Showing posts from May, 2016

Shmitta and business

In Parshas Behar, we get  a mention of the mitzvah of shmitta (25:2) and of how to work out the deal on selling land. (25: 14). The latter extends (25:17) to the injunction velo tonu ish eth amito not to exploit the other in the terms of the sale. A couple of verse s later (25:20-21) we're back to a reference to shmitta and the assurance of a blessing for sufficient food for those who fear that they will fall short of their needs if they don't work the fields during the seventh year: 
וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ, מַה-נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת:  הֵן לֹא נִזְרָע, וְלֹא   
נֶאֱסֹף אֶת-תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ
וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת-בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם, בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית; וְעָשָׂת, אֶת-הַתְּבוּאָה, לִשְׁלֹשׁ, הַשָּׁנִים.
My grandfather asks  why was that not placed next to the earlier mention? Why the disruption of the flow from one point on shmitta  to this one with the point about not cheating or misleading someone when making a sale of property?

He suggests that the question  ?מַה-נֹּאכַל is the motiva…

An absence of blue

Yesterday I attended the Ptil Tekhelet Yom Iyun at the Young Israel of Woodmere.  See One of the speakers addrssed the question of color, starting with Rashi's identification of the the shade of techeleth as yarok, which in modern Hebrew is green. Others says it is similar to black. In fact, the reason for the black stripes on tallesim and tzitzis derives from that -  a nod to the colored strings that would be present if there were techelet.

The assumption of a blue color that we have for the dye fits with the explanation that the color is like that of the sea, which is like the sky, and the sky is similar to the Heavenly Throne, as indicated by the verse that refers to the appearance of a sapphire stone. Though some translations put in the color blue for that, the actual text does not say kachol [blue] but techleth. Here's the text from Menachos 43b:
תניא היה ר' מאיר אומר מה נשתנה תכלת מכל מיני צבעונין מפני שהתכלת דומה לים וים דומה לרקיע ורקיע לכסא ה…

Keeping Yom Tov like keeping Shabbos

On Parshas Emor 23:3 Rashi asks, "Ma inyan Shabbos etzel hamoadot? " What is the connection of Shabbos to the holidays? He answers that anyone who is mechalel the holiday is considered as if he had done the same for the Shabbatos. The converse also hold: anyone who upholds the holidays is considered to be upholding the Shabbatos.
My grand father asks what is the conceptual connection between the two? He offers two answers:
One is that as Shabbos is associated with recognizing yetzias Mitzrayim,[see Ve'etchanan 5:15]as we say in  it is a fundamenal foundtion for all the holiday, and so the two are inextricably linked.

The other reason is that keeping Yom Tov is a sign that one keeps Shabbos for the mitzvah and not just for a weekly day of leisure. As Yom Tov tends to fall on weekdays, they are a break in the standard division of workdays and rest days. They are outside of the standard routine one sets up for the week and so keeping them indicate that one is not acting for…

Hadassim for Shabbos, thoughts for Lag B'Omer

Though we count up to Shavuouth, along the way, we mark one particular day identified by its number of the Omer, the 33rd. That's the day on which we commemorate the yartzeit of R' Shimon Bar Yochai. He was among the most brilliant students of R' Akiva who had to go into hiding when the Romans in power called for his death after hearing of his criticism of the government. The story is recounted in Shabbat 33b (the number that corresponds to Lag B'Omer).

R' Shimon went into hiding along with his son, Elazar. Seeing that so long as anyone knew where they were, they would still be in serious danger, they went to cave. With no other food, they subsisted on the fruit of the carob tree that miraculously grew there and drank water from a stream. They spent all their time -- for the duration of 12 years - immersed in Torah study.
 At the end of that time, Eliyahu came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, "Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emp…

Kedoshim: for the individual and the nation

This weeks parsha (outside Israel) begins with the injunction, "Daber el kol adath beney Yisrael veamarta eleyhem, kedoshim tihiyu'ki kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeychem" Hashem commands his people to emulate Him in begin holy. 

My grandfather cites Midrash Rabbah, which is also cited by Rashi, that explains this parsha was the one said at Hakehel because many points of Torah are within it.

Drawing on enumerations of the mitvos and the Rambam My grandfather observes that even if one does not count this commandment as mitzvah unto itself, the goal of many mitzvos is to lead up to this point, arriving at a state of kedusha. 

He also points out that the commandment  to Moshe to speak el kol adath beney Yisrael indicate that this is not something that applies only on the individual level -- for each person to act in a way that brings him/her to kedusha . It also applies to the behavior of the whole nation, that it should be one of kedusha as a whole. 

I noticed today that the penultima…

Streusel Coffee cake

Streusel Coffee Cake

I used this recipe for a 9 x 13 sized cake. It should also fit a bundt pan, though you'd want to then put the top layer of streusel on the bottom of the pan, and you may have to add on some baking time. 

For the streusel:
1 cup brown sugar3 teaspoons cinnamon5 tablespoons softened maragarine1/3 cup (approximately) flour
For the cake:

3 cups  flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt1 1/2 cups granulated sugar1 teaspoon vanilla1/2 cup canola oil2 eggs1 1/2 cups almond milk or other form of pareve milk to keep cake pareveDirections: In order to cut down on time cleaning the mixing bowl, I started by mixing the streusel in it, which just involves mixing all the ingredients together, then poured it out and prepared the cake batter.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the cake: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Then mix in the eggs, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix to combine into batter but don't keep beating it. 
Pour half the batter into a g…

Going in the ways of the law

In Parshas Acharey Mos 18: 4, it says: אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תַּעֲשׂוּ וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם:
You shall do my ordinances and keep my statues, to go [literally walk] in their ways.

My grandfather takes this as an injunction to keep the spirit of the law even when there is no direct indicator of the letter of the law.  Focusing on לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם, he says, It appears to me that itis to go accoridng to the intention of the Torah in all actions that one does even if according to the explicit commandment, there is no mitzvah directly indicated.

Related post