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Showing posts from April, 2017

Thought for the Day: Identifying Lost Stuff by Stuff Near Them

Leah's husband, Yehuda has been enjoying some solo time on his small watercraft off the coast of BlahBlahBlah.  Unfortunately, no one has heard from Yehuda for a few weeks and Leah is justifiably worried.  To make matters worse, just this afternoon, a body found washed up onto a beach on the coast of BlahBlahBlah.  The bad news is that the body is decomposed/whatever to the point that there is not possibility of a positive identification.  The good news is that there is a wallet near the body that contains documents that undeniably and irrefutably both belong to Yehuda; further, the documents are the sort that Yehuda would never give nor even loan to anyone else.  In other words, that lost wallet was undeniably and irrefutably lost by Yehuda.  So... Yehuda has gone missing off the coast of BlahBlahBlah, a corpse that is the general shape and size of Yehuda is found on the coast of BlahBlahBlah, and Yehuda's wallet -- lying just inches from said corpse -- is also found.

Questio…

Thought for the Day: Why *Is* Money So Important to Jewish Law?

There's an old joke: How do you make copper wire?  Throw a penny between two Jews.  Patently offensive; no question.  What about this one?  Why are there non-Jews?  Someone has to pay retail.  Offensive?  (If so, to whom?)  How about the expression, "to jew him down" (meaning, of course, to get the better end of a monetary deal)?  I once worked with someone who used the expression -- even in front of me -- with the same cavelier/clueless attitude I use the expression "to gyp someone".  Interestingly, Wiktionary labels both are pejorative, but only the former as "offensive" (though they admit that the latter can sometimes be offensive).

All well and good, but at the base of the whole discussion is that Jewish law really is concerned about money.  A lot.  And Jews are concerned about money.  A lot.  (More than other people?  Maybe...)  Even if you want to tell me that Jews become money lenders and businessmen because of two decrees of the oppressive reg…

Thought for the Day: Embarrassment in Halacha

If one misses mincha (or, truthfully, almost any other regularly scheduled daily prayer service) due to external factors, then there is an option to offer a "make up" prayer at the next prayer service; a procedure known as תשלומין/offset payment.  It's not quite as good as a make up exam, but it's way more better than just shrugging your shoulders and saying, "oh well."  This option is not necessary in case one was actually exempt; for example, was involved with nursing someone back to health or burying the dead.  This option is not available to someone who just decided to skip davening out of laziness.  The תשלומין option is only availble to someone who was obligated to daven but was prevented by factors beyond his control.

Many years ago I asked R' Fuerst if someone who was caught in a public place (such as taking one's children to a museum during the winter) and felt too self-conscious to daven mincha.  The rabbi replied according to the p'sa…

Thought for the Day: Don't Recite the Haggadah; Retell the Haggadah

As someone who did not grow up in the Orthodox Jewish tradition (understatement of the century), there is a particular pleasure to transmitting our heritage to my grandchildren.  We sat down to prepare for the seder this afternoon and my grandson showed me his haggadah from school.  His rebbi had a brilliant idea; he had collected questions from the boys and then interleaved their questions (with appropriate citations) and the rebbi's answers with the haggadah.  I was very gratified to see that a question ascribed to my grandson was, "How can you say that if HaShem didn't take us out of Mitzrayim, that we'd still be slaves to pharaoh?"  We discussed the question; after all, their grandparents are in New Jersey and Chicago, yet they are here in Florida.  Stuff happens, after all.

Why was I so gratified by seeing that particular question ascribed to my grandson?  I had just been on a soapbox while learning with him and his sister about not taking anything for grant…

Thought for the Day: Even the Children's Rhymes are Important and Deep at the Seder

My oldest granddaughter (now between 10th birthdays on Jewish and slave calendars) asked me to explain to her about shmura matzah.  I did... and she suddenly had an insight: "Oh! שמורה from the root שמר... watched or guarded!"  I was very proud of her.  I told her mother later that night who laughed and said, "Actually she said that she pointed out the relationship between שמורה and שמר to you."  If it gets her excited about learning Torah, I am not going to disabuse her of that thought.

Later that evening, she did asked excitedly if we could learn Torah.  I was all too happy to acquiesce.  We decided (after some urging from her daddy) to learn haggadah.  I rarely get to sit down and actually learn the haggadah (too busy before the seder, too involved with fulfilling the mitzvos during the seder, too tired after the seder...), so I really welcomed the opportunity.  For those same reasons, I don't often buy a new haggadah.  I have plenty to learn from the ones I…

Thought for the Day: The Search for Truth Must be Accompanied by Clear and Verifiable Evidence

More on the Kuzari's rejection of Christianity and Islam.

Synopsis
To the Christian Scholar: The flow of your argument is not logical and I didn't grow up with it.
[...]

To the Islam Scholar: The record of the miraculous events surrounding Mohamed is in Arabic, and I don't read Arabic.
[...]

The Talmid Chocham: We believe in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Who took the Isralite nation out of Egypt, sustained them in the wilderness, bequeathed to them the Land of Canaan. And that was after He brought them thought the sea and across the Jordan River with outstanding wonders. He sent Moses with His Torah, and after that many thousands of prophets who all exhorted us regarding that Torah and who promised reward to those who keep the Torah and punishment for those who rebelled against it. We believe in all that is written in the Torah according to the received interpretation.

The Kuzari: Shouldn't you have said you believe in the Creator the of the world and His run…

Thought for the Day: Appreciating Why We Just "Don't Get It" About Animal Sacrifices

We all eat meat (the sane amongst us, anyway), so we cannot possibly have an issue with slaughtering animals.  By "slaughter", of course, I mean the killing and butchering of an animal for food; not murder nor carnage.  Even so, when we read the description of the animal sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, we are... well... ok, I'll just say it; we are horrified by apparent carnage.  We are pretty much ok until we get to the "throwing the blood around" part.  Really?  And what's the point?  To effect an atonement for our sins.  Or to give thanks for emerging unscathed from a life threatening predicament.  Somehow murdering an animal and throwing its blood around is going to make me a more thankful human who is more free of sin.  How does something that seems so savage enable something so noble?

Suppose I tell you, "Heck... we do all sorts of weird things!  I mean, we wave palm fronds with myrtle and willow branches along with a very expensive citron t…

Thought for the Day: It's About Trust

If you haven't seen the "It's Not About the Nail" video, I suggest you invest 87 seconds (the other 25 are credits, for crying out loud) of your life to watch it.  Basically, she has a nail stuck in her forehead and is complaining about pain, pressure, even snagged clothing... and how she just doesn't know what to do.  He keeps trying to suggest that have the nail removed from the middle of her forehead.  She is frustrated that he won't just listen.  He finally bites his lip really, really hard, then listens for a few seconds, then says, "That must be really hard."  She is awash with gratitude, moves to hug him... with predictably painful results.  He is totally mystified, mentions the nail... and they are back to square one.  Everyone who has ever been in a relationship can appreciate the humor.

I forgot my earbuds the other day and spend my entire bike ride contemplating this video and the message.  I finally realized the problem and solution.  It…