Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Bamidbar + Shavuous Thoughts

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha and the upcoming holiday. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand. 

R' Frand noted that Sefer Bamidbar begins with the counting of the Jewish people. Then, towards the end of Sefer Bamdibar they are counted again in Parshas Pinchas. The Sefer is nicknamed Chumash HaPikudim and even the secular world calls it the Book of Numbers.

Rashi comments that the reason that Hashem counts the Jews so often is to show His love for them. Rashi notes that the Jews were counted many times by Hashem. They had been counted when they left Egypt and again after the Golden Calf and now at the beginning of Sefer Bamdibar.

But this also poses a question because in Ki Sissa (Shemos 30:12) the Torah states that there should not be a plague when they are counted. Later, when Dovid Hamelech counts them, more than seventy Jews die.

R' Frand explained that the way that the Jews are counted here demonstrates that it is different and positive as the Torah uses the term "Seu es Rosh" - lift up their heads. The way to count without creating issues is to recognize that each person is not a number - the person is an individual with his own traits and accomplishments. The Jews should not be viewed as 600,000 people but 600,000 individuals.

R' Frand next quoted Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who talks about crowd mentality and how people follow a trend and all act en masse in a particular way. People act in a herd mentality and they get so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing that they lose their individuality. They are viewed as part of a crowd and they see themselves as part of a crowd and not individuals.  R' Frand also quoted a bank which advertises that the patrons are not "just a number" but when you call for customer service you have to punch numbers after numbers to get where you need to go.

Hashem is not like this. The Gemara in Berachos mentions a blessing to say when you see a large crowd of Jews. The blessing ends "Chacham HaRazim" - Hashem sees our individual traits and actions and omissions and sees each of us for what we are.

R' Frand next quoted a Gemara in Pesachim wherein R' Yosef said on Shavuous - make me a special dish. He remarked - if it were not for today there would be many Yosefs in the marketplace. R' Frand explained that if it were not for the Torah, R' Yosef would be like any other Joe in the marketplace.

But R' Frand gave a deeper meaning based on a teaching of R' Ruderman zt'l - he explained that R' Yosef meant that without the Torah, he would be conflicted and would be many different kinds of Yosef - a Joe this or a Joe that. But the Torah is a unifying force so that he has one personality.

R' Frand contrasted this with the story of Ruth and how she differed from Orpah. They both came from the same background but they made different choices. R' Moshe Schwab explains that Orpah looked and said that the life of a Jew has too much sacrifice and would be too hard, so she went back to an easier life. Ruth on the other hand made a more difficult choice - for a life of mesiras nefesh. But in the end, the life was more rewarding - both in this world and in the World to Come.

This is a common misconception - people think that by following the Torah the person is giving something up, but they don't see how much more rewarding the life is. R' Frand compared this with an athlete - Michael Phelps will spent more time in the pool than people may spend in the Beis Medrash. But he also won more gold medals than anyone else.

R' Frand tied this to the Rasha in the Pesach Seder - the Rasha says - why do you need this sacrifice? The answer to him is that Hashem saved our families - our homes so that they we could bring the Pesach sacrifice. It looked like it was tough but it was a gateway to greatness. 

People may look at being a Torah Jew and think that it is difficult. But everything in life that is worthwhile requires hard work. And if you try it - you will see that it is worthwhile. 

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Goat Rodeo Pale Bock


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Saranac Goat Radio Pale Bock.

As mentioned in last week's SNS, this year's 12 Beers a Springing mix box has a masterful combination of a classic brews along with three new offerings. In addition to the standard bearer - Saranac Pale Ale (reviewed here kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2009/03/sunday-night-suds-saranac-pale-ale.html) and last winter's interesting Prism White Ale (reviewed herekosherbeers.blogspot.com/2014/03/sunday-night-suds-saranac-prism-white.html), Saranac has added two new brews - the Heart of the Hop Red IPA (reviewed here http://kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2015/05/sunday-night-suds-saranac-heart-of-hop.html) and the Goat Radio Pale Bock.

The Goat Radio bills itself as a pale bock which I guess is why they it Goat Radio (a take off on the Ram which appears on labels for many bock beers). As explained by the experts at BA:
The Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May.
We did not consume the Goat Radio Pale Bock as part of any spring or May festival as it was not fitting for Mother's day and it is not yet Memorial Day of Shavuous (no SNS next week due to the holiday). 

But lets talk about the beer - it has many of the characteristics of a bock and only seems light in color (the abv is 6% so that is not light either). The flavor profile is also more developed than many a bock that I have tried.  There are quite a few interesting malts and there is some caramel and even a cheerio type flavor. I could see having this beer with pizza or even a calzone. Try it for Shavuous and let me know how it works for you!

Saranac Goat Rodeo Pale Bock is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit as is every other beer produced at the Matt Brewery plant in Utica, NY. Keep in mind, Saranac has begun to brew some of its High Peaks series off site and these bottles do not have kosher certification from the Va'ad of Detroit.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about the brew, please follow this link www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/99/143839.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshios Behar-Bechukosai

This evening I attended an incredible shiur by R' Mansour and arrived home quite late. I cannot use the shiur for the Thursday Night post as it was not on the parsha. (I do intend to iyh blog about the shiur at a later date). Rather than let the week go without a parsha vort I have reproduced a prior year's thought from R' Frand. Same rules as usual apply - the vort was reproduced to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parshas Behar (Vaykira 25:1-8) begins with a discussion of the laws of Shmitta, when the land is left fallow every seventh year. Following the discussion of Shmitta, the Torah then discusses the laws of Yovel (Vayikra 25:9-13) when the ancestral fields return to their owners and the fields are also left unworked. After this discussion, the Torah ventures into discussions about various areas of civil law (Vayikra 25:14-18) before returning to the topic of Shmitta and anticipating that there may be questions - what will there be to eat in the Shmitta year (Vayikra 25:19-22)? The Torah answers by reassuring the farmer, as Hashem states that He will bless the land so that the produce of the sixth year of the cycle will be so abundant that it will last three years.

Rabbi Frand then quoted a question from the Noam Elimelech (who asked in the name of his brother) - If the Torah does not waste words, why would the Torah state - if you ask where will be food, this is the brocha Hashem will give? Wouldn't it be more logical to simply state outright - Hashem will give a brocha of abundance for the sixth year? Furthermore, why is the promise made (and Shmitta revisited) after the discussion of various other topics?

Rabbi Frand answered by making reference to the sefer Abir Ya'akov (R' Ya'akov Yosef Reinman), who teaches that the mitzva of Shmitta involves a great deal of bitachon (faith). A person will farm his land for six years and think that all of his wealth comes from his own efforts. Thus Hashem says - don't work the seventh year; trust that I will take care of you, since it all comes from Me. The Torah then continues to other topics, before returning to Shmitta. However at this juncture, Hashem is saying - there are some among you who will follow Shmitta because I commanded it above. However, there will be others who are weaker and cannot follow the rule on blind faith. Hashem anticipates their questions/concerns and promises that they will be provided for with the abundant sixth year crop. This comes as a separate discussion because the question and promise is not a direct part of the mitzva of Shmitta. Hashem is saying later, if there are those with questions, don't worry, I will take care of them.

Rabbi Frand then asked - where do we see any other mitzva where someone who lacks faith is given a 3x reward in exchange? By comparison, there is no promise of a triple pay reward for someone who takes off and does not work on Shabbos. However, not working Shabbos also requires faith as many learned in the early part of the 20th century when the mantra was "If you don't come to work on Saturday, don't come in on Monday either."

Rabbi Frand again made reference to the Abir Yosef to answer this question. He noted that Shmitta is a greater test than Shabbos. During a regular week, one will refrain from work on Shabbos. However, Shmitta is refraining from work for an entire year. For a person in an agrarian economy, he is wondering where the food will come from if he does not work. With this form of test, Hashem tells those who question - yes there will be food, you will not starve.

Rabbi Frand then began to discuss Parshas Bechukosai which begins with the phrase "Im Bechukosai Taylaychu" - if you keep my laws. Rashi translates this as "if you learn Torah." Later in the parsha, the Torah state "V'im lo tishm'u li" - if you don't listen to Me (26:14). Rashi translates this as - "if you don't learn Torah." Much later in the parsha the Torah reaches the topic of Shmitta again stating at Vayikra 26:34 that the land will "appease its Shmitta years during the years of desolation." Rashi states on the following pasuk (Vayikra 26:35) that the years of Galus Bavel came as a direct result of the Jews not keeping the laws of Shmitta/Yovel at all while they were in Israel before the Galus.

Rabbi Frand then asked what the connection was between Shmitta and the Galus (in my words Mah Inyan Shmitta Eitzel HaTochacha)? And furthermore, how is it possible that they did not keep Shmitta the entire time that they were in Israel?

Rabbi Frand answered by quoting R' Ya'akov Kaminetzky that Behar Becukosai is one long parsha. It begins with a discussion on Shmitta. It then goes off on numerous tangents, until it reaches Bechukosai and returns to the discussion of Shmitta. How? It tells us that the year of Shmitta is a year when the land is not worked and the people are learning Torah instead. "If you listen" and while not working learn Torah - there will be great reward. If you don't listen and don't take the year off to learn, then there will be problems and the land will kick you out. This is the meaning of the statement that the Jews did not keep Shmitta - the Jews did not stop and learn during the Shmitta year as Hashem wanted them to do.

Rabbi Frand then told a story about one of the boys who used to learn in his shiur. The boy eventually left Ner Israel and got a job with T Rowe Price. The company later announced that it was laying off 200+ workers in Baltimore, including this boy. The boy came to Yeshiva to talk to Rabbi Frand the next day. Rabbi Frand indicated that he tried to console the boy about the job, but the bochur did not want to be consoled. Instead, he said that he was being paid eight weeks severance and was wondering whether he could learn in Rabbi Frand's shiur while he was being paid the severance.

Rabbi Frand closed by saying that this is the meaning of time off. That when a person is getting a paid vacation (like the Shmitta year) he should be sitting and learning Torah. If one follows this task, he can be mikayaim "Im Bechukosai Taylaychu."

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mondays Musings on Sports - Tom not so Terrific and the Perils of Consistency

Today news broke about the punishment handed down by the NFL for scandal known as "Deflategate." Although the story had been developing since the end of the AFC Championship game in January, the issue reached its conclusion withe news that a punishment had been handed down to the New England Patriots and their QB Tom Brady. For those unfamiliar with the story, I will provide a brief synopsis.

Soon after the Patriots defeated the Colts in the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2015, the various news outlets began reporting about how footballs supplied by the New England Patriots for use in the AFC Championship game had been found to be underinflated. I recall sitting in the car less than an hour after the second Sunday game had ended and hearing reports from players on other teams who had handled New England Patriot footballs which had been intercepted or otherwise turned over and who realized that the footballs were underinflated.

At the time, I did not understand the significance of the under inflated footballs as I assumed (incorrectly) that each team used the same footballs during the game. However, as the story developed I learned that each team supplied their own footballs to be used by their offense during the game. This would be significant as a football which was underinflated would be easier to grip by the QB (in this case Tom Brady of the Patriots). Another interesting twist on the story was that the NFL had confiscated all of the Patriot footballs during half time (when the score was 17-7 New England) and that after the playing field had been "leveled" the Patriots ran off the next 28 points.

Within days, the story took on a life of its own as Tom Brady gave a bizarre interview in which he laughed off the allegations that the footballs had been altered or that anyone had been in contact with him about it. But the story took on a life of its own, both during the subsequent weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and afterwards. As the evidence began to mount that there was an intent to break the rules, the NFL hired Ted Wells who interviewed and collected evidence. Last week, Wells published his report which included text messages between Patriots employees which referenced the deflation of footballs. It also included phone records which showed that Brady had been in touch with the employees and had protracted (in length) phone conversations with them.

Having reviewed the Wells report - the NFL handed down its punishment - the Patriots lost a 1st Round and 4th Round draft pick, and were also fined $1 million. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015-2016 season. Although it seems that the Patriots will not be challenging their penalty, Brady and the NFLPA (players union) will appeal his punishment.

To me, there are two things to take away from the saga. The first is that the NFL is at fault for having a system which can be so easily manipulated. In baseball, the balls are brought to the home plate umpire who looks them over and puts them into play, whereas in football after they are checked they are returned to the team and the team can doctor them before they are put into play.

The second issue is that a great QB will now be forever scarred by his association with the scandal and the report which indicates that he knew what was going on. Don't get me wrong, as a Jets fan I have no love for the Patriots or Tom Brady. But, a player who has been a Hall of Fame career will now be forever linked to cheating and people will wonder how long this occurred and how many victories were tainted.

The story reminds me of a vort that I heard from R' Mansour in explaining a medrash about a conversation between Moshe and Hashem. Moshe sees that King Shaul will die young and he asks Hashem why this will happen. Hashem responds - Emor el HaKohanim - ask the Kohanim. Its a reference to Shaul's act in having Nov the City of Kohanim destroyed because he thought that they were rebelling against him. The problem is that the Gemara is clear that Shaul dies because of the sin of not wiping out all of Amalek. So how do you synthesize the concepts?

R' Mansour explained that the issue is consistency. King Shaul had a defense to why he did not wipe out all of Amalek as he was commanded. He could have said - I am too compassionate to do this. But he lost this defense when he was not "too compassionate" to wipe out the City of Nov.

L'havdil, there is some parallel to Mr. Brady. He has built a career on consistency and excellence. But since it now appears that some of the victories came with improper "assistance" the question needs to be asked - how many of those victories were actually earned?

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Heart of the Hop Red IPA



This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Saranac's Heart of the Hop Red IPA.

In this year's 12 Beers a Springing mix box, Saranac has provided a masterful combination of a classic brews along with three new offerings. In addition to the standard bearer - Saranac Pale Ale (reviewed here kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2009/03/sunday-night-suds-saranac-pale-ale.html) and last winter's interesting Prism White Ale (reviewed here kosherbeers.blogspot.com/2014/03/sunday-night-suds-saranac-prism-white.html), Saranac has added two new brews - the Goat Rodeo and the Heart of the Hop Red IPA. This being Mothers Day, I thought it more appropriate to review the Heart of the Hop Red IPA.

[Somewhere Mrs KB is nodding along with this thought and there is a decent chance I may still get dinner one night this week].

The bottle label indicates that at "the heart of this beer is a citrusy combination of Simcoe and Citra hops, while Rye malt adds a dry spiciness, and caramel and carafa malts give it the dark amber hue."

I can't speak to the caramel and carafa malts (frankly I have never even heard of carafa malt), but the hop and rye malt combination makes for one spicy and floral brew. There is an immediate pine hit, followed by some citrus in the aftertaste. Successive sips bring in more spice and pine and grapefruit. 

As with most Saranac products, the level of carbonation is perfect and the beer does not have a strong alcohol backbone despite being 6.0% abv.

This is a dynamic beer which would stand up well to spicy asian fare. I enjoyed this with my gemara well after dinner, but since the box has three of these, I can experiment with pairings over the next few weeks.

Saranac Heart of the Hop Red IPA is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit as is every other beer produced at the Matt Brewery plant in Utica, NY. Keep in mind, Saranac has begun to brew some of its High Peaks series off site and these bottles do not have kosher certification from the Va'ad of Detroit.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about the brew, please follow this link www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/99/154699.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Emor

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Vayikra (21:6) the Torah states "V'lo Sichalilu es Shem Kadshi." Rashi comments on the pasuk that a person who commits an aveirah on purpose has created a Chillul Hashem. 

R' Frand gave examples of modern day Chillul Hashem such as parking in a handicapped space when you are identifiable as a Jew. But there are examples of Chillul Hashem even in private.

Rashi continues - what is the meaning of "V'Nikdashti" in Vayikra (22:32) - there is a mitzva of Kiddush Hashem where a person gives up their life in the service of Hashem.

R' Frand again gave examples of modern day Kiddush Hashem - like when the Orthodox Jew bought a desk with a hidden treasure inside and he gave back the treasure.

R' Frand opined that one could say in today's era that it is difficult to make a Kiddush Hashem as B'H we live in an enlightened society where one does not have to give up his life to worship Hashem. However, there are ways that one can do this.

R' Frand quoted from the Rambam who writes that a person who commits an aveirah, not because of desire or weakness but because he wants to break a Torah rule - creates a Chillul Hashem. And if the person does this in front of ten or more people, he creates a Chillul Hashem B'Rabim.

But the Rambam writes that similarly, if a person does a mitzva or holds back from committing an aveirah - not because he wants to have a good image, or out of fear - but because he wants to keep Hashem's Torah - creates a Kiddush Hashem. Similarly - one who does a mitzva or refrains from an aveirah - where no one sees him is mikayaim Kiddush Hashem.

The Rambam gives an example - like Yosef HaTzaddik. He did not commit an avierah and not for honor or out of fear, just because it was wrong. The Rambam explains that this is called Kiddush Hashem because the person gives over himself to Hashem - he gives up what he wants, in order to serve Hashem. R' Frand observed that mesiras nefesh is translated in English as self-sacrifice - a person sacrifices what he wants in order to do what Hashem wants.

R' Frand stated that he used to dislike when people used the phrase meiras nefesh to describe someone who went out of his way to do a mitzva. The person is not giving up their life. But R' Frand said that he has a new understanding of this because the person gives up his individual needs or desires to some mitzva.

R' Frand next quoted R' Avraham Schur (sp?) who explains a Sfas Emes interpreting a Gemara in Yoma. The Gemara records the questions asked in judgment after death. They ask - why did you not learn Torah? If a poor person says that he was poor and had to work hard - they say - were you more poor than Hillel? If he was rich and says  that he was too busy in business - they will ask - were you more rich than R' Eliezer Ben Charsum? And if he was a rasha they will ask - were you more of a rasha than Yosef HaTzaddik? The gemara concludes that Hillel is mechayev the poor, R' Eliezer - the rich and Yosef - the resha'im.

The Sfas Emes asks - why does Yosef convict the resha'im? They would have the perfect answer - there was only one Yosef! Who else is called HaTzaddik? I'm not Yosef HaTzaddik!

The Sfas Emes answers that Yosef withstood the yetzer hara and in so doing implanted in our DNA the ability to fight the yetzer hara. Without Yosef, you would be right. But this is part of your ancestry and heritage and DNA. So when the Rambam writes that a person fights off the yetzer hara he is like Yosef HaTzaddik - because Yosef gave up himself and so can he.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!