Friday, April 16, 2010

SHABBAT more than resting

2nd day of Iyar, 5770.

Most people feel that Shabbat was given as a day of rest for the tired worker.

However, Shabbat is much more than a mere day of rest. The verb “Shabat” does not mean “to rest” but “to pause”,“ to stop”. Shabbat is not the day where we rest to gather energy for next week work, Shabbat is precisely the GOAL of all our work. Shabbat is the END not the MEANS of our weekly endeavors.

Seeing Shabbat as a day of rest would presuppose that we are merely a tool in a society dedicated exclusively to industry and profit. We believe in working and in making money, but Shabbat reminds us of our true goals: For one day a week we willingly free ourselves from job, gardening, cooking, working, writing, etc, from every mundane distraction or material worries and dedicate to our spiritual growth: In Shabbat we spend hours praying to God, getting closer to Him, listening and studying His Torah and doing plenty of Mitzvoth (think about Kiddush, Bircat haMazon, Seudot Shabbat, Berakhot, etc) with our families in an atmosphere of peace and enjoyment.

Shabbat is the day that we stop from working not in order to become better workers the following week but to dedicate fully to serve God and strengthen the most important relationship in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

LASHON HARA: our daily tests

1st of Iyar, 5770. (Rosh Chodesh Iyar).

TODAY IS THE 16th DAY OF OMER (2 weeks, 2 days)

Consider the following situation: You are at a wedding reception and some people at your table begin denigrating someone. One person turns to you and says, "Didn't you go to school with him? Was he always this way?"
Now you are faced with a difficult test. Will you attempt to change the topic, or do you succumb and add your piece of Lashon haRa to the conversation?
A difficult test? Perhaps. But it will surely be made easier if you give thought to the following advice aim. Take stock of what you are about to do. If you remain strong and refuse to speak Lashon haRa, there may be people who will consider you self-righteous— something that anyone would want to avoid. On the other hand, if you fail and speak Lashon haRa, you will have much more to deal with, for you will face embarrassment in the World of Truth, before the King of all Kings, God Almighty.
The Chofetz Chaim quotes the teaching of our Sages: "Better to be considered a fool your entire life than to have haShem Almighty have you as a rasha (wicked person) for even a moment."
Moreover: With time and consistency –if a person closes his mouth refraining from participating in collective Lashon haRa- he might even influence and inspire his peers to act in the right way not with lecturing words but with his own good example.

Adapted from Chofetz Chaim: A daily companion.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What happens if one accidentally cooked a milk food on a meat pot?

30th of Nisan, 5770, ROSH CHODESH

Today is the 15tyhn day of the Omer (2 weeks,1 day)

If accidentally one cooked a milk food in a meat cookware sometimes the food is prohibited and sometimes is permitted.

If one for example fried a cheese omelet in a meat pan.

Case 1: if the pan was not clean and it had some visible leftover of meat, even though those were small leftovers, like meat fat etc, the omelet is forbidden because cheese got mixed with meat.

Case 2: if one fried the cheese omelet in a completely clean meat pan that was used with meat during the last 24 hours, the cheese omelet is forbidden because it absorbed the meat particles on the pan's walls.

Case 3: If the meat pan was not used with meat for the last 24 hours, and one accidentally made a cheese omelet in that pan, then the omelet is permitted. Because the Halakha considers that after 24 hours the meat particles absorbed in the pan's walls are decomposed (noten taam lifgam) and they are not considered meat anymore.

As for the cookware, in all cases, it requires Hag’ala (immersion in boiling water) or Libbun (firing) depending on the type of utensil. It will be explained BH in following Halakhot.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kavana: Understanding the meaning

29th of Nisan, 5770. Today is the 14th day of Omer

When saying the Amida, we should delve into the meaning of every word. This mental exercise is called Kavana: consciousness / alertness. Distractions or even having a blank mind is not accepted. Kavana is required at the time of prayer and it’s mandatory in the first Berakha of the Amida.ELOKIM is one of the names of God. It is actually the first name to appear in the Torah. The closest English word to define ELOKIM will be “Almighty”. The Kuzari, written by rabbi Yehuda haLevy, explains that the word ELOKIM is written in the plural form, not to suggest that there is more than one God but to manifest that God Almighty encompasses all the powers. There is no force in the universe which is not under His control.

ELOKIM is also the way we refer to God when we want to express our perception of God acting with strict justice, (Middat haDin) in opposition to compassion. When God creates the world (nature, Bereshit chapter 1) the Torah uses the name ELOKIM, because nature is not compassionate. It’s ruled by mechanical laws like, sicknesses, death and the survival of the fittest.

But when the Torah focuses on the Creation of man (Bereshit chapter 2) the Torah uses HASHEM ELOKIM which suggests “nature” combined with “compassion”. In regards to human beings, God sometimes judges us or humanity with strict justice but we always pray to Him to be judged with compassion, consideration and patience.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lending /borrowing money with interest

28th of Nisan, 5770 (Today is the 13th day of the Omer)

It is forbidden for a Jew to lend or borrow with interest (“Ribbit”). Not only is it forbidden to lend/borrow with monetary interest, but any kind of interest is forbidden—even if it is through something other than money or even when not done at the moment of the loan. It is forbidden to send gifts to somebody, with the intention that this person will “return the favor” by agreeing to lend some money. The gifts would be a form of Ribbit in advance.

Illustration: Jonah is about to start a new business. A month from now, he will need to be lent $10,000. He starts treating his friend Danny exceedingly well, invites him out to lunch a few times, gets him gifts, all so that a month from now—when Jonah asks for the loan—Danny will agree to it. This is forbidden. The gifts are a kind of “Ribbit” in advance.
Similarly, it is forbidden for a borrower to give Ribbit to his lender, retroactively, after the loan.

Illustration: Danny lent Jonah the $10,000 he needed. Jonah is not allowed to start being “extra nice” towards Danny because of this loan, and buy him presents and invite him out for lunch.
The main idea behind this is that lending money interest-free is a Mitzva. When a lender lends money interest-free he is doing a favor to himself, by following a precept from the Tora.

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Note: the laws of “Ribbit” are very complex, especially in today’s corporate world of sophisticated financial and legal structures. Ours is a basic overview of the Halakha as found in Maimonides’s Mishne Tora and in Shulchan ‘Arukh. Please consult your rabbi with any practical questions (Halakha leMa’ase).