Shabbos Bulletin Parshas Vaeira

Shabbos Bulletin Parshas Vaeira in PDF format

The Sheli’ach tzibur (chazan) should say the main lines of kedusha  (kadosh, baruch, and yimloch) out loud, for the sake of those still davening shemoneh esrei, for they are supposed to stop and  listen to the sheli’ach tzibbur say those words, and to a degree it is considered as if they participated in the saying of kedusha. 

Moshe Rabbeinu tells Par’o :”When I leave the city, I will spread out my hands(and daven to HaShem)”(Shemos 9:29).Moshe would not daven in a city filled with idols (Rashi,from Midrash).Where you daven is special , and is rendered a mokom kadosh.The  paradigm is the Bais HaMikdash,built for Tefillah (see Shlomo Hamelech’s prayer at its opening–Melachim I ,Perek 8).And our Shuls are thus known as Mikdash Me’ahtt(a miniature Bais HaMikdash).

Are you still shmoozzing in Shul?

Ma’aseh Shehaya – Once Upon A Time A Cautionary Kashrus Chronicle

(Dear Readers: Although at the end of last week’s article I stated that I would delve deeper into the meaning of the Chasam Sofer’s novel description of the events of Asara B’Teves, and how it is relevant to unfortunate events occurring all around us, I beg the readers’ indulgence to wait another week for that, as an event took place last week which highlights the importance of reading these columns in Chadash, and attending the lectures that are sometimes shamelessly promoted therein.)

Way back when, when we were first getting to know each other, I wrote a series of articles entitled “Just What Are Mehadrin Standards?” We discussed that there are different standards for different hechsherim, much as there are different standards for different qualities of anything we deal with, e.g. washing machines, tape recorders, cars, elevators — the point being that even if we can point to a bottom-line seeming similarity (at the end of the day — It’s kosher, isn’t it? It gets the clothes clean, doesn’t it? It plays music, doesn’t it? It gets you from point A to point B, doesn’t it? It moves you up and down, doesn’t it?), there are, nevertheless, distinctions in dependability; in ability to work under less-than-ideal circumstances; in durability; in extra features which ensure a safer, more confident experience. And so surely we should understand that different hechsherim offer different standards to confront practical problems which inevitably arise in the real world, especially given the sophistication and intricate reality of the food industry and the complex halachic issues that have to be dealt with. We concluded by making the point that as most laymen (and talmidei chachamim) are not up to the task of researching the standards of the plethora of kashrus organizations, and equally not up to the task of doing the necessary halachic research (and making halachic decisions) to determine just what those standards should be, every person must have a rav, or some expert in the field to be guided by, no less than we are guided by our doctors, our car mechanics, and our Consumer Reports.

First and foremost amongst all standards — one may safely say the granddaddy of all standards — is the very need for a hechsher. Yes, hechsherim come in all sizes and forms, but the very need for a hechsher has become de rigueur in the world we live in. The profit motive is an (and according to many sefarim, THE MOST) awesomely powerful yetzer hora, and the opportunities for greed, and hora’as heter (deciding it’s really all ok) work their magic on people trying to earn parnassa. Someone who denies this is living in a world of fantasy and illusion. And this is true across the board — no matter the type or size of yarmulke or beard, no matter the type of hat, or if there is a hat — when money is at stake, especially one’s parnassa, one’s ne’emanus (trustworthiness) is unfortunately a matter for a utopian daydream (not to mention that there are actually people out there who are not adverse to deliberately using chicanery in their dealings with others). If there is one thing that the famous Jerusalem Kosher News website (jerusalemkoshernews.com) and subscription service is responsible for, it is to make people realize that you need to check for a valid teudah hanging on the wall from a hashgachah known to you, or at least familiar to you, as reliable. If there is no hechsher, or if the teudah is invalid (for any number of reasons — go into the above site or to btya.org and listen to the lectures given by the Ralph Nader of kashrus, the indomitable Yechiel [call me Mr.]Spira, then realize that you are eating food without a hashgacha. There is no other valid description — food without a hashgachah, without a hechsher.

(If you decide that you fully trust the proprietor, the purveyor, the seller, and you also believe that he has the requisite knowledge to decide about the kashrus validity of the food you are eating, kol hakovod, as they say. But do not foist this opinion of yours on unsuspecting friends, neighbors, or guests by sharing the food with them without telling them that there is no technical hechsher.]

This is utterly essential. As Reb Yechiel says. After you take a millisecond to kiss the mezuzah, take another to look for, and at, the teudah.

The following story is related with full permission by the party involved:

 Once upon a time, there was a take-out food “store” that was open in RBS-A on Fridays, coming in from a different city. The owner rented an area in a shul. (This probably lent an aura of kosherness, which was unwarranted, as the shul made very clear that they were not issuing a hechsher — and one could easily see that. How? NO TEUDAH (from the shul).The “store” had a hechsher from a well-known kashrus agency. At first, there was confusion as to what the hechsher covered. It is unfortunately very common — especially at weddings and other such affairs — for a hechsher covering the food made in a certain place to be presented as a hechsher of the food you are buying or consuming in a different place, when in reality there is nothing attesting that it is the same food — i.e, that the food you are buying is same the food made in the offsite place which has a hechsher. To say “there is a hechsher,” you need a teudah for the food at the site you are buying.

After it was ascertained that the hechsher covered the transporting of the food as well, there was further confusion, because there was no teudah present. That is often the fault of the certifying kashrus agency, and is unfair both to the store and the consumer — to the consumer, because the agency is, in effect, teaching that a teudah really doesn’t matter, while it is really absolutely essential; to the store, because presumably (and hopefully), there are people who won’t shop there because they think there is no hechsher, and really there is.

 (I just hit my word allotment. What now? I am in the middle of a story, a moral lesson, and still in the middle of the Asara B’Teves column!) You could complain to Chadash to increase the allotment, or you can join BTYA, so that you will be used to this kind of unsettling situation.)

To be continued…

This past Monday night, as part of an ongoing Shovavim Shiur Series, BTYA sponsored a Kashrus Shiur on the topic of what halachah demands of restaurants. The Series will continue for the entire “Shovavim Tat” weeks (through Feb. 7), and will cover topics such as kashrus issues with dairy products, and kashrus issues in hotels. For a complete list of lectures, go to btya.org and click the kashrus link, or send an e-mail to kashrut@btya.org.

Shabbos Bulletin Parshas Shemos

Shemos Bulletin in PDF Format

If you are in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei, and you hear Borchu while davening, you should stop, listen to the person saying Borchu and to the response (Baruch HaShem….), and should bow together with the responders UNLESS you are at the beginning or end of a berachah (excepting the first one, and modim).

HaShem’s first statement to Moshe Rabbeinu was–to behave appropriately in a mokom kodosh!!(Shemos 3:5). And you are still not careful about talking in Shul?

Asara B’Teves — Do We Get It?

You are supposed to be reading these words at the time when either today, or tomorrow, (or yesterday? I guess one is certainly allowed to read a column of Torah on Shabbos; make sure you ask a sheilah about the rest of the newspaper) is Asara B’Teves. Asara B’Teves is, of course, one of the four special fast days surrounding the events of the churban of the Beis Hamikdash. On the tenth of Teves during the first Beis Hamikdash, Nevuchadnetzar, the King of Bavel, laid siege to Yerushalayim, a siege which culminated with the breaching of the walls of the Holy City (17th of Tamuz), the destruction of the Temple (9th of Av), and the (temporary) cessation of Jewish life in Eretz Yisroel (Tzom Gedalya).

We are supposed to relate to a fast day with hisorerus, inspiration. The main purpose of a fast day is not the action (or inaction) of not-eating, but rather the contemplation as to what led to the events of the day and its results, and thus for us to be determined to better our ways, and not to continue or repeat past behavior.

This is rather difficult for any fast day (honestly, when is the last time you fulfilled the real purpose of a fast day?), but I think it especially difficult for the tenth of Teves. After all, what happened? It is hard to get really worked up over a siege. It is hard enough to summon up some depth of feeling on Tisha B’av, for goodness’ sakes — Asara B’Teves? And as it turns out, since Asara B’Teves falls out just around the winter solstice, even the physical affliction isn’t that big of a deal. I daresay many of us go a few hours every day before eating some decent food; so a couple of hours more, and you have… Asara B’Teves? That’s it?! That’s supposed to inspire me, arouse me, galvanize me? And this year, it’s on a Friday, the only fast day that can fall on a Friday. In Shulchan Aruch it is written (O.C. 249:4) that there are special people who undertake to fast every single Erev Shabbos! (And I am quite sure that there is many a housewife who, busy with her Shabbos preparations, realizes afterwards that she “forgot” to eat anything!) So it’s an Erev Shabbos in Teves, and I’m fasting, and I am supposed to feel something that gives impetus to hirhurei teshuvah? And if I happen to realize that today is the day that the siege of Yerushalayim started — that’s supposed to get me worked up? I have trouble on Tisha B’Av, during Kinos!

And weirder still: the Beis Yosef cites that because of the phrasing of the posuk regarding Asara B’Teves, “B’etzem hayom hazeh,” which means on this very day, were the Tenth of Teves to coincide with Shabbos, then, like Yom Kippur, and unlike Tisha B’Av or 17th of Tamuz or Tzom Gedalya, we would be compelled to fast, and Shabbos would be, so to speak, set aside. (According to our set calendar, that cannot happen.) Now wait a second, wonders the Chasam Sofer, if Tisha B’Av itself, the day of the destruction, gets set aside because of Shabbos (when it falls on Shabbos we fast Sunday), what in the world would the possible logic and rationale be for fasting on Shabbos when it is Asara B’Teves!?

Chasam Sofer writes an amazing chiddush. Because of the above questions (and others), he posits that the Heavenly “decision” to allow the churban, that there would be a churban if things would not change, occurred on that fateful first Asara B’Teves. The Heavenly Court sat in judgment, the prosecuting angels and the defending angels were heard out, and the verdict was handed down: churban! Not now, not immediately, but we are on that road, the siege is, so to speak, starting, and there are three years left; things can change, the decree can be overturned given the right circumstances, i.e, teshuvah — certainly a mass teshuvah process can. But as things stand now, destruction and exile have been decided, sans teshuvah and a return to Hashem, adjudicated and determined on Asara B’Teves. Certainly a reason to fast — and yes, even were it to fall on Shabbos. As the Chassam Sofer goes on to explain, we do not fast on Shabbos when we are primarily focused on the past. But when we are predominantly fixated on the future, trying to avoid the worst (Yom Kippur; a ta’anis chalom, a private fast one fasts over certain specific types of horrifying, evil-tidings nightmares), then we fast even on Shabbos (as is the case with the two fast days we just mentioned). And the Chasam Sofer is saying, Asara B’Teves now joins that “club,” where because of the “real” events of the day, yes, it makes perfect sense that we have to fast were it to fall out on Shabbos. And yes, we have what to focus on and to concentrate on, even on a short day, even on a Friday, Erev Shabbos.

The Medrash tells us that when Yosef Hatzadik said to his brothers, “I am Yosef,” a panic overtook them. And the Medrash comments, “Woe is unto us when that day of reckoning, and when that day of rebuke comes” (meaning the Great Day of Judgment on the Yom Hadin Hagadol, during the days of Moshiach and preceding Olam Habah). “For if the brothers felt that way when Yosef, after all mere flesh-and-blood, spoke to them, how much more so will we feel that way when Hashem similarly addresses us.” The mefarshim are troubled by the use of the phrase “day of rebuke.” Where is there a hint of rebuke in Yosef’s words to his brothers? He seems, on the contrary, to be eager to comfort them, to calm them, to make them realize that this whole episode occurred through direct Divine intervention. The mefarshim weigh in with different explanations — we shall see a novel one next week, im yirtzeh Hashem, as well as an even deeper understanding of the Asara B’Teves idea, and how it is extremely relevant to the misfortunes and near-tragedies, and tragedies, the afflictions, and yes, the calamities, that seem to be besetting us, both on a national and personal levels.

Shabbos Bulletin Parshas Vayechi

Vayechi Newsletter in PDF format

A reminder that anyone fasting may not eat until tzeis hakochavim–even on a Friday fast.

And then Kiddush must be made–Vayechulu and both berachos.

And then one must wash–or at least eat mezonos.

Someone cooking for Shabbos may taste the food (only a little bit) and then spit it out.

One may take a hot shower today, since it is erev Shabbos.

One who eats by mistake must continue fasting.

One who forgot that it is a fast day, and made a berachah, took the food item, and then remembered–this is a major shaylah.

Halachah lemaaseh—eat a minimal amount.

One should not spend a fast day waiting for it to be over,but must use it for inspiration and contemplation.Asara B’Teves is a perfect time to be mekabel on oneself not to talk in Shul–talking desecrates the kedusha of the Shul or Beis Medrash–our Mikdash Me’at.