No Coincidences: Bava Basra 166

Today’s daf of Bava Basra 166 takes a dry legal concept and soars with existentialism. The daf deals with inconsistent terms in a legal document. Such as inconsistent amounts of loans. The Talmud then cites an inconsistent term. The Talmud states what if the upper portion of a document says someone borrowed a “Kefel” which is termed a cup and in the latter portion of the document states ‘sefel” which is a shirt.

Rav Puppa asks: Are we concerned that a fly swooped down and erased part of the first letter thereby changing the wording and making the document inconsistent.

The Shikkerdovid as I am sure most of the daf yomi people minds must have wandered back to the story in Genesis where Pharoah puts his butler in jail when he finds a fly in his cup. The butler meets Joseph in jail and the rest is history. The Shikkerdovid would like to suggest that the example in the Talmud parallels the story of Genesis to teach a lesson.

A fly can alter history. A fly can alter a document. Is it really a fly? Is life so random? The lesson is clear. Be humble. Be merciful as Hashem can alter someone life with the smalles most insignificant creature.

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Life is Not Fair-Parshat Chukat

IN the parsha of Chukat Israel complains of no water after death of Miriam. Hashedm tells Moshe and Aaron to assemble the people and then commands Moshe to talk to the rock. We all know that instead of talking he hits the rock and an abundant amount of water comes out.

Because Moshe failed to talk to the rock, Gd tells Moshe and Aaron that they both will not enter Israel. Huh? what did Aaron do? He assembled the people just as he was told.

This makes no sense. Now the Shikkerdovid has started reading Rav Tzadok Hocohen or the Pri Tzedek. Rav Tzadok suggests that both Moshe and Aaron were told to assemble the people for different reasons. Moshe was to teach the whole Torah to Aaron and the people and Aaron was to teach the oral tradition to the people, or as Rav Tzadok says, he was to make sure the people could integrate the Torah into the hearts. The fact that the people acted with no faith demonstrates that Aaron did not accomplish his mission.

Again, it begs the question, Aaron did his job. Why is he punished here. The answer is simple but hard to swallow. You can achieve your objectives, you can meet the goals, you can ostensibly be successful and still ultimately fail. This is really the ultimate reminder that all in his the hands of Gd.

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Blowing in the Wind: Bava Basra 147

The Talmud is discussing the validity of declarations of gifts made by a dying person. In the middle of this technical discussion, the Talmud goes off on a tangent. It says if the wind is blowing north that is good for the poor people because the crops will be cheap. If it blows south it is good for the rich (or maybe the other way?) Only if blows in one direction is it good for both.

The answer is simple life is not fair. It sometimes blows good for you, sometimes blows bad and sometimes it blows good for all.

The job is a Jew is to hope and pray that his needs, desires and wishes align with the good of all so we can all enjoy.

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Bava Basra 141a-Sons

The Talmud Bava Basra continues with its discussion of inheritance. The Mishna on 140b begins strangely with the “TumTum”, or the child who gender is ambiguous and the Talmud wants to know it status an for inheritance. On the page 141, the Talmud quotes a statement that Gd is angry or unhappy one someone does not have a son inherit him. The Talmud uses the language that one should not “maneach” the inheritance of his son. Does that mean divert? take away?. What if you don’t have a son? Does it mean Hashem is angry with people who only have girls.

The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in. The answer is that a father-son relathionship is hard and complex. We expect our sons to be everything. We expect them to be better than ourselves. We hold our sons to really high standards. When get angry at them, we are depleting the not only the affection or love, but the ability to transfer our values and ideas. How can a son love or follow a father who only demands and never really openly shows his love. (Even if the demand is a form of love itself). The Talmud is teaching that although the nature of the father-son relationship has the potential to fray, breakdown or become icy, we can never break the relationship and alienate our sons. We must give them the “inheritance” which is love, connection, values, and yes money… even if we have a special place in our heart for our daughters.

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Behaloscha: Rashi v. Ramban: Cash v. Action

The parsha Bahalotscha starts with the description of Aaron lighting the Menorah. Rashi asks his famous question: why is the parsha of the Menorah preceded by the gifts the 12 princes brought in honor of the 12 days of leading to the inauguration of the Mishkan(tabenacle). Rashi answers that the concepts are together because Aaron was sad as he watched all the princes bringing their gifts and he was not part of the giving. According to Rashi, Gd tells him, don’t worry, your involvement in lighting the Menorah will be just as great.

Ramban disagrees. Ramban questions Rashi by saying, “why did he not say you will offer the incense or other forms of Avodah, why the Menorah?” Ramban’s answer is that these two parshiot are a segue or connector to Aaron knowing that through his progeny, the Hasmoneans, the miracle of Hanukah will occur.

What is the conflict here? The Shikkerdovid would like humbly offer an idea. In Rashi, Aaron feels bad that he is not bringing a tangible or physical gift. He feels that he is not contributing as we do today, building buildings, supporting institutions. He is aware that his cash contribution is missing. The other princes are bringing silver, animals, and lots of physical items. He is left out. The Ramban’s answer is one of action. The juxtaposition between the princes and the Menorah is one to highlight that his progeny will stand up and be heroes.

The Shikkerdovid sees a tension in these answers. Rashi takes Aaron’s sensitivity to mean that he felt bad he was not contributing. Ramban seems to be saying that the juxtaposition is to highlight the heroic deeds which will occur. To the Shikkerdovid, this highlights the age old question. What is greater: giving of your money or giving of your time. The answer is both are equally different and equally easy. People are different. For some, it is easy to write a check, but difficult to chop wood for the old widow. For other (like the cheap Shikkerdovid) it is hard to part with money, but easier to chop the wood. The tension is to learn about yourself.

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My Idiot Kid: Parenting lessons from Bava Basra 126b

Today’s have has the strangest lesson in child rearing. The Mishna on 126B starts with statements : If a man would make about the status of his son, ie John my first born son does not take a double portion per Torah law, he has said nothing. The Talmud then cites Rabbi Yehuda who says, yes, he can take away the double portion. The Talmud then cites other less clear statements about his son and his status as a first born, the Talmud says, maybe he is referring to the first born of the mother and not his firstborn which is the requirement of the first born double portion. The Talmud then delivers the twist, If a man says “my idiot son” we know he is talking about his son.

How strange. This proves connection to one’s son? The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in. The Shikkkrdovid loves his kids. The Shikkerdovid and most parents love their kids despite their flaws or faults. We love them with their flauws and faults. HOWEVER, the love does not excuse the flaws nor make parents blind or oblivious to their children’s issues. As parents we must provide unconditional love while still being realistic and always attempting to improve our children. We must love the child yet recognize and correct the flaws. It is not good parenting to accept the flaw and defend the flaw as if it is acceptable. Yet the flaw should not diminish our love. The Shikkerdovid would argue, this is the highest form of love. A good parent does not gloss over or accept a problem- rather confronts the problem.

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A Shikkerdovid Mother’s Day Thought-from Bava Basra

As we near the end of Bava Basra in Day yomi, we are learning the chapter of inheritances known as “Yash Nochlin” or “these are the inheritances’. As it sounds it sets out the laws of inheritances. The mishna states that a son inherits his mother, but a mother does not inherit her son. The Talmud then goes on to prove pronouncement from verses in the Torah using the kal v’chomer method or “a fortiorii” analysis of text.

To the Shikkerdovid, the answer is simple. A mother is the consummate giver. She gives life, she sustains life. Their is no love in the universe like a mother a child. There is an old expression that one mother can care for 20 children, but 20 children cannot care for one mother. In fact, the concept of a “Jewish Mother” has become a cliche for extreme loving, affection to the point of comical. The mother is always giving. The mother never takes. In our Jewish experience, the father might be responsible for the Jewish education, but the mother is responsible for imparting the values at home. She is really the one who imbues the ethos of Judaism into children.

The reason for this mishna is obvious. The mother is a constant giver. She displays the highest of Jewish values. A mother is a metaphor for Jewish giving and not taking. Taking is antithetical to the role of a mother. So today, remember the great Jewish giver-MOM>

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