Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking vs. Warming (Part 2)

14th of Cheshvan, 5771

Last Friday I explained that in Shabbat we are forbidden to cook food . However, if the food is already cooked we are allowed to warm that food. There are a few conditions to allow warming food.

1. The source of heat. It cannot be a 'live' fire.You could use an electric heat like a Shabbat plate, activated before Shabbat or on Shabbat by an automatic timer. (See the link for last week's HOTD).

Today I will explain a second element: the type of the food.

Our Rabbis distinguished between solid foods (rice, bread, chicken, etc. ) and liquid foods (water, soup, milk). They explain that since solid foods undergo the process of 'cooking' only one time , once a solid food is cooked, heat will not 'cook' it again, it will only warm it. (en bishul achar bishul beyabesh. Think about a hard-boiled egg...). 'Cooked/boiled' liquids, however, once cold, they will 'boil' once again in contact with heat: every time you reheat water, it boils again.

In principle then, if you have a bowl of rice in your refrigerator, cooked from before Shabbat, you are allowed to warm that rice in a Shabbat Plate, but you cannot take a soup, even though that soup was completely cooked before Shabbat, and place it on a Shabbat Plate, because it will 'boil' again.

Next week B'H I will clarify two points:

1. The status of 'stew', an intermediate category between solid and liquid and
2. What happens when the Shabbat Plate won't reach a temperature that will 'cook'
the foods.


Shabbat Shalom!
Candle Lighting in New York: 5:47.

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Damage control on hatred - What is Love?

13th of Cheshvan, 5771

Last week we explained that the Torah commands us to 'love' our fellow men as we love ourselves. 'Love' means to take care of others when they need and advocate for them in our mind when they make a mistake.

The Torah also warns us against a serious issue, the other side of the coin of 'love': Hatred. lo tisna et achikha bilbabekha... 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart'. This Mitzvah does not refer only to a baseless hatred (sinat chinam) but even when somebody had offended us, the Torah forbids us to harbor hate in our hearts.

But how can God expect us to control an emotion? The feelings of our heart?

Maimonides explains in Mishne Torah (deot 6,6) that 'hatred' could be controlled:

"When somebody wrongs to you, you shouldn't keep your resentment quietly inside.
Because that is a symptom of 'hatred' (Maimonides quotes the case of Abshalom and the silent treatment he gave to Amnon for years... Shemuel II, 13). Instead, you are required by a the Torah to approach the offender and respectfully ask him:
Do you realize what you did to me? Why did you do this to me? And if the offender regrets his offense and ask your forgiveness, you should forgive him."

The silent treatment is defined by Maimonides as minhag hareshaim. 'A habit of the wicked ones'.

Communicating our feelings, directly to those who offended us, mitigates the hatred in the heart of the victim and constitutes the best first step toward a healthy reconciliation.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FISH and meat

12th of Cheshvan, 5771

Mixing fish and meat together is not restricted by Biblical law.

However, the Rabbis of the Talmud considered it a harmful mixture, and they forbade it for health considerations. The Gemara Pesachim (76b) teaches that one may not eat fish and meat together since this combination is considered sakana (harmful). Still, the Gemara is not explicit about what particular health hazard (dabar acher)meat and fish would trigger.

Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 116:2-3), following Rashi's opinion, identifies this danger as tsara'at, traditionally understood as a type of leprosy. By the way, and public opinion notwithstanding, Maimonides explicitly mentions that sara'at should not be identified exclusively as leprosy. He hints that sara'at was more a category of a (infectious?) disease (T. Tsarat 16, 10) than a particular disease.

Modern Rabbis also disagree about the specific health issue involved in mixing fish and meat.

"The combination of these two foods [fish and meat]can have negative health effects that are not readily apparent. Even if modern medicine does not recognize these health concerns, we can never be sure that the concerns are outdated" .

It could have been allergy or even, as I've heard from one of my teachers, the risk of swallowing a fish bone hidden in a piece of meat.

In any case, the prohibition of eating fish and meat together remains intact today.

The Rabbis sentenced "Chamira sakanta me-isura", when it gets to preserving one's health (sakana), we should be stricter and more careful than when we are dealing with a religious prohibition (isur).

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The 3rd berakha: God is beyond our understanding

11th of Cheshvan, 5771

The third berakha of the Amida is also the shortest one.

In this berakha we say that God is kadosh, and so is His name, and so are the people who praise Him every day: Am Israel, (who imitate the malakhim -angels- mentioned in the Kedusha).

What is 'kadosh'?

First, you need to know that it is impossible to translate the concept of kadosh with one single word. 'Kadosh' means: special; unique; different; consecrated and sometimes: 'out of reach'.

One example: in Hebrew kiddushin means 'marriage'. When a man marries a woman, she is mekuddeshet'consecrated' to him, becoming for him 'unique', 'special' and 'different' from the rest of the women. Now, she is 'out of reach' for all other men.

In the context of our berakha, when referring to God, kadosh hints to our human inability to 'grasp' God 'Almighty-ness'.

ATA KADOSH, means: 'You are beyond our reach', intellectually. God remains 'concealed' to us. No matter how much we praise Him, for those of His actions that WE see, we acknowledge that the full scope of His actions, so to speak, is completely beyond our reach. VESHIMKHA KADOSH, and 'Your name is kadosh'. We state that we are not even capable of grasping His name -the name of four letters name- which conveys the idea of 'infinite' and 'eternity'.

UKDOSHIM BEKHOL YOM: still, we, the kedoshim the people 'consecrated' to You, praise You every day, as much as we are able to praise You. Nevertheless, we remain completely aware that no matter how much we praise You, it will never be enough to 'fully' praise You. (Notice that an identical message constitutes the very core of the kaddish: LEELA MIN KOL BIRKHATA, etc.)

Why do we emphasize this message here, at the end of these blessings (shebach)?

In the two previous berakhot we have praised God's intervention in history (Abot), from our ancestors until the future go'el(mashiach) and we have described and praised God's intervention in nature (geburot): His powers, His care, His miracles.

By saying ata kadosh we convey a sort of a philosophical disclaimer and we virtually 'extend' our praise to 'cover' what we haven't said: What we said of You so far, God Almighty, it is just the little we grasp from our human perspective.

BARUKH ATA HASHEM HA-EL HAKADOSH: Blessed are You, God, Whose real power, blessings and praise remains 'far beyond our reach'.

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

'My father's honor is not for sale'

10th of Cheshvan, 5771

Respecting one's parents means: avoiding anything which would bother them or would make them feel uncomfortable.

For example, it is forbidden to wake up one's parents from their sleep. Unless the son knows that waking them up will be for their own benefit-if they have to take an important medicine- or if the parents asked the son to wake them up, he should not disturb his parents' sleep.

The Talmud illustrates this rule with the story of Dama ben Netina, a gentile:

'It happened once that one of the precious stones fell out of the High Priest's breastplate, and was lost. Seeking a replacement, the sages were referred to Dama ben Netina who had the exact jewel they sought. They offered him 100 dinar (gold coins), and Dama accepted their offer. When he went to fetch the jewel, he discovered that he could not access it without waking his father up. So he returned and informed his clients that he could not provide them with the expensive jewel. Assuming that he was trying to renegotiate the price, they increased the offer until they reached a sum of 1000 dinar. When his father finally woke up, he brought them the jewel. When the sages gave him the 1000 dinar Dama refused, and he only took 100 dinar as they had initially agreed, saying: "Do you think I would sell the honor of my father for gold coins? I refuse to derive any material benefit from having honored my father!".

Dama ben Netina is both, an example of respect for his parents, because he refused to wake him up, and an extraordinary example of honor and integrity, because he declined to extract a material benefit from honoring his father.

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