by Joel Rich
From the WSJ:
The truth is, as the sociologist of religion Peter Berger has long noted, that religion today is a choice, and we are all converts to one degree or another, choosing among a variety of religious experiences rather than having them given to us, as in days of old. Whether converts do that better than “cradle Catholics”—or whether, as is often the case, that is a distinction without a difference—both categories of believers are bound by the same vocation. Both are as responsible for the success or failure of the church’s witness. (Me- however some branches “charge” a much higher exit fee making leaving the fold, at least outwardly, a very high cost choice)
Update from r’ Aviner
Cemetery before Wedding
Q: What is the source behind the custom of going to the cemetery before a wedding and inviting one’s relatives who have passed away?
A: The source is the Zohar (Parashat Balak and Pinchas), where it is said that ancestors in the World-to-Come participate in their descendants’ joyous occasions. And this is the custom of many people (Nita’ei Gavriel – Nissuim 4:7. And the Gerrer Rebbe, the “Imrei Emet”, told his son to visit the Kotel and Kever Rachel before his wedding).
Non cash forbidden interest on a loan. Can you say thank you? R’AW says ok once, it’s basic derech eretz and we don’t live in a caste society where it might have real value (nishtaneh hateva??) but don’t overdo it.
Bottom line – you can’t get back more than you give (me – and you can’t always get what you want – but if you try sometimes (histadlut) you might just get what you need (hashgacha pratit)).
Full disclosure – The Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy (Yeshiva Beit Yosef – if anyone besides me and R’Ozer remember that name) is the local day school for West Orange and the alma mater of my 3 sons [teeth planted in tongues please] and I spent a number of [fill in the blank with a number or a descriptive term] years there in various lay positions.
My comments are not reflective of JKHA but of the day school system.
Starts with nice recitation of JKHA vision/mission/values [me – corporations and schools often have these, it’s always interesting to compare the words to what stakeholders perceive the facts on the ground, and in schools it’s often the fact of who attends that define the real values being communicated].
Discussion of large scholarship budget – no local kid turned away if demonstrated need [me – devil is always in the details, i.e. our earlier discussion of is camp a “necessity”].
Note that affordabililty doesn’t compromise excellence [me – generally no such thing as a free lunch].
New program = subvention (contest open to rename this program) which is not a scholarship (sounded like calling it that is a sore point). Basically funds raised (hat tip to the Gottesman family) are used to reduce tuition for the “middle class” solely based on demonstrated income and number of kids so they can live a normal life without feeling they are “taking”.
Then discussion of cost containment including:
* outsourcing medical benefits (hey, I work in this area and have no idea what that meant/saved)
* joining buying coops (e.g. utilities)
* have excellent professional leaders in building who can do more with less (experiment, etc.)
Towards end sounded like teachers have born the brunt of “cost savings”.
Me – I always thought schools were pretty easy to analyze from a business standpoint. Find new revenue streams or cut costs if you want to reduce tuition (BTW, the latter works well until someone’s sacred cow or ox is slain or gored).
Lots of mitzvot in this parsha & R’HS tries to touch on all of them.
Some (and only some!) points include:
* Gaon’s opinion that inheritance goes by first conceived, not first born.
* 3-month window for ben soror u’moreh to be applicable is like 6 month window for naarah.
* inheritance rules
* burial time period
* cadavers in medical school
* shiluach hakan – cruel or kind? (me – Hamlet: Act 3; Scene 4)
* concept of hefker is based on shmitah
* maakeh (guard rails)
* shatnez (can you try it on?)
* defining military camp
* magen avraham – zechirat Miriam is duraita
* R’YSE says miyut hamatzui (material minority) = 7% because that’s % of treifot in Israel (me – and if you live somewhere that treifot = 1% that become standard for all miyut ha matzui???)
Machnisei rachamim et al – may one pray to angels? All the usual suspects rounded up. Most interesting is how each side reinterprets inconvenient sources.
Explaining “mitoch” (allowable melachot on yom tov), “ochel nefesh” (allowable food preparation), “hitiru sofan mishum tchilatam” (beginning justifies the end) and applications including yahrtzeit candles, electric lights and gas stoves.
Philosophy of yom tov (sociable) vs. Shabbat (introspective) [wow-is introspection still allowed?].
M.O. isn’t new – it’s eternal torah applied to new circumstances and technology. Examples.]
Some communities don’t say l’dovid – some possible issues with saying it at maariv (a’la 13 midot), parallels to shir shel yom.
Covers lots of territory!
Blindness in halacha – can a blind person get an aliya? Does shomea k’oneh (hearing is like saying) work for him? When we say a blind person is patur from mitzvot, does it include negative commandments? 7 mitzvot of bnai neach? (poor Audio)
Rambam puts accepting need to change in future ahead of regretting/rejecting past, just about everyone else reverses it – lesson is not to get stuck in past but be motivated for future. Then nice discussion of R’YBS on tshuva from ahava (love) vs. yirah (fear) – use past as motivation (you mean like someone who had the opportunity to be in R’YBS’s shiur but didn’t take advantage of it?).
Sources of allowance to violate Shabbat for life threatening dangers and specific implications based on source.
Goals of visiting the sick – especially hospitals in current health system. Can you do it through shaliach? By phone? Is there an act of chesed in these but not the mitzah of visiting the sick?.
Does our community focus too much on M and not enough on O? What is the focus of discussion at our Shabbat table? [me – tell it like it is brother – IMHO the testimony of your table will carry a lot of weight at the final din v’cheshbon]
I especially appreciated his thought on asking for a dvar torah vs. discussing torah (me – try to steer the conversation vs. the formality “to be yotzeh” [you know this difference when you give a d.t. by looking your tablemates in the glazed over eye])
You can be tolerant but still be bothered by lack of observance.
Why generally no extra aliyot exception on Shabbat?
1) Too much tircha (bother) on work days; 2) # of aliyot is indicative of level of kedusha (holiness). So why extra aliyot on simchat torah but not on Yom Tov that falls on Shabbat? R’YBS – focus is on what’s read not on the definition of the day.
Perhaps there should be no extra aliyot now that each oleh makes a bracha (so to avoid extra unneeded brachot).
Why no extra aliyot in reading tocheicha? 1) don’t interrupt HKB”H’s mussar; 2) don’t make a bracha on sad reading.
Reading of tochacha before Rosh Hahana is a takanah of Ezra.
Classic R’Sacks on plural (meaning issue pertains to each individual) vs. single (meaning issue pertains to entire community) language in torah on mitzvot.
Discussion and sources of various practices in bowing and stepping back for amidah. Me – how did it happen that many shuls have seating set up so you can’t take steps back or to the side when there are a bunch of people in shul?
Proofs discussion – the public nature of our miracles and the fact that we have persevered against all odds. Even though reason would get you to the same results as revelation, you really need a solid grounding in mesorah first. R’Elchanan on that emunah is really pashut, it’s the yetzer hara that bribes you (me – this doesn’t comport with my anecdotal observation).
Mussar from Ki tetzei – lesson of yfat toar – all other temptations can be overcome. We are always at war with the yetzer hara. Discussion of yamut zakkai (better to die guiltless than to continue living) plus examples.