Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Zachor

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.

Since the halacha portion of the shiur dealt with the mitzva of hearing Parshas Zachor, R' Frand transitioned from the halacha to the parsha vort and spoke of Parshas Zachor. R' Frand noted that the last pasuk of Parshas Zachor (Devarim 25:19) states that "It shall be that when Hashem your G-d gives you rest from all your enemies around...you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven, you shall not forget.

R' Frand quoted R' Avraham Bukspan of Miami who asked three questions: (1) The Torah states that after the Jews have respite from conquering their enemies, the Jews should wipe out Amalek. But if all the enemies have been conquered, why do we need to wipe out Amalek now? (2) Why is it that we are commanded to wipe out the memory of Amalek? Shouldn't the commandment be to wipe out the people of Amalek? (3) When does one usually celebrate the victory in a war? On the anniversary of the winning the war. So why is it that the celebration of conquering Haman celebrated in Shushan on the following day?

R' Frand answered that there is a difference between the enemy from without and the enemy from within. Amalek was a nation that was defeated, but it was also an ideology. Amalek stands for the philosophy that things happen by accident and coincidence. This is contrary to Judaism which believes that Hashem is in control. This is why Amalek attacked us - to challenge the concept that it is all from Hashem. Indeed, the gematria of Amalek is Safek.

This is why the pasuk states that after we have conquered the enemies around us, there is another enemy. We need to wipe out the philosophy of Amalek and its life motif. This is also why we conquer the memory of Amalek - we have already defeated him physically, but we need to make sure that besides conquering the physical enemy, we also conquer the ideology of Amalek so that it cannot be internalized. And this is why the holiday is celebrated the following day - because we need to remember and celebrate beyond the day that Amalek was physically conquered.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Blue Moon First Peach Ale



This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Blue Moon First Peach Ale.

Picked this up at a Total Wine & Liquor in Virginia where it was available as a single instead of as a special limited release seasonal beer in the Brewmasters Sampler box. As this beer is the rare swing and miss for Blue Moon, I was glad that I only bought one.

The beer poured a deep copper (see picture above) and when I brought the glass to my face I was overwhelmed with what can only be described as scratch n' sniff peach aroma. My first sip confirmed the presence of what seems like an artificial peach flavor, and very low end carbonation which is also rare for Blue Moon.

Although the Blue Moon website indicates that the beer has caramel malts and is flavored with coriander, I did not detect any of these flavors in successive sips. Instead, it was the single note of peach flavor which almost seemed like wine more than beer (something akin to the Kedem Peach Grape Juice). The Blue Moon website also indicates that the beer is 5.6% abv, but the alcohol flavor was masked by the peach infusion, much like the non existence hops/wheat in this ale.

Blue Moon First Peach Ale is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, as is every other current variety of beer produced by Blue Moon. For the experts take on the Blue Moon First Peach Ale, please click here beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/306/135685.

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, February 19, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Terumah

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Thursday post is usually reserved for a parsha vort. During the winter months I attempt to summarize R' Frand's live Thursday night shiur, however this week the shiur was given by R'Dovid Heber and it did not contain a parsha component. Rather than leave the blog dark, I am reproducing a thought from R' Mansour which I heard in an on-line shiur. 

In the very beginning of Parshas Terumah, the Torah instructs Moshe to tell the Jews - V'yichu Li Terumah - "take for me a donation". Many meforshim question why the Torah uses the language of "take", when what the Jews actually are being instructed is to give.

In the recorded shiur that I heard from R' Eli Mansour (available for download on www.learntorah.com), he explains that the language of take was used in order to allow the Jews to have more of an emotional investment in the mishkan process.

Many people like to do for their families, friends and communities. R' Mansour explained that giving is not only about making the other person feel good about the gift they receive. Giving to another person allows the donor to feel good about himself, because he becomes emotionally invested in the other person.

I would like to add that the concept of emotional investment manifests itself in the way that people become fans of a team. By following the team in the media and buying their apparel, the fan becomes invested in the team. Often times, you will hear a caller to a sports radio program use the term "we" or "us." The caller is a not player on the team nor officially affiliated with the management of the organization. But his emotional and often times financial investment gives that person a connection to the team.

This was the purpose of the Torah's language of "take for me" the terumah. By becoming actively involved in the collection and organizational process, the Jews felt closer to the building of the mishkan.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Night Suds - Smith & Forge Hard Cider



This week's Sunday Night Suds takes a brief step away from beer to review Smith & Forge's Hard Cider.

One frequent question that I receive via e-mail does not involve beer, but instead is an inquiry as to whether there are any kosher hard apple ciders. After Samuel Adams divested itself of the Angry Orchard brand (and the new company ceased maintaining kosher supervision for its product) there was a paucity of kosher certified hard ciders. But more recently there have been a few entries into the market for kosher hard apple cider including Henry Hotspur's Hard Apple Cider (available exclusively at Trader Joe's); JK Scrumpy's Hard Cider; Yankee Folly Hard Cider (never seen it for sale anywhere) and Smith & Forge Hard Cider.

Unlike some other hard ciders, the Smith & Forge Hard Cider has very little bitter to it and any bite is largely masked by the sweet and slightly tart apple flavor. Although the can indicates that the hard cider is 6% abv, there is little kick to the brew and no noticeable alcohol flavor.

I would not recommend having this with a main course as it would be akin to drinking apple juice with a steak (something no one over the age of four would consider). I served this at our daf yomi siyum on Yevamos and then again at a tish last Friday Night and everyone enjoyed it, but again this was more of a dessert type setting.

I don't know if the Smith & Forge Hard Cider is available in the New York market and I purchased my six pack while away with my family on yeshiva week break.

Although the Smith & Forge Hard Cider indicates that it is brewed by the Uncharted Cider Company, it is a subsidiary of MillerCoors and as such it is certified kosher by the OU (there is even an OU on the can).

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).

Finally, 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, February 12, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Mishpatim

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 Shemos 22:24, the Torah states "Im Cesef Talveh Es Ami..." This pasuk is commonly translated as "When you lend money to My people..." The Torah instructs that the money should not be lent on interest and the lender should not be an oppressive lender.

Rabbi Frand observed that the mitzva is a positive commandment, but the use of the word "Im" suggests that the mitzva is optional. The Torah does not use the word "Im" to describe tefillin or matza - it does not say if you wear tefillin or if you choose to eat matza. So why does this mitzva begin with the word "Im."

Rabbi Frand noted that the use of the verbiage was discussed in the Mechilta which writes that all the times that the Torah uses the word "Im" it is optional, except for this mitzva and that the use of the word "Im" in this mitzva means when.

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh asks the obvious question - so why does the Torah use the word "Im"? He answers that the word "Im" teaches that if you have more money than you need and you see that someone else needs money, you should know that its not your money - its the poor person's money which happens to be deposited with you. This is why the continuation of the pasuk contains the words "es heani imuch" - the poor person with you - because the money you have belongs to him. 

The Ohr HaChaim HaKaosh explains that this is also the reason that the pasuk teaches that you should not be an oppressive lender, because its not your money.

R' Frand next quoted R' Yaakov Yosef M'Polna who cites to a gemara in Bava Basra which teaches that if a man writes in his will that he is leaving all his money to one of his five sons, the father has not accomplished anything more than making the son the executor of the estate, because why would a person intentionally create such strife among his children by leaving all the money to one of them.

This is the reason that the Torah writes the pasuk on lending in this manner - this money that you have is not your money - it belongs to the poor person and you are just watching it for him.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday's Musings on Sports - Doing things for appearance sake - of Dolan and Ovie

Two stories which appeared in the sports news today drew my attention. Both stories involved sports personalities who acted without due regard for the press which it might draw them. Both appeared to be selfish, but in reality, neither suffered a loss from the consequences of their actions.

The first, more notorious story involves NY Knicks President Jim Dolan. As reported on Deadspin and confirmed by the team, Dolan received an email from a fan who claimed to have been a Knicks fan for more than sixty years (talk about long suffering) who wrote that he was "utterly embarrassed" by Dolan's moves as owner of the team. 

As reported on the Yahoo basketball blog - Ball Don't Lie, Dolan responded to the fan:

You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.

Dolan's response demonstrates the mindset of a man who made his money by operating a monopoly (Cablevision) and who does not care if he alienates long time fans because he knows that the next sucker will by the seat that this disillusioned fan gave up.

Apparently, the NBA only has issues with owners who are racist and not those who are mean to the elderly as late this afternoon the NBA announced that Dolan will not be disciplined for his e-mail. (To see this story please click here http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba-wont-punish-dolan-email-knicks-fan-224242156--nba.html).

In contrast to the story about Jim Dolan and his utter disregard for what people think of him and whether they will continue to support his team, there was another story posted today on Yahoo sports involving Alexander Ovechkin (Ovie for short). 

Last week, the NHL held its annual All Star game. As they had previously done in non-Olympic years, the NHL held a fantasy style draft where the players selected by the league for the game were then drafted by the two captains. The league then present cars to the two last players selected in the draft.

In advance of the game, Ovie had campaigned to be one of the last two players. Since he is an all world talent, it was unlikely that he would be among the last two players selected.  Similarly, because he makes $9 million a year, he clearly did not need to get a free car.

As was reported on Yahoo uneven Puck Daddy blog, Ovie did not do it for the car. He had lobbied to be selected last so that he could donate the car to charity. (To see the story please click here http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/alex-ovechkin-finally-gets-his-honda--donates-it-to-charity-220236314.html).

Although Ovie was unsuccessful in this regard, once the news broke about Ovie's motivation, Honda agreed to donate another car to the charity (the American Special Hockey Foundation).

From the outside, both Ovie and Dolan acted out of apparent selfishness, yet Ovie clearly had a higher purpose in mind while Dolan only thought about himself.

In Jewish thought there is a concept of being dan l'caf zechus, of giving people the benefit of the doubt when you see actions which could be interpreted in different ways. But sometimes a person demonstrates over time that he is unworthy of such courtesy. I leave it to the readers to determine whether Mr. Dolan has stepped over the line.

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