Vaetchanan – Hatov Vehametiv in Birkat Hamazon

July 29, 2009, by

This Shabbat is Tu beAv, a happy day when Tachanun is normally omitted because of the many joyful historical events which occurred on this date. One such event is that on this day the Romans permitted burial for the victims of the terrible massacre of Beitar, which we mourned on Tisha BeAv. The gemara relates

Ki Tavo – S’lichot prior to Rosh HaShana – part one

January 18, 2005, by

S’lichot prior to Rosh HaShana – part one The custom of reciting selichot (penitential prayers) in the days preceding Rosh HaShana is quite ancient, and is mentioned already in the early Rishonim. The custom of the Sefaradim, as mentioned in Shulchan Arukh (OC 581), is to recite selichot from the beginning of Elul; the Rema

Shoftim – Confusing the Accuser – part one

January 18, 2005, by

A theme which we encounter repeatedly in the mitzva of Shofar is “confusing the accuser” (Satan). For instance: 1. The gemara tells us that we blow the shofar on Rosh HaShana both sitting and standing “in order to confuse the accuser” (Rosh HaShana 16b). 2. In the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon and in Machzor

Re’eh – Shofar in Elul

January 18, 2005, by

There is an ancient custom to blow the shofar in Elul. The source is in the Midrash: “On Rosh Chodesh [Elul] the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: Ascend the mount unto Me. And they sounded the shofar in all the camp, that Moshe ascended the mount, so that they shouldn’t further err

Eikev – Plowing in the Land of Israel

January 18, 2005, by

The Mishna in Shabbat enumerates 39 distinct archetypical labors, or melakhot, according to a number of series. The first is the series of making bread, which begins with sowing and is followed by plowing (Shabbat 73a). The gemara objects that in practice plowing precedes sowing; why does the Mishna reverse the order? The answer: the

Va’etchanan – Ilui Neshama – elevation of the soul after death

January 18, 2005, by

Often good deeds done in memory of a dead person are designated as an ILUI NESHAMA – an elevation of the soul or spirit. For example, the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh says that repentance on the anniversary of the death of a parent causes the parent’s soul to ascend in paradise (Ch. 221:1). This concept is

Matot – Delaying Marriage

January 18, 2005, by

The Mishna tells us “Eighteen years of age for the CHUPA” (Avot 5:21). But this is not like “Thirteen years of age for mitzvot”, whereby a Bar Mitzva is automatically celebrated for any 13-year old boy. A person doesn’t routinely get married right after his 18th birthday, rather this is singled out as an age

Matot – Choosing a Spouse

January 18, 2005, by

Last week we discussed the first chapter in Even Haezer, the section of the Tur and Shulchan Arukh dealing with the laws of marriage. That chapter dealt with the obligation to marry and have children. This week we discuss the second chapter, which discusses the ideal spouse whom we should marry. Seemingly, the main consideration

Pinchas – Meaning in Marriage

January 18, 2005, by

What is marriage all about? A first glance at the halakhic sources would give the impression that raising a family is the primary motivation. But a deeper look shows that Shalom Bayit, marital harmony between husband and wife, is just as important. The very first commandment in the Torah, according to Rambam and the Chinukh,

Balak – Audacity in G-d’s Service

January 18, 2005, by

At the very beginning of the Shulchan Arukh, the Rema provides a series of instructions on maintaining a proper attitude in performing the mitzvot. Among them, he writes: “And don’t be ashamed before others who mock you in serving G^d.” This would seem to be a very simple and uncontroversial suggestion, but actually it is