Friday, August 5, 2016

A Moral Dilemma for the Shabbos Table -
"Following through with what comes out of your mouth"
Each Friday I will send one out from my friend R. Yitz Weiner

This week’s Torah portion discuses the Mitzva of nedarim, of keeping a vow or a promise that one has made. The Torah teaches that it is very important to keep the nedarim that one makes, and it is seen as a very grave sin to violate one’s neder (vow).
The following true story explores the limits of keeping a pledge.
Mrs. Evelyn Weinstein was a wealthy woman in her 50’s. One day she started to have severe abdominal pressure and pain. The pain lasted several days. Evelyn scheduled an appointment with her doctor who soon referred her to a specialist. Her doctor gave her blood tests, an ultra sound and an MRI. Three days late the
doctor called her with very serious news. He told her that she had an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. He suggested that they schedule a surgery as soon possible. Evelyn was extremely anxious and worried. She understood that our sages teach,
that the merit of charity can save from death, and she immediately resolved to make a substantial contribution to charity. She called the head of a Jewish school that she made annual donations to. She told him about her prognosis, and she pledged that if her cancer was totally cured, she would give an additional $50,000 of charity to the school. In truth, that much money was a stretch for her, but she felt that it would be a powerful merit for a successful outcome.

Several days later, before the surgery was to be performed, Evelyn’s doctor ran another battery of tests and exams. To his great surprise, the tests all came up clean. After running
more tests it became clear that it was a false positive, and Evelyn never had cancer in the first palace. Evelyn was of course extremely relived.

After the excitement died down, she drove by the school and remembered the promise of $50,000 she made to the school. But she wondered if she was obligated to give the $50,000 to charity. On one hand she made the pledge. But on the other hand, she made the pledge conditional on being cured from cancer. She never had cancer in the first place and was never cured from it.

The $50,000 was not an easy donation for her. Does Evelyn have an obligation to give the $50,000 in this case?

What do you think?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Parshas Zachor 2015

Parshas Zachor – Devarim 25:17-19 – This Shabbos

Parshas Tetzaveh usually precedes Purim, when we read the "maftir" portion describing how Amalek attacked the Jewish people as they left Egypt - even though Amalek lived in a distant land and was under no imminent threat. So why did Amalek attack?

The Torah says that Amalek attacked the Jews "karcha" - which literally means by way of happenstance. Amalek's entire philosophy is that there is no design or providence in the world.
Everything is haphazard, dictated by chance, luck and fate. That's why Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek, decided to kill the Jews based on a lottery, from which the name "Purim" is derived.

Philosophically, Amalek and the Jewish people stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Judaism believes that the world has purpose and meaning, and that God is intimately involved in our lives. Indeed, that is the very lesson of Purim: Even when things seems bleak, God is there, guiding events. With Haman's decree, it seemed that the Jews were doomed. But then there was a dramatic turnabout.

In our own lives, to the extent we may doubt God's involvement, is the extent that Amalek's philosophy of randomness is part of us. The Kabbalists point out the numerical value of Amalek -- 240 -- is the same as safek, meaning "doubt." The energy of Amalek is to create doubts about what is true and real in this world, and of God's role in directing events in the best possible way. This concept is so important that one of 613 mitzvot is to remember what Amalek did. And that's what we do, every year, on the Shabbat before Purim. So let's take this message to heart, and do our part - to fight Amalek's idea of a random world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are Step Parents and Adoptive Parents - Real Parents?

‘Whoever raises another’s child in his house, the Scripture considers it as though he had given birth to him.’ (Megila 13a)

In Judaism step parents are just as much the real deal as birth parents.

Because being a parent is not about the fact that your son or daughter carries your DNA. Rather, it’s about caring for, loving and nurturing a child.

Whoever does so is the child’s true parent.

Monday, February 9, 2015

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.’ - Gemara (Nedarim 49b)

There is something very special about changing a flat tire or building an IKEA cupboard.

Paying someone to do it for you may save time, but you miss out on the very unique pleasure that the Talmud refers to here.

‘Laboring’ is something very special.

Don’t pass up on it unless you genuinely have something more important to do

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

‘If there is no flour, there is no wisdom.’ (Avos 3:21)

The world does not run purely on spiritual fuel.

We need to eat also.

And if there is no food (or warmth, or shelter, or health etc), there will be no means for spiritual accomplishment either.

Physicality is spirituality if its purpose is for the sake of the latter

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

‘If a person sees that suffering befalls him ......

He should examine his deeds.’ (Berachos 5a)

Just like the physical world, Judaism believes in a cause-effect spiritual world also.

If things aren’t going well in life, likely it’s a manifestation of a spiritual malaise. (could be some correction needed from a prior life)

Nevertheless, the Rabbis tell us that this is the first place to look.

Examine your deeds and see if you are living up to your own values and standards. If not, take the opportunity to make a change.