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Showing posts from September, 2016

Thought for the Day: How Young Fathers Can Bentch Lulav on Second Day Yom Tov

This is a PSA for young fathers.  Included in that category are fathers with children old enough to bentch lulav by themselves, but are have not yet reached the age of majority (12 for girls, 13 for boys).  I suppose some of us zeidy's (sorry, I just cannot bring myself to write "zeidies") who daven k'vasikin and therefore might return from davening after their son-in-law has left for shul and now the grandchildren want to bentch lulav with zeidy.  Just saying.  Hypothetically.

What's the problem, you ask?  I'm glad you asked.  The Torah requires that one use his own, personal lulav on the first day of Yom Tov.  The rest of the days, for which the obligation nowadays that we do not have a Beis HaMikdah (may it be rebuilt soon and in our lifetime) is of Rabbinic origin, does not have that requirement.  Therefore you are allowed to use a borrowed lulav after the first day.  Why in the world would  any of us fat, rich Americans not have his own m'hadrin min …

Thought for the Day: Being Good Vs. Acting in Consonance with Good

I have heard this year's (2016 CE, for you future readers) presidential election (in the United States of America, which was the final location of the Roman diaspora, also for you readers in the perhaps more distant future) as the "Sophie's Choice" election.  Of course, it is ridiculous to believe that either candidate got there without ever making a single reasonable statement; at least on the surface and disregarding the speaker.  To that point, I a wonderful way to understand this in the name of R' Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin; fondly and respectfully known as the Netziv.

In Volozhin, where the Netziv was rosh yeshiva, a discussion was ensuing regarding how helpful the government had been of late.  When the rosh yeshiva was asked his opinion, he said he would answer with a משל/parable.
A certain woman became ill and the doctors were at a loss to find the cause and were unable to even treat her symptoms.  Finally an expert in a distant city was consulted and he sa…

Thought for the Day: How Can a Loving G-d Be So Cruel (Spoiler Alert: It's A Mistake)

Imagine this scenario:  A person is sent to the authorities for a minor failure.  He is told that while he may feel the failure is minor, they have decided that it is actually due to a deeper failure and therefore they are throwing the book at him.  He will first be tortured for several months with injections of deadly poisons.  Then, if they decide that they have not routed out his deeply rooted failure, they will take more drastic actions; using knives to inflict deep wounds.  What if he truly feels that his failures are completely corrected after the months of poison?  That is not his decision, they admonish him; they will decide when the problem is corrected and his feelings are immaterial.  Perhaps they can go easy on him since he really had such a minor failure in the first place?  No, they tell him, he will be treated with the full force that the law will allow.

I don't actually have to imagine such a scenario; I remember it.  I went to my doctor with bronchitis; he told me…

Thought for the Day: The World Is Built on Kindness and Continues on Justice

Let's start with a simple question: Why does Rosh HaShanah come before Yom Kippur?  If you are like my granddaughter, who says her mom became good in chumash because she is now a chumash teacher, I suppose you will answer it is because Rosh HaShanah is on the first of Tishrei and Yom Kippur is on the 10th (and then you'll roll your eyes).  If you are a drop more mature, you'll say it is because Rosh HaShanah mean "head of the year", so of course it is the first holiday of the year and automatically Yom Kippur has to be later (and you may still roll your eyes).  To which I will answer (ignoring the eye rolling), "Yes, but Rosh HaShanah is also known as יום הדין/The Day of Judgement.  Why would you only start plea bargaining (ie, Yom Kippur) after the sentencing?  And while we're on the topic, why does יום הדין have to do with the new year?  And also while we're at it, given that Rosh HaShana is יום הדין, why is it all about making HaShem the King?  Hu…

Thought for the Day: What is Shalom Bayis?

"Peace" is an egregious mistranslation of שלום.  The injustice is compounded by the fact that peace and tranquility are synonyms in English, leading people to fear that a lack of tranquility means that there is a lack of שלום.  I respectfully submit that nothing could be further from the truth.

R' Ezriel Tauber puts the whole issue of "shalom bayis"  in perspective with the following thought experiment.  Consider family A.  The wife in family A gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for her family, get clothes laid out for the children, and get the coffee going so she and her husband -- a very hard worker -- can have a few minutes together before the storm of family and parnassa obligations begin for the day.  She knows that her husband works hard and she wants to give him a solid start to his day out in the workforce.  Now consider family B.  The husband gets up at the gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for his family, get clothes lai…

Thought for the Day: Regret Purifies the Soul

In his classic work on repentance, שערי תשובה, Rabeinu Yona describes two fundamental dimensions of תשובה: regret for and abandonment of bad behavior.  I have learned שערי תשובה, but (as often happens) when learning a sefer again with a chavrusa, new insights emerge.  Rabeinu Yona compares the process of regret and abandonment to immersing in a mikveh.  Without abandoning the sinful behaviour, the immersion will be ineffective; like immersing in a mikveh while holding onto a dead rat.  In the past, I have always focussed on the image of the dead rat and it's quite graphic message that one must certainly abandon the bad behaviour.

This time, however, I focussed on the immersion itself... in the analogy, regret is the mikveh!  Isn't that interesting?  Leaving the sinful behaviour is, it seems, merely a passive required action to be able to to תשובה.  It would seem that the main effector of תשובה is actually the regret.  Apparently there is sense in crying over spilt milk.  But w…

Thought for the Day: Severity of Disqualifications in ארבעת המינים

There may be 50 ways to leave you lover (slipping at the back, Jack, being my favorite as it avoids conflict), but it seems like every time I learn though the laws of ארבעת המינים/The Four Species I find yet another potential issue.  Since all us men go nuts with the selection of the most beautiful ארבעת המינים set (not unlike our wives insanity at Pesach), each potential issue engenders yet another stress point.  In fact, I just received a notification from the CRC about potential issues with Myrtle this year, so all the more reason to know what's what.

I am not going to discuss the details of all the disqualifications -- such as dryness, withered, spotted, berried, punctured, split, as so forth -- that can occur.  Rather, I found it useful for me to understand the underlying reason (root cause analysis, as it were; pun fully intended) for the disqualification.  As it happens, depending on the reason, the disqualification could be for the entire holiday, only the first day, or ev…

Thought for the Day: Getting P'shat Is Not At All Pashut

Want to learn chumash?  Trying doing chumash homework with a 4th grader.  I recently had the opportunity to help my granddaughter with her chumash.  She is learning about Yaakov meeting Eisav after his 20 years with Lavan.  As we all know from the popular song, Eisav was coming with 400 men, so Yaakov prepared for war, sent gifts, and davened to HaShem.  I've got this one, you know?

The question she had was, "Which words in verse 9 of chapter 32 mean that Yaakov prepared for war?"  Which words?  How should I know?  That's not in the song!  Fortunately, I also remembered there is a Rashi on that verse and I figured he would probably tell me.  (I am not really that smart; it's 4th grade chumash and they were supposed to have learned that Rashi... where else would the required information be?)  As expected, Rashi notes that Yaakov was compelled to wage war with Eisav, so he readied himself in three areas: sending gifts to Eisav, prayer, and battle.  Rashi has a proo…

Thought for the Day: Davening Shacharis in One Location and Mussaf in Another on Shabbos

My daughter and son-in-law made a beautiful kiddush this (or "a", depending on when I get to finish this TftD) past Shabbos in honor of their newest addition.  It was beautiful and inspiring and, of course, gave us yet another excuse to travel to Boca Raton to visit our children there.  Anyone who has been to Florida in August can testify that we certainly were not going for the weather.  As my mother-in-law lives there as well, we also got the mitzvah of כיבוד אם. Not a bad week.

There was one wee little issue.  The basic stance of Torah Judaism is that we are guests in the host nations in which we live outside of Eretz Yisrael.  That means we need to respect, to whatever extent is possible, the feelings and sensitivities of our hosts.  We don't build ostentatious shuls, for example.  We don't have Torah Pride parades, for another example.  There we are, of course, proud of who we are and what represent, but there is no reason to "rub our hosts noses" in o…

Thought for the Day: Resolution Requires Conflict

There was one useless subject that I couldn't avoid, but that I always hated: History.  That is to say, there were other subjects I hated (or was sure I would hate), such as wood and metal shop, but I found ways to completely avoid them.  History, though, is a required subject, so I was forced to suffer through 100s of μcenturies of history classes.  (One μcentury is a skosh over 52 minutes, but I believe the term μcentury expresses my disgust much better.)  Once I read the book Connections (based on the PBS TV series for you pseudo-intellectuals who believe it's not ביטול זמן if it's PBS; as opposed to the pseudo-intellectuals like me who believe it's not ביטול זמן if it's printed), though, I gained a new appreciation for the subject of history.

That's not entirely accurate.  I still don't really like history.  What I do like is finding and exploring underlying principles that connect disparate areas of concerns.  How about this? Nullification of foods and…