Vayalech, Menachos 28 and maybe even Rosh Hashana

In today’s daf – Menachos 28, there is a discussion about the silver trumpets made during the time of Moshe.  The Talmud states that these are unique for that generation and further generations make their own.  Ironically,  in this weeks parsha Vayalech, chapter 26  verse 28, the pasuk says “Gather to me the elders,  tribes and officers so I can speak to them about Heaven and Earth.”

Rashi on this pasuk states that they did not blow the trumpets to gather because Joshua did not have power over the trumpets , and then after Moshe died t they were hidden away. He cites the pasuk in “make for you”.

Wow.   The pasuk that rashi cites is the same one that the Talmud was dealing with in Menachos 28 -and the same concept: trumpets just for that generation.   It begs the question:  Why cant they keep using the same trumpets?  Why new ones for every generation?

Here is where Rosh Hashana kind of chimes in.. (maybe). Just as new trumpets must be made, for a new generation, so too do we have to look at laws, customs, values and make them our own, NOT change laws and values, but rather make them relevant, meanginful and valuable for our existence. In the upcoming New Year, our challenge is to take our values, customs, ideals and laws and make them more relevant and meaningful to us. We need to find new meanings in the timeless and unchanging laws.

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Menachos 16:Born to Make Mistakes

The Shikerdovid was born the day the world learned Menachos 16 nearly 52 years ago in the daf yomi cycle of 1966. It was also learned last Sunday in the current daf yomi cycle. The SD is a cohen and this “date of birth daf” is  appropriately and ironically all about the mistake riddled  cohen.

A brief overview of the daf is necessary: The Mishna talks about a cohen who performs the mincha (flour offering)  improperly, by doing  it half correct (Chatzi Matir).   The Mishna has various scenarios of mess ups.  The bottom line is some mistake create Pigul (abominations) and some just invalidate the sacrifice.  There is a big difference between creating this abomination and invalidation: Kares- excision.

The Talmud  continues with mess ups. The most egregious is when the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur become “posul ” (ineligible to do work) smack in the middle of the avodah and another Kohen must take over. This  daf  16 is a crazy mix of mistakes made the by the, Priest from wrong intentions,no intention (shtika) to as stated before, invalid in the middle of the holiest day of the year.

As the holy magid Shiur R. Shloime Gottesman as points out, this tractate is probably 3/4 about mistakes. Why is so much of the tractate dealing with mistakes. Can’t we assume that people will be careful and do things properly? Can’t we assume that in the House of Gd  the Cohen will not be addled or distracted?

The SD would like to weigh in.  We are human. The cliche goes-To be human is to make mistakes. Ironically, the more you do something, the more chance you will eventually screw it up. For every million procedures performed  by a surgeon, there will be one screw up. It is statistically inevitable. It is life.  Life is comprised of mistakes, miscalculations, thoughtlessness, distraction. The key is accept your mistakes, not beat yourself up and move on. Mistakes are the human experience.  During elul we can try to rectify our mistakes, but we all know what happens later.

The SD has more to say on mistakes, but will leave the rest for the next time this daf is learned… in 7 and 1/2 years from now.


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Menachos 20: Joy of Atonement

The truth is the Shikkerdovid has had a really hard time with Menachos. It is beautiful analytical learning, but very dry (pardon the pun-ie dry flour) and the concepts of very technical. But today’s daf hard a glimmer of of Elul and Tishrei.

The Talmud of Minachos  on page 20 is on a very technical discussion about adding salt to sacrifices. It brings a comparison to wine libations. The Talmud asks is the salt connected to the sacrificial parts that are thrown on the altar or connected to the blood of the sprinkling on the altar which effects the atonement.  The Talmud in one opinion connects the libations to the sprinkling of the blood because atonement brings joy (presumably just like wine) . Rashi spells it out, the wine connects to the blood sprinkling because men are joyous when they get atonement.

How beautiful an idea for us this time of year.  Happines knowing one has improved to the point that we are joyous as if we drank wine.

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Ki Tavo: Speech, Love and Separation

In Parshat Ki Tavo there is a strange pasuk-Chapter 27, sentence 17. It is strange because the word in the pasuk  Amarta  (similiar to the word Lamor) is not really translatable here. The pasuk reads as follows:  Hashem “amorta”  today to be your gd and you will walk in his ways, keeps his laws , commandments, statutes and hear his voice.”

What is strange?: “amarta” which usually means speak or say does not fit here.  Rashi says the following: I have no proof or evidence but here I think the word is used as  “separating or distinguishing”   So the pasuk reads ” Hashem separates today to be your gd and you will walk in his ways.”

How strange! Rashi is not sure how to translate and pulls out a meaning we never see.  The truth is Amor does have another meaning  other than speak. In parshat Emor, Rabbi Schwartz of OZ always saying this refers to ‘love”, as in the romance language word “amore”.  We know the word amore means love from the Frank Sinatra song, when moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.. thats amore.

So Amor has three meanings: 1. speak 2. separate 3. love.  What do all things have in common.  The shikkerdovid would like to use this as  Elul or character remediation lesson. The truth is the shikkerdovid has often said some pretty stupid, sometime hurtful things. Mostly from lack of thought.   This year the Shikkerdovid is intent on correcting.  The Shikkerdovid wants to take his speech, separate out the stupidity and keep the love.

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Zevachim 90-91: Holiness v. Frequency

In the Mishna on 90B, the Talmud Zevachim states that certain sacrifices take precedence in bringing to the altar, ie chatas take precedence over asham (with exceptions of Metzora);eating the permissive parts of certain sacrifices take precedence over others etc.

The Talmud then presents a classic Talmudic and existential dispute. Should priority be given to things which are done “frequently” (Todir) or should priority be given to things which have greater ‘kedusha”-holiness.    Tha Talmud goes through various examples of trying to determine whether holiness or frequency takes precedence. It gives examples from Kiddush: does the blessing on the wine (frequency) come before the blessing of the sanctifying the Shabbos or opposite.  Does the rosh hashanna offering take priority  over the rosh chodesh?  The Talmud is struggling to find a pattern of holiness v. frequency.

The SD would like to put in a thought:  Ideally, our worship of Gd should be one big emotional, spiritual and ecstatic expression.  The reality is : spirituality, like life needs order to be properly expressed.   To properly serve gd in a spiritually  ecstatic state, requires rigorous knowledge of the Torah and text. It is hard to properly be ecstatic without knowledge and a sense of order.    The conflict of holiness v. frequency kind of mirrors this reality.  One can only enjoy the spiritual essence and tranquility of shabbos when one has worked hard all week in his job and “avodas hashem.”  One can only find true expression of spirituality within a framework of regularity, frequency and consistency.

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Zevachim 54,55 56 Pishpishim Part 2: More Thinking.

Zevachim 54-56 brings back our old friend “the Pishpishim”. This time  Rashi tells us that they are “little doors “on the corner of the Antechamber. Why are they there? The Torah tells us that certain sacrifices must be slaughtered across from the opening or door (“pesach ohel moed.’).  However, the Courtyard of the Temple kind of wraps around so the opening into the Antechamber and Heichal from the Courtyard is not seen in all the corners. To allow for the slaughtering in the areas not in front of the main opening, these “little doors” are made in the corners.  These doors quality to allow more courtyard area to be used for slaughtering.

Again, the SD is struck by the ingenuity and creative thinking.  A problem or obstacle arises due to the requirement found in the Torah and the solution.   It kind of goes to much of the reason for Torah learning. While we learn to understand Gd, to understand ourselves, to understand the universe, to understand mortality, ethics and values… we also learn just to understand.  We learn to think. We learn in order  to perceive a problem, think it through and find a solution.

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Zevachim 54B, Samuel 19: THINK BIG

The last few weeks in Zevachim have been very technical but in 54B was a bit of a reprieve with the discussion of the building of the Altar  and the location of the Temple.   The Talmud on 54B quotes Samuel 19 and says “David and Samuel dwelled in Nabaith Rama.” The Talmud tells us that together they were planning where to put the Temple.

Whats going on here? The back story is that David has just been informed that King Saul wants to kill him. He flees. He is on the run. He is running for his life and stops to get refuge with Samuel.  What is he thinking about? “The adornment of the world.”- the Temple.

The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  Here it is: David is on the run. He is wanted man. Rather than being obsessed with survival, rather than just trying to stay alive, rather than being depressed or upset, he is is thinking about “the adornment of the World”-the temple.  Even the language used in the Talmud “the adornment of the world” show his grand thinking.   David is not depressed or scared. His circumstances don’t bother him. He is focused on the big picture. The placement of the Temple or it is put “the adornment.”

What is the lesson here?  We are always in bad spots, we are always weighted down by life issues, problems, and challenges.  David and the daf provide the answer: Think big. Think about the ‘adornment”.

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