Slavery in the Talmud:Shabbos 72

The Shikkerdovid is reading the novel Homegoing. It is a brutal, violent, and most heart rending description of the 18th century slave trade in the Gold Coast.    The descriptions are gruesome.  The novel shows how without an ethical code, humanity can collapse into violence and cruelty.

In the ancient world, slavery was a tragic reality. The Torah attempted to regulate it.  On page 72, there is almost a comical yet tragic discussion. What if a man has relations 5 times with a slave women who is married to another slave. (Shifcha Charufa).   The debate how many penances must the man bring.   Clearly, this is almost a silly case. However, the timing of this daf and reading the novel struck a chord in the SD.

Slavery was a reality. Evil is a reality. Lack of fairness, justice and arbitrary outcomes in life are a reality.  The Torah and the point of a Jewish existence is to balance the injustices with mercy and kindness.  The goal of Torah living is to recognize  that injustice takes place, or evil is present.  As Jews we need to fight evil with law and cruelty with mercy.

In these difficult times of corona, lets be known as the people who do the random acts of kindness, mercy and promote justice.

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Emor:Mommy-Newborn and Lessons in Compassion

The Shikkerdovid has gotten been reading the old school “Hertz Chumash”. It was the staple synagogue chumash in pre Artscroll days.  Hertz was not only a major Torah scholar but a gentlement, educated and writes beautifully. His commentary is sparkling and beautiful.  (Like everyone else in teh ’70’s the SD got the Hertz as a bm present from his shul with his name embossed in gold- I wisth they had  used “Shikkerdovid” )

In Chapter 22, pasuk 27-28 the Torah tells us that bull, sheep or goat when it gives birth the baby stays with the mommy for seven days.  Then it says, you cannot slaughter “it” and the baby on the same day.  Hertz says the following: that the animal experieinces pain just as a human as animals have feelings  just as humans. He then elegantly does a scholarly move: “cf the same prohibition of the motherbird being taken with her young. ”  Once we take the eggs, we can wait for the mommy to come back and then eat it.

The Isbitzer Rebbe says that this mitzvah is given to teach Israel the way of kindness. Howevever he continues  in the Talmud Megila it says that if a man while praying states “just as you were merciful” we stop him because we are forbidden to ascribing of man’s limited understanding ”

What does this all mean?  Really it is asking how do we understand kindness and the applicatin of kindness in the world.   We learn about sensitivity to certain animals like cows and goats but the bird, not so much?  Is shewing the mother away enough chesed?

The SD would like to chime in.  There is really no end to chesed as long as it within the Torah’s mandate. For example, giveing charity. We can only give so much.   The Torah dictates our chesed, our morality, our world view of right and wrong.   The Torah is teaching us senstivity to animals and by extension hopefully greater sensitivity to people. But it is all within the framework of the Torah system.

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My Guardian Angel: Rashi in the Talmud: Shabbos Page 53B

On page 53a-b of Shabbos the Talmud is discussing items which an animal can wear or bear on Shabbat that would not violate carrying on Shabbat.  The Talmud discusses whether an animal wearing a feedbag can be worn so as to make eating easier for the animal The Talmud asks whether an amulet can be worn.  The question turns on whether it is an effective amulet.  The Talmud p0ints to another statement which asks the same question about  a person wearing an amiulet.   The difference boils down to “mazel”. A human has Mazel but an amimal does not have Mazel

Rashi explains the concept of Mazel in a beautiful way.  He says on 53B that a person has an angel who will interecede on his behalf. What is so beautiful about this Rashi? The SD would like to offer the following  Every person has a guardian angel. The angel  is there to  act as our defender and our advocate in the heavenly soheres. However to be a good advocate the angel needs good material.  It is up to us to give our advocate the material to intercede and argue on our behalf.  We need to do good deeds, thoughtful and caring acts of kindness. We need to extend ourselves so when forces gather against us, our guardian angel intercede and protect us.

Let us increase our acts of  loving kindness as a protection during these difficult tims.

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Exotic Joe-Tiger King and Shabbos 51B

During this depressing and scary time of Covid 19, the only funny thing to watch is the crazy show “Tiger King”.  It is a show about some crazy-nut-job, Mr. Joe Exotic, who owns and runs a “Big Cat Zoo or  Reservation”. It is full of tigers and big animals. Joe Exotic charges to pet the small tigers and runs a successful gift shop.  Joe Exotic hires freakish people, ex-cons and other such types to work the zoo.   As the Jewish comedian Modi says in his act, “this show  is a whole madrega of Goyim that we don’t see in NYC.” (This is a  whole new level on Non-Jews).

What does this have to do with limud hatora?- Well on page 51B the Mishna discuss which implements to can be used in walking or taking animals out on shabbos.  The goal is to limit or calibrate the need to carry on shabbos and balance the need to control the animal on shabbos.  The Mishna lists some crazy animals: a camel and a dromediary with a nose ring. Can you imagine walking in Central Park with a dromediary wearing a nose ring? Or what agragrian society needs a dromediary? and especially what use do these animals have on Shabbos.

The interesting  thing is that the Talmud recognizes that people need animals for farming, transportation and recognizes that they must be controlled. The conflict is control of animal and spirituality of shabbos.  The SD would like to weigh in.  It is a reflection of life. Life is a balancing act, the need to control, dominate, work, transport and the need to take refuge in a spiritual dimension.   We need to keep our camels on a leash, but not so crazy big that it would be a spiritual burden.

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Leadership in Time of Crisis: Fallability and Mistakes

The SD is reading a particularly interesting book: Changing the Immutable by Mark Shapiro. The author  is discussing various forms of censorship by rabbis, editors, publishers to ensure that Jewish values, community mores are adhered to.   The censorship exposes mistakes made, poor predictions or bad judgment and then attempts to clean them up.

The author relates the following:

In  January1944 the Belzer Rebbe’s brother gave an address “on the occasion of the emigration of his brother from Hungary.”    In the address the brother assured the crowd that the Rebbe was not leaving “because he was fearful of the future” and predicted no harm done to the Jews of Hungary.  Later that year the deportations began. The author states that the prediction and portion of the address was later deleted when it was published in 1967.    The author states that the publishers had difficulty admitting the Rebbe was wrong in his assessment.

The SD think there is a lesson. The lesson here is not necessarily to reject authority or to take to task a leaders who guess wrong. It is to learn humility and accept mistakes.  Not such easy thing to do.  No one is perfect. No one has a crystal ball. It is how we deal with mistakes. Right now we are living in close quarters. We are on top of each other trying to wait out the unpredictable.  Lets admit our mistakes, allow for mistakes in others and be humble.

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Shabbos 21: Hanukah without a Menora?

Today’s daf 21 is famous for it deals first with the type of oil for the hanuka menorah, then the process of lighting of the menorah, the famous debate between Hillel and Shamai of whether we start lighting the menorah with 8 candles (shammai) or 1 candle (Hillel) and work 8-1 (shammai) or 1-8 (Hillel).  Then the Talmud famously asks : What is Hanukaa? The Talmud tells us the story of the battle with the greeks and the jug of oil.

The Talmud then says “the year after, it was instituted as Yom Tov with Hallel and Praise.” At this point The Great Magid Shiur Saul Lubetsky asked a simple question. What is missing.? There is no mention of lighting the Menora- just Hallel and praise.  The class protested that the Talmud just spent nearly a page dealing with lighting.   Saul is right.The answer is very profound.  At the time Hanuka was instituted, the Temple stood and the Menorah in the Temple was lit.

It is hard to envision a Hanuka celebration or holiday without lighting a Menorah. The truth is that the holiday and lighting are synonomous to us. It is so deeply engraved in our consciousness and has seeped into popular culture that even Rugrats and Snoopy light Hanuka candles.

The SD would  like to weigh in.    We constantly have re-imagine and re-examine are service of gd  The question posed is really novel to the SD. How could we have a Hanuka without a Menora?  Nowadays when we sit in our homes due to the pandemic rather than go to shul, visit the sick or the hospitals, shun other people- all of which is so essential to our Jewish life and values we are forced to re-examine our avodas hashem.  We have to find a way to connect with Hashem without 0ur normal structures and systems.  A Hanuka without a Menora is a symbol for us that we must rethink in these days how we will serve Hashem

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Shabbos page 12: A New Understanding of Shabbos

Shabbos 12 contains a perplexing Braisa that says one may not visit the sick on Shabbos.  The Talmud  cuts back on this and explains that if one does visit the sick, one should say: May the shabos heal you or  peace be with you. One would think that this is the highest level of a shabbos experience.

Due to the current circumstances, the SD heard the shiur online from Rabbi Grossman (Z’l).  Rabbi Grossman explains that visiting the sick, calling  out with the sick in prayer is an intense physical and emotional experience.  According to Rabbi Grossman, it appears that the Talmud envisioned a visit with intense prayer, intense conversation… all of which the Rabbis felt was only appropriate for weekday behavior and not for shabbos behavior. Even Rashi says that such actions will call pain.

This is a radical change  in how we view Shabbos and shabbos activities.  It is common in the SD community for people walk to hospital and nursing homes and spend literally hours visiting the sick.  It is such a foreign idea to the SD that such behavior would not be appropriate for Shabbat.

The answer lies in our understanding of Shabbos.    Clearly the Rabbis of the Talmud and Mishna envisioned a day of intense introspection, quiet, peace, tranquility. They must have envisioned a day of not much  physical commotion or walking. A day of true re-invigoration of the self.

The second element is that the Rabbis saw visiting the sick as a weekday event.   Many of us work and might say we don’t have time to do this during the week and need Shabbos to do bikur cholim. The answer the Rabbis are saying is that just as we work, do laundry, go the gym on weekdays, we must find time to do bikur cholim as well.  We cannot say I will have time on Shabbos to do this.  We must make time during the week for concern of others.

This Braisa is both a new look at Shabbos and a new look at how we view our weekday events.

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Shabbos Page 12: Esoteric Debates with Graphic Facts

Shabbos page 12 has the famous debate between Rabbi Yehuda and Rebbi Shimon about  whether an act violates shabbos under the concept of a physical act which causes unintended consequences.  It is a difficult concept to explain. Rabbi Judah says if you do an act which causes an unintended consequences you violate the Sabbath. Rabbi Shimon says that if you do an act which causes unintended consequences you do not violate Shabbos.

The example is a person with  a spiritual disease known as a Zav. A Zav has an uncontrolled emission of fluid from his male organ.   The discussion is whether a Zav (the person with this disease) violates the Sabbath if he puts on a pouch around his male organ and then walks out into the public domain.  The real intention of wearing this pouch is to keep his clothes clean and spare embarrasement.  The unintended consequence is carrying somthing on Shabbos from one domain to another and therefore violates Shabbos. Rabbi Yehuda says liable and Rabbi. Rabbi shimon reasons, he wants to keep clean and not be embarrassed. He dosent want to carry.

Why did the Talmud have to take such a beautiful, theoretical  and esoteric debate and use such a gross disgusting example to illuminate. Clearly there a tons of otherr scenarios that the Talmud could have used.  Why this one?

The Shikkerdovid can answer the question from a shiur he heard Rabbi David Aron of Yeshiva orayata give in January.  The Shiur was on the Ashar Yatzar prayer that we say after relieving ourselves and leaving the lavatory.  Rabbi Aron said that in that prayer we mention “the seat of kavod” for Gd.  Rabbi Aron says we juxtapose hashem’s throne to this lowly act of man to show that the universe is seamless. There is no boundary or distinction between spiritual – lofty and physical. All is from Hashem. All is Torah.  HASHEM created us with needs, bodily functions and they too are holy.

The answer to why this esoteric debat uses this gross  example is the same. All intelletual and esoteric ideas are Torah along with the graphic, the disgusting, the extemely physical nature of man. Torah is not binary.  Torah encompasses the lofty and the lowly.

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Shabbos Page 10: The Talmudic Three Martini Lunch:

The Mishna on page 9 of shabbos lists activities that people should not start close to the time of mincha, however, if they start, they may continue. One of the these activities  is lunch.   The Talmud is concerned on page 10 of drinking during lunch and inebriation lest somone get drunk and forgets to daven mincha.   The Talmud says that there is no concern for such drunkeness at lunch because  Mincha (unlike Maariv) is fixed and required and therefore somone would not  get overly drunk and then fail to fulfill his requirement of prayer.

The SD would like to weigh in.  This is the beauty of being a Torah Jew.  WE are allowed to partake in this world. We are required to eat, drink, be merry, enjoy ourselves, but we always have an eye on the clock. We are always aware that just around the corner is an obligation which does not allow to indulge beyond our ability to do the full will of hashem.  While we are allowed to indulge, we can only do so if it does not inhibit our encroach upon our Avodas Hashem

Therefore, have the three martini lunch provided it does not weaken your ability to do the will of Hashem… Well maybe just two.

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Taanis 3: Gd does not withhold what the world needs

The Shikkerdovid’s son has returned from his gap year early due to the Corona Virus.  Obviously, the SD and the rest of the world is anxious, nervous, and full of trepidation for the future. It is scary when faced with the unknown.  The son of the SD took upon himself to learn Taanis while he is home so the SD is following along.

On page 3 there is a fascinating discussion: “The Sages did not obligate to mention dew and winds, but if one wants to, one may mention them” (in your amidah).  The answer for not requiring is as follows: According to Rabbi Chanina they are not withheld because the world could not survive without them.

At this time in history with corona virus shaking up our daily lives, radically altering our routine so that even  schools,shuls  and all institutions are afraid to open, it is a comforting message that Hashem would not withhold something that the world needs to survive.

Today, the Emuna Daily in a personal email to the SD assured him that since everyone’s parnassah has been already determined and that we are all under the will of Hashem all will be good.

Let us hope that learning, acts of chesed and loving kindness shall get us through along with the belief that hashem would not restrain or with hold the basic ingredients for our survivial.


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