Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bye-bye Birdie, Hello promises

I pulled out a full page ad from the April edition of a Brooklyn-based magazine. On the left side are pictures of what look like doves in flight. The text says:
Shiluach Hakan
This is an
opportunity to
perform the special
mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan
for which Hashem Promises:

Shidduchim *Children
A Good & Long Life

Call Rabbi K_______ at
18 years of experience
[in Hebrew letters] behaskamos harabanim hagoanim shlita
[now my own take on this]
First of all, I don't know what the rabbi claim 18 years of experience in -- keeping birds' nests and charging people for the privliege of sending away mother birds when they have no need of the young birds or the eggs? It is not certain that the mitzvah is actually fulfilled when one just goes through the motions to send the mother bird away for no real toeles.

IMoreover, don't know where they got the idea that shiluach hakan works for shiduchim. The Torah does say that the mitzvah -- like that of kivud av -- will result in good and long years (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 22:7). But the Gemara points out that even this explicit reward is not to be taken in a literal sense.

( Kiddushin 39b) presents the following story: A father and son were walking together when the father spotted a bird's nest. The father asked the son to ascend a ladder, send away the mother bird, and bring down the nest. As the son was descending after completing the task, he fell off the ladder and died. The Talmud remarks on the fact that the son, who was simultaneously fulfilling both the mitzvah of honoring one's father and sending away the mother bird, received neither goodness nor long life, the specified reward for both of these mitzvot. Therefore, the sages explain that the blessings of long life and goodness mainly refer to what one earns for the World to Come.

In his Shabbos HaGadol drasha, a local rabbi cried out again the organizations that advertise the magical effects that result from sending them money and even cite certain names for endorsement. He declared that he does not believe the rabbi named would ever have said such a thing. He pointed out the absurdity by saying that the traffic on the Van Wyck will not instantly clear for you at your wish as a result of making a donation. He wasn't referring to this particular ad, but the same idea applies. Such magical thinking is not what Torah true Judaism is about. Really what happens when your wish doesn't come true? Would the appropriate response be, "Well, I did my part, but Hashem did not keep His promise!" Of course, not. That is the point of the story in the Gemara. These instant "solutions" peddled as the quick and easy way to get what you want are antithetical to Torah truth..

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Have an internet ad for dinner, or marketing is everywhere

Today I noticed new boxes when Ipassed by a local pizza store. The boxes are printed with advertisements for Verizon FIOS. Pizza and the internet do not have any particular connection, but I guess that when people are attempting to put ads on grocery receipts as well as monitors placed in supermarkets, why not the boxes that contain what the people are going to eat, as well? Maybe the next thing will be genetically modified fruit peels that feature ads for banks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chag kasher vesameach

I've already entered the zone of Pesach cooking. I am only emerging briefly to wish all who read this a chag kasher vesameach, especially to those who labor in preparation for the holiday. When the going gets tough, just think, "lefoom tza'ara agrah." Also we learn from the Tanaim that there is great merit in preparing personally for Shabbos, as they would do something themselves even if servants could have taken care of the task. Accordingly, I would say that the grocery shopping, shlepping, unpacking, preparing, peeling, washing, chopping, dicing, mixing, whipping, cooking, baking, etc., packs more points than merely packing. (hamevin yavin)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

BeNissan (not the car)

"R' Yoshusa says 'beNissan nigalu ubeNissan ethidin ligael" [Rosh Hashana 11b) In the month of Nissan they [the Israelites] were redeemed and in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed, and the proof offered is that the date of Pesach is called "leyl shemurim," the night that is watched or anticipated, so it is also anticipated as the time of redemption for the future.

I looked this up as I was thinking about having been born in Nissan myself. It's not a great time for a birthday given all the Pesach bustle that falls out then, overshadowing mere birthday recognition. (BTW for observation on birthdays -- not mine -- see
But I am certain my mother would have been very relieved that I was a girl so that she did not have the prospect of an erev Pesach bris. (Worst case bris scenario I've heard of was on that fel out within the 3 day Yom tov of Pesach, requiring one to host quite a number of guest for the sedarim and many meals in order for them to also be present at the bris -- someone in Passaic had that situation.

To come to the point, though, I thought of the fact that Yitzchak was said to have been born on or just before Pesach. Yitzchak is clearly linked to saving his offspring in
the debate he has with the Almighty in Shabbos 89b. In that case, it sounds like a situation after the redemption from Egypt. Perhaps it is from the spiritual power imbued in the month of Nissan that both the original redemption and the future one spring, and this power is also manifest in the traits of Yitzchak. That is something to consider.

But another question came to my mind from the previous page of the Gemara in Rosh Hashana. There is the debate on lengths of gestations. It also goes on to say that Sarah -- like Chana -- nifkeda on Rosh Hashana. Then Yitzchak would have been born in Nissan -- which would allow just 6 or 6 1/2 months for the gestation, assuming the pikadon signifies conception, as I would assume, for Sarah's return to a state of fertile youth already occurred months earlier -- Pesach time -- when the angels appeared to give Avraham the news. But if that was a leap year with 2 Adars -- which would have allowed for a 7 or 71/2 month gestation period.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Proposal for a patent on proposals

Sounds a bit circular, doesn't it? My husband alerted me to this link:
My guess is that this Ryan (the author of the patent application) thought this would be a brilliantly original way to propose to Ellie. I would also guess that she did not read through the whole thing, and she may just have wondered if this is a man with way too much time on his hands.
So what do you think? Should the proposer come to the point more directly?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

For Rosh Chodesh or Pesach: haysa Yehudah lekadsho

On Shabbos R' Greenberg (rabbi of Congreation Bais Avrhohom aka Gruber's) quoted a vort from Ma'ase Nissim by Rav Yaakov meLissa about one of the "Betzeys Yisrael Mimitzrayim"part of Hallel. The verse says "haysa Yehudah lekadsho,"
pointing to the kiddush Hashem of the head of shevet Yehudah, Nacshon ben Aminadav, in jumping into the Yam Suf before it split. Rav Yaakov asks why the feminine form of the verb to be is used in "haysa"and answers that the verb references Tamar whose mesiras nefesh was behind the heroism of the day. She was willing to be killed rather than publicly shame Yehudah by naming him as the father of her unborn twins. As the matriarch of the tribe of Yehudah, she imbued this remarkable ability into her offspring. Thus Nachson acted as his great-great-great [I didn't count up actual number of generations] grandmother did in risking his life by plunging into the water.

It's a nice vort which got me to think of another possible interpretation of the use of the feminine verb in this instance, going back yet another generation (or 2, depending on how you look at it). I thought of Leah's naming Yehudah with the reason "hapa'am odeh es Hashem"-- this time I will give thanks to Hashem. Generations later, Yehudah's tribal head brought this idea to fruition for all of klal Yisrael. Krias Yam Suf gave rise to shirah, in which all the Jews gave thanks to Hashem for their salvation in words of song. Yehudahs embodied hoda'ah, which found its expression in Shiras Hayam.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spring 2008 issue now available online

To view the PDF, click
Read about engagement ring setting, shalom bayis advice, recipes for desserts you won't have to skip, a review of an aquarium a bit off the beaten track, and much more.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Background check on a prosective date

As promised in my previous post, here are the "important questions" the "shadchan" advises on to ask. At first I was going to say that the infamous tablecloth question was not on the list. However, when I came back to it, I saw that, though it was not granted a place among the checked the question, it is mentioned in the introductory paragraph. So I will quote the whole answer to "What are important questions to ask when doing a background check on a prospective date?" below [I'm trying to refrain from comment here to allow commentators to offer their own views without my own biases; there are two exceptions -- one a matter of *coherence and the other of **assumption.]:

Your questions will reflect your values and what's most important to you and your family. If you honestly believe that the color tablecloth used on Shabbos will have serious impact on your marriage relationship, then that will be on your list. [*A transition at this point would better clarify that really the writer is not validating that point of view.] If you are looking for a genuine relationship that will lead to a solid marriage where both husband and wife grow together in Yiras Shamayim and Simchas HaChayim, then please ocnsider the following questions:
What are the Middos of this person and are there very good Middos throughout the family?
Is this person and his/her family involved in Chessed in the community? (They don't have to be the leaders.) [**How very generous! What if they don't publicize the fact that they pack or deliver packages for Tomchei Shabbos and the like and the person asked doesn't participate him/herself and so would not have seen them? They can only gain credit of reputation if what they do is publicly recognized.]
Does this person have a good relationship with his/her family?
Does this person have strong, ongoing friendships?
What is this person like when you disagree with him/her?
What kind of lifestyle does this person want to have?
What would you cite as this person's outstanding quality?
What would you cite as the thing this person needs to work on the most?
What is this person looking for?
Please describe his/her personality --e.g., shy vs. outgoing