Friday, June 24, 2016

The merit of constancy _ Beha'halothcha

The Parsha of Beha'halothcha gets its name from the second verse (in the eighth chapter) בדַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרֹת אֶל מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת
Rashi explains it this way: 

When you light: Why is the portion dealing with the menorah juxtaposed to the portion dealing with the chieftains? For when Aaron saw the dedication [offerings] of the chieftains, he felt distressed over not joining them in this dedication-neither he nor his tribe. So God said to him, “By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.” - [Tanchuma Beha’alothecha 3]בהעלתך: למה נסמכה פרשת המנורה לפרשת הנשיאים, לפי שכשראה אהרן חנוכת הנשיאים חלשה דעתו, שלא היה עמהם בחנוכה, לא הוא ולא שבטו, אמר לו הקב"ה חייך, שלך גדולה משלהם, 

My grandfather quotes that explanation and asks what was particulalry consolation about the menorah service.  What makes lighting the menorah greater than the offering of the Nesi'im?  How does one assign parituclar values to different mitzovs?

The answer is in the persistet recurrence of the mitzvah.  The offering of the Nesi'im was a one time event. In contrast, the work of lighting the menorah endures for generations. It is because of its recurrent nature that the mitzvah of lighting the menorah has greater merit.

 The principle works the opposite way as well. The halacha is that if someone is ill and requires meat on Shabbos, it is better to shecht and prepare kosher meat than to feed him neveyla without doing the work of preparation. Why do we violate the Shabbos for that? As per the Tanya, the reason is that the violation of eating neveyla is incurred for each olive-sized piece, increasing the number of violations beyond those entailed in preparing kosher meat. The editorial insertion explains it is not the sheer number of lavin but the fact that the same violation would be repeated many times.

Also related to the Shabbos violation is the fulfillment of the mitzvah of milah on Shabbos, for the circumcision is a constant mitzvah in that it is fulfilled throughout a man's life once it is done. that trumps the observance of a single Shabbos

My grandfather then references the Meiri's Beys Habechica on "vehakol lefi rov hama'ase" from the third chapter of Pirkei Avos: to remian constant in good deeds and not to deviate even a single time in action. Working through adhering to the good with constancy brings one to shleimus hamiddos vehamalos. 



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shopping for the dress


There are exclusive designer salons offering true couture customization and discount bridal warehouses that offer dresses off the rack, as well as many places in between. Determine where to go based on your budget and your preference of style.
There is no point in going to a salon that starts in the thousands when you have only afford hundreds. You will just be wasting n time and raising false hopes. S


Many bridal salons require you to make an appointment to meet with your "bridal consultant" who is supposed to provide you with personal attention and to make certain you do not merely browse. It is advisable not to make this a solo trip. Bring along your mother if she’s picking up the tab for the dress, as she would want to approve what she pays for. If you are choosing the dress without parental guidance, then you can take a friend with good taste and enough honesty to tell you that “yes, that dress does make your hips look wide” when you ask her. As too many cooks spoil the broth, don’t take along too many women, as hearing so many different opinions can prove confusing.


When trying on a dress, you should have on the same foundation and heel height shoes as you intend to wear with your wedding gown. That way you can better judge contours and length. If you intend to switch from heels to flats, your measurements would be based on the heels, but be sure that you would not trip over your skirts in the lower shoes. Skip the lipstick and heavy mascara for this shopping trip, as you do not want to get makeup streaks on the white dresses you will be pulling over your head.


When you arrive, the salon saleswoman would ask you about what styles and fabrics you prefer and may inquire what price points you have in mind. In these cases, it is generally advisable not to name your uppermost limit if you plan to stay within budget. One reason is that the bridal consultant will often bring out styles that are already priced a few hundred dollars above the limit you tell her. The other is that the dress price is not the total, which will also have to include tax, alteration, and, possibly rush delivery charges, so even if it the dress seems to just make the budget; its final cost could break it.

Some bridal shops allow you free reign to peruse the sample dresses and ask to try on what you want; that is what you would encounter in the larger stores that have many styles and sizes in stock. But in a small, boutique style salon the dresses may be “closed stock,” that is, not accessible to you. In such shops, the saleswoman is completely in control of what you see and get to try on. If such is not your style, you can find a store that does not limit you in that way.


What to look for and beware of when trying on sample dresses


While it is good to have some direction so that you don’t try on every last style available, you should be somewhat open. So if you declared your preference to be a princess style, but the saleswoman suggests you try an elegant eggshell empire gown, take a few minutes to slip it on. You may find it more flattering on you than the silhouette you had envisioned. However, that does not mean you should let the saleswoman flatter you into buying a dress that you do not actually find appealing.


Some salespeople are trained to gush over the gowns, especially the expensive ones, to promote the sale. I've been told of a well-known one in New York where the salespeople sometimes snap pictures, telling the bride-to-be that they would like to have the picture of her in the gown on file. That stratagem make the buyer feel that the gown she is trying on makes her as beautiful as a model, which, obviously, would make her feel more inclined to buy it. In order to avoid such undue influence on yourself, you can insist you cannot put a deposit on the gown on the spot. You can put your money where your mouth is by not bringing any along. Also leave your checkbook, credit card, and ATM card behind so that you can honestly say it is out of your power to put down that 50% non-refundable deposit on the spot.


Bear in mind that the sample dresses may not reflect the true size or the true shade of the dress you will receive. As sample dresses can be tried on so many times, they may stretch beyond the original size, which is why your usual size may feel roomy. That does not mean you could order a size smaller; you must use your actual measurements to determine the size you order, and it is safer to err on the larger side than the smaller. Also due to so many prospective brides putting on the sample gown, its color may change. A dress that started out pure white may have taken on a shade more suggestive of cream due to wear. So be sure to ask for a clean swatch of the fabric to better judge the color.

When you try on the dress, you should try a few more movements than a single twirl in front of the mirror. You want to be sure the dress allows you not only to stand but to sit, walk, and dance. While you may love the sophisticated silhouette of a column dress, you may find it does not allow you the freedom of movement you need to really kick up your heels at your wedding celebration.



Checking for quality construction



While many gowns you will find are beautiful, and you may be happy with how they look on you, there is more to your selection than trying on the gown for fit. You want to be sure it will hold up for the hours of pictures before the wedding and the hours of dancing afterwards. And you don’t want to get up at your wedding to find that the back of the dress is all wrinkled. To check if the fabric wrinkles too easily, scrunch some in your hand to see if it returns to smoothness. After all, you don’t want to carry a steamer for a touch up before your walk down the aisle In addition to looking at the fabric resilience, check for quality construction.


In a better made dress, the seams are well sewn, so that no threads are visible. The inside should be completely lined with finished seams. The lining should not be so heavy that it impedes the drape of the gown, while it should not be so light to let points of construction or what you wear beneath show through. Good fabric should not feel flimsy or scratchy where it touches your skin. The hem would be sewn in herringbone stitch, rather than a simple straight stitch that is more easily ripped should you catch your heel in it. On a cheaper dress, beads are attached with glue, which may disintegrate in cleaning or cause discoloration over time. It takes more work to sew on pearls and beads, which is why that is another mark of quality. One of the drawbacks of a dress decorated with cheap trimmings is that it will not stand up to a cleaning. Either the glue or the beads will disintegrate, and your drycleaner will not be liable. That is why the dress may have a care label that warns not to dry clean. But if the care label indicates that it is neither safe to wash nor to dry clean, then it will not be of use to anyone after it is worn, for it will have to remain dirty.



Check the fastenings. A long row of tiny buttons down the back is the classic closure for a  wedding. The buttons should extend past the waist down to the hip so that you have enough of an opening to get the dress on and off. You would also need them at the wrists of the sleeves if they are very fitted. The loops should hold the buttons in firmly so that they don’t open while you dance. If the dress zips up the back, the zipper should extend as far as the buttons would and there should not be any loose threads or puckering around the zipper. Should you have the option, it may make life easier for you to have a false panel of buttons over the zippered fastening to get the elegant look of the buttons with the ease of zippered closure.






While cheap construction often goes with a cheap price, it not always true that you’ll get a better dress if it costs you more. A poorly constructed dress may simply be overpriced, and a very fine one may be very reasonable, especially if you find one you like marked down at a sample sale. Also the fabric is a big factor in the cost. The many yards needed to construct a ball gown in a fine silk cost far more than the equivalent in polyester. And while silk, with its luxuriously smooth feel and breathable quality, seems to be the better choice at first blush, there is more to consider. Unless it is treated in some way to make it washable, silk can be damaged by water. What that means for you is that should something spill on your silk dress during the wedding, you cannot use stain-remover on it without leaving a mark. On the other hand, a stain on a polyester gown may be removed with a baby wipe or a dabbed away with some water. So take all the factors into consideration: your budget, construction quality, the shade that flatters your complexion, a cut that suits you, and your comfort in the dress. After all you are going to be wearing it for quite a few hours, so you do not want something that makes you feel squeezed, squished, or scratchy.


Placing the Order


So let’s say you found your dream dress to be within your budget at a bridal salon. Unless you are shopping in a store like David’s Bridal, you do not generally walk out with the dress you tried on. You place an order for it in your size. Before you slap down your deposit, make sure that the dress will be ready in time for your wedding. Many salons call for dresses to be ordered as much as 6 months in advance. If your wedding is just 3 months away, that won’t do you any good. While there are rush services available for additional fees, you have to be 100% certain that your dress will be ready in time and have that guarantee in writing with the understanding that time is of the essence.


Bridal shops that solicit the business of frum client are used to having only a month or two to complete a dress order. Kleinfeld's of New York, for example, is really a general bridal salon with the usual line of strapless and sleeveless gowns availalble. However, they employ a rep specifically for the Orthodox Jewish women who need a gown with more modest coverage and to be ready more quickly. Then there are dozens of bridal gown shops om Brooklyn, Monsey, and in New Jersey that only carry the more modest line of gowns for sale or rent for the bride who dresses according to religious standards of modesty and whose engagement may be as short as 6 weeks.


If you are 100% certain the gown will be ready in time (which should be a full two weeks before the wedding to allow for alterations that are almost inevitable even on a special order dress) and you went over the cost of the order, any rush charges, and the alterations to be sure you won't have a shock later, you can proceed with your order.


Why do the bridal salons say they need such a long time to produce an ordered dress? The fact is that, despite the prevailing high prices, most gowns are produced rather cheaply in Asian countries. The bridal manufacturer does not start on a gown the minute the order comes in to produce each piece one at a time; rather the gown is made as part of a batch. What happens is that the gown order will just wait until there are enough of the same size in to make it efficient to be worked on. So once there are about ten orders in for a particular style in the same size, the process will start. The 10 layers of fabrics are stacked and all cut together. Then the seams will be machine sewn. That is why the gowns are not, in fact, custom cut and sewn to your measurements. Consequently, even a gown that is supposedly made to order will likely require alterations upon arrival.



You do not order wedding gowns by the size you normally wear because these dresses are sized on an idiosyncratic scale. While you may normally wear an 8, you may be a 12 according to their sizing, so just ignore the usual numbers. The real numbers you have to pay attention to are your measurements. The store saleswoman should get your measurements with a vinyl measuring tape. Cloth tapes can stretch over time, so a vinyl one should prove more accurate.






The gown sizing will assume particular measurements for your bust, waist, and hips. Odds are very good that your own figure will not exactly match those proportions. So the rule is to order the size that corresponds to your largest measurement. In other words, if your waist matches their 6, your bust their 4, and your hips their 8, you have to get their 8. The reason for this is simple; it is far easier to take a dress in than to let it out. In fact, some dresses do not come with any allowance for letting out. Some brides even order a size larger to allow a bit of room just in case. So you do not order the size you wish to be but the biggest size you are. Do not bank on losing enough weight to warrant the smaller size; if needed, the dress can be taken in.






Don’t be concerned about the number on the label; bridal sizing is not a universal measure. Just think of it as a foreign currency, and not every country denomination will correspond exactly to the value of a dollar. As each bridal designer uses its own idiosyncratic system of measurements, a woman who may be, say a size 10 in standard street clothes, could be an 8 of one designer and a 14 of another, while falling out to the numbers in between for other lines of wedding dresses.


Get it in writing


The size of the dress, as determined by your measurements, is one of the things that should be clearly identified on a contract or written record of your order. Your contract should also identify the dress by manufacturer, style number, and color. Be sure you have seen the dress or another one in the actual color you order; don’t just assume everyone has the same shade in mind for “cream.” Any modifications you request, whether for the neckline, sleeves, or trim should be clearly noted, as should the promised delivery date. The cost for alterations, delivery, and any other charges (like “steaming”) should appear, along with the amount of the deposit paid and the schedule for paying the balance. The store’s cancellation and refund policy should also be in writing. Give your store not just your home number, but the numbers at which you can be reached during the day and evening. You don’t want to hear after the fact that you could not be reached when the store had a vital question.






Bridal Buyer Beware: missing labels and hidden charges


The Mystery of the Missing Label


Labels ripped out of the bridal gowns you see in a bridal shop should raise a red flag. This is, in fact, illegal because of the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. This federal law requires all clothing to be labeled to show the country of origin, fiber content, and the name or registered number of the manufacturer. The only way it is legal to remove the manufacturer labels is if the shop substitutes its own with the store name and the other information required. If the replacement only provides the store name, that store is not in compliance with the law.






Why would a store break the law to withhold information from the consumer? That is the key questions, and the answers are not very reassuring. The salon may not want a bride to know exactly which dress you are trying on in order to prevent her from finding the identical dress elsewhere for a lower price. The removal of the label could also be obscuring the fact that the dress is not, in fact, the designer dress the saleswoman presents it as. It may just be a copy of the designer style. What’s the difference to you? The comparable price is the difference, for an original Vera Wang may sell for $6500, but a gown that is made in imitation of the design would fetch far less.






The store may not be hiding information about the designer but about the fabric, aiming to pass off a gown made of a silky polyester blend as genuine silk. Given the advances in synthetics, someone not accustomed to various fabrics may not be able to tell the difference based on appearance or feel. Yet there is, certainly, a difference when it comes to calculating the component cost of the dress. So you have a right to know which fabric is used in its construction, and you also have to know it in order to avoid damaging the dress when cleaning it. (see What-to-expect-when-shopping-for-a-bridal-gown-part-3) You also have the right to know where the dress was manufactured if you have views on labor conditions or the quality standards in certain countries. You cannot simply take the saleswoman’s word for where the dress’s country of origin; its label should say so.






Surprise fees


These include fees for the privilege of trying on gowns or for not showing up for an appointment to do so, special handling charges, and payment fees. You see, while everyone wants bridal business, they do not like spending a lot of time with brides trying on many different styles to figure out just what they want, and then, possibly, buying elsewhere. The salon solution? Charge the customer a fee for trying on. The amount, which could be as much as $100, would be applied to a purchase but not refunded if the bride chooses not to buy from the salon. Just be clear on whether a fee will be incurred for your appointment to try on so that you don’t have an unpleasant surprise. Also be wary of offering your credit card information when making the appointment, as you may be charged for not showing up as much as you would have been for coming in. I've heard of some well-known bridal salons that do charge no-shows. It is understandable why they do so, but you still want should be told in advance to know what you are getting into.


Other fees that get tacked on include shipping and handling on your orders. A $10 to $50 charge can be added on to each item ordered. Such charges may be standard for shipping, but here the items are not, in fact, delivered to your home. They are delivered to the store from which you will have to pick it up. So you are paying not for your own convenience, but that of the store. Do not be taken in by claims that the charge is for insurance against damage. In truth, retailers are supposed to deliver undamaged goods; they are, after all, supposed to be new and made to your order’s specifications. If the item is damaged by the carrier service, the retailer is the one responsible to take care of it.


As a special order bridal gowns can easily run you four figures, it is common to pay a deposit of about half and then the remaining half upon delivery of the finished product. If that is the agreement you have, be sure that there are no surcharges added on for the convenience of breaking up the payments this way. Also beware of an extra charge for paying with your credit card. It’s true that credit cards do charge retailers a small percentage, but that does not mean the cost is to be passed on to the customer. In fact, some states have laws against charges for credit card use. A store that claims to accept credit card payments should do so for the same price offered to cash customers.






If the pressure of placing an order for a gown in a bridal salon is not to your taste or budget, you could also seek out a gown in a large bridal establishment. Such a store differs from a salon in both size and range of products offered. You would not see only gowns for the bride, but also for bridesmaids, flower girls, and even tuxedos for men, not to mention a whole lot of wedding paraphernalia that is not necessarily relevant to you, from limousine services to customized favors. The gowns in these stores are usually not as high priced as those in salons, though there would be some overlap from their high end to a salon low end.


Alterations at the store


Here's a piece of advice that a reader named Diane sent to my query on wedding tips: s “Often, on the last pickup, they have the gown all nicely wrapped up, even stuffed to keep its shape,” indicating the dress should stay under wraps until the wedding. But you really don’t want to just take someone else’s word for it that everything is set perfectly only to discover otherwise at the wedding hall. Mistakes do happen. So you should inform them from the start that you will not take a gown home until you have tried it on after all alterations are done. Diane recalls that her daughter’s gown was a little tight in the waist; the seamstress assured her it would be fixed and it was all wrapped and ready when they picked it up. Only when it was unwrapped and put on at the hall did they discover that it was let out far too much and did not fit properly at all. Take the time for one more try one before walking out with the dress.


Buying and altering


Odds are that you will not find a gown ready to wear with the modest sleeves and neckline required for those who want their dress to be tznius , but if you find one with a skirt you love at a reasonable price, it may pay to buy it and have the top altered. If all you need are sleeves (see Finding-a-gown-style-that-is-right-for-you they can be added quite easily, though altering a neckline can make the dress look obviously filled in. Instead of trying to build up a strapless style, just have a whole new top made. The seamstress can either incorporate the beading and lace, use a similar trim, or even make a plain top to complement a highly detailed skirt. That way the seamstress is not forced to work around the existing shape of the strapless dress, which is constructed differently than the top of a dress with a high neckline and sleeves. The same holds true for bridal gowns in department stores. A friend of mine got her gown from Macy’s. She said that though it needed alterations to render the top part tznius, it still cost her less complete than a rental at a place that carries the modest styles for frum women would have. (See Beware of deceptive deals)










More Gown Options


Custom made


You can get the style and quality you want by hiring a skilled seamstress and purchasing the fabrics and trims. This is also an option to come up with a more affordable version of a dress you love by substituting less expensive fabrics for its silk and handmade lace. If you go that route, you must be completely certain that the seamstress can have the dress done in good time for your wedding. Give yourself a bit of a window by requiring the dress to be done 2-3 weeks earlier. Do not plan to save money by makingthe dress yourself unless you are very skilled at sewing. Working with slippery silks and fragile trims is not a project for a novice. You could end up ruining $350 worth of materials with nothing to show for it but lost time and money. Expect to pay a minimum of $250 for the sewing alone. The more elaborate the dress, the more it will cost you in materials and labor. So while the final product should be exactly what you want, it is not necessarily the most economical option.


Online


You will find far lower prices on gowns you see in salons from internet sites. However, just as for salons, these dresses will have to be ordered months in advance, and you may not have that much time to spare. Also there is some risk inherent in ordering a dress you have not tried on. But if you recognize it as one you had tried on and were considering, you can offer the retail store the opportunity to match the internet price. They may just agree to it in order to secure the sale. But going to a bridal shop just to try on gowns with an intent to order elsewhere is definitely gneivas da’as [deliberately misleading] of the salespeople in the shop.


Bagging a bargain


It is possible to find relative bridal bargains at sample sales or special offerings from designers. You can get a gown that originally cost $1500 for less than $700 by buying one that a bride wishes to sell once she realizes she is not going to use it again. Many “worn once” gowns for brides, mothers, and sisters are offered for sale in classified ads and on community email lists, as well as in consignment shops and on e-bay.






Free or just the cost of a cleaning and alternations


That's what borrowing a dress costs you. So ask around if a friend, relative, or neighbor has one she is willing to lend out at no charge. More on that in http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2016/06/how-to-avoid-wedding-dress-premium.html


How to avoid the wedding dress premium

Today the Washington Post ran a Wonkblog entitled "Don’t buy a ‘wedding dress’ for your wedding" that warns about the markup anything labeled wedding, including dresses incurs. This is now borne out by analysis:
Edited studied thousands of e-commerce listings for white wedding dresses across mass-market retailers such as J. Crew, Nordstrom, H&M and Asos and compared the pricing of those items to the pricing of dresses that were comparable in design but not described as bridal gowns in any related text or keywords. The analysis found that, on average, retailers were charging 3.9 times as much for the wedding dresses.
 And it's not just the bride that can end up shelling out big bucks for wedding day attire: Researchers found that frocks marked as bridesmaid dresses were 1.8 times more expensive than like items that were not labeled bridesmaid dresses.

Years ago I wrote about the fact that the same exact gown sometimes costs more in white than it does in other colors simply because it can then be marketed as a wedding gown.

Borrowing 
But you do have alternatives with respect to gowns. As they are typically only worn once and not needed again (even women who remarry tend to choose a different dress for the next trip down the aisle) there are many wedding gowns available for borrowers.


The most cost-free option, of course, is borrowing the gown from a friend or relative. Be sure you obtain full permission to alter the dress if you are planning to do so. Your cost for this would be alterations you will need to make the gown fit you perfectly. You can expect to pay $50 to $300, depending on if you need it taken in a tad, wish to add on decorations, or if you need major changes. The only other cost you would have is cleaning. If you get the gown clean, it is only civil of you to return it clean. If it was not cleaned after the owner wore it, put off your own cleaning until after your alterations are done, so that you will get it pressed and cleared of any dirt it might have picked up in the seamstress shop. Professional dry cleaning prices for wedding gowns vary widely – from about $100 to $250 and even higher, depending on how much fabric and detail is in the gown and the pricing scale of your cleaner. So do ask around for recommendations and prices.


Gmachs


Another borrowing option is a bridal gmach. There are gmachs throughout New York, New Jersey, as well, as other areas in the US and Israel. You can find out if your own community has one, or travel out to the many that you will find listed in directories such as the one on http://kallahmagazine.weebly.com/directory.html Gmachs do not conform to any universal model. Some are supplied by kallahs who donate their gowns after wearing, while others actually purchase new dresses. Given the differences in operation, gmachs will not all have the same upkeep costs. It behooves you to ask upfront about fees. Some gmachs really lend out the dresses and only require that they be cleaned. Others charge fees; these can range from just covering the cost of the cleaning to something that verges on what bridal salons charge for their rented bridal gowns. However, whereas the rental charges at a salon generally include any alterations, that is not likely to be the case for a gmach. You can also choose to rent a dress, though do carefully price your buying options before doing so to be certain you will not pay as much for renting as you would to purchase.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A lesson from the repetition in Naso

My grandfather's sefer didn't have anything on Parshas Naso. But I did find something on the parsha that is very much worth sharing: Rabbi Frand's take on why all the leader offerings were identical. See http://torah.org/torah-portion/ravfrand-5758-naso/
Rabbi Frand offers an analogy of a string of bar mitzvahs in which each one has to change the menu, which leads to escalation. The same can be said for sheva brachos or even a string of weddings for which each hostess wants her colors, decor, and menu to be at least as good as the one before-- if not better. That leads to inevitable upmanship.

Rabbi Frand then returns to the thinking of the second Nasi:
The Medrash says that this is what went through the mind of Nesanel ben Tzuar: If I try to do different than the Tribe of Yehudah, if I try to ‘one-up’ Nachshon ben Aminadav, then the Nasi after me and the Nasi after him will face a spiral of escalating sacrifices, escalating costs, until day 12. Imagine what the Nasi will have to bring by then!
Nesanel ben Tzuar reasoned as follows: We know our own nature. Everyone will argue that his offering was better. This will lead to Lashon Hara and hatred and jealousy. We know our nature.
So, Nesanel ben Tzuar did a tremendous thing. He brought _exactly_ the same offering. He set the tone — everyone is the same.
The tremendous insight here was not just that Nesanel ben Tzuar figured ou this own tribe's associations with the exact same offering but that he kep it equal, turning the opportunity to outdo the other guy into one that fostered community rather than competition. As Rabbi Frand explains, though each offering was that of an individual, and as such, should not have been doche Shabbos, like a communal offering, in this case it was:

this was a Korban Yachid (Private Offering) that was infused with the spirit of a Korban Tzibur (Public Offering). It was a Korban Yachid that was brought to keep the Tzibur intact. G-d said — as it were — “For Me, this is considered a Communal Offering.”
There is a great ethical lesson here. This teaches us the importance of communal unity and the importance of communal peace. We see what G-d’s response is to one who does things to promote such peace, unity, and harmony. A person that keeps a Tzibur together is one who brings merit to the masses in a most distinguished fashion and who merits many wonderful things for himself as well. 
Certainly, that is something to remember when we plan simchos. Are we raising the bar for the gashmiyus -- the food, docor, entertainment, clothes, etc.-- or for ruchniyo -- the spiritual elevation to be found in finding meaning within, an emphasis on what's we're thinking rather than what we show.
 
 


Friday, June 17, 2016

Number association

One of my relatives liked to use this trick to get wedding guests to come on time: she'd put down odd times on the inviation. Instead of saying, say, "Chuppah at seven," she would write a time l
ike 7:12. She explained that if you put down a round number, people assume it's approximate, so you can come 20 minutes later without a problem. The odd numbers stick out in their minds, though, and then some come to see will it actually happen at exactly twelve minutes past the hour.

In our minds certain times are round times, on the hour, on the half hour, and even on the quarter hour. But we don't consider a time ending in 12 to be a time to set an event. That's why it comes across as very specific.

In TaNaCh we see that kind of use of numbers, as well. I've been meaning to address the subject ever since I came across the absolutely wrong assertion that  Joel M. Hoffman makes in And God Said (pp. 87-88). Falling into the logical fallacy of begging the question, he asserts that as 12 is a round number in Biblical usage, when it says that Seth (that is Adam's third son through whom the line continues) lived to 912 years, it does not mean it literally but as an approximation.

Hoffman is forced to take this position because he doesn't believe that the lifespans of hundreds of years could possibly be literal. Conseuqently, he presents  912 into a round number that could stand for something like 1000 to just meant a long time. That makes absolutely no sense in context, for Seth followed Adam who lived 930 years and was the father of Enosh who lived 905 years. Seth's grandson, Kenon lived for 910 years. It doesn't make sense to use 912 as a round number and then to distinguish it from 905 and 912.

Just to demonstrate that I'm not misrepresenting Hoffman's take, I'll quote exactly what he says on pp. 87-88: "Notice the '12' at the end. That was a round number in antiquity. Whether Seth was really that age or not, readers of ancient Hebrew would see such a number as a round number, while we do not. Genesis 14:4 talks about 'twelve years' of service. Should the translation make it 'ten'?"

No, because the Bible actually uses ten as a round number in contradistinction to twelve, which is used as a specific number. Hoffman's error here is to mistake a number seen a frame of reference as approximate. Twelve is a very significant number in Jewish thought, as the nation is made up of twelve tribes that correspoind to the twelve months. But that does not make it a unit that can be used as a genral number to mean a fairly large amount the way ten is used at times -- not just in modern usage but in TaNaCh.

I was reminded of this in rereading Ruth this year. We see exactly the contrast between significant, specific numbers and  round numbers. At the beginning of the story, we are told about Elimelech's family that moved out of their homeland to the fields of Moav and remained there "ke'eser shanim" that is like 10 years, indicating 10 can be used as an approximation, much like we may use decade for exactly 10, just under 10 or even 10 1/2 years.

At the end of the story, Naomi is told by her neighbors that Ruth has proved better to her than seven sons. Like the number 10, the number seven is frequently used in a non-literal sense. Though it may not be used as a round number today, seven -- not twelve -- certainly is usedi n that way in TaNaCh. The neighbors don't mean Ruth is better than seven but not eight or that she is more than twice as good as three sons.  It's not a literal count but an approximation.

In that way, seven contrasts with six, which is a significant specific number. That's the number of measures of barley that Boaz gives Ruth when she leaves the granary with his assurance that he will take care of the question of marriage and redemption. It is because six is such a specific number that Chazal feel a need to explain the significance of that gift.  Six, like 12, has to mean something in particular, while seven and ten can be approximations.





Friday, June 10, 2016

The Persistence of a Positive Influence

On Bamidbar
 Rashi comments about the encampments of Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulan about which it is said, "tov latzadik, tov leshcheno"  for they were the enighbors of Moshe who was involved in Torah, and, consequently, they became great in Torah. He goes on to quote phrases that associte these tribes with Torah accomplishments.

My grandfather points out that the verses Rashi cites refer to the tribes later, in the years when they were settled in the land of Israel. Their proximity to Moshe was, obviously, only during the generation of the desert. Yet the influence extended all those generations!  He suggests that perhaps the impression set during the formation of the nation was particularly stron that it would remain even in the generations that follow.

Related: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/10/dvar-yehudah-parsha-points-from-my.html

Monday, June 06, 2016

The anti-hero and heroine in the Book of Ruth

One of the traditions of the holiday of Shavuoth  is reading Megillath Ruth.  The story of this most famous of converts to Judaism encompasses both the themes of accepting the Torah and the origins of the Davidic monarchy. Shavuoth is identified as the birthday of David the first king in that line.  I wanted to share some further observations on the lessons inherent in the story.  Let's look at the characters who provide foils for our hero and heroine.

Boaz is the one who does the right thing despite it appearing to be a bad business bargain.  The contrast to his heroism is seen in the backtracking of the closer relative, identified as Ploni Almoni, which is the equivalent olf John Doe, to not embarrass him by name or because his actual name was Tov, which means good, something he did not live up to.  See further details at kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/06/taking-spiritual-advantage-rather-than.html

The contrast to Ruth, is her sister-in-law, Orpah.  In the text, she doesn't sound like a bad person, just not as heroic and self-sacrificing as Ruth is.  She takes her mother-in-law at her word and leaves her to return to her people.  But then what happens? According to Ruth Rabba, she descended into the very depths of depravity that very night with 100 partners and a dog.  There is a textual hint in Shmuel in Goliath’s referring to “kelev” [dog] in his exchange with David.  Why do the Sages come down so hard on Orpah?  What she did seemed neutral, not really bad, so why should they assume the worst of her. 

My answer would be that there are situations in which turning away from the opportunity for the heroic is not acceptable and is tantamount to choosing an evil path.  Orpah left the good influence of Naomi, and that alone, was a step toward wrongdoing that quickly became the very lowest one could imagine.  A parallel would be the Midrash on Pharoh’s 3 advisers.  Bilaam who gave the evil advice to kill all the newborn boys was the worst.  Yithro who opposed had to flee, but then got to the honor of becoming Moshe’s father-in-law.  There was a third, who appeared to be neutral.  That was Iyov [ Job]  He didn’t promote the evil plan, but he didn’t oppose it either.  In that situation being unheroic was considered nearly as bad as perpetrating evil.  Because he opted for neutrality when opposition was called for,  Iyov had to endure the severe suffering recounted in his book.

Iyov did not start out as a bad person.  He thought his protest would be futile and  didn't wish to be a hero. Likewise, both iPloni Almoni and Orpah both  passed on the opportunity to rise up to the plate.  As a result, they are remembered as negative role models, the contrast to the hero and heroine in the story of Ruth. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Bechukothay Telechu

On the words Im bechukothay telechu (26:3), Rashi cites the view of Toras Kohanim  saying that this is not just about keeping the mitzvos, which are already coved by the word "ve's mitzvothay ta'asu" Rather it refers to being ameliym batorah toiling in Torah study.

My grandfather points out that the word  telechu [you will go/walk] connotes progression, that it's not sufficient for a perosn to do the mitzvah out of habit but to use keeping the mitzvos and the chukim of the Torah  as a means of ahieving an elevation of the soul and a a greater inclination to the spirutal -- on top of that which one has already accepted.  And that is not possible without toiling in Torah.

So why is this term used instead of directly saying "toil in Torah study?" My grandafather says because that is the true goal of toiling in Torah study -- to be telechu, that is advancing spiritually.

Related post: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/10/dvar-yehudah-parsha-points-from-my.html