Effectivenes: Temura daf 4-5-6

The Torah has a strange law called Temura in Leviticus 27:33. It says that one should not transfer  or exchange the holiness  animal to be offered with another animal. If does this then both animals are deemed holy.

The Talmud uses this as a springboard for a psychologically fascinating argument between Abaye and Rava. Abaya says that if one does an act in violation of the Torah, it is effective and the act stands. Rava says no, the act is not effective and has no significance.  The Talmud then cites 14 different scenarios.

The most interesting example  is the following: One is obligated to give Teruma (portion of crop or produce give to a kohan) from the best of his produce. If one gives from an inferior segment of his produce is his terumah effective?  The argument goes Abaye says yes, his teruma is effective. Rava says no. Nothing accomplished.

Cleary we all know that our actions have consequences.  But do we get a “do over” in life. Do we miss out if we mess up.  In golf terms do we get to take “a mulligan”  Are we stuck with what we did.

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Arachin 15: ___________________

Today , Arachin15- the person who gave the daf yomi looked at the group and said. Gentlemen today is the core learning about the evils of loshon hora. The daf goes on to describe how horrible and evil the speaking of other is.   Arachin 15 says something startling. This sin “supercharges” or aggravates our other sins.   It magnifies other sins.

From now on…. I have nothing to say….hopefully.

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Arachin 12: The Titanic Sank, but Band played on

Arachin 12 deals with the singing  in the Temple by the Leveim. The page relates that when the temple was being destroyed the Leveim continued to sing right throught the actual destruction. There is a question as to what they were singing. Was it the daily psalm or a dirge?

The Shikkerdovid thought have crazy it must have been. Mayhem, destruction, killing, blood, but they kept singing.   Titanic comes to mind… or does it.

The SD would like to suggest a different concept.  On June 6, 1944 the British and Irish troops took to shore in Normandy on the coast of  France.  As they attacked, many died, but they were accompanied by Irish bag pipes. Apparently it was an old tradition of one of the regiments that attacked the beaches to go into battle with bagpipes playing.  This is a story  heroism…similiar to the Leveim.   The Leveim trusted in GD.  It is really a story of bravery and trust.  May we all have such emuna and trust in hashem that all will be well… and keep singing.

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Bechoros 39: Unseen Blemishes

The daf yomi is learning about Bechoros or the law of the first born animal which you give to a kohan.  The exception is when an animal has a blemish, imperfection or abnormality. You an keep it rather than give it to a khan. Page 39 deals with the specifics of imperfections.  The question arises if the gums are not straight or the teeth are not correct.   The discussion centers around whether an imperfection which is not visible will disqualify the animal as a bechor or appropriate for the altar. The Talmud raises an argument: are blemishes which are not visible disqualifying.

Rabbi Schwartz (OZ beloved Rabbi) explained that RAMBAM holds that unseen blemishes do not invalidate.   The joke is that “looks matter” even in the Temple.  This raises a fundamental questions: How is it ok  to offer an imperfect animal? Just because you can’t easily see the imperfection, nevertheless, you know it is not perfect.  Despite its imperfection, it is accepable for the altar.

While the SD was running this morning he thought about this.  Here is what came out of the mental meandering.   Maybe this is far fetched or a long shot but this is how the SD sees the issue. Gd really does not care about sacrifices. He does not care whether the gums or teeth or ok.  The sacrifices are for us. The sacrifices somehow help us. If there is a hidden blemish, it really doesn’t matter to Gd. It is really the intent or heart.  If there is something visible for us to see or others to see, that invalidates because it goes to our perceptions and  view of the mitzvah and sacrifice.

To extend this idea…. all of ritual is for us. Prayer, kiddush, tfillin, is for us. Hashem does not need our prayers, our kiddush. We need these events or activities to elevate us. Hashem needs us to be kind, generous, merciful. Somehow the rituals help us reach the level to do what Hashem really wants.   The SD would hope that our small inner blemishes are ok to Hashem as long as we demonstrate visible signs of goodness to others.  Maybe.. this is how we understand the unseen acceptable blemishes.

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Behar: Trust in Hashem

The parsha opens with talking about the shmitta year- the Shabbos for the land. The year we let the land lie fallow and all can come onto the owners land and take produce.

Every Thursday nite the SD reads the Ishbitzer (in English don’t be impressed) to prepare for Shabbat. This week, his first lesson smacks you in the face.  The Ishbitzersays short and sweet,  when in the land, the people of Israel will be at peace.  Izbitzer says “land” is the heart and when  the land is at rest, then the hearts of Israel will be at peace

How can the Ishbitzer say Israel will be at peace during the Shmitta year and their hearts will be at peace? The SD would go crazy if he could not work for a whole year. The SD is afraid to go away on vacation, let alone walk away from his office  for a year.  Thoughts of disaster, poverty and homelessness come to mind… not rest or peace of heart.

If you think about it, that is the point.  The “heart” is at peace knowing it is following the will of Hashem.  It is the head that makes us crazy, worrying about things.  We should follow our heart that inherently trust in Hashem. We love Hashem. We fear Hashem. These are emotions from the heart.

The SD would like to send a shout out to holy  Emuna Daily that once said this so beautifully.  According to Reb Simcha Bunim of Pscicha,  “My bracha to you is that you should not worry. Hashem does not give to those who worry, he gives to those who ask (pray).”

Shmitta is the ultimate test of faith. Let us find peace in our faith.

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Emor: Serving Hashem

Parsha  Emor begins exhorting the Cohan not to be defiled by death. The Cohan is not to come in contact with the dead.   The Isbhitz quotes a parable:  A king tells his chef,  “Don’t even look at a dead person.” Your job is to make me happy and how can you succeed in making me happy if you see the dead.

Clearly the cook is a metaphor for  the Cohan. The same way the cook serves the king and his duty to is to bring the king joy, so to  the Cohan serves Hashem and the people of Israel and the Cohan’s mission is to bring joy.

The SD has a question on this parable: What does the king care if the cook is happy? The cook has a job. If he does not succeed in pleasing the king, the cook can be replaced. The cook’s job is to please the king regardless of his own feelings, emotions or mental health.

The SD would like to weigh in. This is exactly the point. Hashem requires us to serve Him, his creations and other beings. But part of that charge is that we derive pleasure, benefit and happiness from our service. We cannot let our service be marred with unhappiness.  The same way the king does not want the cook to look at a death or be sad in his service, so to Hashem does not want us to be sad.  The Cohan cannot come into contact with death because he is charged with bringing  joy into the world with his service in the Temple or to Israel.

The lesson or take away for us is intensely personal and quite difficult.  Really it is not so easy to be happy. It is not so easy to avoid  “death” or the challenges, obstacles and frustrations of life.  We face daily hurdles which bring us down and slowly wear us down.  The challenge is serving Hashem like the parable. Be the chef and be happy in your service to Hashem and His creations. That is the true challenge.


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Parshat Kedoshim:”Shabbos”

Parsha Kedoshim, the parsha about holiness starts with Shabbos: You shall be holy, you shall fear your mother and father and you shall guard the shabbos.

A quick story:  This Thursday morning, during davening the SD was thinking about this upcoming  Shabbos. The SD must travel for personal reasons to a place where there is no shul, no jews, nothing.  The SD was thinking of what shortcuts or allowances would have to be made.

Immediately after davening and walking to the daf yomi room, the SD passed the  sweet, wonderful, muscular, Hispanic porter at the shul. He was in the process of lifting large heavy boxes. As the SD passed him, he heard the porter  let out a little gasp of air (as if to say “oy Veh”) and then the porter gently murmured one word: “SHABBOS”.   The porter was not talking to the SD, rather to himself. He was almost consoling himself that Shabbos was coming.

What an ephiphany.  Even the porter, who barely speaks English and does the hard work in the shul looks forward to, recognizes, and senses in a viceral way  the beauty, warmth and holiness of Shabbos.   The porter knows what a special gift shabbos is.

The SD was a little ashamed.  Here the SD was looking to cut corners,  and rationalizing any allowances that needed to be made and possibly detract from the Shabbos, when the porter who works so hard, cleans the floor, does the heavy work knows the value and beauty and looks forward to Shabbos.

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