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Showing posts from March, 2015

Modeling behavior for a child

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I saw this posted on a number of streams. I get it that it's a nice idea to make people - even random strangers - feel good by saying something nice to them. However,  that should not be  false flattery. The man who gives the compliment refers to the hat as ugly to the boy. That makes it clear that he doesn't really consider it awesome. He could have come up with another compliment that wouldn't be a blatant lie, perhaps complimenting the man on his bag or his tie. 

As it is, the example set for the boy is that you can make friends and influence people by lying about the most obvious thing rather than looking for something you can truthfully point to as positive. 

It's actually a very bad example to set for a child that lying is the way to achieve one's goals, for the end justifies the means. There's a famous Talmudic (Yevamos 63a) account of a clever child who figured out a solution to the problem of his mother always making the opposite of what his father, Rav,…

Good will and good works on Purim

Long before the idea of government welfare programs, taking care of the poor was firmly entrenched in Jewish communities.  Giving money and food to those who could not afford the basic necessities, particularly around the holidays, is a standard practice that is rooted all the way back in the Biblical injunction for tithes. Continuing that tradition today, many local Tomchei Shabbos programs, funded and staffed by area volunteers,  deliver food packages to needy families every week.
When the holiday of Purim was added by Mordechai and Esther, the mitzvos [obligations] of the day were set to include recounting the story of the Book of Esther by hearing the Megillah (both at night and during the day), sending mishloach manos  to friends, having a celebratory meal, and the mitzvah ofmatanos l'evyonim, that is gifts to the poor. 
It is not only unseemly to indulge in making merry while the poor go hungry, it is absolutely contrary to the halacha [Jewish law].  The minimum prescribed by …

Purim: when we were all heroes

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One of the minor (he doesn't even get the extra mention in the song we sing afterwards)  characters in Megillas Esther is named Hatach. Who was he?  In Megillah 15a  Chazal  identify him as Daniel, the same one who has a whole book of TaNach named for him. The change in name is said to refer to his having been cut down [chatchuhu]from his greatness.
 The Meshech Chochma on Megillas Esther offers a novel reason for his loss in status. He says that his greatness among the Jews was due to his willingness to sacrifice  his life for a mitzvah. He incurred the penalty of being thrown into the lion's den for having prayed three times a day. He survived through a miracle.
At the time of the Purim story, all the Jews were involved in the 3 day fast Esther called for. At that time, they all devoted themselves to tearful prayer, the study of Torah, and a willingness to give up their lives for the sanctification of the Holy Name and religious observance. Consequently, they realized that al…