Taanis 21B: Acts of Kindness: Its Not a Miracle.

Taanis 21 B has two stories about regular people being credited with saving a community rather than the presence of rabbi. The first story is about a neighborhood in a town that is saved from pestilence despite other areas being stricken. The talmud says it is NOT due to the presence of a great Rabbi, but to the man who lent out his shovel to bury the dead.

The second story about a town which was free of fires. Again, the credit do NOT go to the presence of a great Rabbi, but rather to a women who lends out her oven so all can cook.

The SD would like to chime in. Neither situation is a great miracle or unexplainable. In the first situation, burying dead stops the spread of pestilence and disease. Clearly, by lending his shovel and allowing the dead to be buried, his act of kindness saves the community. It is not miraculous or a credit to the presence of a great rabbi but science.

The second story is equally logical. The person who lends her oven prevents fires from being started in houses which have no proper ovens. Again, common sense. These two stories demonstrate that kindness and mercy within the natural order of the world gives the appearance and effect of a miracle

Today is the Fifth day of Chanukah. Chanukah is about miracles. These two stories demonstrate that kindness is transformative. It allows normative and logical acts and behavior to be miraculous.

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Primacy of Conduct

It must first be clear that, important as subjective feelings are Judaism does not stand or fall by how deeply we think we experience religious stirrings. Neither theology nor emotions will in the run, determine the quality of our lives, our conduct and behavior will

“God is Alive, A Jewish Reaction to a Theological Controvery”

Rabbi Norman Lamm as writtten in 70 Faces: Articles of Fait

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Life Lesson from Koheles 6:1-2

Yesterday we read Koheles. Chapter 6 sentence 1: There is an evil under the sun. Gd gives man riches, property and honor, but Gd gives him no power to use it.

The strange part of this verse is that it is Gd who prevents the happiness. It is Gd who precludes the enjoyment and fulfillment of property.

This bothered the SD. Rabbi Jack Varon offered an explanation based upon the Rambam. He said the Rambam includes in Hilchos Daos alot about belief. It is in Daos because man needs to search, inquire study and focus his mind on things in order to come understand. He says this is similar. Man must train himself not to dwell on materials objects, not to make them so primary in is life . By training his mind, his behavior and his desires Gd will give him the power of understanding and knowledge as to how to enjoy the gifts and blessings of life. Material gifts need our understanding to appreciate and fully enjoy them. It is a gift from Gd to enjoy but we must learn and train for gd to give us that power to use them and enjoy them.

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A Yom Kippur Message from Beitzah 15

eToday is Erev Yom Kippur. Todays daf, Beitzah 15 has a funny tangent. It has a message clearly belongs to the days before Yom Kippur. The discussion is regards to one who finds tefillin in a field during shabbat or yom tov. Normally, one does not wear them on shabbat or yom tov so what should one do with them if found lying around unattended on those days?

The Talmud first proposes to cover them with your hands and bring them home. The second opinion is to bring them to the closest house. The reconciliation is kind of nutty. Whether the first house is protected or not protected from thieves and whether they are Jewish thieves.

The Talmud says if they are Jewish thieves who would not desecrate tfillin they can be left at the nearest house.

How crazy: Jewish Thieves? Despite being professional thieves we can rely on their fear of heaven not to desecrate tfillin.

Maybe there is a SD Yom Kippur lesson?

The SD thinks that the lesson is that our respect for others, our respect for our fellow man should at least equal our fear of heaven. The SD does not think for one second that the Talmud here is really being serious, rather is taking a shot at the hypocrisy of many who are diligent and scrupulous is their heavenly observance and lax in their interpersonal relations. Clearly Yom Kippur is about improving our character and most importantly being a kinder, nicer, more thoughtful person than the year before.

May this year bring us all to respect, care and be mindful of others.

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A Rosh HaShanna message from Beitzah 6

Fortuitiously, today’s daf which falls on Erev Rosh Hashaana discusses the holiday. The top of page 6 ask what happens when someone dies on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Then we allow non jews to bury, but if someone dies on the second day, then Jews bury him. The implication is the second day of Rosh Hashana is a doubt.

The Talmud then says, now, when we are concerned with “Chavrei, ” Jews do not bury even on the second day. Who are the chavrei? Rashi tells us they are Persians who persecute Jews. However, despite the persecution, the Jews can withstand the Persian desire for them to work on shabbat and holidays. Rashi tells us that the Jews were concerned that if the Persians saw them burying dead on Yom Tov, they will say..The Jews can work on Yom Tov and push us to work.

What is the Rosh Hashanna lesson?. A Jew who is observant is being observed. A Jew wearing a kepah or a baseball hat at a bar is being watched. Frankly, it is easy to pick out the Jew. People are always ready to point out the Jew in the bar or the street. We are under scrutiny. Our behavior or statements our always being judged. Besides the non-jews, even Gd is watching us. Therefore, the lesson is that we should behave all the time. Be careful how loud we are speaking, what we are saying, how we are dressing. We must be sensitive to how people see us. Even more so we must behave because Hashem sees all.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year from the SD.

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Beitzah 1: Foreseen and Unforeseen Events

I guess I have mistakes or slip ups on my mind. I guess it is that time of year.

The Mishna is Beitza one starts: An egg laid on Yom Tov is permissible to eat according to Shammai, but impermissible to eat according according to Hillel.

The Talmud asks: does Shammai not hold of the concept of Muktzeh. Mukzteh is an item that has no use or utility on Shabbos therefore, cannot be touched. Muktze is a stick or a stone or a pencil. Something which is of no use. Using certain items not designated or prepared for before shabbat is prohibited.

The Talmud then seems to distinguish between an item of Muktzeh which was extant prior to the holiday and could have been designated for use and the egg which was not in existance or in the world before the holiday. The Talmud seems to say that “muktza” and “nolad” (the egg born on the holiday) are two separate circumstances and dealt with differently.

THe SD does not know why, but throughout this daf, he could not stop thinking of events of the past year. The things that he knew about, could have done something about, prepared for an event, a circumstance, something that was foreseeable, but failed to do so. It felt like Muktza is all those things, that could have been “designated” or handled or dealt with, but the SD, just dropped the egg. Pun intended.

The Nolad is different. It is out of the blue. Something just comes up and hits you in the face. You did not see it coming. The circumstance was just nolad.

The SD might be waxing a little too philosophical this morning, but for some reason, the two ideas, NOLAD (just born) and Muktza (pre-existing and could have been designated) are like metaphors of life. Things we can know about and brace ourselves for and things that come out of the nowhere.

May the New Year which is coming up bring us the proper state of mind and emotional energy to deal with things we know about and can prepare for and react properly as well as the wisdom, calmness and strength to act when the unforeseen pops up.

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Succah page 44: R. Eliezer: Nike Spokesman: Just Do It

Succa page 44 deals with taking the lulav and Arava on Shabbos. The Talmud tries to determine its permissibility based upon the famous paskuk about lulav: “on the day the first day.” Does this permit even on Shabbat.

Rabbi Eliezer is quoted on this page that even the preparation of the lulav is permissible. Rashi says this extends to cutting and detaching from the tree. Interestingly there is another opinion which the SD wrote about several months ago about R. Eliezer in Eruvin on page 100 about being on a tree on shabbat. he alllows you to come down.

The SD would like to weigh in. R. Eliezer when confronted with a Mitzva but potential for chilul shabbos or a slip up on Shabbos says JUST DO IT. Be confident that you will do it right. He is not going to allow a possible slip up stop his ability to act. While clearly we do not hold like this, it is not the halacha that the SD cares about, but rather the courage, the confidence and the enthusiasm he brings to mitzos. He is a Nike Jew- Just Do It.

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Succah 35 Is it Really your Esrog? Is it really your money?

There was a glitch a week ago and this did not get posted. Here it is.

On page 35 of Succa, the mishna probes whether an esrog of Maaser Sheni can be used. Just a quick reminder. Maaser Sheni is the second tithe of ten percent of your produce after Teruma and the first tithe. Maaser Sheni is brought to Jerusalem and consumed in Jerusalem. If you have an esrog in your crop and it is taken to Jerusalem as Maaser Sheni can you use it as your esrog. The question is does it satisfy the requirement of “lachem” or yours. On the first day of succos you must use “your” esrog to fulfil the commandment of taking a beautiful fruit.

The question is the ownership status of Maaser Sheni. There is a debate in the Talmud between Rabbi Meir and the Rabbis as to the ownership status of this tithe. While it did come from your land and you did grow it and you did harvest it, the debate is whether Maaser Sheni is your property of property of Gd .

The debate is interesting because there is no doubt that you owned the land, did the work and are allowed to eat and enjoy the produce inside of Jerusalem. The technical question is ownership.The SD would like to weigh in: The question raises the ever present lesson of humility and gratitude. The fact is we are entitled to it eat and enjoy this tithe while in Jerusalem, we should be aware that according to R. Meir, we do not own it. It is a gds property. Not ours. We should carry this lesson to all aspects of our life. Gd gives us gifts to enjoy, but we should remember that they are his and use them properly.

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Succah:page 36: Esrogim and Stones

Succa page 36 deals with qualifications or disqualifications for an esrog. It then discusses the minimum size of an esrog. The opinion is the esrog is either the size of a nut or the size of an egg. However, out of nowhere, a crazy discussion ensues. It really is totally disconnected to the whole issue of Esrog. Succa Page 36 cites to a passage in tractate Shabbos that discusses the type of stones and the size one is allowed to use on shabbat to clean oneself after relieving oneself. Normally stones are muktzah or prohibited on shabbat, but for hygiene purposes these stones were allowed

What does this have to do with an esrog.? Just because the Succa is discussing the size of an esrog, the Talmud thinks it is appropriate to relate or compare to the stones used to clean oneself?

Esrog is the paradigm of a beautiful mitzva in the Torah. We are directed to ONLY use a beautiful one. There are stories of heroic people who sacrifice so much to have a beautiful esrog. So how can the Talmud be so crass to make such a comparison.

The SD heard a shiur of Rabbi David Aaron two years ago that keeps resonating. Essentially, he discussed that there is no distinction in this world . All has potential for holiness. Whatever function or action is in the universe is necessary and part of gds plan. He called it the Asher Yatzar speech. The blessing stated over relieving oneself.

To extend this, there is not distinction in our thought process, learning, or world view between gross or ugly and beautiful when it comes to serving Gd. The most beautiful mitzva and the most mundane of halachos can be contrasted, compared and we can derive lessons from both simultaneously.

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