Sound British:Think Yiddish: Zevachim 33

In Zevachim 33, the Talmud is struggling with how the Metzora (leper) can bring his sacrifice or enter the Temple Courtyard. How does he lean on his Asham (sacrifice) if he cannot enter the courtyard due to his status as a leper.  It is a catch 22.

The Gemara proposes an simple answer.  Make two little holes on the wall of the courtyard nearest the altar so he can put his hands through.   The Talmud calls them “pishpishin”  Rashi explains they are two little holes.    The word sounds eerily similiar to the yiddish  derogatory term “pisshur” or insignificant-little person.  Funny, we always thought the word “pisshur” (which has probably gone out of use since it is such an ugly word) meant silly, insignificant, loser, small person. Really, it is a creative way of solving a dilemna.  Ultimately, the Talmud rejects this alteration without a “permit from Hashem” but the ingenuity is a lesson.

The Talmud recognizes that laws or the Torah often present contradictions, obstacles or logistical issues.  Kind of like life and life challenges.   How do get through them? You use ingenuity. You use your wits. You think outside the box.   While the Talmud rejects these Pishpishin, it demonstrates the method of thinking through a problem.

So what is the relationship of Pisshur to Pishpishin?  The small or insignificant holes can sometimes solve big problems.  Sound British, think Yiddish.

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Lesson in Humility from Behar

In Parshat Behar, the Torah tells us about the law of Shmitta.  The seven year cycle where we do not plant, actively grow or harvest. We allow all to walk on the fields and eat the produce.   The Torah tell us “the resting of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your slave, maids and hired worker and sojourners who live among you.” Chapter 25 , 6)

Rashi tells us that as the owner you can eat the same as everyone else and share with everyone else, but you cannot act as the owner.   The Rashi text is beautiful:  “lo tinhog c baal habayis” don’t act or conduct yourself as the owner of the field.   Rashi continues saying “all  will be equal.”   This does not mean to say you give up your field. This does not mean to say, it is no longer yours.  This means that during shmitta your status is as everyone else.

The Shikkerdovid would like to learn a lesson in humility.  For six years you can be proud of your assets. For six years you can exclude other from your fields.  But in Shmitta you are reduced to a regular guy.  It is the great equalizer in terms of human relationships. For one year, my assets are just as much available to the worker, the sojurner or the maid as they are to me. Really, I am no different.

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Emor: A bad “cut and paste job” or something else?

In Parshat Emor we are confronted with alot of topics. Vayikra Chapter 22:32 the Torah says You should not desecrate My HOLY name amongst the children of Israel ..”

The Torah then goes on to discuss Shabbos, the holidays, the Omer, the mitzva of lighting the menora and the lechem Hapanim.

All the way at the very end of the parsha it discussses “The Blasphemer”. The guy whose mother is a Jew, but his father was the Egyptian who Moshe killed.  The Blasphemer said not nice things  ( “cursed”) Hashem.  Should this not have bee put with the commandment not to desecrate the name of Hashem.  Should this have been part of the that section. Is this a bad cut and past job?

The SD has a thought.  Rashi tells us he was angry and cursed, because he tried to pitch a tent in the area of the Tribe of Dan and was not allowed.  According to Rashi there seems to have been a protest against him.    If you look at the parsha  it says “you should not desecrate the  my holy name among the children of Israel.”  The Blasphemer is being descriminated against. He is being shunned.  No one is playing with him, accepting him, wants him in their community.

It is sad that after hearing the beautiful words of the holidays, the bond that brings Israel together during the holidays- was not heeded.  After the recitation of the holidays, we are told of  a lack of inclusion, segregation and descrimination.    This parsha is not just a “gnai” or bad reflection on theBlashphemer, it is also a gnai on the Israel.  The disconnect highlights the gnai/bad reflection.

Not a bad cut and past job. A bad reflection.

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Emor-Zevachim 18-19: It is not About You Mr. Cohen

The SD was always a little uncomfortable with the idea of Cohen-Levi-Yisrael. The whole idea of a “priestly class” kind of felt antithetical to the rest of the Torah and kind of society Judaism preaches in the rest of the Torah.  Until Parshat Emor intersected this week with the daf Yomi- Zevachim 18 and 19.

In Emor we are told that a Kohen with a blemish, such a  long arm, messed up eye or other unmentionable things cannot do the “Avodah” or work of the Temple.  In itself that is strange. Maybe the guy is great, sensitive, sweet and we are not allowing him to do the work based on something as cosmetic defect or something as arbitrary as a tearing eye?  Here comes Zevachim 18-19.   The braisa on 18a and continuing with an objection 18b discusses whether a Kohen’s whose garment is too long or too short when doing the Avodha invalidates his Avoda (work). Even further, the Talmud on 19 questions whether wearing a bandage or a little “bendel” or wrapping invalidates his  Avodah as this would be an extra garment and deem him to be out of uniform.    (The Kohanim wear 4 or 8 when doing work)

What is all this about? The Shikkerdovid would like to weigh in.  The parsha of Emor disqualifies those who are not standard.  The Talmud disqualifies the Avoda when you are not dressed in a standard manner. It is not about the razzle-dazzle or personality of the individual. It is about subordinating himself to the work of the Temple.

The key here is not the person who is central but the Avoda is central. The values of the avoda are central.  By “standardizing” we are taking away the centrality of the person. We are not making it about Mr. Cohen, but  a person working on behalf of a nation.  The rigid almost arbitrary rules that govern the work of the Kohen, hopefully make it about the process, the system, the values,   As kids say: “its not about you!”.

This is how the SD understands the role of the kohen.

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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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