Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yaakov wore a Kippah?

One of the gripes some people have is when modern Jewish children books portray the avos in current Jewish garb (like streimels, etc.).

However, it should be noted that it is quite possible that the avos DID dress similarly to current Jews as shown in this statue:
This is a statue from Mari dating to the 2nd millenia B.C.E. (the patriarchal time period). As is clear, the shepherd depicted has a nice chassidisha beard and what looks very much like a kippah (although it seems to be only a band around the head with the top of head uncovered).

Threrefore, one can accuratly depict tha avos as having long beards and kippot and still be pretty accurate to the true garb of shepherds in that time period. Pretty cool.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Many Sin Offerings Does a Baal Teshuvah Need to Bring when Moshiach Comes?

I haven't blogged for a long while so I thought I would get the ball rolling again with this very short interesting idea.

The term Baal Teshuvah (BT) today most often refers to a tinuk sh'nishba who later becomes frum. A question I had is that since most BTs violated numerous sins which carry kares when done intentionally, wouldn't (in the messianic age) a BT need to bring a chatas (sin) offering for each and every violation? This oculd be in the thousands! Lucky for us BTs, the Tur in his commentary on the Chumash parashah Sh'lach 15:22 says:
"... According to the pshat, the Torah speaks here of a tinuk sh'nishba. When he becomes aware of his error, he is obligated to offer a single chatas offering for all the previous violations."
If this is how we pasken then this will save us BTs a LOT of money! Pretty nice!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kol Isha without the Isha

One of the difficulties with the kol isha prohibition which I have heard is that it is difficult to understand why Hashem (and/or Chazal -- there are different opinions whether the prohibition is deoriysa or derabbanim) would deny all of us men the potential beauty of a woman's singing voice. While it is true that we can listen to our own wife's voice, it is quite rare for a woman to go through operatic voice training just to sing for her family and female friends.

For pop music, it is understandable to me to avoid listing to those "artists" sing especially if one has ever seen any recent music video (don't!). In Jewish pop music, they get around not being able to have women sing by having young male children sing in their songs (which I personally find very annoying - sorry MBC).

However, for classical operatic singing, it can be very hard for some people to understand why we must be denied the beauty of a woman's voice.

Well, I came across this video recently which shows that a comparable tone can be produced from a male singing:

Although it is most likely not as good as a woman singing the same way, it at least shows that there is still access to that form of music even with the kol Isha restriction. This, like the shibuta fish (which tastes like pork), could be another example of the Midrash (Gemara? - I forget) which states that for everything Hashem prohibited to us, He gave us an alternative which is permitted.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Canaan is Named Canaan

It is interesting that although there were seven (or more) nations living in the land of Israel, the Torah calls it the land of Cannan, after the Cannanites. There are a few explanations of why this is that I cannot remember, but here is an interesting one from the Midrash Tanchumah Parashas Bo Sif 12:
"To the land of the Cannanites." Why did Canaan merit that the land be called in his name? Because when he heard that the Bnei Yisroel were coming, he moved out. The Holy One, Blessed is His Name, said to him, "Because you moved out, the land will be called by your name, and I will give you a land as beautiful as your land." Which land is that? The land of Africa (afrika).
I never remember learning that the Cannanites moved out, but it seems like they did. What is also interesting, is that the Midrash is telling us that Africa is as beautiful as the land of Israel (at least before the Jews got there). I don't know what part of Africa it is refering to (for instance, Egypt is in Africa, but I highly doubt it is refering to Egypt!), maybe Uganda? :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Avraham was Circumcised by a Scorpion

When Hashem told Avraham about circumcision, how did Avraham know how to do it? The Midrash Tanchumah on Parashas Lech Lecha, Sif 17 gives an amazing answer:
Avraham was sitting and wondering how he should circumcise himself. Once the Holy One, Blessed is He, told him, "I will place My covenant between Me and you," what is written following this? "Avraham fell on his face." When he fell on his face, the Holy One, Blessed is He, indicated to him `the place' and a scorpion bit him [there], so that he found himself circumcised (nimtza mahol). How do we know? From what is written, "God spoke to him saying, `As for Me, this is My covenant with you.'" Look, you are circumcised. And it is written, "On that very day Avraham became circumcised (nimol)." It does not say that he circumcised himself (mol), rather "he became circumcised" (nimol). ...
Thus according to this Midrash, Avraham did not circumcise himself, but rather Hashem caused a scorpion to do it for him. Ouch...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Should Tzitzis be Tucked or Un-tucked?

It always seemed to me that when the pasuk says "and you shall see it and you will remember all the commandments of Hashem, and perform them...", that one should wear their tzitzis un-tucked, so that one will see them throughout the day and remember his obligations to Hashem.

In Yeshiva, I was told by other bochurim that this is not the case, and that the pasuk is only teaching us that tzitzis is worn during the day (i.e. when you can see them), and not the night. I was even told that one should tuck them, that when the pasuk says "and you shall see it", this means you and not them, i.e. the non-Jews, and therefore one should tuck them in when going out on the street. It seems also that historically, when Jews were being persecuted, then it made sense to tuck them in as a life-saving protection, and that this then became the custom.

However, I have come across the following Midrash to support the un-tuck viewpoint:

The Midrash Tanchumah, Parashas Shelach, Sif 15 says:
"And it shall be for to you for tzitzis..." - That it it should be visible. ... "And you will see it and you will remember.." - seeing leads to mindfulness, and mindfulness leads to performance, as it is stated, "In order that you remember and perform all My commandments." Why? "For it is not an empty thing for you."
It would seem from here that to properly use tzitzis the way G-d intended them to be used, is to wear them out so that they are visible.

The argument could be made that when the pasuk says "see it", this does not refer to all the strings, but only to the techelis string(it, and not them). Therefore since most people today do not wear techalis, perhaps there is no need to un-tuck.

However, I still think that if a Jew lives in an area where there is not active persecution, and is not roaming around in dark alleys, that he should wear the tzitzis un-tucked. I don't know if this is right or not, but it seems to me to make sense.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Balance Between Kollel and Working

An interesting Midrash:

Midrash Tanchumah Parashas Beshalach Sif 20 says:
Rabbi Yehoshua says: When a person studies two halachos in the morning and two halachos in the evening, and is occupied (osaik) with his work all the day, he is considered as one who fulfills the entire Torah (kol hatorah kulo) and fulfills the verse, "And you shall meditate in it day and night." Rabbi shumon ben Yehoshuah said: We see from this that the study of Torah [all day - Ed] was designated for those who ate manna, for they had no need to work or to engage in commerce. ... This could also be said [of Kohanim] due to the terumah gift-offerings [they recieve].

It would seem from this that unless someone has somebody to support his family fully (like manna) in order to learn, a person should work. At the same time, since we do not give terumah today, to keep learning going, everyone who works should give money to Kollelim in order to support those who learn. This creates a balance, where when there are many people working, there is more money, and more people can choose to learn full time. When there are many people learning full time, there is less money to give, and some of them need to choose to go work. There is an equilibrium to be reached where the number working is enough to support the number learning with people not having to switch back and forth too much.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jewish Father and Non-Jewish Mother - Status of the Child

According to Halachah, a child is Jewish if his/her mother is Jewish, regardless of the father's status. The Reform and Conservative movements have challenged this (not so much challenge, as disregard) which unfortunately will cause many problems down the line. The arguments go back and forth, but I think it is interesting to note that challenging this idea is not new, and is already discussed and settled in the Midrash.

The Midrash Tanchumah, Parashas Chukas, Sif 6 states the following:
Yaakov from Kefar Giboraya [same guy who thought fish needed to be shcheted -ed] taught in Tyre that a child that is born as a result of the union between a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman is circumcised on Shabbos. [Thus implying - in a strong way - that he is Jewish - ed]. Rabbi Chagai heard this and sent for him. He said to him, "How do you know this?" He said, "for it is written, 'And they were registered by family ancestry according to the house of their fathers.'" [He said to them,] "Prepare him for lashing." He said to him, "Is this the law that a person who says something from the Torah is given lashes?!" He said to him, "You do not teach correctly." He said to him, "How do you know?" He said to him, "Bend over [to receive your lashes] and then I will tell you." [.........] He said to him, "Based on what rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. It is written, "And you shall not intermarry with them. You shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son." - Why? - "for he [the non-Jew] will cause your child [the son of the daughter with the non-Jew] to turn away after Me." Your son who comes from a Jewish mother is called "your son" but your son of a non-Jewish woman is not called "your son" but "her son," as it is stated, "but the son of the slave-woman as well I will make into a nation." He said to him, "Give your lashes because it is fitting and proper that I receive them."

We see here a biblical source for the law that Judaism goes through the mother. I have heard from other Rabbis (although I do not know their source) another interpretation of the verse. In this case the "he" in the explanation refers to the Jewish man, and the "child" is the Jewish man's offspring, which will be "turn[ed] away from Me", i.e. not Jewish. However, for the daughter to the non-Jewish man, this is not said.
It could be that I misheard this drashah, and I was told it in the manner of the Midrash originally.

Either way, the message is clear, that the Torah itself mentions (indirectly) the law. (Although in Yeshiva I learned that before Mattan-Torah, Judasim was passed down form the Father, and only afterward was it passed down through the Mother.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't Say Fish Require Shchitah

Here is something I found interesting. I have been asked by some why fish do not need any kind of shchitah. The thought is that it is cruel to kill fish the way we do, and why is it permitted? Well I found that the idea of fish needing shchitah is not new, and is addressed in the Midrash Tanchumah Parashas Chukas Sif 6:
Yaakov from Kfar Giboraya taught in Tyre that fish require shchitah. Rabbi Chagai heard this and sent for him. He said to him, "From where did you learn this?" He said to him, "From here," 'G-d said, Let the water teem with teeming living creatures, and fowl, ...'" Just as fowl requires shchitah, so too does fish require shchitah. He said to them, "Prepare him for lashing!" He said, "Is this the law, that a person who says something form the Torah is given lashes?!" He said to him, "You did not teach correctly." He said to him, "How do you know?" He said to him from what is written here, "Can sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them and suffice for them? Or if all the fish in the sea will be gathered for them, would is suffice for them?" These [sheep and cattle] require shchitah, and these [fish] require gathering. He said to him, "Give your lashes for they are fitting and proper that I am lashed by them." (Translation from Metsudah edition)

Therefore, we have a pasuk that tells us that fish do not need shchitah. (However, they require "gathering" - I am not sure what this requirement is. My guess is that they must be dead before eating them.)

This also brings out a very important idea that one should not interpret the Torah on their own, but rather check the interpretation with a Sage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Existance or Non-Existance of Demons (Mazikin): Midrash Tanchumah Naso, sif 23

There is a debate whether or not demons exist or existed. Not to get into the huge topic too much (since I don't know all the sources and one could write a whole book on the subject) but I came across a Midrash Tanchumah (MT) which I have not heard before, so here it is:

The MT in parashas Naso, sif 23 states:

"...on the day the Mishkon was erected, the demons were eliminated from the world. Before it was erected, the demons were commonly found in the world."

The Midrash then proceeds to cite proof-texts as well as some descriptions of various demons and then concludes "the day the Miskon was erected they were eliminated."

Now from what I remember, the RamBam and Meiri (along with some others) say that demons do not exist. The question some raise, is that are they saying the demons never existed at all? Or that they simply do not exist today? From this Midrash, we can surmise (possibly) that they did indeed exist at one point, but were eliminated form the world after the Mishkon was finished.

Therefore, when a reshon states that demons do not exist, it could be that they are speaking only of the present and future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What would Judaism look like if there was no Oral Law? Ask this guy!

I came across this fascinating video of a talk given by an author who tried to live life for a year following the Bible literally. To do so, he read through the whole Bible (and the Christian Bible), and came up with about 700 rules to live by.

It is pretty interesting how he tries to fulfill everything, and it is very insightful about how important the Oral Law really is. For instance, he tries to stone adulterers (with pebbles), does Kapparah to simulate a sacrifice, grows a huge beard, doesn't mix fabrics (of any kind), etc.

What is really interesting are the things he found the most difficult, such as refraining from Lashon Hara, lying, etc. He is a secular Jew, and joined a reform temple after his experiment. Although he does not espouse a Torah viewpoint in this interview, it is still very worthwhile to watch in my opinion, as he does find that by practicing the commandments and praying, that he experienced some kind of connection to Hashem, and how the acts of the commandments changed him for the better.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why the Oral Law Was Not Written Down - Midrash Tanchuma: Ki Sisa: sif 34

The question that many BTs like myself have asked is "Why wasn't the Oral Law written down when it was given at Sinai?" I have heard a few answers to this question, one saying that the Oral Law constantly changes to decide how the Halachah is followed with each era's circumstances, and therefore it would be too huge (and prophetic) to write down, and another saying that not writing the Oral Law ensured that one would have to learn from a Rebbe who learned from a Rebbe etc. and make us toil in the Torah.

However, I just came a across an explanation in the Midrash Tanchumah, and since it is one that I never heard before, I thought I'd post it. (The translation is from Metsudah):

Rabbi Yehudah bar Shallum said: When the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Moshe, "Write for yourself," Moshe asked that Mishnah should be written down. But because the Holy One, Blessed is He, foresaw that the nations of the world were going to translate the Torah and read it in Greek, and they would then claim "We are Yisroel," and until now the balances have been equal. The Holy One Blessed is He, said to the nations, "You claim that you are My sons. I know only that the ones who possess My mysteries are My sons. And what is that? That is Mishnah that was transmitted orally, and it is all for you to expound."

Rabbi Yehudah bar Shallum said: The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Moshe, "What do you want? That Mishnah should be written down? What would then be the difference between Yisroel and the nations?" ... So give them the Scripture written down and the Mishnah orally.

Now my thoughts (which may be off):

Quite interesting! If one thinks about it, both Christianity and Islam use the Tanach as a basis point, but they interpret it in their own way. The Tanach has become wide spread in the world, but only the written law, not the oral. If young Christianity had had the oral law as part of their "translation" then it would become quite hard indeed to tell the difference between a Jew and a Gentile.

Thus we see, that the reason (according to the Tanchumah) that the Oral Law was not written is so that when the Torah would be spread throughout the world, it would be in a way that would allow a clear distinction between Jew and Gentile during the exile.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New blog

Hello, this will now by my Torah thoughts page. I figured that it would be a very long time before I could post any Torah thoughts (due to my ignorence) so instead, I decided to start posting interesting statements from my learning, and maybe a quick blurb about why I think it is interesting. The idea is to share sources and statements that may be unknown to many, or easily forgotten, that I feel are interesting and many times usfull to know. We shall see how it goes!