Showing posts from February, 2016

The power of the half shekel

The half shekel defeated Haman
About 8 years ago, I posted this piece, which has the same idea my grandfather presents in his first comment on this week's parsha:

"Reish Lakish said, 'It is revealed and known to He who created the world that Haman was destined to measure shkalim on Yisrael; therfore, He brought their shkalim before his, as we learn that on the first of Adar we read Shkaim'" [Megillah 13b]. So the shkalim given by Yisrael counterbalanced those of their adversary. Haman could have made the case that he was offering the same sum as Yisrael, so his money should count just as much as theirs.

But one of the key lessons is that the whole -- the entity of klal Yisrael -- so much exceeds the sum of its parts. The 1/2 shekel illustrates the point that the parts have to combine to make a whole. It's not just a matter of "no man is an island" but an interconnectedness that brings together the separate strands to form something that is more than j…

Oil and priorities

Among the items associated with the services in the mishkan accounted for in Parashas Tetzveh is oil. The type used for the menorah is described as "zach katit lemaor" clear  of pressed [olives] to illuminate. My grandfather quotes Menachos 86a "zach katit lemaor ve'eyn ze katit leminchos." The stipulation for pressed oil was only for the oil used to light and not for the oil used for meal offerings. Then he cites Midrash Tanchumah 6 that says what a person who has both better and worse oil typically does is use the lower quality one for light and the better one for food, but in the Tent of Meeting and in the Temple, they did the opposite, using the clear beaten oil for the menorah and the inferior one for minchos. 
The reasoning is this, my grandfather explains. The menorah symbolizes chochma- as Chazal indicate in the reccommendation for one who wishes lehachkim to be yadrim, that is to face the south where the menorah stood. The idea is to bring the Divine l…


The comman for truma is presented in the phrase veyikchu li truma [You should take an offering for Me } (28:2). Rashi explains the li here means lishmi. 
My grandfather asks thwy was the Torah insistent in this case that the offering be given with a though lishma? He explains  the mishkan servd to make up for the sin of the Golden Calf. When it come to the sin of idolatry, Hashem does count the though along with the deed. As they then had a sin of thought on their account, the mitzvah that serves as a kapara has to also encompass thought.

What of the principle presented in Pesachim 8B that someone who offers a coin for charity in order to save heis son or that he should have a portion in the Next World is considered completely righteous? That only pertains to other forms of charity. However, with respect to the mishkan, the principle is "li hakesef veli hazahav eyzo bayis asher tivnu li. [The silver and the gold are for Me for the house that you build me]

Related post http://kall…

Marble cake with mocha frosting

Here's an adaption of a recipe I recently tried out that proved a hit. To keep it pareve, I substituted oil for some of the butter and margarine for the frosting. I use almond, coconut, or soy milk. The picture is of an unfrosted cake.

Marble Cake
1 cup canola oil 1 3/4 cupssugar, divided 2 large eggs 2 teaspoonsvanilla extract 2 1/2 cupsall-purpose flour 1 tablespoonbaking powder 1/2 teaspoonsalt 1 cup (pareve) milk 1/4 cupunsweetened cocoa 3 tablespoonshot water

A double leap year

Mention that it's a leap year, and most people will assume you're referring to the fact that this February will number 29 days. However, it is also a Jewish leap year, one in which we have 2 Adars. That way Nissan will always correspond to the beginnig of spring in the northern hemisphere. The first Adar will start this Wednesday.
An intereseting thing about lunar calendars: if they don't have some way to catch up with the solar calendars, the dates move around the seasons. That's the case for the Islamic lunar calendar, which accounts for the fact that Ramadan does not always fall out at the same time of year.  In the Jewish calendar, a leap year of 13 months  occurs 7 times in every 19 year cycle, which is why one's Hebrew birthday corresponds to one's legal birthday every 19 years, though it may be off by a single day.

 However, the Jewish calendar is not the only one to solve the problem with a leap month. The Chinese calendar also adds in a month every 3 yea…

The angels' secret

In Parshas Mishpatim (24:7)  we have the famous pronouncement made by the children of Israel: kol asher diber Hashem na'ase venishma [everything that G-d has spoke, we will do and we will listen to]. In Shabbos 88a R. Eleazar is quoted:
When the Israelites gave precedence to 'we will do' over 'we will listen,' a Heavenly Voice went forth and called out: "Who revealed to My children this secret, which is employed by the Ministering Angels, as it is written, "Bless the Lord, His angels. Your who are mighty in strength fulfil his word, to listen to the voice of his word.  First they fulfil and then they listen." Rashi explains that they are ready to fullfil even before they hear.

My gradnfather say that the matter here needs some elucidation. Why is this called the raz [secret] of the angels that arouses astonishment in the exclamation of "Who revealed to My children this secret?" Isn't it logical that the smaller one would do waht the grea…