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Showing posts from September, 2017

Thought for the Day: Wishing for and Work towards a Year Sweet Like *Bee* Honey

Yes, I know that we are already past ראש השנה for 5778.  So why talk about lessons regarding ראש השנה now; just to get a head start on 5779?!  Nope.  Nothing we doin Torah Judaism is without meaning.  Even the name of our holidays and commemorations are chosen with precision.  The name for the holiday that commemorates the beginning of a new year is ראש השנה/Head of the year.  Just as the head is connected to, directs, and takes feedback from the body, so too ראש השנה is connected to, directs, and takes feedback from the year.  I discovered a deeper level to one of our most iconic customs -- the apple dipped in honey as a סימן (often translated "sign" or "omen", but that is wrong) for the new year's greetings.

As we all know, ראש השנה is a quite solemn day.  It is also known as The Day of Judgement, when every aspect of Creation comes under scrutiny.  Every person, animal, and object -- down to the smallest grain of sand (sub-atomic particle is more accurate, b…

Thought for the Day: Two Learn Better Than One and Engender Objectivity

Confluence is both a cool word and and interesting concept.  I particularly like it when HaShem arranges a practicum for me to get a better understanding of what I am learning.

I have been listening to shiurim on Sanhedrin from the Business Halacha Institute during my commute.  These shiurim cover interesting halacha that comes out of the daf; the format is either a story or simple halacha that relates to the daf.  I like them because I find I can't pay attention to the road and listen to a complex shiur at the same time.  Last night I heard an interesting halacha about how a beis din operates.

Of course, a beis din needs to have an odd number of members in order to arrive at a decision by majority vote.  The minimum for that is three, and that is the general procedure nowadays.  Suppose one dayan can't come to a conclusion... he is left saying, "I just don't know."  In that case, a new dayan is chosen to join.  The expression used by the gemara is that a dayan w…

Thought for the Day: The Depth of Self-Deception About Objectivity

My son has started back to college and it's really bringing back memories for me.  One class is Intro to Psych.  Same as when I took it several decades ago... lecture is in huge auditorium with 100s (and 100s and 100s) of students.  Reading assignments add up to 100s (and 100s and 100s) of pages.  I actually never read any assignments in college, relying on picking things up from the lecture and working the homework problems.  I discovered to my shock (and, given my immaturity) disdain, that the tests mostly drawn from the reading assignments, only a tiny fraction of which would actually be covered in lectures.  I immediately -- filled with righteous indignation -- withdrew; after all, physics majors didn't need that class.  My son is neither not so lucky (his major requires psych to graduate) nor so immature (he is willing to do the reading if that's that is required).

As I have mentioned many times, R' Henoch Leibowitz, zt"l, was wont to say, you need two things…

Thought for the Day: Why I Do Not Wear a Blue Strand Among My ציצית

The issue of whether one had fulfilled his obligation for mishloach manos on Purim could be fulfilled even of the recipient refused the gift was once being discussed in beis medrash.  I, having moved to Chicago and by then having sat in R' Fuerst's Monday night shiur for a few weeks and having actually read the Mishna Brura on mishloach manos once , felt well prepared to offer an expert opinion.  (I hope you are catching the sarcasm; I was so arrogant in my ignorance!)  I stated quite matter-of-factly that of course one had fulfilled his obligation.  Someone who actually knew what he was talking about looked at me and said, "Oh... hiding behind a Rema, are you?"

To say the least, I was taken aback.  What do you mean, "hiding behind a Rema"?!?  We Ashkenazim follow the Rema, right?  "Did you look at the Mishna Brura on that Rema?"  Well... I had certainly read it... learn it?  Well... ahem... ummm.  Like a dog with his tail between his legs, I slin…