Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I AM GOING ON an indefinite hiatus from posting here. Thank you to all of the readers and commenters. Please feel free to contact me at; I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meat & Dairy In the Same Oven

I RECENTLY CAME ACROSS a couple of blog posts dealing with the question of using the same oven for dairy and meat, or using an oven previously used for non-kosher items.[1] Both noted the somewhat lenient view of R. Moshe Feinstein[2] which differentiates between dry and wet items. His position is that with dry items one need not be concerned about any vapor remaining in the oven that might be capable of transferring flavor to another item, because such vapor is minute and insignificant, while with wet items this is a genuine Kashrus concern that needs to be dealt with accordingly. From personal experience, most people I have spoken to think this view is either normative or a bit too lenient. It seems that most people I have met think that using the same oven for wet meat and milk products, even one after another, is a major leniency not worth relying on.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Notes On YD §89:1

THIS IS A BIT of an obscure post, but I am publishing it in order to defend my Dairy Non-Dairy Creamer post against statements made here which imply that I may not have done my due diligence in my understanding of YD §89. The following are my notes from the relevant portion of the siman.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dairy Non-Dairy Creamer

I WAS AT WAWA a while back and I needed a coffee. Having just eaten meat, I was looking for an alternative to my usual half-and-half. I saw they had a bottle of non-dairy creamer, and was about to pour myself some, when I noticed an OU-D. Undeterred, I glanced at the label to check if there really was milk in the ingredients. Alas, there it was. It was in the “contains less than 2%” list, but it was there alright. So I was stuck without my coffee, and bought a Red Bull instead.

One day it hit me. I could absolutely have used that OU-D non-dairy creamer in my coffee after eating meat!

Why? It's simple, really. I mentioned that the ingredient panel said that it contained less than 2% milk. As I realized then, that is not good enough to be batel – 1/60 is about 1.6%, so going in on “less than 2%” would be a bit of a gamble. But what I realized was that I obviously wasn’t going be to drinking the creamer straight; I was putting it into my coffee. That means that at the end of the day there was no chance that the milk wouldn’t go under 1.6% of the total volume, which means it would automatically be batel! So it turns out that I could’ve had my coffee after all. Oh well.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

In Vitro Meat: Why Your Grandchildren will be Eating Pork if They are not Vegetarians

IN FIFTY YEARS from now, most observant Jews will either be vegetarians or they will hypothetically have no Halachic objection to regularly consuming pork. Here’s why.

Scientists are currently working on developing in vitro meat. From Wikipedia: “The process of developing in vitro meat involves taking muscle cells and applying a protein that helps the cells to grow into large portions of meat. Once the initial cells have been obtained, additional animals would not be needed – akin to the production of yogurt cultures. Conceivably, one animal could provide more than a billion pounds of in vitro meat to feed the world's population for at least several hundred years.”

They have been successful, but at the moment the meat they’ve produced is prohibitively expensive. However, as the Wikipedia article suggests, in the future “the price of in vitro meat at retail outlets like grocery stores and supermarkets may decrease prices to levels that middle-class consumers consider to be "inexpensive" due to technological advancements.” This seems fairly reasonable.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Attn: Seforim Collectors / People Who Know Stuff

IF ANYONE CAN find me an original first edition (Prague 1756) of this page or a photocopy of it, so that I can know the exact size of the diagrams as they appeared in the first edition, I’d be extremely grateful.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hot Water Taps & Kashrus

Here is another one from the Mi Yodeya files. This is the long version of my answer here.

QUESTION: Many offices have a water dispenser (with hot water spout) or a hot water tap next to a sink. Is this hot tap Kosher? Assume for a moment that someone uses the tap to dispense hot water into a cup of non-Kosher instant soup or non-Kosher instant hot chocolate. Does the steam from the cup make the tap non-Kosher? – Seth J

ANSWER: You may use the water from the tap.

The following is the basis for my answer:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Showering & Changing Clothes During the Nine Days

QUESTION: Is it permitted to shower or change clothes during the Nine Days?

SHORT ANSWER: It is a mitzva to shower as one normally does on every day other than Tisha Bav itself, and changing shirts, socks and undergarments as one normally does for cleanliness is permitted – better yet, it is expected – even on Tisha Bav itself.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Few Points Regarding Some Laws of Niddah

I COMMONLY FIND that when one thing bothers me a million things bother me. Chana Gittel over at JMVHO has posted a number of complaints about certain Halachic standards found within her community. Some of the things she mentions are being done in compliance with Halacha, and some aren’t (in my opinion). So while I won’t be able to make everything go away, I’d like to address her points and clarify which things are ‘real’ and which aren’t, and outline what is required by Halacha and what is not.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Staring at the Kohanim

THERE IS AN INTERESTING new site that opened up called Need An Eitzah. It is similar to the stack exchange site Mi Yodeya with the exception that it allows for opinions as well. I think it’s a great site. Here is a quick bit of Halachic information that I posted as an answer there today:[1]

The Gemara says that someone who gazes upon the Kohanim in the Beis HaMikdash while they are standing on their platform and blessing the Jewish People; such a person’s vision will fade.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What do you do if you mistakenly make a bracha today?

WHILE AT SHUL YESTERDAY I noticed something in one of those weekly Torah periodicals they give out. A Halachic question was asked: If someone forgot that it was a fast day (for the purposes of this article, “fast day” refers to the seventeenth of Tammuz, the Tenth of Teves, and the Fast of Gedaliah), took some food and made a bracha on it, what should one do? The answer given was that there are generally two approaches; 1) to eat less than an olive-sized portion of the food, thereby not fully breaking the fast; or 2) to eat nothing, and to simply say baruch shem kevod malchuso le’olam va’ed – the praise we customarily recite after having mistakenly spoken God’s name in vain. A third approach was also offered; that one taste the food without swallowing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Whose Fault Was It?

TOMORROW MARKS THE BEGINNING of the ‘Three Weeks.’ During this period is common to reflect on the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the events which led up to it. One of the better known stories of the Talmud on the topic is the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. The Gemara relates:

אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים דההוא גברא דרחמיה קמצא ובעל דבביה בר קמצא עבד סעודתא אמר ליה לשמעיה זיל אייתי לי קמצא אזל אייתי ליה בר קמצא אתא אשכחיה דהוה יתיב אמר ליה מכדי ההוא גברא בעל דבבא דההוא גברא הוא מאי בעית הכא קום פוק אמר ליה הואיל ואתאי שבקן ויהיבנא לך דמי מה דאכילנא ושתינא אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי פלגא דסעודתיך אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי כולה סעודתיך א"ל לא נקטיה בידיה ואוקמיה ואפקיה אמר הואיל והוו יתבי רבנן ולא מחו ביה ש"מ קא ניחא להו איזיל איכול בהו קורצא בי מלכא אזל אמר ליה לקיסר מרדו בך יהודאי א"ל מי יימר א"ל שדר להו קורבנא חזית אי מקרבין ליה אזל שדר בידיה עגלא תלתא בהדי דקאתי שדא ביה מומא בניב שפתים ואמרי לה בדוקין שבעין דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות אמר להו רבי זכריה בן אבקולס יאמרו בעלי מומין קריבין לגבי מזבח סבור למיקטליה דלא ליזיל ולימא אמר להו רבי זכריה יאמרו מטיל מום בקדשים יהרג אמר רבי יוחנן ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס החריבה את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלנו והגליתנו מארצנו שדר עלוייהו לנירון קיסר.

The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Kamtza and a Bar Kamtza in this way. A certain man had a friend Kamtza and an enemy Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, “Go and bring Kamtza.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtza. When the man [who gave the party] found him there he said, “See, you tell tales about me; what are you doing here? Get out.” Said the other: “Since I am here, let me stay and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” He said, “I won't.” “Then let me give you half the cost of the party.” “No,” said the other. “Then let me pay for the whole party.” He still said no, and he took him by the hand and put him out. Said the other, “Since the rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them to the government.” He went and said to the Emperor, “The Jews are rebelling against you.” He [the emperor] said, “How can I tell?” He said to him: “Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar].” So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the government. Said R. Zechariah ben Avkulas to them: “[You cannot do so, for] people will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar.” They then proposed to kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go and inform against them, but R. Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, “Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death?” R. Johanan thereupon remarked: Through the scrupulousness of R. Zechariah ben Avkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land. He [the Emperor] sent against them Nero the Caesar…[1]

Many ask the question – whose fault was it? Is the Gemara trying to pin it all on the malevolent host? On the unforgiving Bar Kamtza? On the rabbis who looked away? On R. Zechariah ben Avkulas’s scrupulousness that went overboard?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Regarding the Kashrus of Flavored Electronic Cigarettes

THE CRC HAS RECENTLY issued an alert regarding the use of flavored electronic cigarettes. Their Twitter feed linked to a FAQ page on their website which states as follows:

Electronic cigarettes convert a specially formulated liquid into a vapor which the person inhales in a manner that mimics the way one inhales from a traditional cigarette. The liquid (which is sometimes called “juice”, “smoke-juice” or similar names) typically includes kosher-sensitive ingredients such as glycerin and flavors, and since the person imbibes the liquid/vapor, Rav Schwartz said that the liquid must be certified as kosher. We contacted a number of manufacturers who claim to use only kosher raw materials but there is no independent agency who certifies that claim, and therefore we are unable to recommend those products. [As with all medical issues, one should consult with their doctor before deciding to use or not use electronic cigarettes.]

Based on something I wrote in the previous post (Synopsis of YD §108), I disagree. For the record, I am simply elaborating on what I have already written here and here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Synopsis of YD §108

א) אין צולין איסור והיתר בתנור אחד אם האחד שמן אע"פ שאין נוגעין זה בזה, אא"כ אחד מהן מכוסה. ואם צלאן מותר. כתב הרמ"א די"א דאף בדיעבד אסור [ולע"ד אפילו בגדול עיין ד"מ] אא"כ התנור פתוח קצת, דאל"כ יש אומרים שדומה לפת חמה וחבית פתוחה (סעיף ד), אבל אין להחמיר במקום הפסד מרובה. ותחת מחבת אסור אפילו בה"מ [– כן נראה מדבריו עיין ביאור הגר"א, וצע"ק].

אם שניהם כחושים מותר לכתחילה, עיין ש"ך וט"ז.

כתב רמ"א דגוי שאפה פת עם איסור אסור לקנותה אם מצוי לו פת אחר בריוח וכן פת שאפאה אם הצלי אסור לאכלה אם יש לו פת אחר משום דכ"ז מקרי לכתחילה, הגם שבד"מ הסכים לסברת ב"י דכל זה חשיב דיעבד. ובת"ח מיהא כתב להתיר לכתחילה לקנות אגוזים שנתבשלו בסתם כליהם. ונראה לומר שהחילוק בין ריחא לשאר דברים הוא דבשאר דברים גזרו מחמת איזה חשש או מחמת דבר אחר וכיון שכבר עשה הדבר א"א לקרותו עדיין לכתחילה, משא"כ בריחא נראה שגזרו משום דמיחזי כטעם ולכן כל כמה דאפשר להרחיק מן הדבר שנבלע בו הריח מקרי לכתחילה, ודו"ק.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Authority of the Talmud

SOMEONE RECENTLY POSED the following question on Mi Yodeya:

There is a known rule that Rishonim cannot argue on the Gemara when it comes to ‘Halachic’ drashos. For example, a Rishon will never give a different answer to a question which the Gemara already answered (Tosafos may ask why the Gemara didn't give that other answer, but he will never give his own answer without more). This is true whether the Gemara's subject is practical Halacha or not.

However, when it comes to Aggadic drashos on Tanach, we find Rishonim ‘disagreeing’ with Midrashim and late Acharonim disagreeing on Rishonim. Why do Rishonim feel freer to disagree on an explanation of Chumash than to disagree with a Gemara?

This was my answer:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Just thought I might share this. Yasher Koach to R. Gil and all those who are involved in this endeavor.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

The wisest of the philosophers asked: “We admit that our predecessors were wiser than we. At the same time we criticize their comments, often rejecting them and claiming that the truth rests with us. How is this possible?” The wise philosopher responded: “Who sees further, a dwarf or a giant? Surely a giant, for his eyes are situated at a higher level than those of the dwarf. But if the dwarf is placed on the shoulders of the giant who sees further? …So too we are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due to their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they.” – R. Isaiah di Trani (Rid)[1]

I posted the following on Mi Yodea[2] and I got voted down twice (as of now). Vote “shvache maysehs” here if you dare. I’m more interested in hearing your opinion though. This was my post:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Secular Music

When asked to support their position, opponents of secular music invariably cite the Sha’ar Hatziyun, who writes as follows:

כבר הזהיר השל"ה ושארי ספרי מוסר שלא לזמר שירי עגבים לתינוק שזה מוליד לו טבע רע. ובלא"ה נמי איכא איסורא בשירי עגבים ודברי נבלות דקא מגרי יצה"ר בנפשיה ושׁוֹמֵר נַפְשׁוֹ יִרְחַק מזה ויזהיר לבני ביתו על זה [מאמר מרדכי].

The Shlah and other mussar books have already warned not to sing songs of passion to a child for this develops a bad nature within him. And without this there is also a prohibition with songs of passion and foul language for they cultivate the evil inclination in one’s soul, and he who guards his soul will distance himself from this and warn the members of his household about it (Ma’amar Mordechai).[1]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Good & Evil, Free Will, Etc.

PERHAPS THE OLDEST QUESTION in the history of monotheism is “why do bad things happen to good people?” The reason this question is specific to monotheism is quite simple. To the atheist of course there is no question; there is no judgment and there is no judge. To the believer in multiple gods there is no question either, because what might be a value to one god might not be to another. Furthermore, the gods in such a system would not be of unlimited power, and therefore would not necessarily be able to prevent bad things happening to good people. But to a believer in classical monotheism, that is in one God, who values good and has unlimited power, the concept of bad things happening to good people has always presented a challenge.

Throughout the traditional literature we find this issue brought up numerous times. The biblical book of Job bases itself around this problem. According to the sages of the Talmud, Moses himself struggled with this problem, and quite possibly never received a satisfactory answer.[1] Throughout the ages various solutions have been proposed, with each commentator presenting another approach; each attacking the problem from another angle. I doubt that I can add anything to the plethora of commentary and give-and-take that is already on the table, and I cannot say that I know enough to state definitively what “the Jewish perspective” is. However, be that as it may, I wish to explore one general way of looking at things, which might hopefully shed a clearer light on one of the angles which is often neglected by the more traditionally inclined.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Calling Former Teachers by Name

Note to fellow members of the blogosphere: If anyone was wondering why I haven’t been terribly active lately, it’s because I have been busy with something that will be occupying most of my time until mid-June. Until then however, comments and suggestions for future posts are still welcome (of course). Anyway.

A recent Hirhurim post noted the following:

You must also respect someone who taught you a little Torah–even just one word. However, the respect you must show him is less than what you must show your mentor (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 242:30). The Sedei Chemed (Ma’arekhes Khaf, no. 104) quotes the Tzapichis Bi-Dvash who argues that you may call such a teacher by name, without a title, while the Tzelach (Berakhos 4a sv. va-ani) holds you must use a title although you need not call him just “rebbe.” The Tiferes Yisrael (Avos 6:3 no. 50) also contends that you are obligated to call him by a title.[1]

As I have not had the opportunity to look up the Tzelach or the Tiferes Yisrael, I do not know what their position is based in. However, I believe there is a clear Tosafos from which we can easily infer the position held by the Tzapichis Bi-Dvash, that no special title is necessary when addressing a teacher who is not one’s mentor.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

YD §189

א) כל אשה שיש לה וסת קבוע חוששת ליום ראייתה שמא תראה, ואסורה כל אותה עונה שראתה בה, אם יום אם לילה. ולא לכל דבר אסורה, עיין לעיל סימן קפד סעיף ב.

אשה שאין לה וסת קבוע חוששת ליום ל' כמו וסת קבוע [היינו לענין הדין של סעיף ד]. ודעת החוות דעת שיום ל' זה הוא יום ל"א מיום הראייה, והביאור בזה שהעונה ממשכת ל' יום ווסת הבינונית הוא תחילת העונה הבאה, וכן דעת הערוך השלחן [והוא ג"כ סברת הש"ך]. והט"ז ס"ל שיום ל' הוא כפשוטו, וכן דעת הרבה הפוסקים. והש"ך כתב שיום ל' לאו דוקא אלא הוא יום החודש והסכים עמו התורת השלמים. והחכם צבי (שאלה קי"ד) האריך להשיג עליו. והערה"ש הכריע כסברת הש"ך אלא דמסתפקא ליה אם כהש"ך שיום החודש עיקר ויום ל' לאו דוקא או שיום ל' עיקר ויום החודש לאו דוקא.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Regarding Extra Words

In a recent post on DOVBEAR, blogger David A. makes the following statement:

As any student of Talmud learns fairly quickly, a fundamental axiom as relates to the study of the Torah is that the Torah is considered perfect and precise so that no text is ever to be thought of as redundant or extraneous. That is, every single word (maybe even every single letter) is meant to teach or convey something, even though we may not always know what is being taught.[1]

I believe that this view, stated in such a blanket way, is a misconception.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big Moments

TOWARD THE END of I Kings, Elijah the prophet engages in his famous standoff with the prophets of the idol Ba’al. As the story goes, he performed a bunch of grand miracles and made a laughingstock out of them. When it was all over, Jezebel, the wicked wife of the king Ahab, sends a messenger to Elijah:

So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”[1]

It’s interesting. If she wanted him dead why didn’t she just have him arrested? It sounds like she’s telling him that he has a day to flee; what’s with the heads up?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Ramban’s Opinion that Sefirat HaOmer is NOT a מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא

תנן (קדושין דף כט.) כל מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא אנשים חייבין ונשים פטורות, ושהזמן גרמא מפרש רש"י שהזמן גורם לה שתבא. ביאור הדברים, למשל, הרי יש כמה מצוות עשה שאם תעשה אותם בלילה לא תוציא ידי חובתך כיון שאין זמן חיובן אלא ביום, וכיון שכן נמצא שהיום גורם שיהיה קיום מצוה במעשים אלו. מטעם זה מנה הגמרא כמה מצוות שנשים פטורות עליהן, כגון סוכה ולולב דרוב השנה לאו זמן חיובן, וציצית ותפילין דחיובן לא הוו אלא ביום.

בקרוב מתחילים לספור ספירת העומר. לפי הנראה, לכאורה פשוט דספירה הויא מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא כיון דלא שייך לקיים מצוה זו כל השנה, אלא בין פסח לשבועות. והנה פסק הרמב"ם (פ"ז תו"מ הכ"ד) והחינוך (ש"ו) שנשים פטורות, והטעם כמו שביארנו. אולם הרמב"ן על הגמרא שהבאנו (דף לג: ד"ה איזהו כו') מונה כמה מצוות שהזמן גרמא וכמה מצוות שלא הזמן גרמא, וכתב להדיא דאין מצות ספירת העומר מעשהז"ג. ואתמהה, הרי אם סופר אדם ספירה בסוכות אינו יוצא, ואיך שייך לקרותה מצות עשה שלא הזמן גרמא?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sinks and Countertops on Pesach and a General Overview of Ta'am Ke'ikkar

Question: Must countertops and sinks be kashered for Pesach?

Answer: While the major Kashrus organizations seem to say yes,[1] R. Yitzchak Abadi’s view is that it is not necessary. He writes as follows:

שיש מטבח וכיורים או שולחנות... ידיחם היטב ואין צריכים הגעלה ברותחים.

Countertops, sinks, and tables… one should wash them well, and they do not require purging with hot water.[2]

I wish to explore the basis of his ruling and how it might be justified, while presenting a general overview of the halachos of the transference non-kosher flavor into kosher food in general.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tata'ah Gavar: Parameters & Rationale

My train of thought:

A) The Gemara clearly applies the idea of תתאה or עילאה גבר to cases where בליעות are irrelevant, as the Gemara (Pesahim 76a) says that through this din you would have a problem of צלי מחמת דבר אחר by פסח.

Moreover, the Gemara is somewhat implicit that the reason the תתאה חם is אוסר the עילאה is specifically because of its heat, because the Gemara says that when it’s cold and the top is hot, אדמיקר ליה אי אפשר דלא בלע פורתא; seemingly that the Gemara was understanding the whole transference of issur על ידי the heat, and therefore it says that even so, until it cools down, it will be מבליע כדי קליפה. (Of course this is only if you translate אדמיקר: until it cools down.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lights Out

שו"ת אור יצחק חלק ב' או"ח סימן רי"ז – נכבה החשמל ביו"ט אם יכול להדליקו

שו"ע או"ח סימן תק"ב סעיף א'.

כתב המחבר וז"ל: אין מוציאין אש לא מן העצים ולא מן האבנים ולא מן העפר וכו', עכ"ל.

שאלה: נכבה החשמל ביום טוב מאיזה סיבה שהיא, האם מותר להדליקו.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ramblings in Jewish Theology & Its View of Morality

THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF a discussion/debate that took place a while back, in the Coffee Room of the Yeshiva World.[1][2]

Monday, March 12, 2012

On (what's the opposite of a taker?)s & Ingrates

The Talmud says:

תנו רבנן: "מִי יִתֵּן וְהָיָה לְבָבָם זֶה לָהֶם." אמר להן משה לישראל: "כפויי טובה בני כפויי טובה!" בשעה שאמר הקב"ה לישראל מי יתן והיה לבבם זה להם, היה להם לומר תן.

The rabbis taught: “Who can assure that their heart will remain theirs …”[1] – Moses said to the Children of Israel: “Ingrates, sons of ingrates!” When God said to Israel “Who can assure…” they ought to have said “assure it for us!” [2]

I was confused when I read this. The Gemara calls the Jewish People כפויי טובה, ingrates, on account of their neglecting to request that God “assure them their hearts.”[3] Why in the world would someone be called an ingrate for not asking for something?!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Additives of Unpleasant Flavors; YD §103, §104, and §122

Here is my synopsis of the laws of נותן טעם לפגם, which follows the order of the Shulḥan Arukh, se’if by se’if.

סימן קג

א) א) כל שטעמו פוגם תערובתו אף שאינו פגום מחמת עצמו תערובתו מותר.

ב) כתב רמ"א דדברים החשובים כבריה וכדומה אע"פ שפוגמין בתבשיל אינן בטלים. ודבר פשוט הוא – לפי שדברים אלו כשהן שלמים אין אוסרין מחמת טעמן אלא מחמת גופן. וכתב שאם פגומין בעצמן שרי, והטעם כתב בדרכי משה דכבה"ג בטיל חשיבותייהו. ומשמע דעת הט"ז דלזה מהני סרחון קצת, ודעת הפר"ח דבעי סרחון לגמרי [– פמ"ג].

ג) דברים המאוסים ואפ"ה התורה אסרום כזבובים ויתושים דעת הפר"ח שאינן בטלים לעולם בשלמותן ואפילו נסרחו, אבל הערוך השלחן כתב דודאי אף אלו בטלים בכה"ג.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tzitzit on the Priestly Garments?

So I went to visit my old yeshiva this past weekend, and I got to hear lots of interesting vorts. Here’s one of them:

At the Friday night oneg, one of my rabbeim asked why the me’il did not have tzitzit on it.[1] In typical sacrilegious fashion I called out, “maybe because it was a טלית שכולה תכלת”![2] After laughing off my comment, my rebbi asked, “And who says it didn’t have tzizit? The picture books say so.” Even so, he went on to say a great peshat, in the name of the Beit Yitzḥak:

The Beis Medrash Blog Suggestion Box

I am always looking for suggestions for topics to write about, so if anyone has a good one, please post in the comments, or email me.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Veset ha-Ḥodesh

כנראה אין זה דבר שלם כלל אבל אעתיקו כאן כי אני נבוך בזה ואם יש מישהו יכול לפרש הענין או אפילו קצתו אשמח לשמוע.

בענין וסת החודש שאינו קבוע

איתא בטור (סימן קפ"ט סעיף ב') ז"ל: ואפילו קודם שקבעתו שלש פעמים חוששת, שמיד אחר שראתה פעם אחרת לסוף עשרים חוששת מכאן ואילך כשיגיע יום עשרים, וכן בראיית הימים שהוא לימים ידועים לחודש מיד אחר שראתה פעם אחת ליום ידוע לחודש כגון בא' או בה' בו חוששת לפעם אחרת לזה היום ואסורה לשמש כל אותה העונה כו', ע"כ.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kashrut for Vampires

According to a recent post on Hirhurim,[1] the frum vampire community is suffering from a blood crisis. There also appears to be much confusion as to the halakhic specifications regarding the consumption of human blood, which as we all know is an essential component of the vampire diet. It is also well known that many in the vampire community are not meticulous in their mitzvah observance, and it is my opinion that this is largely precisely due to certain misconceptions about what the halakha might or might not allow them.

For these reasons, and noting as it hasn’t been taken up by contemporary poskim yet, I have taken upon myself to clarify the halakha. If one should not wish to read the entire article, I would advise to simply skip to the last paragraph and note my conclusions, which I believe may be relied upon by all vampires l’khatḥila, halakha l’ma’aseh.[2]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yeshivishe Reid: On Monetary Doubts

There is an old problem, which deals with one of the most fundamental aspects of דיני ממונות, monetary laws, within the broader framework of Jewish law. There is the well known principle that המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה; if one wishes to extract money from his fellow, the burden of proof is upon him. This is applicable to the extent that the courts will not extract payment even if the defendant himself is unsure whether he is in the right. For example, if Berel claims that Shmerel borrowed $100 from him, and Shmerel says he cannot recall what occurred on that day, the Halakha says that he is not obligated to pay until Berel provides sufficient evidence that the loan did actually occur.[1] This is certainly within reason, for if Berel were to be able to force Shmerel to pay him simply by virtue of Shmerel’s lack of knowledge, then this would provide a sure means for any disreputable individual to steal money with the law on his side. For anyone can claim, for example, ‘You dented my car without realizing it’, and generally in this situation the honest defendant will have to concede that he does not know. It is thus reasonable to say that the one who wishes to extract money from his fellow must first sufficiently back up his claim.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Prayer

One of the functions of prayer is to acknowledge Divine Providence in our daily affairs. By putting forth supplications about our mundane wishes, we acknowledge Divine involvement in those affairs, and thus merit a positive response. It is not that by asking we so to speak change the mind of God, but that by acknowledging the hand of God we merit his response.

Rabbi Yeḥezkel Levenstein illustrates this concept with a story that occurs in the Talmud.[1] In the story, Elijah the prophet reveals to Rabbi Judah the Prince that if he were to appoint Rabbi Hiyya and his two sons to lead the congregation in prayer; the messiah would be forced to come due to their lofty stature, even though it was not the set time. As one would suppose, R. Judah went ahead and appointed them to lead the prayers. As soon as they reached “You are the resurrector of the dead”, the ground began to shake as though the dead were about to rise from their graves. When they said “You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall”, the wind blew and the rain fell. This caused a great commotion in heaven. Who had revealed this secret that was allowing these people to force the end? The Talmud relates that when it was determined that Elijah the prophet was the one, he was ordered to do what he could to stop the prayer service immediately. So Elijah returned to the world and caused an elaborate distraction to the prayers, and the rest is obvious – as the messiah did not arrive.

One problem commonly raised with this story is that “You are the resurrector” and “You cause rain to fall” are clearly not supplications, they are merely praises. What does it mean that their praises were answered? The answer is, says Reb Ḥatzkel, that if the objective of prayer is to express our belief that the world is run by God, then what better way to achieve this than praise! If we ask in order to show that we believe it possible for us to be answered; certainly by directly praising God we can merit a response.

[1] Cf. Bava Metzia 85b

Sunday, February 12, 2012


[1]תנן בריש הכונס, מסרה לרועה נכנס הרועה תחתיו. גרסינן בגמ'[2] אמרי תחתיו דמאן, אילימא תחתיו דבעל בהמה תנינא חדא זמנא, מסרו לשומר חנם ולשואל לנושא שכר ולשוכר כולן נכנסו תחת הבעלים. אלא תחתיו דשומר, ושומר קמא אפטר לה לגמרי. לימא תהוי תיובתא דרבא דאמר רבא שומר שמסר לשומר חייב. אמר רבא מאי מסרו לרועה, לברזיליה, [פרש"י לתלמידו] דאורחא דמלתא דרועה למימסר לברזיליה.

ורש"י[3] ביאר הקושיא ממשנתנו על רבא וז"ל והכי משמע, מסרה שומר לרועה נכנס הרועה תחתיו, ואזלי בעלים ומשתעו דינא בהדי שני והראשון מסתלק.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Yitro - the Universality of the Ten Commandments

The Keli Yakar says a beautiful vort in this week’s parsha. He begins by noting ten differences between the first set of tablets and the second, and wondering the reason for the change. They are as follows:

1) In the first it says זכור את יום השבת, remember (or mention) the Sabbath, and in the second it says שמור, watch (or keep) it.

2) In the second, the phrase כאשר צוך ה' אלהיך, as the Lord your God has commanded you, is mentioned in the commandments of the Sabbath and of honoring parents, while in the first it is noticeably absent.

3) In the first, the reason stated for the commandment of the Sabbath is כי ששת ימים עשה ה' את השמים ואת הארץ... וינח ביום השביעי, six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and he rested on the seventh day. In the second, a seemingly different reason is given – וזכרת כי עבד היית בארץ מצרים ויציאך ה' אלהיך משם... על כן צוך ה' אלהיך לעשות את יום השבת, remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God took you out of there; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to make the day of Sabbath.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hillel, Torah she-Ba'al Peh, & the Rambam in Hilkhot Sheḥita

The Talmud in Shabbat records a few tales demonstrating the humility and patience of Hillel on one end, and the strictness of Shammai on the other. Some of them are more well-known then others, but today I wish to focus on one point which comes up in passing in one of them.

The tale in question is the following one:

מעשה בנכרי אחד שבא לפני שמאי, אמר לו: כמה תורות יש לכם? אמר לו: שתים, תורה שבכתב ותורה שבעל פה. אמר לו: שבכתב אני מאמינך ושבעל פה איני מאמינך, גיירני על מנת שתלמדני תורה שבכתב. גער בו והוציאו בנזיפה. בא לפני הלל, גייריה. יומא קמא אמר ליה א"ב ג"ד, למחר אפיך ליה. אמר ליה: והא אתמול לא אמרת לי הכי! אמר ליה לאו עלי דידי קא סמכת? דעל פה נמי סמוך עלי.[1]

Sounds like a nice story with a nice moral. But there is a difficult question here, which Rashi alludes to. In explaining why Shammai threw the person out, Rashi says:

הוציאו בנזיפה: דתניא: הבא לקבל דברי חברות חוץ מדבר אחד, וכן גר הבא להתגייר וקבל עליו דברי תורה חוץ מדבר אחד, אין מקבלין אותו – במסכת בכורות.[2]

In that case, how was Hillel allowed to convert the man? Rashi answers:

גייריה: וסמך על חכמתו שסופו שירגילנו לקבל עליו. דלא דמיא הא לחוץ מדבר אחד, שלא היה כופר בתורה שבעל פה אלא שלא היה מאמין שהיא מפי הגבורה, והלל הובטח שאחר שילמדנו יסמוך עליו.

What does Rashi mean? In my opinion it is incorrect to say (as I have heard once) that Rashi differentiates between simply believing in the Oral Tradition and believing it was received מפי הגבורה, because firstly, what exactly is belief in the Oral Tradition if it does not say that it was received מפי הגבורה; second, there is no indication in the Gemara that the person accepted any aspect of the Oral Tradition; and third, if that were indeed the case, that a lack of belief in the Oral Tradition’s being received מפי הגבורה does not constitute חוץ מדבר אחד; why is Rashi so busy convincing us how sure Hillel was that he could change the man’s belief? How is that relevant to the problem at hand? Clearly Rashi believes that this case of complete denial of the Oral Tradition for some reason does not constitute חוץ מדבד אחד, and we ought to figure out why.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beshalaḥ - What Doesn’t Kill You

This week’s parsha brings me back memories of the torturous but clever satirical vorts we would sometimes hear from our rabbeim. Well, torturous for some. I always laughed out loud. I guess I was born to become a Litvishe rosh yeshiva or something.

Our class once needed to be woken up, so the rebbi stopped the shiur and told the following vort:

The Mishna in Bameh Madlikin says:

אין מדליקין לא בלכש, ולא בחסן, ולא בכלך, ולא בפתילת האידן... ולא בחלב נחום

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Road to Heaven

I was driving to yeshiva this morning when I heard an ad on the radio for a certain law firm. The firm was advertising that anyone who knows of a company or institution committing fraud against the government can actually sue in the government’s name and make money on the deal, with the help of this law firm of course. The ad was flowered up with phrases such as “get justice” and “make the world a better place,” and so on.

My first thought was, “wow, anything to make a buck.” Does anyone suing a company in the government’s name really care about the principle of the matter?! Of course it’s all about the money. Or getting back at the boss you don’t like or whatever. The disingenuousness of those words really irked me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rationale for the Prohibition of בשר בחלב

I came across a citation of the following words of Rashi while skimming through the קובץ שיטות קמאי on Niddah,[1] which by the way is an awesome sefer. Here goes:

ולמה אסר רחמנא בשר בחלב, לפי שחלב נהפך לדם והדם בחלב. ומניין שהחלב נהפך לדם, אלא כיון שהעזים מתעברות החלב נהפך לדם, והדם לחלב מניין, אלא כיון שהאשה מתעברת אינה רואה דם נידות, אלא אותו נעשה חלב לתינוק.[2]

I don’t really get it, but I guess somehow he is saying that the cooking process brings back the blood quality in the milk, which would explain also why דרך בישול אסרה תורה.[3] It still wouldn’t explain why there is an issur hana’ah, when there is no issur hana’ah on blood. Maybe someone can help here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shemot – Thoughts on טמטום הלב

Often when discussing a kashrut issue someone will bring up the concept of טמטום הלב. The Litvak in me tends to be skeptical of the whole thing, but the question is; is such a concept professed or even remotely supported by Ḥazal?

Like all things I am cynical about at first, the answer is that of course it is. The Gemara in Yoma says:

תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: עבירה מטמטמת לבו של אדם, שנאמר[1] ולא תטמאו בהם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בם, אל תקרי ונטמאתם אלא ונטמטם.[2]

The problem is this Gemara does not differentiate at all between forbidden foods and other aveirot. So who says there is an aspect of טמטום הלב unique to foods?