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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvah’

Rebuke: The Malpractice Of A Mitzvah

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

When the Torah mentions the obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew, it ends with the words, “and do not bear a sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17).

The Targum translates this as “and do not receive a punishment for his sin.”

According to the Targum, it appears that if Reuven ate a ham sandwich and I didn’t rebuke him, I would be punished for his sin. This seems difficult to understand. Why should I be punished for his sin? At most, you might argue that if I was capable of rebuking him and didn’t, I would be responsible for the sin of not rebuking him. But how do I become responsible for the sin he perpetrated? He transgressed it; I didn’t.

The answer to this question is based on understanding the connection one Jew has to another.

The Kli Yakar brings a mashol. Imagine a man who is on an ocean voyage. One morning, he hears a strange rattling sound coming from the cabin next to his. As the noise continues, he becomes more and more curious, until finally, he knocks on his neighbor’s door. When the door opens, he sees that his neighbor is drilling a hole in the side of the boat.

“What are you doing?” the man cries.

“Oh, I’m just drilling,” the neighbor answers simply.

Drilling?”

“Yes. I’m drilling a hole in my side of the boat.”

“Stop that!” the man says.

“But why?” asks the neighbor. “This is my cabin. I paid for it, and I can do what I want here.”

“No, you can’t! If you cut a hole in your side, the entire boat will go down.”

The nimshol is that the Jewish people is one entity. For a Jew to say, “What I do is my business and doesn’t affect anyone else,” is categorically false. My actions affect you, and your actions affect me – we are one unit. It is as if I have co-signed on your loan. If you default on your payments, the bank will come after me. I didn’t borrow the money but I am responsible. So too when we accepted the Torah together on Har Sinai, we became one unit, functioning as one people. If you default on your obligations, they come to me and demand payment. We are teammates, and I am responsible for your performance.

The Targum is teaching us the extent of that connection. What Reuven does directly affects me – not because I am nosy or a busybody, but because we are one entity, so much so that I am liable for what he does. If he sins and I could have prevented it, that comes back to me. A member of my team transgressed, and I could have stopped it from happening. If I did all that I could have to help him grow and shield him from falling, I have met my obligation and will not be punished. If, however, I could have been more concerned for his betterment and more involved in helping to protect him from harm and didn’t, I am held accountable for his sin.

This perspective is central to understanding why rebuke doesn’t work.

When Reuven goes over to Shimon and “gives it to him good,” really shows just what did wrong, the only thing accomplished is that now Shimon hates Reuven.

To properly fulfill the mitzvah of tochachah, there are two absolute requirements. The first relates to attitude, the second to method.

What’s My Intention?

When I go over to my friend to chastise him, the first question I must ask myself is, “What is my intention?”

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Pope Says Catholics should not ‘Breed like Rabbits’

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Catholics should be “responsible” parents and not “breed like rabbits,” Pope Francis commented to reporters while traveling from the Philippines Monday.

He still is against contraception and noted that the church has approved other ways to make sure there are not too many Bugs Bunny Catholics running around

“God gives you methods to be responsible,” he said, adding that natural birth control should be practiced by avoiding relations when a woman is able to conceive.

So much for the first mitzvah in the Bible, unless the Old Testament no longer exists for Catholics.

Jewish law takes a direct opposite approach and prohibits a man from even touching a woman when he is ritually impure and cannot conceive.

The pope is consistent his disregarding ancient texts. Not only did does he dismiss the first mitzvah, he also chose to use rabbits as his analogy instead of citing a Talmudic text in Berachot 22a, where rabbis teach that couples should take it easy on intimate relations and practice a bit of self-restraint and not act like “roosters.”

Maybe the pope prefers rabbits because they are not kosher.

The pope also lambasted “ideological colonization,” meaning countries conditioning aid to the promotion on birth control and permissiveness, if not encouragement, of homosexuality.

“Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonized,” Pope Francis said.

So it seems that the pope wants to encourage the holiness of family by restricting sexual relations, especially if it means having more children who can build more families.

But too much birth control has backfired in the past.

Isn’t the virgin Mary the mother of Catholicism?

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Mohel Urges New Dads to Help Make the Cut at Circumcision

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Natan Zaidenweber thought the mohel was kidding. His wife, Linda Raab, thought it was some kind of religious formality and didn’t give it a second thought.

But the mohel, Cantor Philip Sherman, was serious. Though most fathers demur when he invites them to perform the bris on their sons by clipping their foreskin, preferring to delegate the task to someone professionally trained in the procedure, Sherman finds that about 5 or 10 percent of dads agree to do the cut.

“It is the father’s mitzvah to actually perform the bris as Abraham did for his son, Isaac,” Sherman said. “Many fathers have told me what an incredible moment it was for them to do the actual bris and enter their sons into the covenant of Abraham.”

The Mill Valley, Calif., couple realized the cantor wasn’t joking only once the ceremony was underway. Sherman began with a naming ceremony for Jay Hilay and his twin sister, Sivan Rose. Then he again offered Natan the option of making the cut.

The new dad stepped forward, and as his startled wife screamed his name in a tone that she says was intended to say, “Are you crazy?” a friend reassured her it would be easy.

“I then took a deep breath, surrendered to the faith I had in Phil and motioned that they had my blessing to proceed,” Raab said.

Sherman, who says he has performed more than 20,000 circumcisions, set up what was needed, gave the baby some sugar water, put a clamp in place and offered Zaidenweber some direction. Making the cut, Zaidenweber said, was a powerful bonding experience.

“I’m glad I did,” he said. “I’m glad I have that connection with my son. Your love is equal for both [twins], but it’s special that we have that bond.”

For Raab, too, the experience was a positive one. Sherman had told the gathering that a baby’s cry during a bris is like the sound of the shofar opening the gates of heaven.

“I closed my eyes, heard Jay’s cry and actually was able to experience it as deeply spiritual and beautiful,” Raab said, noting her pride that her husband took on the role.

“He stepped up, fearlessly, with a faith in himself that I wouldn’t have had in myself,” she said. “I have since been aware of how much his modeling has helped me to muster more courage as I face the tasks of mothering.”

If the couple were to have another son, would Zaidenweber make the snip again? Yes, say mom and dad, without hesitation.

JTA

The Day Netanyahu Helped an Old Man to Take Out the Trash

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The following article was written by Daniel Estrin, published on PRI (Public Radio International) and disseminated by JTA.

Last Saturday, I was pruning some plants on the balcony of my fourth-floor apartment in Jerusalem when I tossed a dead leaf over the ledge and saw Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing below.

I was surprised. The prime minister’s official residence is just up the street, but he usually gets around by motorcade. It was the first time I had seen him walking around the block since he took office.

What surprised me more was why he (and his son and about 15 armed guards) had stopped below my building. He was on a Sabbath stroll in the neighborhood, wearing sneakers and a black shirt, and had stopped to help an old man take out the trash.

So the man lives next door, I thought to myself. It was the old man I always see shuffling around the neighborhood with a walker, the tongues of his Velcro shoes sticking up out of place. I always felt sorry, and worried, for him. Once, I helped him cross the street, but I never struck up a conversation.

And there was Netanyahu, chatting with the man for minutes. At one point, Netanyahu asked an aide for a notebook and pen, jotted something down, and pocketed the small piece of paper. [Netanyahu is not Sabbath observant – ed.]

He shook the old man’s hand, and left. And the old man shuffled back to his apartment, alone.

It took a whole week before I finally ran into the old man at the corner convenience store, and introduced myself.

Turns out the old man is not very old at all. Rami Yizraeli is only 69-years-old. A stroke left him barely able to walk, but it left his mind sharp.

Last Saturday, when he looked up to see Netanyahu standing before him, Yizraeli pounced on the unexpected one-on-one with the Israeli leader to share his greatest dream: to memorialize the 1,000 Jews, fighters and civilians, who were killed in Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to the establishment of Israel as a state.

Many of those killed were never memorialized, Yizraeli said. Their names were not properly recorded on memorial plaques, and their families were never given proper compensation, as the Israeli government does with the families of war victims.

Working as a historian for the Ministry of Defense in the 1990s, Yizraeli scoured burial society archives, met with families and, with luck and coincidence, discovered the names of people who had been killed but never properly recorded and remembered. These included the two brothers who had arrived from Canada to fight in the war and the baker who was killed by a bomb while walking in the street. Thanks to Yizraeli’s sleuthing, numerous Israeli families began receiving government compensation.

His dream, he told Netanyahu, was to list those victims, whose names were now known, on a stone that commemorates the war and is displayed — but etched with no names — near Israel’s Supreme Court.

Netanyahu jotted down Yizraeli’s name and phone number on a piece of paper.

“Thank goodness I had remembered my new number,” Yizraeli said. And the very next morning, Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary phoned him, saying the matter was important to the government and that he was interested in implementing Yizraeli’s idea, and that they would be in touch.

His dream may come true — all because of a serendipitous encounter with a prime minister helping him take out the trash.

“My entire life has been about coincidence,” Yizraeli said to me on the bench, and smiled.

JTA

The Story Of Chanukah: ‘I Think I Can’

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Chanukah is just about upon us and Jews across the planet are looking forward to family gatherings, delicious food (you can’t feel too guilty eating oily latkes and high carb donuts on the chag – hey, it’s practically a mitzvah to do so); giving and receiving gifts and in general celebrating our survival – our spiritual continuance as God-fearing Jews. (Our physical survival is an event we acknowledge on Purim.)

Chanukah commemorates two unlikely events – the triumph of the Jews over the Greeks and their pagan culture, and the lasting of a small jar of kosher oil – meant to burn in the Temple menorah just a day – for an extra seven days until more kosher oil could be produced.

Anyone betting on a rag-tag of Jews, led not by a trained warrior, but by a Kohen, a peaceful cleric, to defeat a vastly superior armed Greek forces would have been viewed as crazy.

So too, anyone betting the Temple oil would burn longer than 24 hours.

But, despite the mind-boggling odds of either event happening, the Jews were not deterred and went ahead with their plans. They had faith, both in themselves and in Hashem.

It is said that God helps those who helps themselves. But the person has to take the initiative, that first crucial step.

Many of us are familiar with the popular children’s story of the little engine that takes on an undertaking that bigger, stronger, more “qualified” engines refuse to accept. They are realistic in their refusal to attempt something they feel is extremely difficult, if not impossible to do. They are convinced they will fail, so why bother?

The little engine, however, despite the fact he was not designed to pull a large train, thinks he just might be able to do so. At the very least, he will attempt this formidable challenge. If he doesn’t try, then for sure he won’t succeed.

Fuelled by a positive attitude and great optimism, he is willing to give it his best shot – even if the laws of physics are not in his favour.

There is a life-enhancing lesson here that we should take to heart: Do not let the facts on the ground ever deter you from trying to reach a goal.

It might be amusing for some to discover (like I did) that this message of “going for it,” despite the “facts” staring you in the face, was often brought forth decades ago in the very popular science-fiction series, “Star Trek.” Frequently, the chief engineer of the spaceship exploring the galaxy would be ordered by the captain “to get us out of here.” Depending on the theme of the episode, the spaceship would be in imminent danger of being destroyed by an exploding asteroid; swallowed up by a space monster the size of a planet; about to be blown up to smithereens by alien forces or trapped forever in another dimension – unless it immediately went to warp speed and high-tailed it out of there.

Often the captain would tell the chief engineer that he had several minutes to repair the disabled warp drive. And the chief engineer, in a reproachful voice, would tell the captain that he needed at least a few minutes to do so – that he “couldn’t change the laws of physics.” But he would always try, and he always succeeded.

Of course this was television, and a happy ending was necessary for the show to continue. But the lesson to be gleaned here, as exemplified by the story of Chanukah, is that you can’t let pessimism stop you from taking on a difficult challenge, you can’t admit defeat before you even attempt what seems likely to be futile.

You may be faced with seemingly insurmountable odds: you are an older single; you have a physical handicap; you have learning disabilities; you have kids off the derech; you have severe shalom bayit issues, you have been out of work for a long time. There is no shortage of problems to tackle and goals to achieve. But it is crucial to make the effort to “fix” the situation.

Often multiple attempts to resolve your issues end in failure. You want to give up – no more putting yourself in an uncomfortable, even demeaning situation, like continuing to ask friend and casual acquaintance alike if they can think of a shidduch for you or a job. Or going for marital counselling- again, or for yet another invasive, costly fertility treatment.

Cheryl Kupfer

Daf Yomi

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

For Whom The Bell Tolls
‘Royal Children May Go Out With Bells’
(Shabbos 66b)

Our mishnah states that princes may go out on Shabbos with ornamental bells on their clothing. Since nobility often wear such bells, the Sages were not concerned that princes would remove them to show their friends and then accidentally carry them in the street.

The Gemara elsewhere states that the Sages prohibited playing musical instruments on Shabbos lest one mistakenly fix them when they break. The Rema (Orach Chayim 338:1) rules that included in this prohibition, referred to as hashma’as kol, is the use of any device which is designed to make noise, such as a door knocker.

Noise, Melody, Or Ornament

The Shiltei Gibborim (to the Rif on 30b, also cited by Rema, O.C. 301:23) comments that a person may not wear bells on his clothing unless the clappers are removed because bells are designed to make noise. The Magen Avraham (O.C. 301:35) distinguishes between children and adults. He asserts that the Shiltei Gibborim only requires the removal of clappers from bells on children’s clothing because children shake bells to produce a melodious sound. Adults, however, who are not interested in the sound of bells and only wear them for ornamental purposes, are permitted to wear them with their clappers.

Eliyahu Rabba (O.C. ad loc. and cited by Biur Halacha ad loc.) takes issue with the Magen Avraham’s leniency, and asserts that regardless of intent, one may not produce sounds with a bell because it is an instrument that is designed to make a melodious sound.

The Taz (O.C. 338:1, Y.D. 282:2) maintains that bells attached to a paroches or crown of a sefer Torah must have their clappers removed since the intent of those bells is to produce noise to signal to the congregation to rise when the Aron Hakodesh is opened and when the sefer Torah is carried.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc. sk5), however, claims there is no need to remove the clappers since these bells are not made with the intent to emit a melodious sound, and the individual who opens the Aron Hakodesh does not have any intention to shake the bells and make noise.

Mitzvah Purposes

The Shach (Y.D. 282 sk4, citing Rabbenu Manoach found in the Beis Yosef’s commentary to the Tur, Y.D. ad loc. s.v. “e’kasav”) also permits carrying a sefer Torah with bells and clappers on Shabbos, but on different grounds. He states that the rabbinic issur against making music was lifted for mitzvah purposes. The bells on a sefer Torah serve an important function, that is, to signal to all that the sefer Torah is passing by and that all should rise in its honor. Rabbenu Manoach derives this from R. Yosef (Kiddushin 31b) who, when he heard the footsteps of his mother, would say “Let me rise before the Shechina.”

The Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 338:6) rules that one should conduct himself in accordance with the Taz and remove the clappers from the bells of sifrei Torah before Shabbos or stuff the bells with cotton. However, if for some reason this is not possible, or one forgot to do so, the Mishnah Berurah rules that we may rely on the lenient view.

Let Us See What People Do

The Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 338:1) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. sk3) maintain there is no problem and no need to act stringently. To the contrary, they say. An important purpose is served by these bells – that is, they signal to the members of the congregation that a sefer Torah is being carried. They therefore know to stand up and show honor to it. The Aruch Hashulchan states that leaving the clappers in the bells is the common custom throughout the world.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

Q & A: The Sandak (Part VI)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

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)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

We then returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

Last week we cited a case discussed by Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav, zt”l (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1, 60:9), in which an individual accepted sandika’ot, only to be faced with his father’s strong opposition. Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35) who rules that a son is not duty-bound to accede to his father’s demands in such a case. The Knesset Hagedolah writes in the name of the Ohr Zarua that if a father tells his son to disregard a mitzvah without offering an explanation, the son should not to listen to him. He cites Tosafot (Bava Metzia 32a sv “d’kavod”) as a source for this ruling.

Rabbi Stern explains that in case of sandika’ot, a father might object because, as the Mechaber states (Yoreh De’ah 257:7), in any situation that involves the assumption of financial responsibilities, a mishap can occur, perhaps leading to false accusations. Rabbi Stern suggests that a father might worry that by his son serving in the capacity of sandak he is taking on some sort of financial responsibility, such as when appointed a guardian for orphans.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-the-sandak-part-vi/2012/12/06/

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