Pharaoh had a dream. First, seven “good” cows came out of the Nile. Then seven “bad” cows came up and consumed the first cows. When he awoke in the morning, he called for Yosef to interpret the dream. Yosef explained the seven “good cows” represented seven years of plenty that would be followed by seven years of famine.
A congregant once told me that he was spending a large amount of time trying to explain Judaism to a coworker. His colleague thought that all Jewish holidays had the same theme, and he proudly summarized this theme at his family's two-minute Seder: "They tried to kill us, Hashem saved us, we won, now let's eat!!" He proudly bragged that this sentence was the family's personal, abbreviated Haggadah.
A Matter Of Intention? ‘The Primary Labors Are Forty Less One…’ (Shabbos 73a)
Using one’s creative powers seven days a week may lead one to believe in oneself as a Creator. This danger is averted in Judaism by the institution of Shabbat, during which one refrains from melachot. Melachot are defined by my father, Dayan Grunfeld, zt”l, in his book on the Sabbath, as acts that demonstrate one’s mastery of the world by means of the constructive exercise of one’s intelligence and skill. For just one day a week, we are asked to lay aside our skills and acknowledge the real Creator.
Question: The Gemara in Shabbos states that one should ideally place one’s menorah by the side of one’s outside door. In a dangerous situation, one may place it on the table inside the house. If the dangerous situation the Gemara discusses, however, refers to potential anti-Semitic behavior by one’s neighbors, how does placing the menorah indoors help? Can’t non-Jews see the menorah through the window? Wouldn’t anti-Semites potentially search Jews’ houses? Is there any safe place to light in such circumstances? Menachem (Via E-Mail)
There are two mitzvos that the rabbanan instituted for Chanukah, lighting candles and saying Hallel. The Gemara in Shabbos 23a says that women are obligated in the mitzvah of lighting candles because af ha’eim hayu b’osah haness – they too were involved in the miracle.
Question: Why does Al HaNissim not mention the mitzvah to light nerot Chanukah?
Joseph is now the ruler of Egypt. The famine he predicted has come to pass. It extends beyond Egypt to the land of Canaan. Seeking to buy food, Joseph’s brothers make the journey to Egypt. They arrive at the palace of the man in charge of grain distribution:
Our first Shabbos leichter was an inexpensive brass model we bought from the Queens Judaica store managed by our beloved uncle, z”l. It served us faithfully until we made aliyah a year later. Then we traveled to Bnei Brak and purchased a stunning pair of silver candlesticks, in a simple yet elegant Yemenite design.
King Solomon, who was the wisest of all men, grew up in Jerusalem, the wisest of all cities. He was the son of King David, whose wisdom and vision lives through the centuries and to this day guides us and comforts us in our daily lives through his immortal Tehillim – Psalms.
Our Jewish calendar is based on the lunar year, and Rosh Chodesh, literally the head of the month, occurs when the moon renews itself. It is a holiday — in that we daven mussaf, just like on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, we do not conduct fasts, and the pious among our people eat a special seudah. Traditionally, women do not sew on Rosh Chodesh and refrain from performing heavy-duty tasks.
If you ask ten people what the main focus of Chanukah is, nine would probably answer, “lighting the menorah.” While that is certainly an integral part of the chag, the Gemara (Shabbos 21b) tells us, “The next year they established these days as a Yom Tov, l’hodos u’lihalel – to thank and praise.” What an eye opener! There is more to Chanukah than lighting the menorah, playing dreidel and eating latkes? Yes! These are days established primarily to thank and praise Hashem!
Most people remember where they were when they heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and justice delivered. Many books have already been written about the ten-year search for him, the decision to launch the mission and the actual attack on his compound in Abbottabad. While every aspect of this story is fascinating, I would like to focus on one specific area: Why were the Navy SEALs chosen to execute the mission? When the mission was being planned it was hardly a done deal that the SEALs would be selected as opposed to the CIA’s own paramilitary unit.
It’s been a rough few weeks. It began with the news of a heinous crime just blocks from where I live on Manhatan’s Upper West Side: a nanny viciously took the lives of her two young charges. Hurricane Sandy came next, contributing additional loss of life and financial devastation of a magnitude never before experienced by our East Coast brethren.
For Whom The Bell Tolls ‘Royal Children May Go Out With Bells’ (Shabbos 66b)
Certain activities – such as building, tying, weaving, writing, dyeing and sewing – are not prohibited on Shabbat unless they are made to last. For example, one may tie a knot that is not tied in a professional manner and will be untied within seven days, such as shoelaces or the ribbon around the Torah scroll, on Shabbat afternoon. So too a safety pin may be used on Shabbat since it is not a form of permanent sewing.
Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter. M. Renkin (Via E-Mail)
At the age of seventeen, Yosef was wise in the ways of the Torah and in the ways of the world. He was called a “ben zikunim” because even at such a young age he showed the brilliance of an elder scholar. He had already absorbed all the Torah Yaakov had learned in the many years he had spent in the yeshiva of Shem.
Reb Elimelech maintained that just for him alone they will have to make a new Gehinnom, for the one that already exists is not adequate enough. He also commented – in his infinite humility – that the reason people come to him and request his assistance with children, health and parnassah is because it is his sins that are responsible for the absence of these blessings.