Friday, October 15, 2010

Cooking vs. Warming (Part 1)

7th of Cheshvan, 5771

There are 39 melakhot (creative activities) which should not be done on Shabbat. One of them is cooking(bishul). 'Bishul' includes all related activities, such as: boiling water, baking bread, frying an egg; broiling meat ; cooking a stew, etc.

The prohibition of cooking is independent from the prohibition of lighting a fire or any other source of heat. So, even if you have a fire or another source of heat, active from before Shabbat , you still cannot use it to cook.

The most important distinction you need to bear in mind to understand the rules of 'bishul' is that you cannot cook on Shabbat, but you are allowed to warm up foodon Shabbat.

The Halakha deals extensively with all the casuistics of 'cooking vs. warming' food.
Today I will write a first principle, which is, the source of heat.

The source of heat.
You can't light a fire or activate any other source of heat on Shabbat. But if you have a source of heat activated from before Shabbat, it is permitted to warm food on it. For example, you can use a Shabbat Plata (aka Shabbat hot plate, aka electric blech) to warm upcold cooked rice or a cold
bread on Shabbat.

However, the Rabbis forbade using a live and visiblefire, even if it was lid from before Shabbat, and even when intended to be used just to warm up food (mechaze kemebashel) and not for cooking.

Today, most people would use then a Shabbat Hot plate to warm up food. But before it was invented, people had to use a mecham (heater, with no visible fire); an oven or they had to a cover the live fire with a metal sheet, plate, etc.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Buying Kosher fish from a local fish store

5th of Cheshvan, 5771

Can I buy fillet from a local fish store, which is not under rabbinical supervision? To answer this question, there are two issues we should bear in mind.

1. Recognizing the fish/fillet as a Kosher (tahor) type.

2. The knife.

1. Recognizing a kosher specie is a Mitzva Min haTora.

However, modern rabbis discussed if and when is possible to recognize a fish fillet.

I quote here two opinions.

1) According to the standard Ashkenazi custom (as written in the CRC web, under rabbi Gedalia Shwartz, Shlita) fish fillet can only be identifiable if it still has the skin. When the fillet does not have any skin left, you cannot identify the fish, therefore, you cannot buy it. This is for fresh or frozen fillet.

2)According to Sephardic custom (as taught by rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim , Shelita) if a person can recognize the fish fillet as a kosher specie, if he/she would be able to recognize this fish among ten other fillet, then is permitted to purchase that fillet, even though the fillet does not have any more skin. This is for fresh or for frozen fillet.

2. The knife.

1) Some authorities require to take your own knife to the fish store and to make sure they use that specific knife to cut the fish, in order to avoid any 'contamination' (noten ta'am) between Kosher and non Kosher fish by means of the knife.

2) Rabbi Ben Hayim allows using the sellers knife, provided:
a) The seller washes the knife with water from any eventual solid vestiges or traces (isur ba'ayn). The knife does not absorb (so there is no particles' 'contamination' ta'am) because the fish is cold.


b) at home, the fish must be washed with water to make sure there is no solid vestiges or traces of a non Kosher fish.

When buying frozen fillet from Costco or other reliable stores we can assume that the knives were clean.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The 2nd Berakha: GOD'S POWERS

4th of Cheshvan, 5771

The second berakha (blessing) of the Amida, is called Geburot (God's powers). This blessing describes God's infinite (leolam) might, which He employs to nurture, support those who fell, cure the sick, deliver captives, make rain descend, etc.
God's might is about blessings, not destruction. Teaching us too, how to use our own powersto help.
The highest point of God's power mentioned in this berakha (3 times) is techiat hametim, 'the resurrection of the dead'.
Resurrection (do not confuse with 'reincarnation'!) is a core belief in Judaism which affirms that at some time in the future, God will bring life back to the dead.
Techiat hametim defies all physical and biological laws known to us.
Even today, 2010, when humans have decoded the DNA, no scientist can create life from atoms in a lab, even though they assert life appeared 'randomly' millions of years ago... Creation of life remains God's exclusive domain.
Techiat hametim in a sense, parallels 'Creation'. The 'living soul' (nefesh chaya, in Bereshit, a.k.a. 21 grams) is not a chemical but a 'divine' entity.
To understand the essence of techiat hametim think of a modern scientist provided with the legs, head, wings and body of a simple fruit fly. Can he assemble a living fruit fly in a lab?
Make it simpler: we give a scientist a fruit fly which died 1 minute ago of natural causes. Every part of its body is still in its right place. Could the scientist make it fly even for one minute? Can a human recreate, not the body, but just one minute of autonomous life in a laboratory? That is techiat hametim. haShem's exclusive power.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How do we love ourselves?

3rd of Cheshvan, 5771

'And you shall love your fellow man as you love yourself'. (Vaykra 18, 19)

It is really challenging to swallow that we are 'commanded'to love... After all, love is probably the
noblest of all 'feelings'. A naturalbond we experience toward certain people. Right?

Love is ultimately a feeling. But not just a spontaneous feeling. It is a feeling we can acquire when we do certain things and we develop a right attitude.

Let me offer two examples.

1. Love is 'care'.

The Torah would not order us to feel in certain way. But it can command us to 'take care' of others, as we take care of ourselves. When we actively care for others, we fulfill this Mitzva. Which comes with some extra points. When we take care of others, in return, we feed our own positive feelings. As Rabbi Dessler explained: We naturally 'take care' of those we 'love', but we also develop deep feelings of 'love' for those we take care of.

2. Love is 'acceptance'.
One of the ways I express 'love' for myself is by accepting me as I'm. If I have a healthy dose of self esteem and just the right amount of guilt, I will generally forgive my mistakes; I would overlook my own flaws and I would often find a good excuse to justify every error I've made. This might be the highest pick of love your fellow man as you love yourself.

Loving others as we love ourselves means accepting others as we 'naturally' accept ourselves. By becoming more forgiving, less critical and more understanding of others, as we do to ourselves, we are fulfilling this beautiful Mitzva.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Naming your baby after your parents.

As we've explained, there are two Mitzvot which regulate our relationship with our parents: 'yir'a' -respect- what we cannot do to our parents, and 'kabod', what we should do to honor them.
'Names' are a good example of the dynamics of these two Mitzvot.

on the one hand, there is a strict prohibition to call our parents by their name. We have to address them as 'Father', 'Mother'. The Sephardic Minhag was to address the parents in the third person, when language allows it (similar to the English: "Your honor', or "Your majesty" ", when addressing a judge or a King!).
According to the Ashkenazi tradition, this restriction includes 'to mention' one's parent's name, even when calling somebody else. For example; if my father's name is Yaakob and a friend of mine is called Yaakob, I shouldn't call my friend by his name in the presence of my father, because it will 'sound' disrespectful to mention my father's first name in his presence, even when addressing somebody else.

Naming one's children after the parents is considered one of the highest ways of paying honor (kabod) to the parents. It is an ancient tradition, very carefully kept in Sephardic communities.

The Ashkenazi tradition, however, is NOT to name one's children after one's parents, while the parents are alive. Why? Because if one names his son Yaakob, like his father, every time he will address his son by his name in the presence of his father, it will be considered disrespectful.

This rule explains the difference between Sepharadim and Ashkenazim in this very important