for Parshat Tazria-M'tzora
From the virtual desk of the OU VEBBE REBBE
The Orthodox Union – via its website – fields questions of all types in areas of kashrut, Jewish law and values. Some of them are answered by Eretz Hemdah, the Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, founded by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l to prepare rabbanim and dayanim to serve the National Religious community in Israel and abroad. Ask the Rabbi is a joint venture of the OU, Yerushalayim Network, Eretz Hemdah... and the Israel Center. The following is a Q&A from Eretz Hemdah...
Q My son will soon be bar-mitzvah. He writes and does most things with his left hand but does many things with his right. On which arm does he lay tefillin?
A Mazal Tov. Your case appears straight-forward, although we request a list of things he does with each hand and those he does equally with both. Then we can give a final ruling. First, allow us to present a little background.
All agree that a “righty” lays tefillin on his left hand, but three sources are brought for this halacha (Menachot 36b-37a). Tanna Kamma says the word “yadchah” (where we are to fasten the tefillin) means the left arm. R. Natan learns from the “attachment of p'sukim” (hekeish), which compares the hand one uses to fasten the tefillin onto the opposite arm to the hand one uses to write a mezuzah. Most people write with their right hand and, thus, fasten the tefillin (with their right) onto their left arm. R. Ashi learns from the extra letter “heh” in “yadchah” (Shemot 13:16) that tefillin go on the "yad keiha"(weaker hand), usually the left. A “lefty’s” weak hand is the right.
A major machloket exists among the Rishonim about one who writes with one hand and does most other activities with the other. Sefer Hatrumah says to lay the tefillin on the overall weaker hand, without special emphasis on writing. R. Yechiel of
Paris says that one who writes with his right hand lays on his left arm even if he does everything else with his left (see Tur, Orach Chayim 27). Shulchan Aruch (27:6) brings both opinions, but he and the Rama favor R. Yechiel’s opinion to follow one’s writing. Thus, your case should be simple- your son puts the tefillin on his right arm.
However, despite the stature of Shulchan Aruch and Rama, some major poskim question their p'sak. It appears that the two opinions in Rishonim are based on two of the sources in the aforementioned gemara, one stressing writing and the other stressing general strength/skill. The Gra (OC 27) demonstrates that the majority of opinions follows Rav Ashi, that we place the tefillin on the overall weaker hand. Furthermore, the Bach (on the Tur, ibid.) argues on Shulchan Aruch’s understanding of R. Yechiel. The Bach says that R. Yechiel accepted both the source of “writing- fastening” and that of “the weak hand” and, only when one is a “lefty” in both regards, does he lay on the right. With a “twist” on this approach, R. Moshe Fein- stein (Igrot Moshe YD IV, 11) understands that one who writes with one hand but does most work with the other is deemed ambidextrous (sholet b'shtei yadav) and lays on the left arm (Menachot 37a). The exact parameters of sholet b'shtei yadav are not fully clear and, according to certain opinions and in certain cases, may cause one who considers himself a “lefty” to be treated like a “righty.” For example, there are different opinions about one who writes with both hands but prefers his left or one who writes script with one hand and prints with the other. So we ask for more detailed information and hope that the situation will turn out clear cut as, according to most poskim, there's no easy way to cover all bases.
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Hasidic Wisdom from the book by Simcha Raz (Elkins/Elkins)
"And G-d had blessed Avraham in all things." (B’reishit 24:1)
Avraham our father was blessed with an abundance of ALL things.
Which ones? As it is written, "With ALL your heart and ALL your soul and ALL your might."
— The Seer of Lublin
How easy it is for the poor to trust in G-d, for who else can such a person trust?
And how difficult it is for a rich person to trust in G-d, since one’s possessions cry out, "Trust in us!"
— Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov
Woe is us! The world is full of light and mysteries both wonderful and awesome, but our tiny little hand shades our eyes and prevents them from seeing.
— Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
Rite and Reason by Shmuel Pinchas Gelbard
When a male child is born, it is customary to invite one’s neighbors to one’s home on the Friday night before the BRIT for light refreshments. This mini-feast is called SHALOM ZACHAR (welcome to the male child). Among other items of refreshment, chick peas (a.k.a. chimtza, chumus, arbis, nahit, garbonzo, ceci, gram pea, and Cicer arietinum) are served.
Reason: The SHALOM ZACHAR comes in place of a thanksgiving meal in honor of the birth of the child. It is held on Friday night since “everyone is at home”.
Reason: It is similar to a condolence visit with the newborn infant who mourns over the Torah he forgot upon his birth. This is also a reason for chick peas, a food eaten by mourners.
Reason: In some places, it was customary “that whoever circumcises his son or brought his son or daughter to the CHUPA would be reconciled with all his enemies. He summons them to eat and rejoice with him so that they bless him and not the opposite. The entire congregation, the elderly, women, and children, all gather on Shabbat night and on the night of the 8th day (the day of the BRIT)...”
Reason: In accord with the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba ch.27) that says: This is like a king who entered a country and decreed that no one may see his face until they first see the head mistress. Thus said G-d: You shall not bring the child as a sacrifice before me until at least one Shabbat passes by. Since there cannot by a seven-day period without Shabbat, there is no MILA without a Shabbat having passed. Of this it is written (Vayikra 22:27): “From the 8th day onwards he shall be acceptable”. (TAZ)
Ed. note: This last reason is the only one that explains why not a similar practice for a girl. Based on the other reasons, we do find that there are different customs for the birth of a girl.
ArtScroll Series • Mesorah Publications Ltd.
WORDS OF WISDOM WORDS OF WIT by Shmuel Himelstein
One of the Chafetz Chaim’s best students was offered to post as RAV of a community. The talmid was reluctant to accept the position because of the tremendous responsibility involved. The Chafetz Chaim told him, “When the midwives were told to kill the newborn males, they disregarded Par’o’s explicit orders. Why didn’t they simply resign? The reason is that they realized that Par’o would simply appoint someone else who would obey him”.
"By the same token”, the Chafetz Chaim concluded, “if people such as you don’t take positions of responsibility, they can be sure that someone else who lacks their sense of responsibility will take them.”
Excerpted with the permission of the copyright holder
From the Desk of the Director
Parshat Tazria opens with the laws of purity pertaining to a woman who gives birth. In his Likutei Sichot the Lubavitcher Rebbe asks why this parsha is named “Tazria” - a term that denotes conception - rather than “Isha” (woman) which is the first significant word in the sedra.
To answer this question the Rebbe recalls the discussion in the Gemara as to why Adam was created after the animals (cf. Sanhedrin 38a). There, several responses are listed, two of which cast antithetical positions on the worth of the human being.
The first sees Adam endowed with a divine soul, which instantly bestows him with the possibility of participating in a mitzva, the sanctification of Shabbat. The second reason given is that if a man becomes too proud, “he may be reminded that the lowly mosquito preceded him in the order of creation.”
It is a sobering thought that while human beings may err, animals never sway from fulfilling their G-d given tasks. Yet, explains the Rebbe, this precarious condition is exactly what exemplifies Man’s greatness. For through his own efforts he can rise to untold spiritual heights; from the ‘dust of the earth’ he can forge totally new realities. This propensity is embodied in the word “Tazria.” And it is thus “Tazria” that names the parsha, challenging us to participate in Hashem’s creative process.
Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff, Director, Israel Center
Had an interesting (and frustrating) kashrut conversation on Chol HaMoed, and even though it was Pesach-related, I wanted to share it with TT readers now...
We bought Osem ketchup and Osem mayonnaise for Pesach. Both labeled Kosher L’Pesach, of course, but only the ketchup said non-kitniyot (or words to that effect). What’s with the mayo? Call to the supervising rabbi. What’s with the mayo kitniyot-wise, I ask. If it doesn’t say “for kitniyot-eaters only” (like two of their salad dressings say), then there is no kitniyot, he answers. So I remind him about the ketchup, from which one can assume that Osem products do, indeed, have to say non- kitniyot to be non-kitniyot. Then I get the whole story.
The mayo is made with cottonseed oil (as it says on the list of ingredients). Some venerable rabbanim of Jerusalem consider cottonseed oil to be kitniyot. Many, many rabbanim consider it non- kitniyot and perfectly acceptable to Ashkenazim for Pesach. But in defer- ence to the rabbis of the first opinion, Osem does not identify anything with cottonseed oil as non-kitniyot.
Clear? Maybe. But IMHO, not accept- able. Because the average kosher consumer is NOT going to call Osem or its rav to ask. Nor ask the store’s manager to see the letter that Osem sent them with the explanation. And because the explanation is not easily understood or acceptable to the average kosher consumer.
[It seems to be that this story also applies to LIFTIT, a non-kitniyot (but not all rabbanim agree) substitute for lecithin. Many chocolates had a Kosher L’Pesach designation with the additional words: CONTAINS LIFTIT, or L’OCHLEI LIFTIT, for LIFTIT eaters.
What further complicates both the cottonseed oil and the LIFTIT issue is that some companies DO designate products with them as non-kitniyot.]
In my opinion - and I told this to Osem’s rav - ALL Kosher L’Pesach foods MUST say either “contain kitniyot” (or a variation on that theme) or “without kitniyot”. The ambiguous “Kosher L’Pesach” is just not enough. And we should insist on this by letting companies know that they will lose us as customers if their labeling for Pesach is not
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