Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Eco/Green Benefits of Kosher meat? Dubious

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

WaPo sees no benefit to Kosher meat when it comes to protecting the environment. Oh well, that was never the reason we did it in the first place.  Still, as everyone becomes more  aware of how hazardous these meat packing plants are to the to the natural world around us, we might think of divulging the fact that there are different standards within the kosher industry and just because it is kosher does not necessarily mean much environmentally speaking.  Because people assume that if it’s kosher, it is better on many levels. There is the danger of  customers paying a premium price for meat under false pretenses.  Guess who gets the blame for that? In the short term it may be profitable, but it is profoundly shortsighted. It is much better to be perceived as policing ourselves than it is to be “caught redhanded”! Rubashkins, anyone?

If there would be a movement by poskim to raise the profile of those slaughterhouses that are more environmentally conscious and also suggest that meat consumption be limited to shabbat and yom tov, not only would the planet benefit, but our health as well.  I never liked the eco-kosher idea, but I might prefer the “Kosher and a Kiddush Hashem” label. Just a thought.

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Postscript on the IET (Incendiary Explosive Tefillin)

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 8:03 am

New Voices interviews the Tefillin Bomber. Chabad sees it as a bonanza! I feel it is appropriate to review how one reconciles safety and davening when 40,000 feet in the air. Hat tip to Gil Student at Hirhurim

Guidance from Poskim Regarding Prayers During the Flight

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ob”m:

While praying on a flight it is preferable to sit.

A person praying on his own during a flight: if there is a chance that this will bother others, it is preferable to sit (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ob”m. Igros Moshe Orach Chaim, 4, 20.)Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ob”m:

Shemoneh Esrei should be recited in one’s seat.

In the sefer Halichos Shlomo, by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ob”m, we found direct guidelines on the practical applications of prayers during the flight: “One praying on a flight should recite the Shemoneh Esrei while sitting in his seat and not standing in the aisles, where he can disturb those wishing to pass. In any case, the Rav was not supportive of conducting minyanim during a flight, because it disturbs the rest of the passengers around them” (Halichos Shlomo, p. 95)Response from Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, author of the Shevet Halevi:

One can pray Shemoneh Esrei while seated in his seat.

When the light goes on, one must sit down, even in the middle of his prayers I was asked regarding prayer arrangements in mid-flight. One should refrain from praying in large groups; it is preferable to pray in small groups in the seating area, as long as there is no problem of indecent exposure. The same is true for Shemoneh Esrei. If there is a possibility of standing beside one’s seat, not in the aisles. then that is preferable. If this is not possible, because the aisle is narrow or it bothers other passengers, the Shemoneh Esrei prayer can be recited while seated. In any case, if the “fasten seatbelts” sign goes on, one should immediately sit down in his place and continue Shemoneh Esrei while seated. If a group is praying when the seatbelts sign goes on, they should immediately obey with no delay, even if they are in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei. (From a response to El Al.)Guidance from Rabbi Yitzchak Silberstein, rav of Ramat Elchanan, Bnei Brak:

A. When the captain of the flight decides that passengers must sit and fasten their seatbelts because of a risk of danger, one must obey and sit down, even if he is in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei.

B. If one refuses to obey these instructions, it seems that he does not fulfill the obligation of tefillah because it is considered a mitzvah haba b’aveirah (a mitzvah performed through a sin), about which Chazal teach that one does not fulfill his obligations. He also brings about derision of the Torah by others and effects a chillul Hashem.

C. There is no transgression in the act of sitting down. One must only refrain from talking, but he may sit down.

D. When one sits down, he should stop praying and wait several minutes until it is possible to return to where he was standing and continue praying. Even if the amount of time that passes exceeds toch kdei dibbur, there is no hefsek in the act of sitting, and after the break one can continue praying. (From a response to El Al; also published in the Kanfei Ruach booklet).

There you have it! Most Poskim argue that the comfort of others is more important than your Tefila experience when on an airplane.  It is always amazing to me when are the times when people can’t wait to invoke the Gedolim and when they don’t hesitate to ignore them. Not to mention how many women have to brush up against the minyanaires just to use the toilet.  The joys of confinement with the Klei Kodesh.

The Metaphysics of Compassion

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm

The Maharal of Prague seems not to be a fan of the temporal and material.  He opens Netivot Olam with very profound essays on the nature of Torah. Torah is synonymous with the supernal intellect. It has no beginning or end, and when one connects with Torah, he is connected to the Divine, and is transformed from the material to the ethereal.  The practitioner of Torah, the Talmid Chacham or one should say a real Talmid Chacham, is one who is of the world but not in it.  He observes others, he is aware of them, but he is not influenced by them.  He is in another place even when he is of this one.

The Maharal even uses mitzvot as an example of temporal activities that cannot compare with Torah study because they are so immersed with worldly activity.  One might assume that acts of lovingkindness would suffer the same fate, but one would be wrong.

The Maharal makes the case for the classic combination of Torah study combined with acts of lovingkindness.  He first defines an act of lovingkindness as going beyond what the law requires, the purpose of which is to benefit someone else at the expense of your time.  It is a non-material act because the performer does not consider himself when s/he is helping another.  The basest behavior is that which only benefits one’s self, and has no impact on others.  The highest behavior is the opposite, where self is the least consideration.  The Maharal says that such behavior actually accomplishes something that Torah study can’t. It purifies the body through the purity of the action.  Moreover, and more importantly, it is the only value where we can perfectly emulate God’s behavior.  We are not capable of emulating God when it comes to justice, because with the best intentions we are prone to error.  We are entirely capable, however, of performing perfect acts of lovingkindness, and so, therefore, acts of compassion are certainly the most Godly.

“And after the Lord your God you should walk.” (Deuteronomy 13:4)  Is it possible to cleave to God? Doesn’t it say, “Behold, I”m a consuming fire!” Rather it means that we should cleave to His example! Just as He clothed the naked, so should we…  Just as He visited the sick, so should we… (Sota 14a)

The Maharal has pointed out something extraordinary when he quotes this Talmudic passage.  He says that the quality of compassion is unique in that a human being is capable of doing it as perfectly as God would.  Everything else we try is but a shadow, a pale reflection of Divine activity. This is why it is comparable to Torah study because we are not only imitating the Divine, we are actually acting Divinely in the way that He would.  Torah study, according to the Maharal allows us to leave the world for a Divine reality.  Acts of compassion have Divine impact on the material world and through them, the individual is transformed Divinely.

I really think that’s cool! We learn the Maharal on Tuesday’s with webyeshiva.org.

Avrom Sutzkever: The Greatest Yiddish Poet of the Last Century

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Jeremy Dauber has written a wonderful appreciation of the great Yiddish poet, Avrom Sutzkever who so eloquently rendered the unthinkable in words in TNR.  When his one year old child was poisoned by the Germans in a Warsaw hospital, Dauber tells us that:

Less than a year later, Sutzkever would write a poem from a child’s viewpoint begging its mother to:

strangle me with your Mama fingers

That played
On my willow cradle.
It will mean:
Your love is stronger than death.
It will mean:
You trusted me with your love.

Nevertheless, Sutzkever never lost his sense of wonder:

Over a pile of steaming horse dung,
I warm my icy hands.
I warm my hands and regret:
Not enough have I known, have I listened
To the greatness of smallness.
Sometimes,
The warm breath of a pile of dung
May become a poem, a thing of beauty.

Read the whole thing–it’s worth it.

Talk about guilt by association! A Zemer Makes a Comeback!

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Art Sapper, is a great lover of Jewish music and is also soon to be related. He is on a mission to reintroduce the zemer Mah Yofis into zemiros canon. Mah Yofis was a victim of its own popularity and became well known outside of Jewish circles.  It was the song of choice for anti-Semites to use for the humiliation of Jews who were forced to sing it in a manner meant to bring ridicule.  Because of this unfortunate association, the beautiful zemer nearly became forgotten, but not if Art has his way.  Nowadays, the unfortunate association is virtually absent from Jewish memory, so it’s time to bring the zemer back.  You can hear the tune and read all about the rise and fall and hopeful rise again of Mah Yofis (click here). May it be heard at Shabbos tables from near and far.