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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Reeh: The Title brought to Jerusalem:Sharing

In Parshat Reeh, chapter 14, sentence 22 the Torah describes that we take a tenth (after terumah and the first tithe ) of our crops and bring them to Jerusalem and eat them there. “you shall eat them before Gd in the place I have chosen.”

A good friend of mine Zachary Prensky (who is currently vacationing in the desert of Morroco) pointed out that usually one brought his tite- produce when he went to Jerusalem for the holidays or “Oleh Regel” going up for the Holiday. There would be lots of people there. Like a big “simchas Torah Kiddush” in modern terms.

Zachary points out that a farmer could have tremendous amount of produce with him and could not possibly consume all this food within the few days he would be in Jerusalem. Zachary explains that all people would come and share their food with others who came. Since you could not eat all the food and it had to be consumed in Jerusalem, it was required that you give it away-share it.

The point of bringing the food was to share your success. To make sure that not only you enjoyed your holiday, but others did as well. Sharing is the true joy of the holiday. Knowing that you are well fed and others are well fed.

Big Shout out to Zach in the desert.

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Making Room For all: Yoma 21a

There was a famous song by the Police -“Dont Stand So Close to Me.” Wrong. The Talmud in Yoma 21 a says there was a miracle in the Temple. Despite being so crowded during the holidays, there was room for everyone to bow down. Rashi says something even greater. Despite the crowd there was room so no one heard the confession of the next person when he bowed down. The person giving the shiur said that someone once said all miracles in the Torah can be explained within the context of the natural world So what is the explanation for the enlargement of the Temple to allow for all these people to bow down?

The answer is RESPECT. Each was careful to respect the other and allowed the person allowed the other to bow and then respected his privacy to make his confession. There was a respect for the other that dominated.

Rather than ask about why the terrible tragdy in Meron occurred. Lets us re-invigorate and commit to respect each other.

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Yoma 9B-Character Elevation

In page 9b, we learn the famous reasons for the destruction of the Second Temple. The Talmud famously tells us that the Temple was destroyed for senseless hatred- sinas chinum. The Talmud tells that the people were scrupulous in the mitzos, rituals, learning and ironically they were even careful in their acts of kindness- gemilus chasudum. However, despite being careful in acts of kindness they still displayed sinas chinum- senseless hatred. It is possible that hatred could conceivably exist with meticulous ritual… but chesed? How does hatred exist in the same person as chesed.

How is this possible? It makes no sense! How can one act kindly and be a bal chesed and yet still harbor hatred?

The SD would like to weigh in. There might have been individual or systematic acts of kindness, but there was NO ETHOS of kindness or compassion or love. There was no overarching emotional sensitivity and awareness of others. It is possible that the kind act is isolated in one’s psyche and does not pervade one soul. This exactly what the Torah wants us to promote. The Torah wants systemic kindness. Organic kindness. A kindness and concern that overwhelms. A real Jew is one who feels the pain of other and acts on the pain of others. It is pervasive in one’s being.

The work of the SD is to recognize that individual acts are not enough. It must be a culture or ethos of character elevation.

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