Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday's Matza Crumbs - the Second Section of the Seder Dvar Torah

On Thursday Night I started to blog a shiur from R' Mansour on the Hagaddah but could not complete it at that time. The following is a continuation of those thoughts. The same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Mansour.

R' Mansour noted that when Yosef collected funds and land from the Egyptians in exchange for food, in Bereishis (47:22) he made an exception for the Egyptian priests and did not take their land in exchange for food. 

Working on the belief that the Jews could take the money of slaves like them because they belonged to Pharaoh - the Jews were not allowed to ask for money from the Egyptian priests - because their money did not belong to Pharaoh. This is why the Torah uses the word Re'ehu - the plain Egyptian was like the Jew - they were both slaves and their money was owned by Pharaoh.

Referring back to the question from the first half of the shiur -when the Jews left Egypt the sea did not want to split as it said - the Jews are thieves like the Egyptians. This sea did not split until it saw Yosef's coffin and was thus reminded that Yosef had caused all  the money to become Pharaoh's. Since the Jews had taken money from Pharaoh as compensation for their wages, it was not stealing.

R' Mansour then asked - why is it that Yosef was benevolent towards the Egyptian priests? R' Mansour answered that Yosef knew that the Jews were going to be in Egypt for many years and that they would need chizuk in order to withstand the exile. He also knew that the Torah was an etz chayim - a tree that would keep the Jews alive while in Egypt. Yaakov had already prophesied that Levi would be the ones who would teach the Jews Torah in Egypt. Yosef knew that whomever would be the Jews' priests would be able to keep them alive, so he made a rule that priests would be treated differently so that the Jews' priests would be treated differently as well.

We see that Moshe recognized this because he was personally involved with Yosef's coffin. The gemara states that a Chacham Lev takes mitzvos. Moshe involved himself in taking Yosef's coffin because it was important to him to do the miztva of taking the coffin, but also to do the mitzva of HaKaras HaTov - to show gratitude for what someone has done for you.

R' Mansour demonstrated this point by noting that there are four pesukim in Parshas Ki Savo which summarize the redemption from Egypt - Devarim (26:5-8) which recites how the Aramean tried to destroy our father and the Jews went down to Egypt and the Egyptians afflicted the Jews until we cried out and Hashem took us out of Egypt. But these pesukim are not stated in Shemos - they are read by the farmer who brings up his Bikurim (first fruits) to the Beis Hamikdash. In so doing the farmer joins together his thanks for the fruits of his harvest and then adds in all of his thanks for getting him where he is now. R' Mansour analogizes this to a speech given for an award - the recipient may thank his co-workers, but often he will also thank his parents or spouse who got him there.

On the night of the seder we recognize the concept of HaKaras HaTov because one who does so is a Chacham Lev - as the one who gives such thanks does so from his (smart) heart.

On the night that the Jews left Egypt, everyone was being involved in mitzvos as the Jews had been commanded to go to their neighbors and ask for the gold and silver. But Moshe chose this mitzva instead, even though he was very busy that night and could have asked the Chevra Kadisha to be involved with Yosef's coffin. Because this was KaKaras HaTov for him - Moshe was from the tribe of Levi and Yosef had exempted him from the hard work in Egypt - so he felt a personal responsibility to bring Yosef's bones out with him.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sundae Night Suds - Ben & Jerry's Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale

This week's SNS turns into a Sundae Night Suds in reviewing a collaborative effort between Ben & Jerry's and New Belgium which produced two products - Ben & Jerry's New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale and New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale.

I first read about these products in December when I was reading about new beers from New Belgium and learned that one of my favorite breweries and an old time favorite ice cream company had cross-pollinated and come out with an ice cream with beer influences and a beer with ice cream infusions. I did not have too much difficulty locating the Ben & Jerry's in my local King Kullen (not coincidentally located across the street from one of my favorite beer stores - Beverage Barn of Garden City Park). However, the New Belgium was impossible to score as they do not sell in the NY Metro area. I had held  out hope that I might make it to Chicago (or another venue which sells NB) before Pesach so that I could taste the NB product and do a blog post which reviewed the beer and ice cream in the same post. As it now appears that it will not be the case, I am resigned to just reviewing the Ben & Jerry's product.

So with that introduction lets get rid of the first misconception - the ice cream is not alcoholic and unlike some wine infused ice creams (none of which are kosher anyway) there is no age requirement for purchasing the ice cream. Secondly, while the ice cream has a hint of beer - its not really in the way of an ale - at most it tastes like a light lager. While this is not a terrible thing, I feel that an ice cream made with a stout or even a full bodied ale would give more flavor to an exotic ice cream.

The ice cream itself is sweet and I can't have more than a few spoonfuls at a sitting as the rich and sweet flavor is overwhelming. However, there are some nice pieces of brownie and caramel which when eaten together evoke a sweet and salty flavor with a little bit of lager backbone.

Since this is an ice cream you won't find a review on Beer Advocate, nor can I disclose the abv as it does not indicate that there is any alcohol content on the label. It is certified kosher by the Kof-K as are many of the Ben & Jerry's products.

I anticipate that this will be the last SNS for April as next Sunday is Yom Tov. I wish everyone a Chag Kasher V'Sameach.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Metzorah + Matza Teasers

This week R' Frand did not give his shiur on the parsha as he customarily cedes the pulpit to another Rav for the last shiur before Pesach. As the replacement shiur (although interesting) was halachic in nature, I will be reproducing a prior vort from R' Frand on the Parsha, followed by part of a shiur by R' Mansour on Pesach (courtesy of Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Parshas Metzorah, the Torah goes into detail about various forms of tzara'as (loosely translated as leporosy) and how they are treated. The Torah writes about three categories of tzara'as - those occurring on houses, clothing and on the body.

Chazal write that the affliction is not a physical illness. Instead, it is a sign of a spiritual problem which manifests itself as a physical ailment. Rabbi Frand stated that the "disease" actually develops in stages - first on the home, then on the clothes and finally on the body.

In Vayikra 14:33-57, the Torah discusses the malady of tzara'as of the house. In so doing, the Torah states at 14:35 that the homeowner comes to the Kohain and tells him "K'nega Neera Li BaBayis" - like an affliction has appeared to me in the house.

Rashi (quoting a mishna in Negaim 12:5) writes that the person tells the Kohain that it appears to be a nega even if the homeowner is an expert in determining whether a spot is tzara'as.

Tosafos Yom Tov asks on the mishna in Negaim - if he is a talmid chacham, why does he not simply state - this is a nega?

Tosafos Yom Tov gives four answers. The first answer (said in the name of R' Eliyahu Mizrachi) is that a person should teach his tongue to say "I don't know" - that a person should not always believe that he knows it all. The second answer was that a person should show derech eretz to the Kohain. The third answer given is that the homeowner should not attempt to influence the Kohain's decision. The final answer given by the Tosafos Yom Tov is that the homeowner should not be "poteach peh l'satan" - not give the satan an opening to allow bad things to happen.

Rabbi Frand then asked two more questions. The first (in the name of the Tosafos Yom Tov) question was - why is this taught only in negai batim? The second question (which was asked in the name of the Tolner Rav) was why is this rule not equally applicable to other halachic questions? When a person asks his rav a shaila about kashrus or taharas hamishpacha, he is not prevented from giving his own opinion as part of the conversation!

The Tolner Rav answers the questions by explaining that the nega on the house is an indication that there is something wrong with the way that the children in the house are being raised. The Tolner Rav then teaches each of the Tosafos Yom Tov's four answers as applicable to this scenario.

The first cause of the nega could be because the parents give the impression that they know everything. Children should be taught that there is nothing wrong with saying "I don't know" and that their parents do not know everything.

The second possible cause of the nega could be because the parent does not show respect towards others who are lower in stature or intelligence. This is also not a proper atmosphere to raise children.

The third possible cause of the nega could be that the parents are too dominating in their personalities and they do not allow the children to grow and assert themselves.

The fourth possible cause of the nega could be that the parents are always looking at the negative possibility - assuming the worst and making the children feel that there is no hope -thus allowing their very fears to come true.

This is the reason that the lesson only appears by negai batim - because a person needs to know that he must carefully examine the education of the children in the home.

R' Mansour began his Pesach shiur by noting that the Jews were told in Shemos 11:2 to ask from "Re'ehu" gold and silver objects. The word "Re'ehu" means one's friend. But were the Egyptians the Jews friends? They were the tormenters, the taskmasters. They were no more the Jews' friends than the Nazi yms' were. So why did the Torah refer to them as friends?

R' Mansour next mentioned the line in the Hallel prayer of Btzais Yisrael in which it states that the sea saw and it split. The Medrash asks - what was seen that caused the sea to split? The Medrash answers - Yosef's coffin. But why would that be a reason for the sea to split?

R' Mansour began his answer by quoting a Gemara in Sanhedrin 91 wherein Alexander Mokdon (as ruler of Egypt) challenged the Jews as owing money because the Jews in Shemos 13:35 had borrowed the money and it was never returned.

In response to this claim Geviha Ben Pesisa came to Court and asked Alexander - what is your source that we owe you money? Alexander responded - your Torah! Geviha responded - good, but the Torah also states that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt for 210 years - this is our payment! Alexander's case was then thrown out.

R' Mansour observed that there is a problem with this answer - the neighbors were not the Egyptian government. The Jews were owed money by the Egyptian government for the slave labor. But the average Egyptian was not the government. By example - if you are waiting for an IRS refund (like much of the country right now), you can't go to your neighbor and take his watch and say - the government owes me money. The neighbor is a neighbor, not the government.

R' Mansour addressed this quandry by quoting Parshas Vayigash where the Torah discusses how the Egyptians first came to Yosef and traded their livestock for food. When that food ran out, they came to Yosef and offered to trade their land and themselves for food. Yosef agreed and the Torah states in 47:18-19 that Yosef bought  bought all the land and all its occupants became slaves because of how strong the famine was. 

At this point, everything belonged to the State and to Pharaoh.

R' Mansour tied this into the pasuk in Bereishis 15:13 where Hashem tells the Jews that they will be in a land that was "Lo Lahem." This could be translated as a land did not belong to the Jews. But it can also be taught as the land did not belong to its occupants - because it belonged to Pharaoh. R' Mansour joked that when the Jews say Avadim Hayinu L'Pharaoh - the Egyptians could say - so were we!

R' Mansour also observed that in the Ten Commandments, Hashem says that He took the Jews out of Beis Avadim. Based on the statements above the Beis Avadim was the house of slaves - because everyone in Egypt was a slave.

Based on this - the Jews did not take possessions that belonged to their neighbors - everything belonged to Pharaoh, because what is owned by a slave is owned by his master.

This answers the question of how they asked their neighbors for possessions. But why did the sea split when it saw Yosef's coffin?

The short answer is that it saw Yosef who ensured that when the Jews came down to Egypt they would stay Jews and be able to leave Egypt without losing their identity. The Jews were not like the Egyptians - they were different and it was all due to Yosef.

If I have time over the weekend, I will b'n blog more of the shiur and Yosef's role in ensuring the Jews kept their identities.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Night Suds - Coney Island Brewing 1609 Amber Ale

This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Coney Island Brewing 1609 Amber Ale.

As the days wind down to the beer free days of Pesach, its often a good time to pull some beer from the back of the shelf before it goes bad. When Coney Island Brewing first officially became kosher certified, I bought a few bottles of each of the beers which were on the LOC and mixed a six. But then this brew sat on the shelf and got buried behind other more recent beer that I bought until I recently had to reorganize in the post Purim/shalach manos unpacking.

I was wondering about the 1970s' artwork and odd name, so I checked the website and learned that the Coney Island people (when they were owned by Shmaltz Brewing) wanted to tie this beer to the first steps of the pilgrims in North America. I don't really see much of a connection, but that's just me.

The beer pours a rich amber (see glass pictured above) with significant lacing which lasted for some time. The first few sips were all bready malt - almost as if it was a lager. Successive sips had some hops, but the pine was quite subdued. There was a slight alcohol bite, but at 4.8% abv, this beer is on the low end of the scale for an Amber Ale. 

I would not recommend pairing this beer with anything more than pizza, but it would make a decent pizza brew.

As discussed above, the Coney Island 1609 Amber Ale is certified kosher by the Star-K, although not every beer brewed by Coney Island is currently on the LOC. To view and download the LOC for Boston Beer which includes Coney Island (as well Angry Orchard) click here

To see what the experts at BA think about this brew, click here (keep in mind, many of these reviews are from the old formulation - my beer had a best before date of May 2016).

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 are reading this post more than six months after it was written, please note that it is possible that the product is no longer still certified kosher. To verify that the product is still certified kosher, please click on the kosher beers list link on the top left corner of the blog.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Tazria

The following is a brief summary of some of 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.

R' Frand began the vort by mentioning that the concept of Metzorah/Tzaraas is not modern day leprosy and that it was miraculous in nature since even inanimate objects like a house were afflicted with it. R' Frand quoted Rashi who explains that when Tzaraas was found on the house it was a good thing as the wall which was taken down had been hiding treasure which the prior occupant had hidden there when he heard that the Jews were coming.

The Sfas Emes asks - why did Hashem do this in order to give the Jews money? If Hashem wanted to give the Jews money, He could have given it to them in any number of more conventional ways.

R' Frand quoted the sefer Milchemes Yehuda which quoted the Chidushei HaRim who had a similar thought about an event from earlier in the Torah. The Torah states in Shemos (11:2)  reveals the instruction from Hashem to the Jews that they should ask for items from their neighbors. This was an odd form of borrowing, which R' Frand equated to the concept of someone borrowing a pen from you and it being the last time that you will ever see the pen.

The Chidushei HaRim asked on this pasuk - why didn't Hashem just make the Egyptians feel a sense of gratitude to the Jews, rather than have the Jews borrow the objects? He answered that when the Jews left Egypt it was a significant milestone, not only because they were leaving Egypt, but because it was the first time that they as a people had money. For a slave nation, having money for the first time can be a tremendous blessing or a tremendous curse. R' Frand remarked that the attitude a person should have is that this is not my money - its money that Hashem is "lending" to me to pay for my children's education or give tzedakkah or use for needs, but the money does not belong to me. So it was important for the Jews to understand that this money which they were receiving from the Egyptians was "on loan."

The Milchemes Yehuda then drew a parallel from the Chidushei HaRim's vort to the question asked by his grandson, the Sfas Emes. The treasure which came to the Jews came through the tearing down of a wall. Hashem's message was that people need to understand that the money was coming through destruction and that money can easily destroy - friendships, relationship and even cv's families.

R' Frand tied this to the Medrash that Moshe showed the Jews a fiery coin when he demonstrated the Machatzis HaShekel. The coin was being given to the Mishkan, but the Jews needed to understand that money is like fire. A person can't live without fire - but fire when used carelessly can burn. Similarly, people need money to buy things, but when used inappropriately, it can burn.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Monday's Musings on Sports - Playoff Bound is the Way to Be, Lobster Optional

When the calendar turns to April, its only natural that a young man's thoughts turn to that evocative seasonal moment when the focus becomes less about winter and more about...NHL Playoffs!

Growing up with Mom and Dad KB (OK, maybe not those names since neither of my parents drink beer) the beginning of April was always about which playoff position the NY Rangers would finish in and when they would make their inevitable exit from the playoffs.

Back in the day (i.e. between 1978-1995) almost every team made the NHL playoffs. It was usually not a question whether the Rangers would make the playoffs since between 1978 and 1992 there were only twenty one teams in the league and sixteen teams would make the playoffs. Still, while the NYR would usually be in, there were only three occasions during that period when the Rangers advanced beyond the divisional round (1979, 1986 & 1994). 

During those halcyon days, my Ranger fan friends would loyally root our team on and then commiserate after they were inevitably eliminated. But there was always the thought - if the Rangers only played ___ they could move on to the Conference Finals, if not the Stanley Cup Finals. But since if and buts are not candy and nuts, there never was a Stanley Cup final for my beloved Rangers from 1979 until 1994.

So now, for the first time in the last five years, I find myself again thinking - if only the Rangers played ___ they might move on to the Conference Finals. Because for the first time in this decade, I have no confidence that my team can beat either of the potential matchups in their division (Washington or Pittsburgh). Instead, I find myself hoping that the NYR do not finish in the 2nd or 3rd spot and instead are relegated to the first Wild Card where they will take on one (and if successful, two) teams from the meek Atlantic Division. And if they win those winnable series', they might move on to the Conference Finals and only then take on a beaten or battered Metropolitan Division victor. But again, its not in my hands (or even theirs).

The concept of wishing one could change the rules or control, but understanding that one cannot, has a deep connection to the laws of Kosher as explained by R' Frand. The last pasuk of Parshas Shemini summarizes the kosher laws by stating that they separate between the animals that are eaten (HaNe'echeles) and those which should not be eaten (Asher Lo Se'Achel). The use of these two terms is curious as the tenses/conjugation are not parallel. The Torah could have contrasted the animals that are eaten and those which are not eaten, or those which should be eaten with those which should not be eaten.

R' Frand quoted R' Zweig who explained that according to the Rambam there are some mitzvos which are Sichli - intuitive and those which are Chukim - laws to be followed which we don't understand. 

The laws of Kashrus obviously fall into the realm of Chukim, as we follow them without requiring a logical explanation for the rules. However, merely because the laws forbid certain foods, we as Jews are not required to view the banned food items as disgusting. R' Frand commented about Maryland's great affinity for the crab. While he has no desire to eat crab, it does not mean that the crab should be viewed as vile. Instead, a Jew should look at the crab as appealing, but barred under our kosher rules.

This explains the differences in the tenses - we have food which is eaten and the other food can be food which we desire to eat, but we are barred from doing so because of the kosher laws.

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