Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Mitzpeh Ramon "Hakol B'seder"

This year Risa and I were invited to the Passover seder by our oldest son Efi in his home in Mitzpeh Rasmon in the Negev highlands. Now with the new expressway to the south (kvish 6) the trip from Rechovot takes less than two hours, a relatively easy drive on good roads all the way. We rented a car from Avis for the trip. I am glad that we decided not to buy a car and rent whenever we need to. For five days it came to about 650 shekels and we had use of the car for part of chol hamoed too. On Thursday we packed up the car and set off for Mitzpeh Ramon. We contributed the wine, grape juice and hand baked shmurah matzot. These are very special matzot made in the chareidi settlement of Kommemiut not far from Rechovot. They are made from hand stone ground whole wheat which was "watched" from the time of harvest so as not to come into contact with any moisture.The hechsher boasts of "chai chumros" (18 stringencies) including that the wheat was harvested by G-d fearing Jews who said "leshem Yichud" before operating the harvester, the rolling pins  are sanded down every 18 minuets,  the water used for the dough comes from a special closed cistern supervised year round by a special mashgiach etc. etc. The matzot are rolled out super thin by a special group of women(davka !) and baked by men who continuously recite a cycle of Psalms. In any event IMHO these are the best tasting hand baked shmura matzot that I have ever tasted.

We arrived at Efi's house in the early afternoon and everything there was already prepared. The charoset mixed the horseradish ground, the Lettuce rinsed and the food for the meal cooking in the kitchen. Our daughter-in-law Ora is amazing. She is totally organized with each of the five children ( one to ten years old)r washed and dressed for the holiday  the four little girls in new holiday dresses. She went about finishing the last preparations and giving out orders to the children, calm and collected without ever raising her voice. I honestly don't know how she does it. I sat down with our oldest grandson Oz Avraham  and we talked about the halachot of the seder. He also asked me about the siyyum that I had made earlier that morning, traditionally made by firstborn sons to commemorate the miracle of the plague of the firstborn where Hashem passed over the firstborn of Israel and struck down the firstborn of Egypt (see my previous post).  I explained that the Gemarra Yerushalmi gave the laws of moving forbidden objects on Shabbat. I mentioned that in the time of Chazal they had a special press which was used for smoothing out wrinkled clothes and the gemarra dealt with the question of whether or not it was permitted to use or move this press on Shabbat. Oz asked me if moving parts of the press could be compared to opening and closing the door of a house and therefore be permitted. I was amazed that Oz (10 years old) was familiar with the relevant Mishnah and actually asked the same question asked in the classical commentaries.I told him that the commentary Korban Haeidah explained that while it is permitted to open or close a door it is forbidden to dismantle the door or set it on its hinges. In the same way it is forbidden to assemble or dismantle the launderer's press which is bolted to the floor and therefore considered part of the building. Discussing a knotty problem in the gemarra with your grandson-now that is real nachas !!

In the evening we sat down to the Seder led by Efi. Efi is a Rav and educational counselor in the Mitzpeh Ramon high school Yeshiva, and he masterfully led the seder giving everyone especially  the children a chance to participate. To explain why the Haggadah enumerates the particulars of all the plagues and miracles he made up a parable.A king sent his favorite son on a long journey. the prince sat in the carriage and was unaware of what was happening outside. The king sent his special guard to protect the prince. A gang of rebels tried to attack the carriage but the guard chased them away.The guard also protected them from wild animals and made sure that the carriage stayed on the right course. When the carriage arrived at the royal palace the guard brought a step ladder so that the prince could climb down. The prince said to the king that he wanted to thank the guard for helping him get down from the carriage. The king said to him that he should first thank the guard for saving him from the many dangers of the journey. In the same way we must thank Hashem for each and every one of the signs and miracles he performed for us in the Exodus from Egypt and the sojourn in the desert. During this story the children hung on every word, with total concentration.

Another chiddush was that after the "Dayyenu" hymn which enumerates fifteen stages of the deliverance from Egypt  saying that each stage in and of itself would have been enough for us to give praise to Hashem,Efi asked each of us to say our own personal "dayyenu". When it was my turn I said that if Hashem had only shown me the way of teshuva-dayyenu. If He had only brought me out of the diaspora to the land of Israel-dayyenu. If He  had only given me my beloved wife-dayyenu. If He had only given us our six precious children-dayyenu. If He had only granted us our twelve grandchildren-dayyenu. How much more so that I must give thanks for all of these and many other things that Hashem has granted me. Dayyenu vedayyenu

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fast of the Firstborn-Siyyum Masechet Shabbat Yerushalmi

It seems that we Jews cannot celebrate a holiday without mourning or fasting first. Before Purim there is Ta'anit Esther. Before Sukkot there is Yom Kippur and before the modern yom tov of Israeli independence day there is memorial day..Last week the day before Pesach was ta'anit  Bechorot-the fast of the first born, commemorating that terrible night in Egypt when Hashem passed over the first born of Israel and struck down the first born of Egypt. It is customary for all first born and fathers of first born sons to participate in the festive meal in honor of the completion of a tractate of the Talmud and therefore be exempt from the fast.

This year I made a siyyum on the completion of  massechet Shabbat of thr Talmud Yerushalmi.. The siyyum was also in honor of the yahrtzeit of my father-in-law, Abe (Avraham ben Efraim) Rich Alav haShalom who passed away on Erev Pesach twelve years ago..

On page 91B the last Mishna in the Yerushalmi Shabbat deals with the laws of moving forbidden objects on Shabbat. We learned that is  forbidden to arrange the straw on a mattress . Straw is muktzeh (a forbidden object) since in general there is no use for it on Shabbat. It is permitted however to lie down on the straw and move it with your body. This is tiltul muktzeh keliachar yad ie moving a forbidden object indirectly. Also if the straw can be used as fodder, or if there was a pillow on it before Shabbat it is not considered  muktzeh.
We also learned that a householder's press ( used for smoothing wrinkled clothing) may be dismantled on Shabbat but it is forbidden to dismantle a professional launderer's press. Rabbi Yehudah says that in any case if the press was loosened before Shabbat it is permitted to remove the clothes.

The Gemarra Yerushalmi says that the law of the Mishna is only relevant where the straw was never used before for a mattress, but if it had been used before it is considered to be part of the mattress and is permitted. R' Ya'akov bar Iddi said that earlier authorities asked if the straw could be moved using the elbows. R' Yannai, one of the foremost Amoraim of the Yerushalmi., said it is forbiddento do so, and added a curse upon all who are lenient  in this ruling saying "May his house fall upon all who rule leniently in this case."  R" Chiyya said that one must differentiate between the rich and the poor since straw is the only mattress that the poor man has while the rich can afford soft feather beds and pillows.
In another case chachamim agreed with R'Meir that the lids of cisterns can be untied or cut open on Yom Tov but not on Shabbat. But there is a kushia-In principle the laws pertaining to building or taking things apart do not apply to recepticles.(binyan vestira be kelim)  The answer is that cisterns are dug out or built into the ground therefore the laws  of building and demolition apply.Similarly the launderer's press was a built in contraption and therefore cannot be dismantled. R' Yossi added that there is also a question of  tiltul machmat chesron kis  that is since the launderer's press is an expensive piece of machinery it is forbidden to move it or touch it on Shabbat.

הדרן עלך פרק תולין וסליקא לה מסכת שבת

Monday, April 2, 2012

Forty Years Together-Bashert

Exactly forty years ago 12 Nissan we stood on the roof of a building  overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. We stood under a chuppa that was my tallit and I said "harei at mekudeshet li", you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moshe and Israel..

So much has happened in those four decades. Twenty years of raising six children and  settlement building in the Golan Heights. Then moving to Rechovot where I dedicated myself to learning Torah while Risa continued  taking care of the home and supporting the family.

There is a Yiddish expression-"bashert" which roughly translated means "destined". It is often used to express the idea that this couple wasw "meant for each other". That is how I always felt it was with Risa and myself.. We have been together from the first time we met on a Shabbat afternoon in Ellul. It was clear to me from the very beginning that this was bashert. As Chazal said, "Forty days before conception a heavenly voice proclaims'The daughter of so and so is meant for the son of so and so.In this case the daughter of Avraham Ben Efraim for the son of Elchanan ben David.