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Showing posts from August, 2018

Thought for the Day: Havdala for a Jew Who Didn't Keep Shabbos

(Based on shiur by R' Fuerst, shlita: Interesting Teshuvos from HaRav Shteinman ZT”L.)
Here's the setup: an irreligious Jew (we'll call him Koby) in Israel went to his neighbor, a Torah observant Jew (we'll call him Yaakov), on Saturday night and asked him to make havdala for him. Why? He was having an issue with his eyesight, and had heard that putting the wine from havdala into one's eyes is a סגולה (by which he meant supernatural cure) to heal eyesight. Koby wanted Yaakov to make havdala for him, so he could put some of the wine into his eyes.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, of course, is treating Havdala as some sort of voodoo. Second: why couldn't Koby just make Havdalafor himself? Even if he were a recent immigrant (which he was not), there is always an ArtScroll siddur around. Etc, etc, etc...

Ok; let's cut to the chase: Is a Jew who did not keep Shabbos obligated in Havdala? As it turns out (you may need to sit down for this shocking bit of …

Thought for the Day: Remembering Ameleik Means to Live Up to Who You Are

There is one Torah reading for which there is universal consensus that it is Torah mandated:
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם/Remember what Ameleik did to you on the way when you were leaving Mitzrayim.

There are six remembrances that almost all siddurim record as mandated to be remembered each and every day. Remembering Ameleik is among them.

Sounds like it must be pretty darn important to remember what Ameleik did to me. To me? You mean to the Jewish people, right? No, to me; to me, personally. True enough that the Torah sometimes uses second person singular to refer to a group. However, in that same verse where it says לְךָ/to you in second person singular, it also says בְּצֵאתְכֶם/when you -- in second person plural -- were leaving Mitzrayim. True enough that Ameleik wants nothing less than the annihilation of the Jewish people. True enough that Ameleik is not satisfied for a Jew to recant his religion.

None the less, this is most assuredly…

Thought for the Day: Candles in Halacha -- Shabbos/Yom Tov, Havdala, Chanuka, B'dikas Chameitz, Yahrtzeit

One of the canards that the Reform Jewish Religion is wont to promulgate is that Torah Judaism is -- Heaven Forfend -- misogynistic. Their proof? Well, heck! -- those Torah Jews don't count women in their minyan! Of course, by a similar "reasoning", they would also have to object that my oncologist 25 years ago was misogynistic, because he would never, ever have given a woman the course of treatment he prescribed for me! "Harrumpf!", they would opine! I would note that I had testicular cancer and the treatment plan was irrelevant and, in fact, dangerous for a woman (or anyone who didn't have testicular cancer, for that mattter). "La la la... we can't hear you!", they would twitter and tweet. Which, of course, is why I never try to explain to them about a minyan, either. Sigh...

There is a lesson here, though, even for thinking individuals. Namely, one must always consider the underlying issue being addressed. This is especially important when …

Thought for the Day: What Fear of Heaven Really Means

I do not react to posts on Facebook. There is a long standing tradition (dating back to the usenet newsgroup days) that when you are posting to the internet, you should forget logic and just go for visceral reaction. The more evocative, the better; truth be damned. So I just read and shake my head. My favorite are from rigidly dogmatic/rabid atheists who post things like, "I am glad I am not so afraid of god that I can't ." Which is, of course, the logical equivalent of someone who does not believe in bacteria (because you can't see them after all) saying, "I am glad that I am no so afraid of infection that I can't share a needle with my crack addict friends."
Indeed, I am trying to make a point. "Fear of Heaven" is not fear that some big, powerful supernatural being will smack me around 'cause I did something he doesn't like. Fear of Heaven means being a grown up and being mature about your choices.
Before venturing further, I also fe…

Thought for the Day: The Difference Between Sinning and Holding on to Sin Is the Difference Between Righteous and Evil

They say that the Maskilim (self-named "enlightened Jews"; but basically the same Reform Jewish philosophy that traces its illustrious roots back to Nimrod and Korach) put on a skit in Brisk based on the Torah's description of going to war when Klal Yisrael is living up to it's potential and as documented at the end of parshas Shoftim. (Yes; that is a run-on sentence. Deal with it.)

The skit started with a stage packed with people, and the kohein came out to announce: "Anyone who built a new house should go home." Many left the stage. "Anyone who planted a new vineyard should go home." Many more left. "Anyone who just got married should go home." More left. "Anyone who has sinned at all -- even said a single word after putting t'fillin on his arm before putting the t'fillin on on his head -- should leave." Everyone left, except two old men with long white beards and barely able to stand with the support of their canes (…

Thought for the Day: Shabbos in a Hospital -- Considerations

Let's take a completely hypothetical scenario: It is Friday afternoon and you've been at the hospital since Monday. The plan from the beginning was to be discharged on Friday. You are at a hospital that is 30 minutes from home (non-rush hour), so you haven't been home the entire week. You have been "bathing" in the rest room by the elevators (you are only the care giver, after all; not the patient, so you don't want to use the shower in the patient room) using the thinnest paper towels known to mankind. They've been telling you all day that the patient is ready to be discharged; all tests and procedures completed/successful/passed. Only waiting for the PA (physician assistant) to finish the paperwork, but he is stuck in surgery. Sundown is at 7:50 PM, you should have been out by 2:00 PM; it is now 3:00... 4:00... 5:00 PM. No worries; sure, it's now rush hour so the commute home is closer to 45 minutes or an hour, sure you haven't bathed properly n…

Thought for the Day: Who Heals All Flesh and Acts Wondrously

Nearly every day, the first bracha I make upon arising is אשר יצר. (Truth be told, at my age that is usually also the last bracha I make; two or three times a night, in fact.)  The bracha is explained in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Siman 6:1. The Shulchan Aruch has a lengthy exposition on each word. The Mishna Brura add more details. The bracha ends with the words:
רופא כל בשר ומפליא לעשות/Who Heals All Flesh and Acts Wonderously The Shulchan Aruch explains those words to be referring to the fact that the body is able to extract what it needs from the food we ingest and transport that nutrition to every place it is is needed. The body is also able to rid itself of the waste -- indigestible and unusable parts of the food; escorting it out of the body. Of course, that is why we make this bracha after relieving ourselves.

The Rema then adds: Another explanation of "acts wondrously" is that He protects the spirit of a person inside him and interconnects physical and spiritua…

Thought for the Day: תחית המתים Every Second of Your Life

There is an old joke. The driver says to his blonde passenger, "Oh, no... I just glimpsed a police car in the rear view mirror! Are his lights flashing!" The blonde passenger turns around to look and reports, "No. Wait.. yes! No. Hmm... yes. No. Yes..."

Ha ha. A blinking light means sometimes on and sometimes off; silly blonde. However, on further thought, the light really isn't blinking. It is either on or off. "Blinking" is a word we use to describe something that we expect to turn back on after it turns off. If it fails to either turn on or off, but just stays in one state, it's not blinking. Again, though, that is our expectation that is failing, not the light. Maybe the jokes not on the blonde, after all; but on us.

In case you don't know how blood flows around the body, let me give you a simplified explanation. The heart has four chambers, the top two chambers are a staging area for the bottom two chambers. When the top two chambers are …

Thought for the Day: Nothing Is Mundane About Torah

Can you just imagine the vast breadth of questions that R' Fuerst, shlita, must get every day? People call out of the blue, and the rabbi is expected to just have the answer to each question. The wait on hold ("one minute; other line") is nearly always longer than the time it takes to ask the question and get the answer. In fact, it usually takes longer to ask the question itself than to get the entire answer. I had two questions recently that reminded (again) about how fortunate we are to have such ready access to a posek of the caliber of R' Fuerst.

Question #1: When a person has surgery and parts are removed, does one need to ask them to be retained so they can be buried? Does it make a difference if it is an entire אבר/organ/limb or "just" an  integral component of said אבר? (As an aside, one certainly can ask to have any removed parts or devices retained and returned. Stop by and I will happily show you the port-a-cath through which the chemotherapy th…

Thought for the Day: The Challenge Being a Good Jewish Husband

I have gotten as little notice as "ok, you are speaking" when arriving for Sheva Brachos. I have known as little about the chosson and/or kallah as knowing that the parents of one of them has worked with my wife. I don't mind, and I have always found something interesting to say (as evidenced by they fact the same group has asked me to speak yet again). However, it is always more enjoyable for me (and, I suspect, the listeners) when I have more time to prepare. It is certainly more enjoyable for me when I know the chosson and/or kallah. This past week I had the opportunity to speak at sheva brachos for a chosson whom I first carried to his bris and a kallah whose family I have known for years.

There is an interesting exchange in Shmuel between Shaul (just before he was anointed king) and a group of ladies. Shaul had never before met Shmuel, so he asks the ladies if he is in the right neighborhood. וַתַּעֲנֶינָה אוֹתָם וַתֹּאמַרְנָה/They answered them and they said (Shm…

Thought for the Day: There's Rambam and There's Guide for the Perplexed

I once said something that caused a stir... Strike that. I once said something that was regarded as controversial and therefore caused a stir... Strike that. One of the times I said something that was regarded as controversial that caused a stir... Strike that. One of the many times I specifically said something to stir up a controversy (ok; that's accurate), I ended up embroiled in a a controversy that I didn't expect.

It started off innocently enough. The bachur home on break from yeshiva wanted to say a very nice thought he had learned in yeshiva. These young 20 something bachurim are so cute in their passion that I usually don't nitpick. As it happened, though, he brought up a topic about which I am passionate: free will. Again, I might have let it go, except the "set up" question made a much bigger point about the free will (or, rather, obvious lack thereof) of inanimate objects. (As is often the case, the set up questions were overboard to make the concludi…