Avoda Zara 74 and Pesach- No coincidences

Today’s daf Avoda Zara 74 starts with a straightforward Mishna- These are the things that are prohibited in even the most miniscule amounts “nesech wine, hearts of animals used for idol worship , a goring ox,  hair of a nazir etc. ”   What is conspicuously missing? The Talmud immediately jumps on the list and asks is chametz on pesach not on the list.”  The Talmud persists in the question.  The question is better than the answer given. The Talmud points to another Mishna in Orla for that answer.

Coincidence? The day of the big holiday and the Talmud hits onto to this. We are tractates away from Pesachim and yet we hit on the theme!

The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  The things that make this list are things that are always prohibited-100 per cent of the time.  One is always  prohibited  from nesech wine, the goring ox, the heart.  All these things are perpetually tainted.  The difference is Chametz is innocuous for 51 weeks per year. In fact, it is necessary for so many things that contribute to mitzvos.

For one week we are forced to shun it.   It is the will of  Hashem that we take off one week from eating chametz to re-orient and examine ourselves.   The cessation of Chametz is not because it is evil or frowned upon like the nazirus existence,  but rather to make us stop in our tracks, examine our existence or our behavior.   It does not make the list, but  its prohibition in the miniscule amount is to stop our humdrum existence and make us re-examine ourselves.

Happy and Dry Passover to all the Shikkers out there.

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Shabbos Hagadol Haftora: Passover or Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur?

This week’s haftora is very special.   Read it in English.  It addresses the themes of  judgment, Tshuva,  (return to me), be good and listening to Hashem.  It also address the good who suffer and bad who succeed.  Where is Passover in this? The most interesting thought is that Hashem challenges us  to be charitable.  The prophet says:

Bring all the tithes, so that there should be food for kohanim and levieim.  Please, test me, with this,  if I do not open the skylight of heaven and rain down blessings.

Hashem is challenging us:  be good, be charitable and caring and I will care for you.  Its a deal. You be good to my people and I will be good to you.

Two questions:  1. Do we really “horsetrade” with Gd?  Do we give charity thinking he will certainly replenish our money supply.  When does Hashem ever say, “test me.”  2. What does all this have to do with passover. This sounds more like a message of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana.  What does this have to do with upcoming Passover.

The Shikkerdovid believes the following:  Every day is a” horsetrade” or “hondle” with Hashem. Every day is Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Every day we are challenged to make good use of our time and our our money in order  to justify our existence to Hashem. In return he gives us another day and another paycheck.  We have to earn our keep every day. Really to SD, Passover is just another week, only we don’t drink bourbon, Glenlivet and Ketel One.  The themes of Passover are really just other  motief ( inviting people to passover, making sure all have matza and food for pesach) for earning our keep.  Passover is just another reason which underscores our relationship to Hashem- using every day to earn our keep on earth.

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Final Exam for Avoda Zara

For all of you who are doing the daf yomi and are in Avoda Zara. Here is your final exam.  The ShikkerDovid received this as a gift. It is a represenation of the Hindu God -Ganeesh. This god is believed to bring “parnassa” to Hindus.

Here are the facts: It is made of wood. It is about is sold to Tourists with the intent of sale. It is made commercially, probably in China.  Unknown whether it has been worshipped. Also, notice the elephant snout is down. Apparently, this is NOT good for parnassah. Apparently, they make both, despite only an upward  snout is a “segula for parnassa.”

So here is the exam question: Can the Shikkerdovid keep this? If not what must he do with it.?

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Avodah Zara: 54-55: Talmudic Grappling with other Religions

In Avodah Zara 54, the Mishna relates a question posed by Romans to the elders of Israel.  The Romans asks : If your Gd is so strong and hates idol worship why does not Hashem destroy them.  The elders answer that idolators worship the sun,  the moon  and the stars, and all people need these celestial things to live. Pretty good answer.  A little bit of a dodge answer but pretty good.

The Talmud on page 55 gives a better answer. The Talmud cites a pasuk from Devarim chapter 4:19  warning against worshipping other gds:  And lest you lift your eyes and see the sun, the moon, the stars and be drawn to them and worship them and serve them, which Hashem has APPORTIONED (CHALAK) to them.”   The chalak means that they are given to the nations to worship and use.

The Magid shiur this morning intimated that other cultures are entitled to use the sun, the moon to help pray to the “prime mover. ”  This behavior by a Jew is idol worship and would be idolatry if we behaved in such a fashion. However, it is acceptable to other cultures and nations.

The answer is that as Jews we must be respectful and cognizant that other cultures worship Hashem in different methods and in different modes.   That Torah Judaism is our way of recognizing Hashem, however other cultures have their own road to similar beliefs.

The Shikker dovid would like to use this pasuk and this thought to expound on a personal belief or thought.  All people in the world, Hindu, Moslem, Buddist can serve or recognize Hashem with the same  efficacy and validity as Jews While we might wear tfillin, keep shabbos, eat chulent and wear funny undershirts with strings, their modes and methods can be equally effective, provided they recognize the prime mover of the world and recognize that kindness, caring, loving, charity and responsibility to other humans is the manner in which we promote Hashem’s direction to all.

Whether y0u wear tfilin on your head, a dot on your forehead, or a turban on your hair.  All roads can lead to Hashem.  Each nation has it own “Chalak” or apportionment to serve Hashem.

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Purim: My Favorite Holiday and My Favorite Pasuk

The Shikkerdovid loves Purim. It is such a holy day. His first child was born on Purim.  The Shikkerdovid remembers sitting with the new Zaidy (Shikker Sr) in the recovery room and drinking some boysenberry Vodka from a silver flask right after the delivery.

Quite miraculously,  SD just learned that his favorite pasuk in the Torah also figures prominently in Purim Midrash.  The pasuk  is from the  Rebukes: Devarim 28:67. The pasuk states: “In the morning, you will say: were it the evening, and in the evening you will say, were it the morning.”  The SD has said this is a brutal curse because it shows a person who will never be happy. Whatever he has or wherever he is, he wants something else.

Now the miracle:  The SD opened the Esther Raba and literally the second line of this Midrashic text quotes this pasuk in the Torah. However, it adds: “In the morning in Babylon you will say, were it the evening in Medea!. In the morning of Media you will says, were it the evening of Greece!

Now: What is this doing in Esther Raba. what does this pasuk have to do with Purim? The SD would like to propose an answer.  In Purim, things are “hafoch”- switched.  Mordechai is elevated, Haman is taken down.  Esther is elevated, Vashti is taken down.  We wear costumes to change our outer exterior.  Finally, we drink to not know the difference is blessed is Mordechai cursed is Haman. It is a day of like no other. Things swing and switch. We alter our minds with alcohol.   It appears that the reality is changed.

The sobering pasuk tells us that Hashem rules the world. He switches things, he changes things.  We can be elevated or destroyed.  The Purim story is triumph. But the triumph might not last forever.  Things change, but we cannot long for what we don’t have. We can put on a  superman costume on Purim, but we cannot become Superman. We can drink on Purim, but the next day we must be nominally sober.

The reality is  We must be happy  if we are in Bablylon and not wish for Medea. We must be happy in Medea and not wish for Greece. We can put on a costume for a day, but we must accept our reality and learn to love it and be happy.

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Avodah Zara 31-32: The Psychology of Ritual

The SD loves this tractate Avoda Zara,  because it explores the  relationship between our emotion and motivation to ritual observance.   The Mishna states that we may not do business with an idol worshipper on his way to idol worship. However we may do business with him after he leaves his temple or whatever.

The Talmud says that we cannot do business with the idol worshipper on his way because, if he is successful he will sacrifice and give thanks to his idol once he is there, however, once he leaves, we are not concerned that he will turn around and go back for more praise or idol worship.  The Talmud then extends the thought to a Jew who takes on idol worship.  The opposite is true for a Jewish idol worshipper. We can do business with him when he is on the way, but not after when he has left the idol worship.  The Talmud explains that maybe the apostate Jews will reconsider worshipping an idol when he is on the way, but he is more “frum” than the idol worshipper and once the Jew makes the deal he will go back and do more idol worship. His appreciation for the idol will motivate more observance.

The SD thinks this raises a fundamental issue of ritual . Is  ritual an isolated event that is not seen in the context of one’s life.  Is it pigeon holed or is it more fluid?  The idol worshipper does not return on his good fortune but the Jew does?

The frum Jewish idol worshipper sees the business deal and then wants to thank the idol. It is a weird appreciation.   He sees the good fortune and wants to give thanks so he returns.  The idol worshippper dosent return because he doesnt see the need for appreciation  and therefore does not return.

Maybe in some crazy way, we can learn from this “frum” apostate Jew. The SD  believes all good fortune flows from Hashem. Any success, good fortune or good turn of events is a gift.  It requires constant recognition of Hashem’s power and his rule of the world. More importantly, it requires constant appreciation. It requires constant give back.  We must always return any good fortune  through ritual and action.


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Avoda Zara 22: Old Fashion-Kind hearted Rabbis

The SD remembers as a kid having some old sweet Rabbis as teachers and role models.   They were gentle, kind and soft spoken. They held themselves to high standards while understanding other human beings.  In Avoda Zara we see a glimmer of this.

On page 22 we hear of a story where a Jew and an non Jew enter into a partnership of  working a garden.  The Non Jew agrees to work the garden on Shabbos and the Jew agrees to work on Sunday. The Jew asks Rava if this is acceptable.   The Talmud says that Rava gives a one word answerr: “permitted.” The Talmud doe not quote Rava giving an explanation. It just says that he said “permitted.”   Ravina jumps all over him and then Talmud goes to great length  to explain the case.  The Gemara postulates they made a pre arranged agreement as to profits. It is going through hoops  to cover Rava.

The SD would like to weigh in. Rava is the old time Rabbi.  He leads his life to strict and high standards, but when he sees a hard working simple Jews who wants to keep shabbos and earn a living he does not exact the same standard.  He knows how hard life is.  He does not explain his answer, he  just says “pemitted.” Rava shoulders are broad enough to know when the law needs to be adopted.

As Rabbi Schwartz always says: we should put other people’s physical needs above our own spiritual needs and our own spiritual needs above our physical needs.

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