Friday, August 6, 2010

SHABBAT TABLE: Peace keeping forces

Today is the 26th of Av, 5770

Is Shabbat part of the ‘weekend’? Is Shabbat there to rest and recharge our batteries, to keep working efficiently and with plenty of energy next week? Is Shabbat just a mere resting time, a ‘means’ for the days of labor?
For the Jewish people Shabbat is the ’final purpose of the week’. We don’t rest on Shabbat just to work hard next week. Rather, we have worked very hard all week long to finally enjoy Shabbat! Shabbat is the real goal of the week.
Keep this in mind especially when you sit together with your family for Shabbat dinner.
It is such an important event that our Chakhamim instruct us how to keep a perfect Shabbat dinner.
There are a few things we must do and a few things we must not do.
Let me start from the later.
Rule # 1: No interruptions. Cell phones, TV, I Pods, game boys, etc. should NOT be allowed on Shabbat!
Rule # 2: No business conversations on Shabbat. We must think and act as if all our work is already done and there is no unfinished business which merits our attention on Shabbat.
Rule # 3: Shalom Bayit. No disputes, quarrels or fights on Shabbat table. Smile. Let go. Don’t listen. Let go. Keep smiling. The two candles you see in front of you are there to remind you that now is a time for peace.
You can do it!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

LASHON HARA: When you’re constantly criticizing others...

Today is the 25th of Av, 5770
Kol Haposel Bemumo Posel (Talmud, Aboda Zara 70b)
There is a sound psychology in this Talmudic observation that if a man goes around constantly finding a particular fault in others, it is his own fault that he projects. Whatever blemish you attribute to another it’s probably a blemish that you yourself posses.
Unconsciously, unaware of his inadequacy and lacking the courage to change, a troubled individual compensates for his own fault by finding fault in others, thereby feeling superior to them and diminishing his own unconscious guilt.
It was said about politicians that ‘the louder they would scream about family values, the more likely they are to be found in a compromising situation in a hotel room in Las Vegas’ .
If you are obsessed about peoples’ actions in a very particular area or you’re too suspicious of their inner motivation and you can’t stop criticizing and talking badly about them, you might have a serious personal problem in that particular sensitive area which perhaps you’re not strong enough to admit…
For example: If you find yourself ‘obsessively’ critical of people giving Tsedaka (charity) to your Synagogue and you say to yourself (and to others!): “I’m sure he is given such amount of money just to show off that he is rich”. You probably have a “show off” problem so strong to solve that you’re unconsciously trying to hide.
Your impulsive criticism about others might reveal a great deal about the strongest flaws you should deal with.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Some common NON-Kosher fish

24th of Av, 5770

Besides shellfish (shrimps, oysters, lobsters, etc) what other ‘popular’ fish are non Kosher and why?

Examples of non-kosher fish:

Catfish – it lacks scales entirely. Interesting for the kosher consumer to note, catfish (not Kosher!) is reported to have a similar taste to the increasingly popular tilapia (kosher!) Catfish and tilapia fillets look almost identical, though catfish is notably cheaper. It is therefore quite possible that an unscrupulous fish retailer might switch the two!

Basa or Tra (also called “China sole”) – (family Pangasiidae) are currently the subject of both nomenclature debates and antidumping litigation. Vietnamese importers were marketing them as catfish, to which they are nearly identical. Whether they are in fact catfish or not, they are not kosher.

Examples of NON-Kosher fish with ‘scales’

Swordfish has scales but they are embedded to such an extent that it is impossible to remove them without making a hole or that its scales would fall off during its development, rendering swordfish as non-kosher.

Sturgeon definitely has scales, but it is not kosher. Its scales are classified as “ganoid”, which means that they are covered with ganoin (similar in texture to fingernails) and cannot be removed without tearing the skin.

Burbot has cycloid scales (one of the types often referred to as “always kosher” ) yet because they are embedded, this fish is not kosher.

Sand lances may have tiny scales, but since they are not visible, this fish is not kosher.

Adapted from and

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Praying ' exclusively' to God

23rd day of Av, 5770

God is the only one whom we may serve, praise, and whom we may pray to. Praying to anything or anyone other than God is absolutely forbidden.

We can’t pray to an angel, and not even to ask from an angel to carry our prayer to God.

Three times a day, every day, we express our belief that: “Ki Atta Shomea’ Tefillat Kol Pe…” “YOU listen to everyone’s prayer… “. YOU, directly, without any intermediaries.

While other religions might consider ‘a grave’ (keber) as a sacred place of worship, our Rabbis warned against praying in a cemetery, next to a grave -- except for saying Kaddish and Hashkaba -- lest one be carried out by an impulse to address a loved one or a deceased Rabbi in his prayers, instead of praying directly to God Almighty. This is why one should avoid praying next to a grave, like other religions do.
Even in me'arat hamakhpela, in Chebron, where the Synagogues are close to the graves of our ancestors, one is warned not to address our prayers, God forbid, to our ancestors but only the God of our ancestors.

Part of being Jewish is the strong belief that haShem is ‘directly’ responsible for our fate. He forbade us to use intermediaries of any sort and commanded us to address and worship Him alone (Va’abadtem Et Hashem Elokekhem… ). Addressing another entity-intermediary --regardless of how important this intermediary might be--would be a great offense to His name.

Maimonides formulated this rule as the 5th of the 13 principles of our faith: “… it is only proper to pray to God. One may not pray to anyone or anything else”

Monday, August 2, 2010

HONORING ONE’S PARENTS: The difference between ‘respect’ and ‘honor’.

Today is the 22nd of Av, 5770

In The Torah there are two Mitzvot which regulate children/parents relationship. The first one is kabbed et abikha ve-et imekhaHonor your father and your mother”.
This important Mitzva is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. There is a second Mitzva (vaikra –Leviticus- 19, 3) ish immo veabiv tira’u A man should fear/respect his mother and his father”. These two Mitzvot are different from each other and actually complement each other.
Honoring’ includes all what we must do for our parents: watch them and when necessary feed them and help them to get dress, take them out, drive them, etc. In other words: take good care of them.
Respect’, on the other side, is about what we are not allowed to do to our parents: we can’t call our parents by their name, we can’t sit in their seat, we can’t contradict them, etc.
In a practical sense, the Mitzvah of ‘respect’ applies mainly when we are young and we depend on our parents. A Jewish child observes a strict system of discipline and behavior which trains him to accept authority.
The second Mitzva, honoring, applies mainly when our parents are older, and (or when) they depend on us. We have a direct obligation to take good care of them. This Mitzva emphasizes the duty of gratitude and payback for those who fed us, dressed us, and took care of us when we were children.