Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crocs for Yom Kippur

Anyone who knows me will know that I do not like fashion trends, even religious or Chareidi fashion trends. If you didn't know that such a thing as Chareidi fashion exists then I suggest you take a closer look at the hats worn in yeshivah. For example, one year the ribbon is 2 cms high, the next its 1 cm and the next its 3 cms.

Anyway, I resisted buying Crocs for Yom Kippur even though many of my friends informed me how comfortable they were. The old slippers I have worn every Tisha BeAv and Yom kippur for the past 15 years are guarenteed to make my feet ache by the end of the day. So, seing a pair on special offer on the second floor of the Jerusalem Bus Station Shopping centre, I decided to take the plunge and buy a pair.

I'll let you know after Yom Kippur if they were worth it.

Gamar Chatima Tova to all my readers.

*** UPDATE ***

By mid morning of Yom Kippur I felt the Crocs were tightening around my feet. They became so uncormfortable that I took them off after Mussaf. I gave them to my middle son who is "well pleased"! Maybe my feet are just too wide for Crocs. Next taanis I'm back to the slippers!

Rambam's Sefer Kedusha and the message of Yom Kippur

Rambam's Sefer Kedusha and the message of Yom Kippur

I mentioned in my extremely long Blog Post on whisky that the pesak of the London Beis Din was based on Rambam. After I wrote this I decided that it would be a good idea to look the relevant seifim up.

Now, I'm gradually (I mean very gradually, like 6 volumes in the past 15 years) collecting Rav Eliyahu Touger's English/Hebrew edition of Rambam's Mishne Torah and this was an excellent excuse to purchase the volume which was relevant to our discussion on whisky. I knew that the perek was called "Hilchas Ma'achalos Asuros" – "Laws of Forbidden Food and Drink", so a few days before Rosh Hashana, I went to Manni's Book Store in Mear Shaaarim and found this perek in the volume of Mishne Torah entitled Sefer Kedusha – "The Book of Holiness".

Edited by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Published by Moznaim

The most relevant seif I found regarding the inyan of whisky from Hilchas Ma'achalos Asuros was:

טז. ומותר ליתן לתוכן שכר או ציר או מורייס מיד ואין צריך לכלום ומותר ליתן היין לתוכן אחר שנותן הציר או המוריס שהמלח שורפן:

11:16 And it is permitted to put spirits [whisky, beer etc] or Muryas [fish fat in brine] immediately [into a barrel that had previously contained yayin stam], without any other (preparation) and it is permitted to put in wine after [putting in] muryas because the salt (in the fish fat mixture) burns it [the taste of the yayin stam] away.

Actually Rambam's Sefer Kedusha consists of three sections:

Hilchas Isurei Bi'ah – Forbidden sexual relations
Hilchas Ma'achalos Asuros – Forbidden Food and drink
Hilchas Shechitah – Prohibitions of the use of animals

Why call it The Book of Holiness ?

I wondered at the time why it was that Rambam decided to call his volume on forbidden sexual relations, forbidden food and drink and laws of shechting animals "The book of Holiness" ?

If you would have asked me what I thought would be in a book entitled "Sefer Kedusha" then I would have guessed a discussion on the spiritual heights of Shabbos and Yom Tov or perhaps meditation techniques of tephila (prayer)! In fact Rambam's Sefer Kedusha deals with the most earthly everyday physical subjects you could possibly imagine. Ie Sex, Food, Drink and Killing animals.

I filed this question away in the back of my brain.
However, this week I was listening to some shiurim by Rav Zev Leff on the subject of Yom Kippur and to my astonishment, Rav Leff, (unbeknownst to him), answered my question regarding Sefer Kedusha.

In the first shiur on the halachos and minhagim of Yom Kippur, Rav Zev Leff states that the main isurim of the day are:

Asur to engage in Marital Relations.
Asur to Eat
Asur to Drink
Asur to wear leather shoes.

(It is also forbidden to wash for pleasure or apply oil to the skin for pleasure on Yom Kippur).

Listening to the shiur, it suddenly dawned on me that this list is exactly the same as the subject matter in Sefer Kedusha. In other words, the things that were forbidden on the holiest day of the year – Yom Kippur – were exactly the same things covered in Rambam's Book of Holiness.

I listened next to a Yom Kippur drasha by Rav Zev Leff.

In his drasha, Rav Zev Leff defines what kedusha really is.

Rav Zev Leff first explains what Kedusha is NOT!
For 364 days of the year we succumb to the evils of the physical world. We eat, drink and give in and enjoy physical pleasures. But one day of the year, we afflict ourselves and abstain from all these things in order to show what it really means to be holy.

Many Jews, mainly from Western countries, unfortunately believe that the above explanation is what Yom Kippur is all about but Rav Zev Leff explains that this is actually a Xstian concept of holiness, completely alien to Judaism.

Hashem created this world and everything in it for us to use and enjoy
Hashem created this world and everything in it for us to use and enjoy within the framework of mitzvos. Chazal say that if something could have been enjoyed and appreciated and wasn’t then Hashem will punish us in Olam Haba.

Our task in this world is to use the every day things in our lives and raise them up in the service of Hashem. By recognising that they came from Hashem, to appreciate the intrinsic beauty in them. To use the physical world to perform Hashem's positive mitzvos. This way of looking at the world and its contents, turns the mundane into KEDUSHA.

Of course, if by doing certain practices we would be breaking one of the mitzvos lo-ta-aseh – that is, it would lead to abusing or corrupting ourselves, others or this world, then we must avoid doing that thing.

The Nazir

This is the reason why a Nazir has to bring a korban chatat after his 30 days of avoiding any grapes. He separates himself in order to avoid corrupting himself by abusing the use of wine but at the same time realizes that wine should be used for many mitzvos which he is neglecting to do because of his nazerut. However, that 30 day period brings him a greater appreciation and understanding of the power of wine so that he can start drinking again but without abusing it.


The most powerful example is a Jewish marriage.

There are many isurim connected with our sexual drive. Forbidden practices, forbidden partners etc, Yet the joining together of husband and wife in order to get pleasure from their physical bodies whilst in the process of creating a new life is called Kedushin!

Marital relations is not a compromise or giving into our evil carnal inclinations but the greatest expression of kedushah in this world.

However, the things in this world that have the greatest potential for kedusha also carry with them the greatest danger for abuse. Therefore Hashem gives us many mitzvos lo taaseh so that we can avoid these dangers.

On Yom Kippur we don’t eat or drink or indulge in many of the physical pleasures of this world.

Yom Kippur is a Shabbos, where we are commanded to take a rest from the physical world in order to look at the world from the outside and gain a greater appreciation of it.

I suppose that we should also take a step back on this day and look to see if we are abusing the world.

Abuse can come from
1. Unhealthy sexual relations or practices
2. Eating unhealthy foods (spiritual or physical damage)
3. Drinking to intoxication.
4. Abuse of the things put in this world for our own use such as using or killing animals in a non proscribed way.

Rambam's Sefer Kedusha contains all the laws that guide us towards kedusha and away from abusing ourselves, others and the world around us. That's why it's called Sefer Kedusha !

Monday, September 6, 2010

Echoes of a Shofar

Hat Tip to C&Z for sending me this.

An inspiring short film about those young Jewish men who blew the shofar at the Kotel during the British Mandate period. Like the Romans before them, the British forbade any Jew from blowing the shofar at the Kotel. Nevertheless, these young Jewish boys risked and very often suffered up to 6 months in a British military prison in order to blow the shofar at the termination of the fast on Yom Kippur.

This is their story...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Netanyahu! Stop hitting the stupid frogs!

FACT: Every time the Israeli government begin "Peace" talks with the Palestinians, Jews are murdered! A bus is blown up, a pregnant woman and her children are murdered in their car…The barbarity of these evil beings has no limit.

The latest atrocity. August 31, 2010 - Four Israelis were murdered in their vehicle in a terrorist drive-by shooting attack on Route 60 near Kiryat Arba, east of Hebron: Yitzhak Ames, 47, and his wife Talya Ames, 45, Kochava Even Chaim, 37, and Avishai Shindler, 24, all from Beit Hagai. Chamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

The car was sprayed with bullets. The terrorists came back and sprayed the car with bullets again just to make sure.

Tali and Yitchak Ames. (z"l). Their daughter is doing Sherut Leumi in my son's school

When Hakodesh Baruch Hu makes His Cheshbon, I can't help wondering how much of the responsibility for the loss of these beautiful Jewish lives will be placed upon the government of Israel. It's true that the American government put pressure on them to at least go through the motions of trying to negotiate a peace with the Palestinians but everyone knows that the Arabs have no will to reach any agreement. They are a ruthless dictatorship who takes for themselves the money given to them by the Western World, meant for their people. They keep their people in line by feeding them a constant diet of hatred towards Jews. Abass's main concern is that, having filled his people with hatred for Jews over so many years, they will reach the conclusion that the PLO are not doing enough to kill Jews and destroy Israel and will try to overthrow the current regime and replace it with Chamas. Therefore, making any agreement with Israel will be committing political (and probably actual) suicide for Abass's regime.

The Israeli government know this. Therefore I ask again, if sitting down with these murderous thugs can never lead to peace and always leads to Jews being murdered then why do they do it?

In parshas Vaeira, we learn [Shemos 8:2] that "Aharon extended his hand over the waters of Mitzrayim, and the frog emerged (vata'al HaTzefardeiah) and covered the land of Mitzrayim"

Rashi comments on the fact that the Torah says "The Frog" implying only one frog. However, there were surely millions of frogs that covered the land?

Rashi answers that indeed there was only a single frog that emerged. The Mitzrim hit that frog and it miraculously split into two. They hit the two frogs and they split into four. Eventually these frogs covered the entire land.

The obvious question that Rav Yisacher Frand asks is why didn't they stop hitting the stupid frogs? He answers with the words of The Steipler Gaon (1899-1985) who explains that when people are pressured to act they get into a panic and end up doing irrational things. Even though they know that their actions will make things worse, they cannot help themselves and act out of desperation, anger and panic.

It takes courage, a stiff upper lip you might say, to resist the bullying of the United States and say no! We cannot keep hitting the frogs! We must find another way. The No.1 job of the Israeli government is to protect Jewish lives. They keep hitting the frogs and fail in their basic duty as a government.

Netanyahu! Please stop hitting the frogs! You know where it leads.

It is chodesh Elul. The time of owning up to our failures and doing teshuva. After Alienu of our daily prayers, during this month we add an extra tehilla (psalm) – "LeDavid Hashem Ori". Every time I read the last words of this tehilla my heart aches for the Jewish victims of terrorism.

"Please do not deliver me to the wishes of my tormentors, for there have arisen against me false witnesses who breathe violence (Hebrew - CHAMAS)."

Google home page using up 100% cpu

Last Motzei Shabbat I turned my computer on and went to check my email. Opening up IE8 I noticed that CPU suddenly shot up to 100%. I waited for a minute and it did not go down. My home page is Google. I noticed on the Google logo that they had a revolving globe celebrating something of no interest to me. Checking Task Manager it confirmed that indeed the Google home page was taking up 100% cpu. I tried clicking on My Favorites (sic) in order to try another site but the browser would not respond. Eventually I managed to type a URL into the address bar and got to JPOST. The cpu immediately dropped to 5% ! I opened another TAB and voom! 100% again.

What was Google thinking of? Did no one check what this little animation was doing to millions of computers around the world? Perhaps their problem is that all the testers are using the latest Intel i7 chips with 6GB of RAM and they couldn't see any problem.

I think Google owe us an apology.

Hmm, something like this perhaps? Only a suggestion. Ashamnu, Bagadnu...
But please Google. Just a static picture. We don't want anything clever like the guy punching his chest every second. Enough of the cpu intensive animations please!