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Showing posts from April, 2018

Thought for the Day: Evil Begins with Simple Solutions and Simple Solutions are the Beginning of Evil

I started this blogging activity when I was watching my mother die. It was the first time I was in a situation where I could absolutely do nothing but sit there and watch as events lead to the inevitable conclusion. I needed to do something, but there was nothing to do. So I started writing; thoughts, feelings, ideas... anything to keep myself occupied. It was not to distract myself from the situation, but to channel the energy. (Someday,  בעזרת השם, I'll put those notes into a more accessible form.)

I found that writing was good for me, so I decided to continue. My first thought was to have two blogs. One entitled "Life is a Journey" for my own musings, and this one for my divrei Torah. I found, though, that I just couldn't separate my thoughts from the Torah perspective that I have strived (and continue to strive) so hard to cultivate. Today's thought is more in the "Life is a Journey" mold. Not an apology; just noting.

To jump right in, as much as I …

Thought for the Day: Of Spices and Kitnios on Pesach

Here's a phone call you never want to get on erev Pesach once you have finally finished all the food preparations and are ready for a well deserved rest and/or manicure: "Hey! I just saw that says that is kitnios?" I, of course, was fascinated by the halachic principles. Besides, my nails always look fine to me, so I didn't need a manicure. Nor had I spent an entire week of late nights preparing really incredible meals for my family and friends to enjoy. Nonetheless, I am not totally insensitive, so I have waited till now to write up why it was a case of "all's well that ends well". I also needed to get some details about how to learn a Mishna Brura from R' Fuerst. There were also implied threats of bodily harm if I made this the topic of a d'var Torah for a pesach meal.

At issue was cumin; a very nice spiced used in many recipes.  (Apparently -- and I just discovered this -- cumin is actually of of the most commonly used spices in the world.)…

Thought for the Day: Blood Libel and The Two Dippings at the Seder

I am deeply inspired when I find a deep connection between topics that seem to have no relationship at all. It is all the more inspiring when the two topics themselves are difficult to appreciate, but the insight revealed now by the the topics and their connection becomes a beacon of clarity.

Consider the four questions that our children ask (often in multiple languages) to set the stage for their education into Jewish history and our relationship with the Creator. The intense and constant hashgacha pratis represented by the matzah! The bitterness of separation from our Creator repesented by the maror! The freedom to exercise our unfettered free will represented by our reclining! And... and.. dipping a small piece of vegetable into salt water and our matzah with maror into the charoses (that must be shaken off before eating) that represents... um... well... Right. What is with those two dippings?

Consider now a recurring tragedy in  Jewish history: the blood libel. If there is one thi…

Thought for the Day: The Deep Hypocrisy Revealed by Those Who Espouse "Freedom of Religion"

I'll be real up front here: I absolutely do not believe you have a right to believe that π = 3. I am not even apologetic about my dogmatism on this issue. I don't really care what you say you believe, any more than I care what you say is your favorite color or flavor of ice cream. Those aren't beliefs, those are opinions and personal preferences. It would be horribly presumptuous of me to make any statement at all about your personal preferences and opinions.

How about another one: I do not believe you have to right to believe that the earth is flat. The earth is not a flat plate sitting on the back of a turtle. No amount of consideration for your feelings nor appreciation of your rights is going to change the facts. The earth is not flat, π does not equal three; if you really believe they are, then you are nut job. That doesn't make you a bad person, I wouldn't restrict where you can live or whom you can marry. You're still a nut job.

There are really three th…

Thought for the Day: Not Everyone Thinks Like You Do

Frames of reference have always been a part of the physics toolkit, but the revolution wrought by the discovery of the theory or relativity brought them to the forefront. For a simple example, consider sitting quietly and throwing a ball up a foot or so, then catching it; do that a few times. Nothing extraordinary, right? Suppose you are sitting in the back seat of a car that is traveling at 60 mph. Still no problem, right? How about the surface of a planet traveling at nearly 1,000 mph. Still no problem.

Obvious. However, stand by the side of the road and watch your friend, who is sitting in the back of car going 60 mph down the road performing the same act. What do you see? You see him throwing the ball slightly up -- but mostly forward -- at 60 mph, then racing to catch it; and he does! Not just once, but several times! Unreal! How about a martian watching through a telescope... he sees you and your friend throwing that ball at nearly 1,000 mph, then racing to catch it. His amazeme…

Thought for the Day: Taking Pesach into the Rest of the Year

I have seen a few explanations of what we are supposed to learn from ridding our selves of chameitz for the week of Pesach, but none of them really "sang" to me... until this year, that is. To put it in context, though, consider my walk to shul on erev Pesach. It was still before dawn break, and quite cloudy (though warm... ahhh...). The clouds parted near the horizon and revealed a beautiful nearly full moon. Besides the beauty of the pre-dawn sky, I was also suddenly reminded that I hadn't yet had a chance to say kiddush levana (having been in cloudy Chicago since rosh chodesh). Fortunately, I have a siddur app on my smart phone; so I was able to recite kiddush levana there and then.  As I finished aleinu, I looked back up to see the beautiful moon again, but the clouds had moved back and obscured my view once again.

Now, I enjoy hashgacha pratis stories as much as the next guy, but this was almost spooky. I walked the rest of the way to shul with that same feeling you…