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Showing posts from November, 2016

Thought for the Day: What's Wrong With Rights

I love the term "Judeo-Christian".  It is so utterly and deliciously wrong that it a work of art.
The divergence between the values of western culture and the Torah began immediately from its inception, with the birth of twin boys: Eisav (aka Edom, aka Rome, aka Western civilisation) and Yaakov (aka Yisrael).  The name "Eisav" means "finished product"; the West sees the human being as a the pinnacle of creation, needing nothing but education to better enjoy the physical world.  The name "Yaakov" means "pursuing"; the Torah Jew sees education as a means to enable growth and change, and to use the physical world as a better tool in the striving for spirituality.

The differences became even more pronounced when their exalted zeidy, Avraham Avinu, left the world.  Yaakov spent his time preparing a dish of lentils for this father, Yitchak Avinu.  Why lentils?  Rashi explains: Lentils are round, symbolizing the the circle of life.  Lentils a…

Thought for the Day: Beis Din and Hashgacha

I have a chavrusa in Mishlei with the commentary of the Gr"a.  We learn after davening when there is even five minutes between the end of davening and our previous obligations, such as work and carpool.  As you might imagine, we are both obviously more interested in quality than quantity.  Some verses are easier to grasp than others, sometime the we feel enlightened by the Gr"a's explanation, other times we feel more inspired by the sheer brilliance of the Gr"a and hope to someday reach a point in our wisdom where we have at least a clue what he is talking about.  There is a third category that arises only rarely: the exalted words of King Solomon seem to express a very simple and obvious idea -- that's bad; it means we really didn't get it -- worse, though, is when the explanation of the Gr"a also seems trite and obvious -- then we know we are really missing something important and just barely out of grasp.  Which is what happened today.

Mishlei 18:18:…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Suffering/Discipline/Rebuke -- Limited Scope By Design

I have perfect joke to make the point I would like to address, but I am not sure it will be received well.  Feel free to ask me in person.  In the meantime, now put yourself in the frame of mind that you have heard a good joke (I know it good, because my Dad, a"h -- who was known for his excellent sense of humor -- told it to me) and are now excited to see how this connects to a lesson in ישעיהו/Isaiah.

ישעיהו tells the nation (28:23-29): Does the farmer plow and plant, but never reap?  Does he process wheat, barley, and cumin the same way?  Even cumin and black cumin are treated differently... This also comes from the LORD of hosts: Wonderful is His counsel, and great His wisdom.  (My free to the point of only barely recognizably related to the original translation.)

Um.... what?

ישעיהו expends much effort on rebuke.  Now he is explaining: Do you think this is for nothing?  That you hear the rebuke, that you accept suffering, that you even discipline yourselves... and then conti…

Thought for the Day: Anger Justifies Throwing Off All Authority

This is embarrassing, and I am actually embarrassed that I don't feel the embarrassment more keenly.  Normally I would not publicise my aveiros -- especially those between me and my Maker -- but I have a point to make (so there is a good purpose), and I believe that, in any case, it is already well known.  Here goes.... I have felt anger.  Worse, I have gone through periods of my life when it would have been honest to classify me as a רגזן/ill-tempered person.  Sadly, no one finds that surprising.  Here's another non-surprising fact: In all that time, I never went to a church to pray nor receive their holy sacrament.  Not shocking, right?

So how am I supposed to understand the Chazal (Shabbos 105b) that says: who rips clothing or breaks stuff or spends money recklessly out of anger should look at himself as if he has served a false god.  Why?  For that is the ingenuity of the evil inclination; today it tells you to do this or that, tomorrow it tells you to do this or t…

Thought for the Day: When It Is Permitted to Benefit from מלאכה Performed by a Non-Jew on Behalf of a Jew

Here's another in the category of "good grief, that could only happen with you" stories.  Names changed to protect me from the guilty and their friends.  I was spending Shabbos with my daughter's family and a woman whose father was Jewish but whose mother was not Jewish that attended a synagogue of the Conservative Jewish Religion (who is not, of course, Jewish; but fancies herself a conservative Jew); we'll call her Sin.  There was also a Jewish woman who at the time was still attending a Reform Jewish temple; not out of conviction, but due to historical circumstances; we'll call her "Nice, well meaning lady who had been kidnapped as a baby and didn't know any better", or Bambi, for short.  It got late in the day and Sin was bemoaning the fact that the hot water pot was nearly empty.  I told her I didn't know why she didn't just heat herself up some water.  Bambi said, "Oh?  I can do that?"  I said, "No, I'm sorry, bu…

Thought for the Day: If You Can, You Must, and HaShem Will Prove to You that You Can

I've made a career out of completely ignoring worrying about my career.  Mostly it's because I get bored easily, so I soon after I become proficient doing something, I am already getting bored with that activity.  The only cure is has been to constantly be on the lookout for what looks interesting on the horizon.  Of course, that means that I am often/usually working outside my comfort zone, but I find the  discomfort of working on something brand new is only a tiny fraction of the pain of ennui.

The second yahrtzeit of my father-in-law, אהרן דוד בן יצחק, ע''ה was this past Shabbos, parshas Noach.  We commemorated the occasion with a kiddush at the Chicago Vaskin minyan.  As it happens, the rosh yeshivah from Yeshiva Beis Yisrael in Neve Yaakov davens with us this time of year and we had the z'chus for him to offer divrei torah לעילוי נשמת the niftar.  I'll shall do my best to convey the essence of his words.

The mishna in Avos 3:17 tells us that man is so belo…

Thought for the Day: Importance of Renewed Review and Daily Seder in Mishnayos and Mussar -- Not an Option

Recently I received one of the biggest compliments of my life.  I saw a colleague wearing a Cubs jersey, so I asked her if they won last night.  She replied, "Yes, that makes it 3-3; so there is only one more game to play."  I told her that I actually do know enough about baseball to realize that the World Series (a deliciously "ugly American" ugly title, since it only US teams play in it) is best of seven.  I also thanked her, though, for thinking that I wouldn't know.

That little ego boost (yes, I was seriously flattered) was particularly nice just now, as I once again began Mishna Brura last week.  I have learned the first siman more than once.  I have heard shiurim on that siman.  I also have a chavrusa that began just a few years ago and we are going through very carefully and meticulously; we learned that siman together.  Surely, I reasoned, a review at this point is going to be boring; what more could I possibly learn?


I have already learned thr…

Thought for the Day: How to Understand/Appreciate/Learn the Mishna Brura According to the Mishna Brura

Parshas B'reishis is a all about beginning.  I took the opportunity to start learning Mishna Brura from the beginning.  Whereas HaShem didn't just launched straight into בראשית ברא without so much as a howdy-do (in point of fact, one is forbidden to ask question about what came before בראשית ברא), R' Kagan did, in fact, give us a wonderful introduction to why he set himself on (what turned out to be) a 28 year mission to complete the Mishna Brura.  There is a story that R' Kagan once saw a talmid preparing a cigarette and noted that it took something like 37 seconds.  R' Yisrael Meir Kagan, known to the world as The One Who Wants life was flabbergasted that any thinking person would smoke, as it meant he would be distracted from his learning for 37 seconds each time he wanted to light up.  I therefore felt that if the Mishna Brura felt it was worth his time to write and introduction, it was worth my time to read it.

He had two main motivations to write the Mishna B…