not just an example, but is the max.  My first thought was that he was mistaken.  Before I replied, though, I decided to investigate further.  I did and I found that my first thought that he was mistaken was actually mistaken.  Hence today's TftD.

Where did my mistake start?  The comparison to the t'ruma case.  T'ruma, the mishna tells us is בטל in 100 (not 60).  Suppose you have 100 oz of Kedem grape juice and 10 oz of t'ruma grape juice.  If you drop one oz of t'ruma into the bottle of Kedem, no problem; it's בטל.  Now suppose you drop another 1 oz in there; then it depends.  If …

Thought for the Day: What בטל Means for Spoons to S'fardim

I had a boss who was a fanatical atheist.  He saw it as his life's mission to stomp out religious belief.  He once came running (yes, running) into my "office" (four temporary partitions with a door) with a wild look in his eyes and squealed, "So... you can't eat pork.  Right?"  I affirmed.  "And you can't eat any amount of pork.  Right?"  I again affirmed, then added, "Of course, if it is less than one part in 60 it is considered nullified and there is no problem eating it."  The gleam went out of his eyes and his whole countenance darkened noticeably.  His plan, he explained with sadness, was to say it was impossible to know if some molecule of pork (there is no such thing, of course, but he was already defeated so why rub it in?) had landed somehow gotten mixed with my food.  "Ah." I said, "No, nullified is nullified pretty much for the reason you said.  Except, of course, there is no such thing as a molecule of por…

Thought for the Day: Growth Through Emulating Great People

I made it to work today in just over 40 minutes of bike travel time (that is, not including time spent waiting for signal lights at intersections).  That's 14.3 mph.  I had mixed feelings on pulling up to the parking garage gate; both exhilaration and trepidation.  Exhilaration at having achieved my best time so far.  Trepidation at the thought of trying to beat or even reproduce that time.  I had the wind at my back, hit several traffic lights just right, and was not blocked by blokes on Divvy bikes.  I wonder if I'll ever again find myself with a confluence of all those external factors and feeling physically capable of pushing harder than before.

Of course, that's the nature of any endeavor to improve.  Each achievement become the new bar by which future achievements are measured.  It is very difficult, therefore, feel pride in any given achievement; both because it depends on so many external factors and because, frankly, I am not likely to achieve that again soon (if …

Thought for the Day: Surprising Cases of Both Taking and Not Taking Challah

One of the favorite proofs used by college students who have had a couple of beers and don't really want to deal with any issues anyway (after all, they are in college, right?) that they can dismiss belief in a  supreme being goes like this: "Well, can your alleged supreme being (I know you would capitalize that, but I am 19 and more enlightened than you) make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?  Whether he can or can't, I have just proven that there are things beyond his ability.  I have just swept away all religious ignorance with one easy question.  Let's have another beer."

As with most things, easy challenges are easily deflected.  The short answer is that he really asked, "Can anything be both perfect and imperfect?"  The answer is "no".  I wrote up a more detailed answer and explanation, but for now I just need one idea: HaShem can't be surprised.  I, on the other hand -- being more imperfect than I really care to admit, am o…

Thought for the Day: Transgressing a Small Sin to Save My Fellow Jew from a Large Sin

I have three children, I was/am a very involved father.  I have survived three teenagers; a fact that I use to explain to coworkers why I am so calm at work.  After all, no matter what happens, no matter how unreasonable people are, it just can't compare to what can happen and how unreasonable a teenager can be.  I therefore had not the smallest reservation about babysitting four of my grandchildren for one Sunday afternoon.  Over the four hours and 47 minutes that I was the lone adult, though, I learned a new level of chaos management.  True enough that I have seen plenty of chaos and unreasonableness with my own children, but I never before experienced the quantity of chaos and unreasonableness than can be generated by four children from one year to six years old.  I gained new respect for my daughters and a new appreciation for how fragile my veneer of calm really is.

There is a mitzvah to love every Jew.  If you really love someone, of course, you need to help them avoid hurti…

Thought for the Day: Challah as תרומה... With a Twist

Now that you know much more about wheat and flour than you ever cared to know, here's one reaons that knowledge is important.  Rye bread is actually made from a mixture of rye and wheat flours (1:2.5 in one recipe I saw).  (And therefore?  I hear you wondering...)  Rye and wheat are not generally harvested at the same time of year; moreover, harvests are earlier in the southern part of the country (where it gets warmer sooner) than the north.  (Sigh... and therefore?)  Well, then, a bakery could very well end up making a rye bread dough that is about 30% rye from last year and 70% what from this year.  (Please have mercy... and therefore what, for crying out loud?)

So here's what: Challah is a kind of תרומה.  When you have stuff that requires תרומה to be taken, it is considered a forbidden food until you actually separate a small portion as תרומה.  That small portion of תרומה can only be eaten by a Cohein (though we don't do that now-a-days; don't worry about that now)…

Thought for the Day: Stuff About Wheat as Prerequisite to Understanding הפרשת חלה

I was once listening  to R' Yisrael Belsky, ztz"l, giving a shiur on Iyov and in the middle he asked if anyone knew the two enzymes present in the stomach.  When no one knew, he banged on the table (shtender?  how to tell over mp3) and exclaimed, "Do you you think I just looked that up for this shiur?  I know that because I am interested in understanding as much as I can about the wonders of the Creator!  Why aren't you?"  (The enzymes are pepsin -- to digest proteins -- and gastric lipase -- to digest fats.  Cows and such also have the enzyme renin in their fourth stomach.)

That struck a chord in me as there is one area of science that I have always avoided -- botany.  I just couldn't see what was interesting about plants.  Then I started listening to R' Dovid Cohen's excellent shiurim on the CRC web site.  I heard a few on topics I thought would be interesting, found it all interesting, so finally started listening to one that I absolutely thought …