Brachos 49: No Multi Tasking

In Talmud Brachos page 49 there is a discussion about the phrasing of the end of a bracha. There is an opinion that we do not conclude a bracha with two concepts. That each bracha ends with mentioning one idea.   Rashi and the Talmud cites the idea that we don’t “bundle mitzos” or we dont do multiple mitzos together.

Of course this is challenged showing that we do sometimes, end a bracha with two ideas, ie shabbos and yomtov etc.  Then distinctions are drawn.

The Shikerdovid would like to ask a question: What would be so horrible  mentioning two things?  The answer: Multi tasking.

The SD could go on and on about our post modern age, the horrors of the deluge data and  information  that we struggle to organize, contain, shield from others. We spend half our time organizing data. We enter data, we file data. Whole industries are about collecting data and information.   We are busy with too many facts, figures, information.

What is lost is Thinking. Reflection. Listening. Anaylsis  We are engrossed in the collection and management of tons of information. WE love when someone calls, we can hit a few butttons and see all the information.  We are missing the one idea or concept at a time.  The Shikker dovid loves the old Carey Grant movies when people sit behind a large elegant  with no computer. No massess of papers and printouts.  They sit behind the desk, think and listen. One thing at at time.

When making a bracha we should be cognizant of each and every gift hashem is giving us. One gift at a time.

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Brachos 14: “Wants”

In Brachos 14 there is a discussion about interruptions in the Shma.  In the middle of this discussion there is a digression about doing things prior to prayers. Rabbi Ashean (a name almost never seen in the Talmud) states: “it is forbidden to do ones “wants” before prayer. The Magid shiur made it clear that “wants” was different than “needs” which is usually referred to as our morning bodily functions.

So what is “Wants”   The SD would like to make reference to an article he read by R. David Aaron last week about tfila.  He notes the word in Hebrew we commonly referred to as prayer is “lihespallel”. He says the first time this word is seen is by Jacob in parsha Vayhehi when he claims  I never “pillalti” to see Joseph again.  Rash says the word “pillalti” means “filled my heart or thought” . The word lihespallel according to rabbi aaron does not mean pray in the English or contemporary understanding.  The word is more reflexive meaning our thinking, our contemplation.  When we “pray” according to Rabbi Aaron we are not begging for things, rather we are reflecting  on ourselves and our mission in life. Real prayer internal and introspective. It make us reflect upon ourselves.

So back to the “Wants.” Before we can begin our day, our work, our play, our journey life, we need to spend some time reflecting, putting our head straight. Rabbi Ashean is saying that before you attempt to do your daily work, challenges or journey, take some time to pray to make sure that you get right. Put your head on straight to attack the day.  This comports nicely with Rabbi Aaron’s approach to prayer which says that prayer is for us to reflect and grow ourselves and not beg Gd to bring us the rent money.

We need to pray before we begin our day, not only to thank gd for delivering on our wants, but for us to have a head, the composure and the right frame of mind to pursue our wants.

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Miketz: Chapter 43:Who is this “guy”

In Miketz the brothers return a second time to Egypt to buy food. They bring back the money that was returned to them from their first trip which was found returned in their bags. The brothers  are nervous and their anxiety is heightened when Joseph directs a “man” to bring them to his house.  The brothes begin ranting to this “man” about the whole history of the events which lead to their return with the money they originally paid with for food. Why are they going on and on with “the  man.”? They really want to tell this to Joseph.  This guy is nobody, Joseph is the authority.  They need to speak to Joseph.

At first, this guy seems to be a low level bureaucrat.   Similar to what we see at DMV when the computer does not  have our name spelled right and the guy behind the counter won’t help. There is a difference.  After sensing the desperation of the brothers, the man says, essentially don’t worry. “peace be with  you, don’t fear.”    Does he know? Did Joseph tell him about the brothers? How does he know it is ok?

WHO IS THIS GUY?   Rashi does not tell us.  The Targum only calls him so kind of minister or appointed one.

The SD would like to go out on a limb.  The “guy “is inside all of us. He is the obstruction from holding us back. He is  out inner  torment or the part which flogs ourselves about our problems and our mistakes.  We need to speak to Joseph or we need to  resolve,  accept but the little man inside will not  lets us pass throught] to peace and serenity. Lord knows, the SD has this huge guy inside, putting up the stumbling blocks toward serenity and faith that all will be well.

But we need to listen to the “guy” also. “Peace is upon you, Don’t fear, Hashem is with you.” These are the hardest lessons to assimilate.  The faith that all will work out. All will be well.  The SD loses so much sleep because he only hears “the man” inside holding him back. The SD needs to also hear the part “peace be with you”

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Vayeschanan: Chapter 4 verse 19: Hashem is Universal: How We Worship Differs

The Shikkerdovid always wondered about the righteus Buddist, the charitable Christian, the ethical Muslim.   SD alway felt on a viceral level that Hashem gave each group of people a method of worship.   We eat latkes on Hanuka, Italians eat Fish on Christmas, yet the values of ethics, piety and charity  and educaton are common.  The SD always looked for some basis of this idea.   The SD saw a potential glimpse of it in the verse ‘

“Lest you  lift your eyes to the heaven, see the sun, the moon and the starts, which the Lord your Gd assigned to all peoples under Heaven, and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves and worship them”

Initially, the SD read this pasuk as we are not allowed to do these acts, but for other peoples, the acts  are appropropriate and given by Hashem to other peoples as modes of Worship.

Rashi gives a glimmer of hope but quickly takes it away. Rashi says “to light or illuminate  them.” That sounds positive, but he then says,  Hashem does not prevent them from erring in their erronous ways.  ”

Rashi quotes the Talmud Avodah Zarah 55a  which gives a horrible story. A certain locale needs rain. The idol in a Temple comes to someone in a dream and tells them to slaughter a man.  A man is slaughtered.  The  Talmud cites the above pasuk which indicates that this is folly and Hashem provided the rain to remove or remove them from the world.

The SD does not really understand this.  Someone has a dream and based on that dream a man is slaughtered.  Clearly this is not normal operating procedure. Clearly this is not the law, rather a desperate crazy person working outside  of normal behavior. The SD would like to make a distinction   The Talmud says, based on a dream they “slaughter an man”. It does not say they “slaughter a man to the sun, the stars or the moon.” or pursuant to normal   customary practice, the sun gd the rain gd required it. It is a dream that inspires this crazy act.

The SD would like to concentrate on the beginning of the Rashi. Hashem gave the sun and moon to illuminate the people. He gave them the sun for them to worship in their way.  If some go a little crazy, if some have crazy dreams and act on it, that is not dispositive of all.  The SD would like to hope that you could read the Rashi in two parts.  The first part is the normal, regular, good, pious people. They worship the sun and derive inspiration to act justly.  The second half of the Rashi are those who dont really have belief. They act out of desperation.  They act irrationally based upon irrational dreams. Their act is to satiate their own needs. Not serve Hashem.

Therefore, when we see the rightious Baptist, Lutheran, Hindu, Buddist and Muslim we can say: we all worship Hashem. Just in different ways.

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Temura 16: The Talmud Really Gets Human Nature

The daf 16 of Temura has a fascinating Aggaita (story, homily or parable) It speaks about how laws, legalisic logic, strignencies or halachic concetps were forgotten during the death of Moshe.  It mentions someone who helped  find them: Othniel ben kenaz. We are told that he is the y0unger brother of Caleb and most interesting he is married to” Achsa .”

The Talmud is almost fishing or baiting to tell you this. It immediately asks why the name “Achsa”. . The Talmud responds to itw own quesstion by telling you that “Achsa” is similiar to the worad “caas” or anger. Why anger? This is the great punch-line of the Tamud:  Because she was so beautiful that all men would get angry at their own wives for not being so pretty as” Ochsa”

Really? Could her real name be “Ochsa” or more probably this was her nickname or as she was colloqually called in summer camp, seminary, or college days (to use our modern terms)  .

But what is the Talmud really teaching. The SD would like to weight in. It is teaching a lesson in humanity,  human fraility. We all love a pretty face. We are all human. We all have petty jealousies,  desires, fantasies. We are human.  It is funny to think that around the world today, in the most religious and holy houses of study, we are learning that a pretty face can spark such human emotion as being “angry” at your own wife.  Of course we arent “angry” that our wives are not as pretty as “Achsa” But it nice to know that th Talmud recognizes the human fraility within us.

Maybe the lessson is recognize your are human. But strive to be better at being human.

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Temura 14: Psalms 119 : A Time to Do for Gd

Temura 14 is a dry, esoteric discussion of personal sacrifices, communal sacrifices and temura.  All of a sudden, there is a disruption  of this discussion and the Talmud states that it is forbidden to write down the Torah Shel Baal Peh or the Oral Law/Tradition.  This is the Mishna.  A discussion ensues about the nature of this prohibition . The  Talmud rebuts this thought that it is prohibited  with a story  or R. Yochanan and Resh Lakish sitting and reading a book about “Aggadita”. How can that be if it is prohibited to write down the oral tradition.  The answer is taken from Psalms 119: There is a time to act for Gd.

“A time to act for Gd “according to Rashi in order to make a holy act, one must set aside a precept of the Torah.   How strange. No definition, no perameter . According to this cryptic Rashi, only to do a “kiddush Hashem”.   This phrase is called on by early hasidic thinkers like the Ishbitz and most recently Shlomo Carlebach.   But where are the boundaries? Where are the peramters?  Is it so narrow as the Talmud states, that one may write down the law in order to preserve the law as  the above story suggests.

THe SD would like to got back to an old idea.  Everyone has their own yardstick with Hashem.   The Torah might be absolute, but its implementation on a personal basis varies with each person and maybe with each moment in their life. No one person can fulfill all the mitzot. No one wants to fulfill all the mitzvot. Who wants to do the mitzva of giving a get? Who to do Yebum?

Each person has their own “time to act for Gd”. Hopefully we will get it right.

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Effectivenes: Temura daf 4-5-6

The Torah has a strange law called Temura in Leviticus 27:33. It says that one should not transfer  or exchange the holiness  animal to be offered with another animal. If does this then both animals are deemed holy.

The Talmud uses this as a springboard for a psychologically fascinating argument between Abaye and Rava. Abaya says that if one does an act in violation of the Torah, it is effective and the act stands. Rava says no, the act is not effective and has no significance.  The Talmud then cites 14 different scenarios.

The most interesting example  is the following: One is obligated to give Teruma (portion of crop or produce give to a kohan) from the best of his produce. If one gives from an inferior segment of his produce is his terumah effective?  The argument goes Abaye says yes, his teruma is effective. Rava says no. Nothing accomplished.

Cleary we all know that our actions have consequences.  But do we get a “do over” in life. Do we miss out if we mess up.  In golf terms do we get to take “a mulligan”  Are we stuck with what we did.

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