Friday, June 22, 2012

SHABBAT: From fire to electricity (Part 3)

Previously, we have explained that lighting a fire on Shabbat is one of the 39 forbidden works or melakhot (see here).  In order to understand the source of the contemporary prohibition of using electricity during Shabbat, we have to examine the ways modern Rabbis have analyzed the similarities between fire and electricity.  
The first Halakhic principle to bear in mind is that each one of the 39 melakhot includes 'toledot', which means, activities that are also forbidden on Shabbat as an extension of the 39 Biblical prohibitions, either because they are similar to the melakhot in their nature or in what they produce. 
Two examples: 

1. The melakha of 'writing' extends to the act of 'printing' (ketiba 'al yede chotemet) or drawing letters.    
2. Trimming the dry branches of a vineyard is forbidden as an extension of zorea', planting (sic!), since the objective of this trimming is to facilitate the tree's growth.    

The question now is if we should classify the activation of an incandescent light (=light produced by heat) as an extension (tolada) of the Biblical prohibition of lighting a fire . 
Modern Rabbis have expressed different views on this matter. 
Most Rabbis have classified the turning-on of an incandescent light as the extension of the prohibition of lighting a fire. They based their opinion in the fact that two thousand years ago the Rabbis already ruled against using on Shabbat a "heated metal-pot removed from the fire" to heat water (See Shabbat 41a) .
Based on that Mishna and other Talmudic sources Maimonides asserted: "One who heats a metal-bar to temper in it water has violated the Biblical prohibition of lighting a flame" . 
This is the closest Halakhic precedent we have in which a 'heated element', other that direct-fire is considered as fire itself, i.e., a tolada of lighting a fire. 
(to be continued...)

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Candle lighting in NYC:  8:12 PM
Shabbat Ends in NYC:     9:20 PM
 READ: "Your airplanes shall rest on Shabbat"  Recalling the day when Menachem Begin stopped Israel's national airline, El Al, from flying on Shabbat by Yehuda Avner from Aish

Thursday, June 21, 2012

THE EIGHTH PRINCIPLE: The Tora is from Heaven

Last week we explained that the Eighth of the 13 Principles of Judaism asserts that the Tora that we now have is the same that was give to Moshe (see here).

Our belief is that the Tora was written by Moshe but authored by God Himself. In other words, we Jews believe that there is nothing that Moshe added from himself. No passages, words or even letters were added or written by Moshe's own mind.

There are three categories of Sacred Books in our Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). To the third category belong the books (Ketubim) which were written and authored by men who were inspired by God. This is what we call in Hebrew Ruach haKodesh or "by Divine Inspiration". Tehilim (the Psalms of King David) or Mishle (Proverbs of King Solomon), etc. belong to this category. 

In the second and higher category we have the books of the Prophets. These books were written by nebu-a or prophecy, i.e., a vision, a message or a dream coming from God. Sometimes the Prophets wrote the God-given visions in their own words and according to their own personal perception, and sometimes they quoted verbatim the Divine words that they heard in those visions (such words are usually introduced by the terms: ne-um haShem, i.e., "that says God").
The Tora or Pentateuch is unique and belongs to the first and highest category. The Tora contains the words of God Himself.  In the words of Maimonides "Moshe wrote the entire Tora with his own hand shortly before he passed away. He gave a copy to each tribe and another Tora was placed in the Ark of Testimony.... When the Tora was transmitted to Moshe, Moshe merely wrote it down, like a secretary taking dictation".   


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Ya'aqob Meir (1856-1939)

Rabbi Ya'aqob Meir was Born in Jerusalem in 1856. He was the son of a successful merchant, Caleb Mercado. Rabbi Meir studied under Rabbi Menachem Bechor Isaac and Rabbi Aharon Azriel.  He was an eximious talmudic scholar, fluent in Hebrew as well as five other languages.

In 1882 he was sent from Jerusalem in a mission to Bukhara (Uzbekistan) and he was instrumental in encouraging the immigration of Bukharian Jews to Palestine. In 1885, 1888, and 1900 he visited Tunisia and Algeria as an emissary. From 1888-to 1899 he was a member of the Bet Din of Rabbi Ya'aqob Shaul Elyashar, in Jerusalem. Under Turkish rule, he often interceded with the authorities on behalf of the Jewish community. In 1899 he was appointed deputy head of the Bet Din of Rabbi Raphael Isaac Israel. In 1906 he was chosen chief rabbi of Jerusalem. In 1921 the Chief rabbinate of Palestine was established and rabbi Meir was elected as Sephardi chief rabbi of Palestine and took the position, assuming the title of "Rishon le-Zion". He held the post until his death in 1939. 

He was at the forefront of the effort to revive Hebrew as a modern language. He also encouraged the construction of new Jewish quarters of Jerusalem. He was very active in the efforts to establish a good relationship between Jews and Arabs living in Palestine. He wrote a famous letter in 1936 called an "Appeal for Friendliness" called on the Muslims of Jerusalem to halt any hatred and animosity towards Jews who were returning to their Holy Land.  

Rabbi Ya'aqob Meir was honored with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award for service to the British. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor and received decorations from the sultan of Turkey and the Greek government as well as Hussein bin Ali, King of Hejaz.

WATCH this rare historic footage from 1918. The 3rd rabbi is R. Ya'aqob Meir.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Stealing people's mind

In the previous weeks we explained the prohibition of lying. Today we will start to explore a similar concept which is called in Hebrew genebat da'at. genebat da'at could be understood as a form of "stealing" (stealing one's mind).As such, this prohibition is learn from the pasuq in Vayqra lo tignobu (19:11) "You shall not steal".

It is important to clarify that this prohibition is different from the Eighth of the Ten Commandments. The Eighth Commandment is understood in Judaism in the context of "stealing another human being", in other words "kidnapping", while the Pasuq in Vayiqra applies to stealing valuables.

In any case, some Rabbis (Ritba) explained that the pasuq of Vaiqra also extends to other forms of stealing, among them genebat da'at, stealing people's mind. Other Rabbis asserted that the source of genebat da'at is a different Mitzva (Vayqra 19:18) "And you shall love your fellowman as yourself", which means, do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you. Stealing one's mind is different from stealing, because the intention is not to steal money from the victim. Stealing people's minds is when I pretend that I care about someone and I do everything as if I'm trying to help that person, but after all, I just care about my own interest, which I will do every possible effort to conceal.

A common example of the transgression of genebat da'at is if a politician disguises his own personal interest and agendas, and acts as if he would care just for the poor or the weak, etc. concealing his intention for advancing his own private agenda. To achieve that, such a politician would hire professionals to teach him techniques to create a convenient perception in the public's opinion and to build a image of himself as champion of somebody else's cause. Obviously, genebat da'at does not occur solely in the world of politics, it could also take place in the world of business, in dating, in our social life, and much more. (to be continued...) From the book Penine Halakha

Monday, June 18, 2012

JEWISH WEDDING: gold, silver, and stones

We explained previously that the general custom today in most Jewish communities is to use a ring for the act of Kiddushin (see here), which will be giving to the bride by the groom.  The general custom is to use a gold ring, since gold is a noble metal, and according to some Rabbis, because gold is a metal associated with the Gan Eden (see Bereshit 2:11), where the first couple lived harmoniously.  

In some communities they use a silver ring (Ben Ish Chay), however, Bet Yosef mentions that a silver ring should not be used (Eben haEzer 30). in any case it is important that the true metal out of which the ring is made not be disguised (gold plated, etc). The true value of the ring should be perfectly obvious because the qinyan kiddushin (=the legal procedure of the marriage) is not done with the ring itself but with the monetary value of the ring, and the bride should be able to ascertain the value of the ring at a glance. 

For the same reason, it is a long established custom not to to use a ring that has any kind of stone in it. A stone is a blind item whose value is not readily apparent.   Some Rabbis explain that the reason--perhaps, an additional reason, which was mentioned by Keter Shem Tob--for not using a ring with a stone, was so as not to embarrass a poor groom which might not be able to afford a ring with a stone. So every Jewish groom uses a ring which is affordable for everyone else. 

It is also customary to use a simple ring without any design, inscriptions or engravings.  An engraving or design can modify the ring value in a way that is not easily ascertainable. In our community although we tell the groom to bring simple ring if involuntarily they bring an engraved ring we still use it normally. 

 (Adapted from "Made in Heaven", by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)