Friday, March 31, 2017

Vayikra - The Da'as Of Moshe



A HUUUUUGE MAZEL TOV to R' Yehuda Yaakov And Chana Rochel Spindler, who are always like a home away from home for me and are my best friends on the birth of ESTHER [Sarah?]. MAY SHE HAVE THE HAPPIEST SWEETEST LIFE EVER AND GIVE HER SPECIAL PARENTS OODLES OF NACHAS!!

A HUUUUUGE MAZELLLLL TOOOVVVV MAZELLL TOOOVVVVV TO R' Shmuel Tzvi ["Jeremy"] and Rebbeca["Chaya Rivka"] Rauch on the birth of their TWIN SONS!!! May they have nachas from them and all their children and may the Rauch family keep putting out twins. We love them and are soooo fortunate when we get two for the price of one!!! 

A HUUUUUGE MAZEL TOV to the very sweet R' Yoni and Aviva Orlofsky on the birth of their adorable son Gavriel Binyamin!!! LIMITLESS NACHAS FROM HIM AND THEIR DAUGHTER AVITAL כן ירבו!!!

A HUUUUGE MAZEL TOOV to R' and Mrs. Kivi Naiman on the birth of Moshe Elimelech!! May he grow up to be a tzadik like Moshe Rabbeinu and a chosid like Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk and a mekubal like his father Shlita!!!

A HUUUUGE MAZEL TOOOV to R' Shalom Yitzchak Chaim ["Geoff"] and Daniella Dworkin on the birth of Asher Gavriel!! May he always be happy [מאושר] and strong [גבריאל - גבורה] and love Torah like his special parents!! Nachas from him and his siblings!!!

A HUUUUGE MAZEL TOOOV to R' and Mrs. Moshe Shimon ["Michael"] Frohlich on the birth of their son - the clean up hitter [4th in the lineup]. May he be the type of kid that cleans up after himself and be the greatest man that ever lived!!

[I put the fathers names first but BELIEVE ME - the mother's deserve 99 percent of the credit....]


The Torah says ויקרא אל משה - Hashem called Moshe to come onto the Mishkan. Chazal note that he waited to be called and didn't go in on his own. From here we learn that one who lacks da'as is worse than a carcass [כל תלמיד חכם שאין בו דעת נבילה טובה הימנו]. 

"Da'as" is connection. וידע אדם את חוה אשתו. Intimate connection. To have da'as is to deeply connect on a visceral level with what you know [your chochma]. In order to connect deeply to Hashem we need a "mitzva". Mitzva comes from the word "tzavta" - connection. If a person thinks that he can make up his own rules and practice his man made religion and get close to Hashem he is sorely mistaken. He is also worse than a carcass. A carcass isn't at fault that he gives off such a foul odor. This person IS guilty. 

Moshe, despite all of his greatness knew that to connect with Hashem he first needed a "mitzva". Only then could he get close and enter. He connected on a da'as level to the mitzva. It wasn't just an empty, external act.

Moreover, a dead animal has all of the same qualities as a living animal, legs eyes, horns etc. There is one difference - chiyus, vitality. To be a true scholar is to have da'as meaning to have internal chiyus in one's mitzvos.

[Based on the Sfas Emes]

We live in a generation when people often like to make up there own rules. It is self serving but does nothing real beyond that. For connection, Hashem gave us the Guide. May we always follow it with chiyus and simcha!!!

Bi-ahava rabba and wishes for a good shabbos,

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rochel Mevaka Al Baneha

We are Jews and Jews don't forget. 

Here is a letter written by Ruti Fogel's mother:

מכתב לבת בעולם האחר שהקריאה טלי בן-ישי, אמה של רותי פוגל, ביום הזיכרון השישי לרצח הנורא.

רותיל'ה שלי,

אני כותבת אלייך כמעט כל לילה, בעיקר בלילות שבהם השינה לא מגיעה. גיליתי את כוח השינה לפני 6 שנים. הבנתי איזו מתנה ניתנה לאדם. לחדש כוחות, כוחות גופניים ונפשיים, וכמה שעות ביממה להפסיק לכאוב.

אבל האמת היא שלמדתי ליהנות משעות בלי שינה. כי בשקט הגדול של הלילה, אני נפגשת אתך, אני משתפת אותך במה שעובר עליי, בכאב, בכוחות, בחיים אחרים, וכרגיל את אתי.

הפעם אני כותבת לך ואני מוכנה שאחרים יציצו קצת על הביחד שלנו.

כבר שש שנים מאז שעלית בסערה השמימה עם אודי.

עבודת זוגיות אדירה עשיתם כאן בעולם, וכמה סמלי שעליתם יחד ולא נפרדתם, ואתכם יואב, אלעד והדסי.

עולות תמימות שלא טעמו טעם חטא.

התבקשתם להצטרף לפמליה של מעלה בשבת ויקרא, ספר הקרבנות. נבחרתם לכפר על עם ישראל, להתקרב לבורא וכנראה גם להביא לקרבת העם לעצמיותו.

כאב אינסופי לנו, לילדים שלכם, ולכל כך הרבה מעגלים שאליהם הייתם שייכים.

"משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה", כך כתוב, ומה שכתוב הוא נצחי, שייך לכולם, לכל הזמנים. הסתובבתי סהרורית עם שאלה קיומית – איך אני יכולה להיות שמחה? ולאט לאט, ה' שלח לי את התשובה שהרגיעה. אני שייכת לעם ישראל שנבחר למלא משימה ענקית, לגלות את האינסוף בעולם חומר מוגבל.

יש קשיים, יש כאבים. הטוב והאור רוצים להופיע, והכלים מוגבלים. ההתנגשות גדולה.

אבל יש לנו הבטחה, הטוב ינצח. אין דאגה.

האור האינסופי יאיר את כל המחשכים. אנחנו מובטחים!

אנחנו שייכים לחלק הטוב של היקום, תודה לא-ל.

נבחרנו להופיע את האדם כפי שה' ברא אותו, ועל זה צריכים לשמוח!

רותיל'ה שלי,

אחרי שש שנים, עם כאב שלא מרפה לרגע, אני מוצאת את עצמי גם מודה.

חיכיתי לזמן הזה. באמת המון זמן לא יכולתי להודות. לא יכולתי להבחין בחלקים הטובים שבחיים כי הכאב לא אִפשר.

עכשיו אני רוצה להודות כאן לה', על זה שגלגל דרכנו נשמות גדולות כל כך, אמנם לשנים מעטות מדי, אבל "נסתרות דרכי ה'". אני רוצה להודות לה' על זה שברחמיו הגדולים הוא השאיר בחיים את תמר, רועי וישי. אני רוצה להודות לה' שאני רואה אותם גדלים לתפארת, ודרכם אני רואה בכל רגע אותך ואת אודי. אני רוצה להודות לה' על זה שאני שייכת לעם גדול, ושממנו אני שואבת את כל הכוחות.

אני רוצה להודות לה' שאני מסוגלת להבחין באור בתוך חושך כל כך עבה. אני רוצה להודות לה' על כל האהבה שמורעפת עלינו. אני רוצה להודות על זה שאני מסוגלת להודות.


Ah Yogi-le!!!

“Okay you guys, pair up in threes!”
― Yogi Berra

If You Started Yaale Vi-yavo Before Ritzei Should You Continue?

From the biggest posek in Satmar Hagaon Hagadol Rav Getzel Berkowitz:


I would like to invite EVERYONE to the next wedding my dentist makes for one of his 7 children. I feel that I have the privilege of inviting everybody because I am paying for it... 

WOW!!! If Gates wants to get REALLY rich he should become an endodontist and do root canals all day. 

Combat Sinful Desires - Don't Celebrate Them

In the official YU newspaper a student writes about "coming out of the closet". 

He writes:

"Unfortunately, I never came out in Israel, but I replaced my vow to never be with a man [OH NO!!] with a new one. I refused to accept that being gay was wrong, regardless of what my religious leaders dictated. My new vow was: “My parents will be the first people I’ll tell, and, after them, I will tell everyone else. One day, I will be fully out of the closet.”

Why isn't it wrong to be gay? The Torah says that it is. Why should "religious leaders" change a 3,300 year tradition handed down by G-d Himself that we have consistently DIED FOR because you are attracted to other men? The Nazis made us trample on Sifrei Torah in order to debase us. Saying that the Torah is not a binding document is intellectually trampling the Torah. It is a disgrace to the memory of the millions who sacrificed everything to keep it.

I can hear a man saying: "I refuse to accept that one may not have an intimate relationship with someone else's wife. I am very strongly attracted to other people's wives." Should we abrogate the Torah because of his attractions?? How many men can say that they have never been attracted to anyone but their own wives? Nobody talks about it or admits it but I would venture that we would be hard pressed to find a minyan of such men [heterosexual of course] in the entire world. The reason is that the nature of man is to be attracted to women. The VERY SAME impulse that attracted him to his wife continues to work after marriage with other women as well. By nature - man is not a monogamous creature. Yet, the Torah remains eternal and immutable. It is forbidden regardless of our feelings. The same goes for all of the prohibitions in the Torah. The nature of man is to need to eat. Should we cancel Yom Kippur?? Man needs to sleep. Should we cancel zmanei tfilla for really tired people??

A few days after I told my parents, I texted my roommate letting him know the identity I was hiding. He excitedly asked me to FaceTime him that night so he could ask about my experience and commended me on my bravery. He was so proud and happy for me.

HAPPY FOR ME???? What is there to be happy about? That he will never father children?? That he will never have a normative family?? That he will live a tortured existence? Homosexuals have an extremely high rate of depression and suicide. One should feel HORRIBLE for such a person.

Since coming out of my hidden sexuality cocoon, I have joined two life-changing organizations: JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) and Eshel, both designed to help LGBTQ, Jewish members feel part of a community which they no longer feel welcomed in. Both are small, united communities, filled with love and an abundance of acceptance. Through these organizations, I’ve met a number of amazing people who have changed my life. These people empowered me to feel safe, comfortable, and confident as a Jewish gay man. I even hosted two events of my own for LGBTQ Jews and allies in my home on the YU campus. I never imagined a life like this would have evolved in an environment as religious and constrictive as Yeshiva University.

I too would never have imagined that in an Orthodox institution there are such organizations that are active. I am not blaming YU. It is a sign of the times. We live in a post modern era where just about EVERYTHING is OK if it makes me feel good. Instead of combating unholy instincts - we CELEBRATE them. Bivchinas - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. 

When speaking to a class filled with men, our professors always talk about our future spouses with the pronoun “she.”

TERRIBLE!! I am going to send an email to President elect Berman, urging him to direct all professors to change that to "when you boys marry your future husbands or wives". YUCONNECTS will also have a LGBTQ section. How shameful that we expect men to marry women!!!

My JSS Hebrew teacher was the first professor I had at YU who addressed a class of male YU students with, “In your future, when you have a wife or a husband, I honestly don’t care….”


I will add that the comments to the article were similarly sickening. It was only my friend Rabbi Avraham Gordimer who wrote a response and registered a protest. I understand that there will always be people who have sexual problems and challenges - but do they deserve a public platform in the official newspaper of a University called "Yeshiva"?? 

As a YU Rebbe - I similarly protest. [OK - I am not, never was and never will be a Rebbe in YU (nor was I ever a student there. I was never a big Torah Umadda guy. Have of that equation. The Torah part). But people think I am because of the picture of me that comes up over 3,400 times on their website....:-)]


The chiluk at the end of the article is actually a famous Avnei Nezer [but as pointed out in the article - the Avnei Nezer isn't part of the syllabus].  

From The Rebbe Shlita:

"צפהו זהב במקום הנחת פה פסול שלא במקום הנחת פה כשר"

ראש השנה כז ע"ב

כאשר שם את הזהב במקום הנחת הפה, הזהב חוצץ בין פיו של התוקע לבין השופר, והחציצה פוסלת את התקיעה, אבל אם הציפוי של הזהב אינו נמצא במקום הנחת פה, אלא בחלק התחתון יותר של השופר, השופר כשר.

הגמ' במסכת סוכה ל"ז אומרת: אמר להם רבה למסדרי ארבעת המינים של בית ריש גלותא: כאשר אתם מסדרים את הלולבים תקפידו שהאגד יהיה בחלק העליון של הלולב ומתחת לאגד תשאירו מקום לאחוז את הלולב, "כי היכי דלא תהוי חציצה". "רבא אמר כל לנאותו אינו חוצץ", ולכן ניתן לאחוז באגד, כיון שנעשה לנוי, ואין שום חשש לחציצה, וכדברי רבא נפסק בשו"ע או"ח תרנ"א סעי' ז.' למדים אנו מדברי רבא יסוד גדול בדיני חציצה, דבר שנעשה לנהות את החפץ, אותו צריכים ליטול אינו חוצץ. שאל בעל ה"חלקת יואב" את רבו ה"אבני נזר": הרי אדם ששם זהב בפי השופר, כוונתו: ליפות את השופר, לקיים מה שנאמר: "זה קלי ואנוהו" ומדוע נפסק להלכה שכאשר הזהב נמצא בפי השופר הרי זו חציצה בין פיו של התוקע, לבין השופר, הרי כל לנהותו אינו חוצץ, ומה הבדל בין נוי לולב לנוי שופר. 

האבני נזר בסי' תל"ב מתרץ את קושית החלקת יואב בשני תירוצים גאוניים. האבני נזר מביא את חידושי הרמב"ן למס' ר"ה שם נאמר חידוש דין מעניין, שאלו את הרמב"ן: מה הדין אדם תקע בשופר באופן שפי השופר היה רחוק מפי התוקע, התוקע לא הצמיד את השופר לפיו, אלא הרחיקו קצת מהפה, והצליח לתקוע בכה"ג , האם התקיעה כשרה, או פסולה. הרמב"ן מסיק: שהתקיעה פסולה מכח דברי גמרתינו: כיון שציפהו זהב במקום הנחת הפה פסול, כך גם אם הרחיק השופר מפיו ותקע לא יצא. והאחרונים תמהים על הרמב"ן: אם בגמ' מתבאר שהזהב חוצץ, מהיכן יצא להרמב"ן שגם אם הרחיק את פיו התקיעה פסולה, הרי במקרה כזה אין שום חציצה, אויר אינו חוצץ בדיני החציצה, ומה הדמיון בין אויר לבין זהב. מיישב ה"אבני נזר" את שתי הקושיות בחדא מחתא: הרמב"ן עצמו בפ"ג בבכורות כותב חידוש דין מעניין: לא תמיד כל מה שלא חוצץ נחשב לנוגע, ישנם מקרים בם התורה דרשה שלא תהיה חציצה, ובמקרים אלו יש כללים בחציצה, כגון: מין במינו אינו חוצץ, כל דלנאותו אינו חוצץ וכיו"ב, אבל כאשר התורה מקפידה שתהיה דווקא נגיעה בזה לא יועילו הכללים של מין במינו אינו חוצץ, שהרי סוף סוף לא היתה כאן נגיעה, זהו חידושו של הרמב"ן בבכורות לגבי הדין של מין במינו אינו חוצץ. 

סבור ה"אבני נזר": שלרמב"ן בעצם היה קשה אותה הקושיה שהקשה ה"חלקת יואב": מדוע פסלנו שופר שציפו אותו זהב במקום הנחת הפה, הרי יש לנו כלל: "כל דלנאותו אינו חוצץ". מסיק הרמב"ן מכח קושי' זו, שמה שנאמר אצלנו שהזהב חוצץ, אין זה משום שנדרש שלא תהיה חציצה בין התוקע לבין השופר, אלא משום שאנו דורשים שהתוקע יגע ממש בפי השופר, ורק כך תהיה זו דרך תקיעה, חייבת להיווצר נגיעה ממשית בין התוקע לבין השופר, ובמקרה כזה לא יועיל היסוד של כל דלנאותו אינו חוצץ, משום שכאשר נדרשת נגיעה, כל דלנאותו לא יצור נגיעה, ומתוך כך הסיק הרמב"ן גם את מסקנתו השניה: אם הרחיק התוקע את השופר מפיו שוב לא לא יוצא חובת תקיעה, ע"כ תירוצו הראשון של בעל ה"אבני נזר". 

תירוצו השני של ה"אבני נזר" בגדר של זה קלי ואנוהו - התנאה לפניו במצוות. במס' מנחות ל"ב: כותבים התוס': שבתפילין לא צריכים לשרטט את הקלף המונח בהם, וזאת משום שהתפילין במילא מחופים בעור, ולא שייך בהם נוי. למדנו מדברי תוס': שנוי הנו דבר הנראה לעיניים. מעתה סבור ה"אבני נזר": שמצות זה קלי ואנוהו אינה רק ליפות את חפצי המצוה, עיקר מטרתה הוא לקיים את המצוה בחפץ נאה, וכיון שתוס' חידשו שדבר שאינו ניכר לעין אין בו משום נוי סובר האבני נזר: שאדם ששם זהב במקום הנחת הפה של השופר אינו מקיים בזה את מצות "זה קלי ואנוהו", שהרי הזהב שבפי השופר יראה לעיניים אך ורק כשהמצוה לא תתקיים, כאשר השופר יהיה מונח על השולחן, אבל בשעת קיום המצוה לא יראה הזהב, שהרי פי השופר נמצא בתוך פי התוקע, וכיון שה"אבני נזר" חידש: שמצות "זה קלי ואנוהו" אין כוונתה לנאות את החפץ, אלא אך ורק אם בשעת קיום המצוה תעשה המצוה בצורה נאה יותר, אז מקיימים את "זה קלי ואנוהו", אבל מצות שופר שנעשית בתקיעה, אם הזהב לא יראה בשעת התקיעה, שוב אין בזהב משום "זה קלי ואנוהו", ולכן לא שייך לומר על הזהב כל דלנאותו אינו חוצץ, משום שכל דלנאותו לא נאמר אלא בנוי כזה הנראה בשעת קיום המצוה, משא"כ בלולב שגם כאשר שמים את היד על האגד, האגד ניכר, ומקיימים בכך "זה קלי ואנוהו", לכן סבר רבא לומר: שכל דלנאותו אינו חוצץ.

יש מקום להעיר על חידושו השני של ה"אבני נזר" מדברי ראושנים בהל' פסח: בספר "כל בו" בהל' פסח מבואר: שיש להקפיד לעשות את המצות עגולות ונאות: כדי לקיים "זה קלי ואנוהו", כך גם כותב המהר"ם חלאווה על דברי הגמ' בפסחים ל"ז לגבי סריקין המצוירים שנהגו לצייר צורות חיות ועופות על המצות לקיים "זה קלי ואנוהו", ולכאורה מצות, המצה אינה מתקימת כאשר המצה על השולחן, ואפי' לא כשהיא נלעסת בפה, אלא אך ורק בבליעה, וכאשר בולעים את המצה לא ניתן בשום אופן להבחין אם המצה היתה עגולה או שהיו עליה ציורים, משתמע מכך: שגם בלי קיום המצוה יש עניין להדר וליפות את החפץ של המצוה, וה"ז שלא כיסודו של הגאון בעל ה"אבני נזר". הערה זו נאמרה פעם באוזני הבית ישראל זצ"ל מגור, והשיב תשובה כהלכה: בסדר ההגדה, (והמקור במכילתא) נאמר: שמצות ספור יציאת מצרים זמנה המדויק, מבואר בהגדה וכך נאמר: יכול מר"ח, ת"ל ביום ההוא, יכול מבעוד יום, ת"ל בעבור זה, לא אמרתי אלא בשעה שמצה ומרור מונחים לפניך. ספור יציאת מצרים מצוותו שיאמר על המצה המונחת לפני המספר, וכך אנו אומרים ביל הסדר: מצה זו שאנו אוכלים וכו', אמר א"כ הבית ישראל זצ"ל: שכוונת הראשונים, שיש קיום של "זה קלי ואנוהו" במצה עגולה בשעת ספור יציאת מצרים, לא בשעת בליעת המצה, ספור יציאת מצרים מתנאה אם המצות שלפני המספר הם עגולות ומצוירות בצורות חיות ועופות.

(האדמו"ר מטאלנא שליט"א)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"That is The Stupidest Svara I Ever Heard - Where Other People Have Brains You Have Chopped Liver With A Smattering Of Lokshen Kugel"

Regarding this post. 

Women are sensitive beings. Very sensitive. The Beis Medrash is not a place for the very sensitive. It is a place of WAR. A battlefield. מלחמתה של תורה. No holds barred. Screaming, shouting and even insulting to prove a point [see the hasagos of the Raavad on the Rambam for example]. There is no room for feelings and it is rather a place of cold, rational logic.   

If one relates to a woman in a "Beis Medrash mode" of relating it is about the worst aveirah in the Torah. 

Always speak sweetly and softly to your wife, mother and daughters. 


Pure manipulation of the mind. 

I feel like I lack NOTHING. Things are GREAT. Then I see an ad for something and immediately think "do I need that? It looks good". Now I am conflicted. A moment ago I thought I lacked nothing but now I am beginning to question that premise. That is EXACTLY what the advertisers want you to do. And they spend big bucks to design the ad in a way that draws you in and convinces you that your life would be MUCH BETTER with this product or service, 


When TV Is The Preferred Option

Regarding this - From what I have been told, TV is the very LEAST of the problems. [I am certain that the writer knew that and was just being tzanua about it]. 

Despite being an outspoken opponent of television as a mindless, brain cell killing, often halachically forbidden exercise, I would venture to say that HALEVAI that he should watch TV, instead of other things that normally frum men are doing on business trips. 


The ideal is to avoid them as much as possible and if necessary to make as many gedarim as one can. Being an avid learner really helps. Avid learners are never bored and always stimulated.

Tooth Lessons

I have a MILLION dollar smile. 

I am not boasting. That is about how much money I have invested in my teeth. Tomorrow אי"ה it will be a million and few hundred more dollars because I have some serious root canal.

My only words to HKB"H are - THANK YOU FOR TEETH!!!! They are SOOOO helpful when I want to bite into food. 

הודו לה' כי טוב כי לעווווולם  חסדו!!!!! 

The dentist will be mekayaim הקהה את שיניו. So I guess that means that I am the בן הרשע. 


The Power Of Habit - Part 1

By Charles Duhigg 

The Magic Formula for Habit Change

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you hop in the shower, check your email, or grab a donut from the kitchen counter? Did you tie the left or right shoe first? Did you choose a salad or hamburger for lunch? When you got home, did you put on your sneakers and go for a run, or eat dinner in front of the internet?

Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.

The basal ganglia, a small region of the brain situated at the base of the forebrain, plays an important role in stored habits. Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Interestingly, scientists have discovered that mental activity in the basal ganglia actually decreases as a behavior becomes more habitual. When a habit emerges, the brain becomes more efficient (and needs fewer resources) because automatic patterns take over. When we get dressed in the morning or drive a car, instead of needing to remember and decide what to do at every step of way, the brain has chunked hundreds of routines into habits that we no longer have to think about when we do them. This effort saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain allows us to stop thinking constantly about our basic behaviors, such as walking and eating, so we can devote mental energy to more important tasks.

And at the core of every habitual pattern is a habit loop.

The habit loop can be broken down into three basic steps:
A cue (or trigger)
A routine
A reward 

First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. The cue can be internal, such as a feeling or thought, or external, such as a time of day, place or the company of certain people.

The second part of the habit loop is the routine, the behavior that leads to the reward. The routine can be physical (eating a donut), cognitive (“remember for the test”), or emotional (“I always feel anxious in math class”).

The third part is the reward. Not surprisingly, the reward can also be physical (sugar!), cognitive (“that’s really interesting”), or emotional (“I always feel relaxed when reading the news.”). The reward helps the brain determine if a particular habit loop is worth remembering.

In the habit loop illustrated below, a mouse learns to automatically run through a maze after hearing a click, because the habit has become ingrained through a chocolaty reward.

When a habit emerges, the frontal lobe of the brain, where decisions are made, stops fully participating in the process. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

However, simply understanding how habits work – learning the structure of the habit loop – makes them easier to control. Once you break a habit into its components, you can fiddle with the gears.

Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structure of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to learn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.

This explains why it’s so hard to create exercise habits, for instance, or change what we eat. Once we develop a routine of sitting on the couch, rather than running, or snacking whenever we pass a doughnut box, those patterns always remain inside of our heads. By the same rule, though, if we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors – if we take control of the habit loop – we can force those bad tendencies into the background. And once someone creates a new pattern, studies have demonstrated, going for a jog or ignoring the doughnuts becomes as automatic as any other habit. In other words, once we learn to override the old pattern, the new pattern takes over and becomes a new habit.

The Golden Rule of Habit Change

Studies have shown that you can never really extinguish habits (as they say in the 12-Step groups “Once an addict always an addict”). But understanding how habits work—or, understanding the habit loop—makes them easier to control.

To change a habit, we only need to attack the middle step, the routine. It’s easier to adopt a new behavior if there’s something familiar at the beginning and end. And that’s the Golden Rule of Habit Change, which is based on keeping the old cue, delivering the old reward, but inserting a new routine. 

If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.

The Golden Rule has influenced treatments for alcoholism, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorders, and hundreds of other destructive behaviors, and understanding it can help anyone change their own habits. (Attempts to give up snacking, for instance, will often fail unless there’s a new routine to satisfy old cues and reward urges. A smoker usually can’t quit unless he finds some activity to replace cigarettes when the nicotine craving is triggered.)

It sounds easy in theory, but given the strength of most habit loops, changing behaviors can be very difficult.

To understand the Golden Rule of Habit Change better and begin to apply it to our own bad habits, let us explore one of the largest and most successful attempts at wide-scale habit change, which was born in a dingy basement on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1934.

Sitting in the basement was a thirty-nine-year-old alcoholic named Bill Wilson. Years earlier, Wilson had taken his first drink during officers' training camp in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he was learning to fire machine guns before getting shipped to France and World War I. Prominent families who lived near the base often invited officers to dinner, and one Sunday night, Wilson attended a party where he was served rarebit and beer. He was twenty-two years old and had never had alcohol before. The only polite thing, it seemed, was to drink the glass served to him. A few weeks later, Wilson was invited to another elegant affair. Men were in tuxedos, women were flirting. A butler came by and put a Bronx cocktail-a combination of gin, dry and sweet vermouth, and or ange juice-into Wilsons hand. He took a sip and felt, he later said, as if he had found "the elixir of life."

By the mid-1930s, back from Europe, his marriage falling apart and a fortune from selling stocks vaporized, Wilson was consuming three bottles of booze a day. On a cold November afternoon, while He was sitting in the gloom, an old drinking buddy called. Wilson invited him over and mixed a pitcher of pineapple juice and gin. He poured his friend a glass.

His friend handed it back. He'd been sober for two months, he said.

Wilson was astonished. He started describing his own struggles with alcohol, including the fight he'd gotten into at a country club that had cost him his job. He had tried to quit, he said, but couldn’t manage it. He'd been to detox and had taken pills. He'd made promises to his wife and joined abstinence groups. None of it worked. How, Wilson asked, had his friend done it?

"I got religion," the friend said. He talked about hell and temptation sin and the devil. "Realize you are licked, admit it, and get willing to turn your life over to God."

Wilson thought the guy was nuts. "Last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion," he later wrote. When his friend left, Wilson polished off the booze and went to bed.

A month later, in December 1934, Wilson checked into the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions, an upscale Manhattan detox center. A physician started hourly infusions of a hallucinogenic drug called belladonna, then in vogue for the treatment of alcoholism. Wilson floated in and out of consciousness on a bed in a small room.

Then, in an episode that has been described at millions of meetings in cafeterias, union halls, and church basements, Wilson began writhing in agony. For days, he hallucinated. The withdrawal pains made it feel as if insects were crawling across his skin. He was so nauseous he could hardly move, but the pain was too intense to stay still. "If there is a God, let Him show Himself!" Wilson yelled to his empty room. "I am ready to do anything. Anything!" At that moment, he later wrote, a white light filled his room, the pain ceased, and he felt as if he were on a mountaintop, "and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness."

Bill Wilson would never have another drink. For the next thirty-six years, until he died of emphysema in 1971, he would devote himself to founding, building, and spreading Alcoholics Anonymous, until it became the largest, most well-known and successful habit changing organization in the world.

An estimated 2.1 million people seek help from AA each year, and as many as 10 million alcoholics may have achieved sobriety through the group. AA doesn't work for everyone-success rates are difficult to measure, because of participants' anonymity-but millions credit the program with saving their lives. AA's foundational credo, the famous twelve steps, have become cultural lodestones incorporated into treatment programs for overeating, gambling, debt, sex, drugs, hoarding, self-mutilation, smoking, video game addictions, emotional dependency, and dozens of other destructive behaviors.

The group's techniques offer, in many respects, one of the most powerful formulas for change. All of which is somewhat unexpected, because AA has almost no grounding in science or most accepted therapeutic methods. Alcoholism, of course, is more than a habit. It's a physical addiction with psychological and perhaps genetic roots. What’s interesting about AA, however, is that the program doesn’t directly attack many of the psychiatric or biochemical issues that researches say are often at the core of why alcoholics drink. In fact, AA’s methods seem to sidestep scientific and medical findings altogether, as well as the type of intervention many psychiatrists say alcoholics really need.

What AA provides instead is a method for attacking the habits that surround alcohol use. AA, in essence, is a giant machine for changing habit loops. And though the habits associated with alcoholism are extreme, the lessons AA provides demonstrate how almost any habit - even the most obstinate - can be changed.

Bill Wilson didn’t read academic journals or consult many doctors before founding AA. A few years after he achieved sobriety, he wrote the now-famous twelve steps in a rush one night while sitting in bed. He chose the number twelve because there were twelve apostles. And some aspects of the program are not just unscientific, they can seem downright strange.

Take, for instance, AA's insistence that alcoholics attend "ninety meetings in ninety days"-a stretch of time, it appears, chosen at random. Or the programs intense focus on spirituality, as articulated in step three, which says that alcoholics can achieve sobriety by making "a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him." Seven of the twelve steps mention God or spirituality, which seems odd for a program founded by a onetime agnostic who, throughout his life, was openly hostile toward organized religion. AA meetings don't have a prescribed schedule or curriculum. Rather, they usually begin with a member telling his or her story, after which other people can chime in. There are no professionals who guide conversations and few rules about how meetings are supposed to function. In the past five decades, as almost every aspect of psychiatry and addiction research, has been revolutionized by discoveries in behavioral sciences, pharmacology and our understanding of the brain, AA has remained frozen in time.

Because of the program's lack of rigor, academics and researchers have often criticized it. AA's emphasis on spirituality, some claimed, made it more like a cult than a treatment. In the past fifteen years, however, a reevaluation has begun. Researchers now say the program's methods offer valuable lessons. Faculty at Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, the University of New Mexico, and dozens of other research centers have found a kind of science within. Their findings endorse the Golden Rule of habit change: AA succeeds because it helps alcoholics use the same cues, and get the same reward, but it shifts the routine. Researchers say that AA works because the program forces people to identify the cues and rewards that encourage their alcoholic habits, and then helps them find new behaviors.

Take steps four (to make "a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves") and five (to admit "to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs").

"It's not obvious from the way they're written, but to complete those steps, someone has to create a list of all the triggers for their alcoholic urges," said J. Scott Tonigan, a researcher at the University of New Mexico who has studied AA for more than a decade. "When you make a self-inventory, you're figuring out all the things that make you drink. And admitting to someone else all the bad things you've done is a pretty good way of figuring out the moments where everything spiraled out of control."

Then, AA asks alcoholics to search for the rewards they get from alcohol. What cravings, the program asks, are driving your habit loop? Often, intoxication itself doesn't make the list. Alcoholics crave a drink because it offers escape, relaxation, companionship, the blunting of anxieties, and an opportunity for emotional release. They might crave a cocktail to forget their worries. But they don't necessarily crave feeling drunk. The physical effects of alcohol are often one of the least rewarding parts of drinking for addicts.

"There is a hedonistic element to alcohol," said Ulf Mueller, a German neurologist who has studied brain activity among alcoholics. "But people also use alcohol because they want to forget something or to satisfy other cravings, and these relief cravings occur in totally different parts of the brain than the craving for physical pleasure."

In order to offer alcoholics the same rewards they get at a bar, AA has built a system of meetings and companionship - the "sponsor" each member works with - that strives to offer as much escape, distraction and catharsis as a Friday night bender. If someone needs relief they can get it from talking to their sponsor or attending a group gathering, rather than toasting a drinking buddy.

"AA forces you to create new routines for what to do each night instead of drinking," said Tonigan. "You can relax and talk through your anxieties at the meetings. The triggers and payoffs stay the same, it's just the behavior that changes."


The Search for Meaning

The American Declaration of Independence speaks of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Recently, following the pioneering work of Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, there have been hundreds of books on happiness. Yet there is something more fundamental still to the sense of a life well-lived, namely, meaning. The two seem similar. It’s easy to suppose that people who find meaning are happy, and people who are happy have found meaning. But the two are not the same, nor do they always overlap.

Happiness is largely a matter of satisfying needs and wants. Meaning, by contrast, is about a sense of purpose in life, especially by making positive contributions to the lives of others. Happiness is largely about how you feel in the present. Meaning is about how you judge your life as a whole: past, present and future.

Happiness is associated with taking, meaning with giving. Individuals who suffer stress, worry or anxiety are not happy, but they may be living lives rich with meaning. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but people often connect such moments with the discovery of meaning. Happiness is not unique to humans. Animals also experience contentment when their wants and needs are satisfied. But meaning is a distinctively human phenomenon. It has to do not with nature but with culture. It is not about what happens to us, but about how we interpret what happens to us. There can be happiness without meaning, and there can be meaning in the absence of happiness, even in the midst of darkness and pain.[1]

In a fascinating article in The Atlantic, ‘There’s more to life than being happy’[2], Emily Smith argued that the pursuit of happiness can result in a relatively shallow, self-absorbed, even selfish life. What makes the pursuit of meaning different is that it is about the search for something larger than the self.

No one did more to put the question of meaning into modern discourse than the late Viktor Frankl, who has figured prominently in this year’s Covenant and Conversation essays on spirituality. In the three years he spent in Auschwitz, Frankl survived and helped others to survive by helping them to discover a purpose in life even in the midst of hell on earth. It was there that he formulated the ideas he later turned into a new type of psychotherapy based on what he called “man’s search for meaning”. His book of that title, written in the course of nine days in 1946, has sold more than ten million copies throughout the world, and ranks as one of the most influential works of the twentieth century.

Frankl knew that in the camps, those who lost the will to live died. He tells of how he helped two individuals to find a reason to survive. One, a woman, had a child waiting for her in another country. Another had written the first volumes of a series of travel books, and there were others yet to write. Both therefore had a reason to live.

Frankl used to say that the way to find meaning was not to ask what we want from life. Instead we should ask what life wants from us. We are each, he said, unique: in our gifts, our abilities, our skills and talents, and in the circumstances of our life. For each of us, then, there is a task only we can do. This does not mean that we are better than others. But if we believe we are here for a reason, then there is a tikkun, a mending, only we can perform, a fragment of light only we can redeem, an act of kindness or courage or generosity or hospitality, even a word of encouragement or a smile, only we can perform, because we are here, in this place, at this time, facing this person at this moment in their lives.

“Life is a task”, he used to say, and added, “The religious man differs from the apparently irreligious man only by experiencing his existence not simply as a task, but as a mission.” He or she is aware of being summoned, called, by a Source. “For thousands of years that source has been called God.”[3]

That is the significance of the word that gives our parsha, and the third book of the Torah, its name: Vayikra, “And He called.” The precise meaning of this opening verse is difficult to understand. Literally translated it reads: “And He called to Moses, and God spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying …” The first phrase seems to be redundant. If we are told that God spoke to Moses, why say in addition, “And He called”? Rashi explains as follows:

And He called to Moses: Every [time God communicated with Moses, whether signalled by the expression] “And He spoke”, or “and He said”, or “and He commanded”, it was always preceded by [God] calling [to Moses by name].[4] “Calling” is an expression of endearment. It is the expression employed by the ministering angels, as it says, “And one called to the other…” (Isa. 6:3).

Vayikra, Rashi is telling us, means to be called to a task in love. This is the source of one of the key ideas of Western thought, namely the concept of a vocation or a calling, that is, the choice of a career or way of life not just because you want to do it, or because it offers certain benefits, but because you feel summoned to it. You feel this is your meaning and mission in life. This is what you were placed on earth to do.

There are many such calls in Tanakh. There was the call Abraham heard to leave his land and family. There was the call to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:4). There was the one experienced by Isaiah when he saw in a mystical vision God enthroned and surrounded by angels:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

One of the most touching is the story of the young Samuel, dedicated by his mother Hannah to serve in the sanctuary at Shiloh where he acted as an assistant to Eli the priest. In bed at night he heard a voice calling his name. He assumed it was Eli. He ran to see what he wanted but Eli told him he had not called. This happened a second time and then a third, and by then Eli realised that it was God calling the child. He told Samuel that the next time the voice called his name, he should reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ It did not occur to the child that it might be God summoning him to a mission, but it was. Thus began his career as a prophet, judge and anointer of Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David (1 Samuel 3).

When we see a wrong to be righted, a sickness to be healed, a need to be met, and we feel it speaking to us, that is when we come as close as we can in a post-prophetic age to hearing Vayikra, God’s call. And why does the word appear here, at the beginning of the third and central book of the Torah? Because the book of Vayikra is about sacrifices, and a vocation is about sacrifices. We are willing to make sacrifices when we feel they are part of the task we are called on to do.

From the perspective of eternity we may sometimes be overwhelmed by a sense of our own insignificance. We are no more than a wave in the ocean, a grain of sand on the sea shore, dust on the surface of infinity. Yet we are here because God wanted us to be, because there is a task He wants us to perform. The search for meaning is the quest for this task.

Each of us is unique. Even genetically identical twins are different. There are things only we can do, we who are what we are, in this time, this place and these circumstances. For each of us God has a task: work to perform, a kindness to show, a gift to give, love to share, loneliness to ease, pain to heal, or broken lives to help mend. Discerning that task, hearing Vayikra, God’s call, is one of the great spiritual challenges for each of us.

[1] See Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs, Jennifer Aaker, and Emily N.Garbinsky, ‘Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life’, Journal of Positive Psychology 2013, Vol. 8, Issue 6, Pages 505-516.

[2] Emily Smith, ‘There’s more to life than being happy’, The Atlantic, 9 Jan. 2013.

[3] Viktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: from Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, New York: A.A. Knopf, 1965, 13.

[4] Rashi to Vayikra 1:1.

R' Sacks 

When A Business Trip Is More Than Just Business

Rabbi Avraham Neuberger
Mishpacha Magazine 

It never gets old. There is a quickening of the pace, a small feeling of excitement, tinged, perhaps, with some annoyance, followed by the inevitable frenzy of inactivity. There’s the quick goodbye to the wife and kids, and off you go. 

Your business requires you to go to some G-d forsaken place to meet with clients, to network, or to attend a conference, so off you are to the all-too-commonplace business trip.

But is any place truly G-d forsaken? Perhaps a more correct term would be, “a place which man forsakes G-d.” For if ever there was a minefield, this is it. Business travel is a nisayon that does not garner nearly the amount of attention it truly deserves. Because for someone out there alone, without the ordinary safeguards in place, the tests crop up on every possible level. 

The anchors we are accustomed to — a schedule, acquaintances, a wife, a home — do not automatically transport themselves to the new set of circumstances. There is often no minyan in the morning, at least in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, no daf yomi, and ditto for Minchah and Maariv. You can easily choose to daven while puttering around in your hotel room, trying to have a modicum of kavanah — but is this davening? 

You may not see another frum person during your trip, and it is possible that nobody — not even a non-Jew — will know you altogether. Chazal tell us, “If only we would be as embarrassed of Hashem as we are of people.” When you are on a business trip, is there anyone to be embarrassed of? The code of conduct that your acquaintances expect of you doesn’t hold up when nobody knows you. This solitude can easily foster a sense of recklessness, a mindset that is the very opposite of the caution generated by yiras shamayim.

What about the boredom? Need anything be said about the test that faces you when you go back to your hotel room, even after a particularly long day? When does a “long day” end? Say at seven p.m. Then what? What will you do until you go to sleep some four or six hours later? How do you keep busy? Okay, so you answer e-mails, call the wife, and perhaps if you are in same time zone, schmooze a little with the kids. Now what? Three hours left to go. Three hours is very long time. And there is only one entertainment option available: the ubiquitous TV. You do not allow a TV into your home, but here there really is nothing else to do. And there is no one around. And there are channels upon channels upon channels. Against this there is only one safeguard: self-control. 

Let’s call a horse by its name. You are in a dangerous situation.

Having spelled out the problem, what is there to do?

In truth, there should be support groups in which frum men who travel can have open and honest conversations about the nisyonos of business travel and how they can preserve their kedushah on the road.

But perhaps I can suggest several strategies to ameliorate the problem, if not solve it completely. Remember, all Hashem asks is that we try.

As is often the case, preparation is key, with the goal being to minimize down time.

First of all, starting the day as early as possible will reduce the time awake at the end of the day, and the end of the day is the real trouble area. An early morning exercise session is a very productive way to get started.

There are websites that list minyanim in far-flung locales. Let’s say the nearest minyan is a half-hour or even a 45-minute drive from your hotel. Normally, you wouldn’t go to such extremes to daven with a minyan. But be honest: The effects of making the effort to join other frum Jews and daven with them will be such a chizuk for your Yiddishkeit that it certainly is worth every minute, and it will put your entire day on a different spiritual plane.

When you finish davening, you can “chap a schmooze” with other frum Jews, and you may hear of a kosher eatery in the area. Drop by. These places ground you. They reconfirm your roots. There is something to be said for bagels and lox. Find out when Minchah and Maariv is scheduled. Even if you are not always careful to daven Maariv with a minyan when you are home, when you are a business traveler, it is invaluable. It sandwiches the day at the start and at the end with thoughts of the Creator, and cements your feelings of being true trooper, an eved Hashem.

But what to do when you eventually return to your room? A friend of mine came up with a simple idea: as soon as he checks into his hotel, he unplugs the TV. (Hopefully this involves moving a heavy piece of furniture. This acts as a shemirah against plugging it back in!) Next, call home. Use the free time to schmooze with your wife and your parents even more than you would when you are home. Listen to a shiur on your phone. Say Krias Shema. Go to sleep, with the knowledge that Hashem appreciates your struggle when you are trying to be His man.

It is at times like this that Hashem proclaims (Yerushalmi Berachos 1:5), “If you give Me your heart and eyes, Ana yada d’at Li — I know that you are truly Mine.” 

Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger is the rav of Congregation Shaarei Tefilla of New Hempstead and the author of Positive Vision, a Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation project (ArtScroll\Mesorah)


This weeks parsha sheet.  Pilei plaos on the sugya of Semicha. [YU had a really nice chag hasemicha which I watched. But after learning all of the sugyos on the topic of Semicha I was wondering where the animals were...] 

I was walking to mikva the other day wondering how I am going to pay for these. I get to mikva and OUT OF THE BLUE a friend gives me money for this very purpose. I hadn't said a word...


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Excessively Loose Tongues

I was at a wedding tonight and was sitting at a table where two people were speaking disparagingly about gedolei yisrael. 

1] What is the benefit of such a conversation? What do they gain from it?  

2] Even if there is a benefit, wouldn't they benefit more from speaking positively?

3] If they have a need to be negative and speak badly of people - isn't the world FILLED with evil people: Terrorists, murderers, thieves, rapists, wife beaters, child abusers etc. etc. Why not speak against them instead of speaking against people who are a million times greater than their critics.

4] If we don't trust our leaders then the entire Mesorah is undermined. It was transmitted via the very same talmidei chachomim that these ostensisbly religious people hold in disdain.

5] I have tried in the past to protest but it just brings more contempt upon the Tzadikim. So I remained silent. 

6] One who says that we don't need talmidei chachomim has a din apikorus with all that implies. [See Sanhedrin 99]

7] רבי אליעזר אומר, יהי כבוד חברך חביב עליך כשלך, ואל תהי נוח לכעוס.

ושוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך.

והוי מתחמם כנגד אורן של חכמים, והוי זהיר בגחלתן שלא תכוה, שנשיכתן נשיכת שועל, ועקיצתן עקיצת עקרב, ולחישתן לחישת שרף, וכל דבריהם כגחלי אש

8] A great tzadik once vomited. He became ill because two talmidei chachomim [names known but not to be publicized] got into a public argument about a certain hot topic [ציונות. One was passionately in favor. The other as passionately opposed]. Negativity makes me ill.    

9] The speakers should be zoche to do תשובה שלימה!


Today [Rosh Chodesh Nissan] was my great grandmother's yartzeit. She was the only grandparent I was zoche to know. Please do a mitzva or say a perek tehilllim or learn a mishna in her memory. Esther Bas Shmuel. She was so special and I miss her dearly. 

A shiur was given that was dedicated to her. If you understand Hebrew and are interested in ... Hashem - you are invited to listen here.

It really gets into the trenches of  our belief in Hashem. TEEEEEEFFFFFF ["deep" in Latin].

Baruch Hashem that we are able to learn such Torah and have the zchus to try to understand as much as we can the nature of our belief in Hashem and the ramifications for derech ha-avoda. 

[For the last few months all of the shiurim have been in Hebrew and I have received only one comment/complaint (from a dedicated Rebbetzin) which means that people either don't mind [because they know Hebrew] or don't care because they are doing other things with their time that listening to my shiurim which is GREAT. Better listen and learn from TRUE tzadikim and talmidei chachomim... And better go to shiurim in person than listen on line. The Torah is best transmitted through live interaction.]  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Medicines for Pesach

Rabbbi Kaganoff

Question #1: The Ubiquitous Lists

“Why do we have lists of acceptable medicines for Pesach? Aren’t they all inedible?”

Question #2: Leavening Forever!

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

Question #3: The Spoiler

“Do prohibited foods remain so after they spoil?”


As we all know, the Torah prohibits eating, using or even owning chometz on Pesach. But do these laws apply to something that is no longer edible? May I swallow it as medicine? Understanding properly the source material is our topic for this week’s article.

We should first note that many of these issues are germane not only to chometz, but also in regard to all foods that the Torah prohibits (issurei achilah): Does the Torah ban them even after they have become inedible? Can this be considered eating? And, assuming that the Torah does not prohibit them, are they perhaps forbidden because of a rabbinic injunction? Furthermore, if they were proscribed due to a rabbinic decree, perchance some exemption was provided for a medical reason, even when it is not pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening emergency.

Pikuach nefesh

It is important to point out that most of our discussion is not about instances of medicines necessary because of pikuach nefesh. With very few exceptions, an emergency that might endanger someone’s life, even if the possibility is remote, requires one to take whatever action is necessary, including consuming non-kosher food and benefiting from prohibited substances. We will return to this discussion later in this article, but only after we understand the basic principles.

Unusual benefits

A question similar to what was raised above — whether non-kosher foods that are now inedible remain prohibited — relates to items from which the Torah prohibited benefit (issurei hana’ah), such as the mitzvah of orlah. Does this prohibition apply only if one benefits from orlah fruit the way people typically utilize the forbidden item, such as by selling it or by polishing furniture with orlah lemon juice, or does the prohibition apply even to using the item in an unusual way, such as by taking edible fruit and using it as an ointment?

Unusual eats

Let us begin our search with the original Gemara sources of this discussion, which provides the following statement: One does not get punished for violating any prohibitions of the Torah unless he consumes them the way they are usually eaten (Pesachim 24b). It is not prohibited min hatorah to eat or drink a prohibited substance that is now inedible either because it became spoiled or because a bitter ingredient was introduced (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 5:8). We will discuss shortly whether there is a rabbinic prohibition involved in eating this food.

The same rule applies regarding eating on Yom Kippur. For example, someone who drank salad dressing on Yom Kippur is not punished for violating the Torah’s law requiring one to fast, because this is not a typical way to eat (Yoma 81a). However, someone who dipped food into salad dressing and ate it violates the Torah laws of Yom Kippur also for the dressing, since this is a normal way of consuming it.

Bad benefits

Similarly, when the Torah prohibits issurei hana’ah, they were usually prohibited min hatorah only when used the way the substance is typically used. However, using the material in an abnormal way, such as by smearing an orlah fruit on his body as an ointment, is not proscribed by the Torah, but only because of an injunction introduced by the Sages, an issur derabbanan. Such an atypical benefit is called: shelo kederech hana’asah.

Rubs me the wrong way

Since the prohibition of benefiting in an unusual way is rabbinic, it is relaxed when there is a medical reason to do so, even when no life-threatening emergency exists. These principles are reflected by the following Talmudic passage:

Mar the son of Rav Ashi found Ravina rubbing undeveloped orlah olives onto his daughter, who was ill. Whereupon Rav Ashi asked Ravina why he did this since the disease was not life threatening? Ravina responded that using the fruit this way is considered unusual because people typically wait until the olives ripen before extracting their oil. Since this is not the normal way to use the olives, the prohibition to use orlah fruit this way is only miderabbanan, and in the case of medical need Chazal were lenient (second version of Pesachim 25b, see Rashi ad locum and Tosafos, Shavuos 22b s.v. aheitera and 23b s.v. demuki).

To sum up: We have established that both issurei achilah and issurei hana’ah are prohibited min hatorah only when they are eaten or used in the way that someone would typically consume them or benefit from them. Benefiting from issurei hana’ah in an atypical way is prohibited miderabbanan; however, the Sages permitted this to be done when a medical need exists. We do not yet know whether this ruling holds true also regarding someone who needs to eat something that is not typically eaten.

Now that we have established some of the basic principles, let us examine some rules specific to the prohibition of chometz that will help us answer our original questions.

When is it no longer chometz?

Can chometz change its stripes so that it is no longer considered chometz? The answer is that it can lose its status as chometz – when it is decomposed or otherwise ruined to a point that it is nifsal mei’achilas kelev, a dog will no longer eat it (see Pesachim 45b). Since it no longer can be used for either food or feed, it loses its status as chometz that one is prohibited from owning and using on Pesach (Tosafos ad locum; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 442:9; cf. Rashi, Pesachim op cit., whose position is more lenient).

This is true only when the chometz was rendered inedible beforePesach. The Gemara (21b) states that if chometz became burnt before the time on Erev Pesach when one is prohibited from owning it, one may benefit from it even on Pesach. If it was still chometz when Pesach arrived, and it was destroyed or rendered inedible in the course of Yom Tov, it is prohibited from benefit on Pesach (Pesachim 21b).

We will see shortly that there are instances when it is permitted to own and use chometz on Pesach even though it is still edible. But first, we need to explain an important principle.

What is sourdough?

The Torah explicitly prohibits possessing on Pesach not only chometz, but also sourdough (Shemos 12:15, 19; 13:7; Devarim 16:4). What is sourdough? It is dough left to rise until it has become inedible. However, it can be used as a leavening agent added to other dough to cause or hasten fermentation. Since sourdough originates as chometz and can produce more chometz it shares the same fate as chometz – one may not consume, use, or even own it on Pesach. (By the way, although yeast has replaced sourdough as the commonly used fermentation agent, sourdough is often used today in rye breads and other products to impart a certain desired flavor.) This halachah implies that something may no longer be edible and yet still be prohibited as chometz.

Can sourdough go sour?

I mentioned above that once chometz is no longer edible for a dog, it loses its status as a prohibited substance. Does this law apply also to sourdough? Although a Jew may not own or use inedible sourdough on Pesach, does this prohibition apply only to what a dog would eat? May one own and use sourdough on Pesach that decomposed to the point that a dog would not eat it?

These questions are the subject of a disagreement among the rishonim. Many authorities permit owning sourdough that would no longer be eaten by a dog, whereas others, such as the Raavad (Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 1:2), proscribe owning over-soured dough on Pesach. Those who forbid it do so because sourdough is never considered an edible product, yet the Torah banned it because of its facility as a leavening agent, which is not harmed by its becoming inedible. Edibility, whether for man or beast, is only a factor when we are defining prohibited foods, but not when the Torah forbade an item that was never a food to begin with.

The later authorities dispute which way we should rule in this last matter. See the Biur Halachah 442:9 s.v. Chometz who quotes much of the dispute.

When is edible chometz permitted?

We have so far established that although chometz that a dog would not eat is no longer forbidden as chometz, sourdough that a dog would not eat might still be prohibited. However, there is a major exception to this rule – that is, there are instances when chometz may not have reached the level of nifsal mei’achilas kelev, and yet one may own it and even use it on Pesach. This exception is when the chometz is no longer considered to have any food use, notwithstanding that it is technically still edible. Here is the germane passage of Gemara:

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says one must destroy chometz only as long as the bread or the sourdough still exists as a food. However, a block of sourdough that was designated to use for sitting is no longer considered chometz, even when it is still edible (Pesachim 45b and Tosafos ad loc.).

How can one possibly own this sourdough on Pesach if a dog would still eat it?

When presenting this case as a halachic rule, the Rambam (Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 4:10, 11) introduces us to a new term: nifsad tzuras hachametz, literally, its appearance as chometz is lost. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 116:8) explains this to mean that since people are now repulsed to eat it or to use it in a food product, it is no longer halachically chometz since people no longer regard it as food. The same ruling applies to similar items whose use is not for food, such as chometz used in ointments or to starch clothes (Rambam, Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 4:10; Rosh, Pesachim 3:5).

A sourdough cover-up

Although the Gemara concludes that we are not quite as lenient as is Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, this is a question of degree, but not of basic principle. Whereas Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar permitted sourdough that one intends to use as a seat, the Gemara permits it only when the surface of the block is coated with a layer of dried mud. This demonstrates that it is now viewed as a piece of furniture (Rashi). The halachic authorities dispute to what extent one must coat the sourdough block, some ruling that it must be covered on all sides whereas others rule that it is sufficient if the top, the part that will be sat upon, is coated with mud (see discussion in Mishnah Berurah 442:42 and Shaar Hatziyun ad loc.).

Notwithstanding this dispute concerning how much of the block needs to be coated, all agree that the sourdough beneath the dried mud surface is still theoretically edible, yet one may own and use it on Pesach (Shaar Hatziyun 442:69). Since people no longer view this sourdough as food, it loses its status. As the Mishnah Berurah (442:41) emphasizes, our conclusion is that two steps must have occurred to this block before Pesach to permit owning and using it on Pesach:
The owner must have designated the sourdough as a seat.
Its surface was overlaid with mud.

The dispute among tanna’im regards only whether we require the second step, which Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar did not require.

At this point we can answer one of our opening questions:

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

The answer is that there are two instances when it is not considered chometz anymore:
When it was rendered before Pesach so inedible that a dog would not eat it.
When it is being used for a non-food purpose and something has been done to it that makes people repulsed by the idea of eating it.

Eating spoiled chometz

We mentioned above the Gemara’s statement that chometz burnt before Pesach may be used on Pesach (Pesachim 21b). The wording of the Gemara causes the rishonim to raise the following question: Why does the Gemara say that one may benefit from the burnt chometz, rather than permit even eating it, since it is no longer considered food and therefore not included under the prohibition of chometz?

There are two major approaches to answer this question, which result in a dispute in practical halachah. According to the Ran, since the burning rendered the chometz inedible even by an animal, one may even eat it, but the Gemara does not mention this. This approach seems to have the support of the Rambam (Yesodei Hatorah 5:8), who permits consuming a prohibited beverage after a bitter ingredient was added to it.

However, the Rosh contends that the rabbis prohibited one from eating the inedible chometz because of a principle called achshevei, which means that by eating it one is treating it as food. Most later authorities (e.g., Terumas Hadeshen #129; Taz, Orach Chayim 442:8; Magen Avraham 442:15; Shaagas Aryeh #75) follow the Rosh’s approach, prohibiting someone from ingesting inedible chometz because of this rabbinic prohibition.

Is chometz medicine prohibited?

With this lengthy introduction, we are now able to discuss the original question posed above: “Why do we have lists of acceptable medicines for Pesach? Aren’t they all inedible?”

I will now rephrase the question: Does oral intake of a chometz-based medicine qualify as achshevei? If it does, then it is prohibited to ingest inedible chometz, even as medicine, unless the situation is life-threatening.

We find a dispute among later authorities whether ingesting medicine is prohibited because of achshevei. We can categorize the positions into three basic approaches:
Taking medicine is considered achshevei.

The Shaagas Aryeh (#75) rules that ingesting medicine is prohibited miderabbanan because of the rule of achshevei.
Taking medicine is not considered achshevei.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:92) maintains that medicine never qualifies as achshevei. His reason is that people take even very bitter items for their medicinal value; thus taking something as a medicine does not demonstrate that one views it as food. (See also Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 2:60.)
It depends on why the chometz is an ingredient.

The Chazon Ish advocates a compromise position. Although he agrees with the Shaagas Aryeh that consuming something as a medicine qualifies as achshevei, he contends that achshevei applies only to the active ingredient – the item for which one is taking the medicine. However, he maintains that achshevei does not apply to the excipient ingredients, those added so that the medicine can be made into a tablet.

According to Rav Moshe, as long as the medicine is foul-tasting, there is no need to check if it contains chometz. The chometz is nifsalmei’achilas kelev, and the consumption of medicine does not qualify as achshevei. The only need for a medicine list is when the medicine is pleasant tasting.

On the other hand, according to the Shaagas Aryeh, barring a situation of pikuach nefesh, one may not ingest a medicine containing chometz on Pesach, and it is important to research whether it contains chometz. There are also some authorities who contend that when a prohibited substance has a bitter ingredient added, it remains prohibited. I leave it for each individual to ask his or her own halachic authority to decide which approach they should follow. A lay person should not decide on his or her own not to take a necessary medicine without consulting with a rav or posek.

Even according to the Shaagas Aryeh, there is nothing wrong with owning or even benefiting from these medicines on Pesach – the only prohibition would be to ingest them. Thus, a Jewish owned pharmacy is not required to remove from its shelves foul-tasting medicines that are on the prohibited chometz lists.

Regardless as to which approach one follows, one must be absolutely careful not to look down on someone who follows the other approach. In any situation such as this, this attitude will unfortunately cause great harm, since it can lead to feelings of conceit.

Pikuach nefesh medicine lists

There can be another situation in which it is important for a rav or posek to know whether a product contains chometz, but, personally, I would discourage making such a list available to lay people. The case is: Someone who is taking a pleasant-tasting food supplement containing chometz for a pikuach nefashos condition in which the chometz is not a necessary ingredient. Halachically, we should try to find for this person a non-chometz substitute. For example, many years ago, someone I knew used a medicine where the active ingredient required being dissolved in alcohol, which could be chometz. We arranged to have a knowledgeable pharmacist make a special preparation for Pesach using alcohol that was kosher lepesach. (It is humorous to note that the pharmacist used his home supply of kosher lepesach Slivovitz since it was the easiest available Pesach-dik alcohol, and the preparation did not require pure alcohol.)

Is it a good idea to make a medicine list available to the general public? We know of situations when lay people thought that a product may contain chometz and therefore refused to use it, which led to a safek or definite pikuach nefashos situation, itself a serious violation of halachah. Many rabbonim feel that these lists should be restricted to the people who understand what to do with the information – the rabbonim and the poskim.


According to Kabbalah, chometz is symbolic of our own arrogant selves. We should spend at least as much time working on these midos as we do making sure that we observe a kosher Pesach!

May One Use His Regular Kiddush Cup on Pesach?

Question: May one continue to use silver vessels or utensils, such as a Kiddush cup, on Pesach after they have been used throughout the rest of the year?

Answer: All vessels used all year round with cold foods or beverages may be used on Pesach after having been thoroughly washed beforehand, for none of a cold food’s flavor is absorbed into the walls of the vessel and there is therefore no concern that any Chametz flavor will later be released into a Passover dish.

Thus, regarding silver vessels, such vessels are certainly used only for cold purposes, such as a silver Kiddush goblet or a silver serving dish and the like in which it is certainly uncommon to place boiling hot foods or beverages. It is therefore sufficient to thoroughly wash these vessels in water (three times) and they may then be used on Pesach, even for the Mitzvot of the Seder night.

On the other hand, the Mordechi (Chapter 2 of Pesachim, Chapter 574) quotes the Ra’avaya and writes: “Regarding silver goblets, one must be concerned that wine and spice are sometimes boiled in them next to the fire and they therefore require Hag’ala in a Keli Rishon.” This means to say that since it is conceivable that one has placed hot Chametz in the goblet once or twice, one must perform Hag’ala (i.e. immersion in boiling water heated in a pot on the fire) in order to kosher it for Pesach.

Nevertheless, the Rashba (Volume 1, Chapter 372) writes regarding vessels used with cold food or beverages but “sometimes” hot bread is placed in these vessels that thoroughly washing such vessels is sufficient to make them permissible for use on Pesach and one need not perform Hag’ala on them, for the koshering process for each vessel is determined based on its “majority use”. This means that if a vessel or utensil is usually used in a cold manner, even if this vessel was used with hot foods sometimes, merely washing this vessel is sufficient and one need not be concerned that it absorbed Chametz from this one time (or several times). Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 451) rules in accordance with the Rashba’s opinion.

Hagaon Rabbeinu Menachem Azarya of Pano (in his Responsa Chapter 96) likewise rules in accordance with the opinion of the Rashba and rules that as long as the usual usage of the vessel is in a cold manner, such as silver vessels, even if such a vessel absorbed Chametz, one need not perform Hag’ala on it since the status of a vessel is judged based on a majority of its usage.

However, Hagaon Harav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld questions the Rashba’s opinion, as follows: How can we determine a vessel’s status based on its majority usage? It is sufficient for the vessel to absorb Chametz the single time it was used with hot food and it will then release it while in use on Pesach. What then is the logic behind the Rashba’s ruling that we follow a vessel’s majority usage?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that since the Rashba’s words apply only to a vessel which has not come in contact with hot food for at least twenty-four hours (which is indeed how Rabbeinu Menachem Azarya explains the Rashba explicitly), there is no longer any Torah prohibition to use such a vessel, since any Chametz flavor absorbed in this vessel becomes completely putrid after twenty-four hours. Only our Sages forbade using such a vessel even after twenty-four hours. These same Sages who forbade using such a vessel after twenty-four hours ruled that a vessel’s status is determined based on its majority usage.

(Nevertheless, there are those who say that the rationale of “a vessel’s majority usage” should only be used in a situation of doubt; however, regarding our scenario, we are discussing only a concern of Chametz and not when the vessel actually absorbed Chametz in which case there is certainly room for leniency.)

Thus, halachically speaking, any vessel used with cold food or beverage, such as silver vessels, may be used on Pesach after having been thoroughly cleaned. Even if one is concerned that this vessel was sometimes used with hot Chametz, this poses no concern at all and one may nevertheless use it on Pesach (see Chazon Ovadia-Pesach, page 148)

[halacha yomit]


Two gedolim GOING AT IT!!!:-)

Now We Are Free Men/A Personal Story

By An Anonymous Yid

Last Pesach was an especially uplifting and inspiring experience, and although I am somewhat ashamed to write my story, I feel obligated to share it, so others can learn from it as well. It was erev Pesach and the beginning days of spring. I was ambling down the streets of my neighborhood laden with bags and packages. While stopping for a minute to clean my glasses from the yellow dust that covered the lens, with my shortsighted vision I tried to dodge the rushing rivers of soapy water flowing from the nearby houses. I was making my way home, but as slowly as possible, trying to extend my time outdoors for as long as possible… just a few more sweet moments of freedom…. I knew what would be waiting for me at home. Total chaos: screaming overtired kids, an overworked, starving wife, and lists upon lists of undone chores. The house would be turned inside out and upside down and I would not be able to find a single place to put myself down to rest. 

A shrill sound shattered my moments of calm – my cell phone. It was my irate wife on the line. “There is so much to do! Why aren’t you home yet? And the kids! They are driving me up the wall! You must come home and help me take care of things. Please, do something!” She hung up without a goodbye, and as I slipped my phone back into my pocket I recalled the message I got earlier that morning from the bank, informing me that I was coming too close to the end of my savings. I hurried up, kicking the pebbles that rolled beneath my feet. While walking up the driveway, even before I opened the door, I could hear the ruckus coming from within – screaming and crying, and thuds of items falling all over. Bedlam. I walked in and I am ashamed to tell you how I looked – it was good I had no mirror close by. My utter exhaustion, the bank warning, and the total pandemonium all caught up to me and weighed me down like a ton. My face turned red as I tried to control myself, but I didn’t succeed and began to scream at everyone. “That’s IT! It’s too much for me! I can’t take this anymore!” The rag pile with her big eyes, otherwise known as my wonderful wife, was on the receiving end of most of my not-so-pleasant “comments.” So was my three-year old with his big, innocent eyes. I really couldn’t take it. Just then, my red face grew even redder as I saw my chubby eight-year-old walk out of a kosherl’Pesach room holding a chocolate-covered wafer in his hands. Not kosher anymore. The crumbs made a trail after him and he ran up to me with bright wide eyes. “Look, Daddy! Look what the neighbor just gave us! A whole crate of chocolate-covered wafers! All for us!! Isn’t it great?!” He looked up at me, his eyes expectant, but all that came out of my mouth was a blood-curdling scream – “Get that stuff out of the house immediately! IMMEDIATELY, you hear?” I couldn’t recognize myself. This was the situation that erev Pesach, day in and day out. We were emotionally wrecked and I pledged to do everything to not have to make Pesach the following year, even if it meant finding a way to go to a hotel, which I abhorred. My days passed angry, depressed, and cranky. Oh, yes, I helped plenty, but everything was with a frown and complaint. I just couldn’t stop. Perhaps I was just addicted to my negative behavior. 

And then it happened. It was five days before Pesach. I went to take out the trash and while crossing the road to the bins, a car came careening down our quiet little street and I was suddenly catapulted into the air. One minute I was standing on my own two feet, and the next minute I found myself lying on a white hospital bed, looking up at my wife’s worried face. Two days passed in mock-relaxation in the hospital, where I was kept for observation and tests. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the work that needed to be done at home, and how my poor wife was dealing with everything all alone, without my help. But, baruch Hashem, virtually all the tests came back clear, revealing only minor injuries. I was soon discharged from the hospital with only a cast on my hand.

It was “only” a fracture of the hand, but it was my right hand and I couldn’t use it. Suddenly I couldn’t lay my tefillin, wash my hands, or even sign a check properly! No more could I be of much help at home. And suddenly I realized how crucial our hands are, able to do as many as twenty things a minute! How is it that I never thought of saying “Thank You” to Hashem for that simple – not-so-simple – hand? Before”hand”, I was depressed because of all the work. Now, all I could think of was my hand, and oh, how I wished to be able to carry more groceries! As soon as I realized my hand was fractured, I could not stop appreciating the gift called a “hand.” And after realizing that it was truly a gift from Hashem, I began noticing all the gifts in my life, gifts I had been given by Hashem in His magnanimous grace and love for me. How had I been so blind? How could I have failed to see Hashem’s kindnesses to me? Why had I spent so much time walking around and complaining? I cried tears of stupidity and blindness, and with them, the bitterness and complaints must have washed away…. 

As soon I was discharged from the hospital, I shared with my wife this new revelation and she said that she had been thinking the same. We decided that this had to change and from now on we would try to focus on the wonderful gifts in our life. Upon arriving home, before anything else, we both sat down at the breakfast table. My wife had a pile of paper and we each took some sheets and we both started writing our thanks to Hashem for what we were grateful. My wife filled her pages much faster than me (how fast can you write with your left hand?), but I persisted: “Thank You, Hashem, for Your great kindness in giving us chag HaPesach, the glorious yom tov that will soon be coming! Thank You, Hashem, that we are able to clean our house. Thank You for our family’s healthy hands (I underlined that one a few times for emphasis)! We are able to work, baruch Hashem!” I stopped for a minute to peek at my wife’s paper, but she didn’t notice. She was going full speed ahead – “Thank You, Hashem, for the five sweetest gifts that You gave us in Your infinite mercy! Thank You that they are normal and sometimes make clean places dirty and make healthy messes out of neatness… thank You that they scream when they are tired and kvetch when they are hungry…thank You! There are no greater gifts in the world than them!” I looked up at the living-room crowded with items that had come from all over the house. “Thank You, Hashem, for all the things You gave us, all the items we use to do our jobs, and in such abundance, straight from Your wide-open Hand.” I stopped and smiled. “And above all, Ribbono Shel Olam, I thank You from the deepest place in my heart for the strain and toil for the sake of a mitzva! For the zechus of having been able to prepare for Pesach and it all is a mitzva! Some people do spring cleaning without the reward of a mitzva, but we merit the reward for a mitzva for each and every action we do lichvod hachag, in honor of Pesach!” I hung my paper near my bed and every morning when I opened my eyes, the first thing I would see were my own words of gratitude. The following days were especially beautiful. We started the mornings with “Thank You, Hashem, for…”, and continued this way throughout the day. The kids, with their creative minds, cheerfully helped us along. Now it’s almost Pesach again. We won’t be going to a hotel. 

We are again preparing for this magnificent yom tov, baruch Hashem. But this time we have a different perspective, a perspective of gratitude to Hashem Yisbarach. We are no longer slaves to the problems and difficulties, chained to our discomfort and frustrations. Now we are free men. We know how to lift up our eyes and see above it all, to see our blessings everywhere. Dear readers, soon we will be celebrating Pesach, b’ez”H. On Seder night, we will be sitting before a beautifully laid table covered with wine and matzo and we will joyfully recount yetzias Mitzraim, our departure and freedom from Egypt. Will we also bring to these holy moments grumbles, complaints, and arguments? Or, will our hearts be overflowing with profound thankfulness to Hashem, feeling that everything is good and that we are truly b’nei chorin? The choice is ours. May we merit to truly be free.

[Kol Toda Number 23]