Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Noach

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. 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 Bereishis 6:9-10, the Torah introduces us to Noach. The first pasuk of the parsha states "Eileh Toldos Noach, Noach Ish Tzadik, Tamim Haya B'Dorosav" - these are the offspring of Noach, Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. The next pasuk then identifies Noach's children, explaining that he had three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes.

The development of the parsha is curious as one would expect the Torah to have followed the statement that "these are the offspring of Noach" with an identification of the children. Instead, the Torah describes Noach's character and only afterwards states the names of his sons. Rashi explains that the the most important "offspring" of a tzadik are his good deeds, not his children.

This answer may be logical for some tzadikim, however we know that all human life on this planet came through Noach as he populated the world after the flood wiped out all those who were not on the ark. As such, shouldn't his descendants be his most important feature?

The Mahahral in his sefer, Gur Aryeh offers two answers to the above question. Initially, he notes that one's children are the product of a three way partnership involving both parents and Hashem. As such, a person is not solely responsible for the way one's children turn out. On the other hand, a person's good deeds are completely the result of the person. As such, the tzadik's good deeds are even more important because they are solely reflective of his actions.

The Maharal also offers a second explanation. He notes that one's children are other independent people. On the other hand, one's virtues and good deeds are integral parts of the person himself.

R' Yehoshua Hartman explains the meaning behind the second answer of the Maharal by making reference to another statement of the Maharal. The Maharal notes that Adam selected names for all the creatures. However, in choosing the name for man he selected Adam - because man comes from the ground (Adama). It can be asked - don't all creatures come from the ground? The Maharal explains that man is more closely connected with the earth then other creatures. When a person looks at a field waiting to be planted he sees the potential in the field - it could be a corn field or a wheat field. The same way, a person has potential within him. An animal is programmed to do the functions its nature tells it to do. A person has potential to do much more. Indeed, when a parent has a newborn child in his/her arms the parent may think - my child is cute. However, the parent also thinks about what the child can potentially accomplish.

R' Hartman explains that this is what is meant by Rashi -- the tzadik is identified by his good deeds because they represent his fulfillment of his potential. If one works on himself and accomplishes great things, they will be forever tied to the person and his legacy will be identified by these acts.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXIX

Tonight's Weird (but true) legal case examines an individual Pennsylvania voter's challenge to a candidate's ability to run for office. Who was this candidate? Only the DNC's nominee for President of the United States.

In Berg v. Obama, a Pennsylvania attorney (representing himself) filed suit against Obama, the Democratic National Committee and the Federal Election Commission seeking among other things, a declaration that Obama is not eligible to run for President of the United States because he is allegedly not a "natural born citizen" as required by Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution.

As summarized by the Federal District Court Judge in his decision, the relevant facts are as follows:

Plaintiff is a life-long member of the Democratic Party who fears that Defendant DNC's nomination of Defendant Obama as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee for the 2008 election will result in irreparable harm to Plaintiff and other “Democratic Americans.” Obama cannot be a presidential nominee, Plaintiff contends, because Obama is not a “natural born citizen” of the United States and is therefore barred from holding the office of President by the Natural Born Citizen Clause.

Plaintiff claims that if the evidence shows that Obama is not a natural born citizen, his nomination (and presumably his election to the Presidency if he wins) will be null and void. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants' collective knowledge of this fact, or their failure to assist Plaintiff in obtaining information from Obama and the DNC, has deprived Plaintiff of “liberty, property, due process of law and equal protections of the laws,” and has caused “significant disenfranchisement of the Democratic Party” generally.

Various accounts, details, and ambiguities from Obama's childhood form the basis of Plaintiff's allegation that Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States. To support his contention, Plaintiff cites sources as varied as the Rainbow Edition News Letter, and the television news tabloid Inside Edition. These sources and others lead Plaintiff to conclude that Obama is either a citizen of his father's native Kenya, by birth there or through operation of U.S. law; or that Obama became a citizen of Indonesia by relinquishing his prior citizenship (American or Kenyan) when he moved there with his mother in 1967. Either way, in Plaintiff's opinion, Obama does not have the requisite qualifications for the Presidency that the Natural Born Citizen Clause mandates. The Amended Complaint alleges that Obama has actively covered up this information and that the other named Defendants are complicit in Obama's cover-up.
It should come as no great shock that the court dismissed the lawsuit. Boiled down to its most simple explanation, the Court ruled that Berg did not have standing to sue for a violation of the Natural Born Citizens clause because he was not personally harmed by the candidacy and his status as a voter did not in any way differentiate him from the rest of the populace.

If you would like to see the full decision, please click here:

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Kiddushin 20

Kiddushin 20 continues a discussion of the redemption of Jewish slaves and ways in which the redemption process can be accomplished or even expedited. As part of this discussion the gemara presents a progression of unfortunate events which can lead to a man selling himself into slavery. Repeated elsewhere in shas (Sukkah 40b and Erchin 30b as indicated in the Mesoras Hashas), the statement of R' Yosi B'R' Chanina is quite fascinating.

The gemara explains that the inital downfall begins when a person makes business transaction concerning shmittah produce. If a person violates the rule and sells the produce (rather than making the permitted use of eating it), eventually he will wind up in debt and will need to sell his personal property. If he does not recognize the error of his ways, this will not be sufficient and he will then need to sell his fields, followed by his home. The next item he will sacrifice is his daughter who he will sell as an amah ivri'ah. This of course will not be enough and he will wind up borrowing money on interest and then ultimately he will sell himself into slavery to pay the debts.

On Gittin 20b, R' Huna B'R' Hinna asks whether a Jewish slave can be redeemed through partial payment. As part of his question, R' Huna asks whether the answer can be derived through a gezera shava comparing this redemption with the law of redemption of ancestral fields. He then completes his question by theorizing whether the gezera shava can only be applied leniently (to allow a partial buyout of the slave) but not when it would result in a hardship.

Tosafos (d'h Geulaso) comments in the name of Rabbenu Tam that this would not be a complete gezera shava because we don't pick our spots in applying a gezera shava. It either applies l'kula and l'chumra or not at all. Tosafos indicates that the limud would really be just a gilui miltsa b'alma.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXIX - Giants, Jets and Roses

Although I am sure that today's Max Kellerman show focused on more than just football, the limited portions which I was able to listen to were dominated by football. With this in mind, I'll give you my two cents on some of the points Max made on today's show.

Max had a recurring theme which compared the 2008 Giants with Muhammad Ali and his fight with Sonny Liston. Max noted that the Giants have been tested since they lost their top two defensive ends (one to injury and one to retirement) and have been utilizing a wide receiver (Plaxico Burress) who is a prima donna. Max compared this to Ali's getting some of the liniment from Liston's gloves in his eyes and being forced to overcome "blindness" in beating Liston. Max theorized that the same way that Ali needed to adapt to deal with the blindness, the Giants were dealing with adversity thrown their way this season. (More on that later).

Max also had some kind words for Jets fans. Although the Jets did win their game against the hapless Kansas City Chiefs, Brett put up another stinker of a game as he threw three interceptions. Max remarked that the Jets fans who were upset with Brett Favre's performance should wake up and smell the roses, "you need some fertilizer at first to grow nice roses." Max's line was cute, but Louie was more on point with his everyman's analysis of the game. Bottom line, two eminently winnable games against AFC bottom feeders and the Jets come away with a loss and a last second victory. No one can explain why after turning Leon Washington loose on the first scoring drive, the Jets went with pass play after pass play. Yes, Thomas Jones did pick up a TD with some power running at the goal line, but against a poor run defense (and especially when leading in the fourth quarter) the Jets were thinking pass first. One has to wonder whether Brett Favre or Brian Schottenheimer is calling the plays out there.

This of course is not to absolve the defensive coordinator. After the Chiefs lost their "starting" running back (I put this term in quotes since Charles was a back up who was forced into a starting role when the Chiefs deactivated Larry Johnson), everyone but the Jets defensive coordinator knew that the Chiefs were going to be passing on nearly every play (they only ran the ball eight times in the second half). Still, the Jets were putting eight men in the box on most plays. Why? Beats me.

Max also had his usual moment when (in deference to Howard Stern) he let the listeners in on some personal factoid. I know its just me, but I would have rather heard about Erin's birthing classes then find out that Max has facial dandruff.

As usual, the Max Kellerman show had an element of Torah thought. In discussing the issue of overcoming adversity and working with a problem to make something better out of the situation, Max reminded me of a story which I recently read about R' Moshe Feinstein. When R' Moshe was living under the communists in Russia, he was the Chief Rabbi of the Town of Luban. Obviously, the communist leaders made it difficult for Jews to observe their religion. Still, when R' Moshe heard about a project being proposed by the local party leaders he was able to turn it into an asset for the Jewish community.

When the local party bosses wanted to build a large sanitary facility for the residents to use for bathing, R' Moshe convinced the laborers that it should be built in such a manner so that it could also function as a mikva (ritual bathhouse). R' Moshe then addressed the local party leaders and explained that although the State was providing such a wonderful resource, there were some older Jews who might resist using the bathhouse if there were not some times with separate hours for men and women. The local leaders obliged R' Moshe and did set some separate times. Not long after, the local leaders were praised for the efficiency of their bathhouse and the fact that women from many far off towns were travelling great distances to use the facility.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Samuel Adams Irish Red

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds review looks at one of the Boston Beer Company's newest offerings - Samuel Adams Irish Red.

I found this brew in a Brewmasters Collection box which I purchased at Sam's in downtown Chicago. The box contained two bottles of this interesting beer along with two bottles of five other varieties (I'll save those for another time). I put one of these in the 'fridge in Chicago to enjoy over the first days of Sukkos and saved the other to bring home.

During the first days of yom tov we were fortunate to have many meals in the sukkah with my wife's extended family. When my sister-in-law Naomi asked whether we had any darker beers, I wasn't sure whether she was humoring me or whether there was hope that some of the family might drink something other than lagers. After I poured it for her and she began to rave about it I tried it and was forced to concur - this is simply one of the best beers ever produced by the Sam Adams brewers.

The beer itself is a classic Irish ale, I found it somewhat reminiscent of Bass Ale, although a little richer in color and after taste. It went very well with YT roasted beef dishes and equally well with the chicken and pasta stew that my wife made on the eve of Hoshana Rabbah. I tried to find sixers of this at a few of my local beer stores over the last week, but was unsuccessful. If I could find more I would try it again and again with an eye on adding it to my all time top 10.

Samuel Adams Irish Red is under the Kosher Supervision of the Star-K. Please note that although the Irish Red does not bear a Star-k on the label (for reasons that I have never understood, only some of the kosher Sam Adams products carry the Star-k on the label), it is under the Star-k. (To see the Star-K LOC indicating which Sam Adams products are under supervision, please click here - ).

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about Irish Red, please follow this link -

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

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Bereishis

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. 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 Bereishis 2:4-5, the Torah discusses how Hashem had made the heavens and the earth, but the trees of the fields and the grasses and flowers had not yet sprouted, because Hashem had not yet sent the rain on the fields and there was no man yet to work the fields.

Rashi on pasuk 5 explains that the reason that the trees and grass and flowers had not yet sprouted and lay dormant below the surface was because there was no rain. Why? Because there was no man yet to work the land who would recognize the blessing of the rain.

The Maharal in Gur Aryeh asks - why didn't Hashem bring the rain even without man being present to appreciate its goodness? The Maharal answers that a tovah cannot be done for someone who is unable to appreciate it. If a person is capable of appreciating the gift that will be bestowed upon him, then Hashem will grant him the gift. Where there is no one capable of appreciating the present, the gift will be withheld until such time as someone can appreciate it.

Rabbi Frand then mentioned the end of the Rashi on 2:5 in which Rashi notes that once man was created and recognized the goodness of the rain and the need to pray for it, then Hashem sent the rain and permitted the vegetation to rise above the surface of the earth. R' Shimshon Pincus in his sefer Sh'arim B'tefillah explains that all the trees and flowers were there waiting for Adam Harishon to pray for them and the rain needed to stimulate their growth. This follows along the prior thought that Hashem wants to give us good things, we just need to pray for them and they will be granted.

Finally, Rabbi Frand made reference to another pasuk in Bereishis and told a vort which (in the words of my friend Adam W.) would be appropriate for a sheva brochos. The Torah states at Bereishis 2:24 "Al kein ya'azav ish es aviv v'es imo, v'davak b'ishto v'hayu l'vasar echad." This is translated generally as - therefore a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife.

Rabbi Frand (quoting R' Lau in the name of his father in law - Rav Frenkel) asked - why did the Torah need to specifically say that a groom will leave his parents? It is more than obvious that the child will leave home when he starts his new life with his bride. If anything, it is already painful for the parents - after all, at weddings the children are beaming and the parents are crying. Why? Partly out of joy, but also for recognition that the child has left the home and that this stage of their life is done.

So if it is obvious and possibly painful that the child is leaving his parents, why does the Torah need to mention it explicitly?

R' Lau in his sefer "Al Tishlach Yadcha El HaNa'ar" states that R' Frenkel explains that the verb "Azav" has more than one meaning. The word can be used as "leave." However, there is another Hebrew word - "Izavon" which means inheritance. Using this connotation, the Torah is explaining that the son entering the marriage will bring with him an inheritance from his father and mother of what he saw in their home. He will pass on the values of treating spouses and children with respect, of being kind to strangers and charitable to the poor. In so doing, the Torah is explaining that when the husband and wife enter the marriage they do so with the inheritance of their individual parents' values and will use those lessons to build their new life together.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Laker Lager

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review goes on the road to Chicago, Illinois to look at Laker Lager. This represents the fourth Brick offering to be reviewed on this blog, but the first to have a guest reviewer.

After a long day of sukkah building and Sukkos related shopping, we patronized the Great Chicago Food and Beverage company and purchased some Burger Buddy's, Big Boy steaks and Popcorn Chicken. Unfortunately they were out of bison burgers which are my number one favorites at Great Chicago. (I would provide a link to their website, but the prices on the site are off by about a $1 per item. I suddenly found myself paying about $10 more than I thought when I came to pick up the food).

Upon my return, we ate our Great Chicago supper with gusto (despite their website menu pricing issues, the food is quite tasty) and washed it down with Laker Lager. The Heineken man praised the beer as good as did his son. When pressed as to whether it compared to Heineken, my father in law would not commit, but he did repeat that it was good.

As Laker Lager is a traditional lager with its light taste and lack of hop notes, you would expect that it would go well with fast food (and it did). I don't think that it would stand up to spicy dishes or even a cholent, but if you are looking for a beer for those who are not into a strong beer taste (think hockey game beer) this would be a smart choice.

Laker Lager is certified kosher by the Kashruth Council of Canada. For the experts' take on Laker Lager click here

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

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on Yom Kippur (courtesy of R' Frand)

Tonight I attended an airing of Rabbi Frand's Teshuva Drasha. The topic of the drasha was "The Yamim Noraim - Getting our Priorities Straight." The shiur had been originally given on Sunday in connection with Just One Life (an extremely worthy charity). I have attempted to summarize some of the hour long shiur in this post. As always, any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand started by discussing the sei'r hamishtale'ach (commonly known as the scapegoat). He talked about the uniqueness of this sacrifice as it did not have a shechita, a zevicha and was not brought on an altar. He said in the name of the Klei Yakar that the sei'r was tied to Esau (who was known as an ish sei'r) and that the sacrifice was connected to Esau because Esau is involved in all of our sins.

R' Frand also mentioned (although I did not catch the source) that the "ish itti" who accompanied the animal was someone who was known to be seriously ill and would not live out the year.

R' Frand then gave an insight into the connection by quoting to a Tanna D'vei Eliyahu which told the following midrash. When Ya'acov and Esau were in the womb they had a conversation about what was awaiting them. Ya'acov said that there are two worlds, a physical and a spiritual. The physical world (Olam Hazeh) was eating, drinking and material possessions. The spiritual world (Olam Haba) was devoid of such things.

Ya'acov and Esau agreed that Esau would receive the Olam Hazeh and that Ya'acov would be entitled to the Olam Haba. This deal was consummated at the selling of the bechorah. Later, Esau met Ya'acov and saw that he had four wives, many children and flocks of animals. He said to Ya'acov - but the physical world was meant for me! Ya'acov responded that these things are only here to help me get to the spiritual world, they are a means and not an end.

R' Frand then mentioned a personal mashal to show how we sometimes lose sight of what's important. He said that when his first child was fifteen months, R' Frand and his wife bought him a toy truck as a chanukah present. When they gave their son the wrapped present, he tore open the wrapping paper and began to play with the box instead of the truck. Try as they might, the child could not be coaxed to play with the truck, as he wanted the box.

R' Frand equated this to our fixation on the physical aspects of this world and ignoring the fact that they were only a means. There were a number of great stories and examples which I will unfortunately have to skip as I am short on time. One that I do want to mention is that he said that people are into "window treatments." He said that when he was growing up you had shades, blinds, curtains or drapes. But now, people spend fortunes on window treatments - are the windows sick?

R' Frand also made reference to the b'nei gad and reuven who wanted to stay on the other side of the Jordan River. He cited to their request to Moshe - we want to build pens for our sheep and cities for our children they said to Moshe. Moshe was incredulous. Do you prioritize your sheep over children by mentioning them first?

But the question can be asked - would any parent really value their sheep more than their child? The answer of course is no, but the form of the request shows that they were being influenced by the physical world of Esau, even though they would never actual make such a choice.

R' Frand then mentioned how Esau got his hooks into us. He talked about the famous battle between Ya'acov and Saro Shel Esau which is discussed in Parshas Vayishlach. The Torah states "Va'yaar ki lo yachol lo" - Esau saw that he could not defeat Ya'acov so he hit him in Ya'acov's thigh (yerech). R' Frand explained that Esau tried to get Ya'acov to value the physical world, but was unsuccessful. So he struck him in his thigh - the foundation of the body and the source of future generations. As a result, there is a tai'va for the physical in all of us.

So back to the original questions - why was the ish itti someone who was not going to live out the year? Because this person was aware that he was short on time in this world and was not going to be influenced by the physical.

R' Frand then mentioned the Zohar in discussing that Esau had left Ya'acov -- Ya'yashav Bayom Hahu Esau L'Darco (Esau on that day went back). When did Esau leave Ya'acov? On Yom Kippur at Nei'lah. R' Frand then returned to a theme from prior drashos about the difference of Nei'lah - a tefilla which contains unique prayers such as Ata Nosein Yad L'psohim (you, Hashem give a hand to the sinners) and that we ask to be saved from Oshek yadeinu. R' Frand asked - do we really steal and therefore we need to ask for forgiveness from theft? In most cases no. Rather, we are afflicted with the sickness of the physical world which impacts our actions in many ways. For some, our desire for the physical will drive us to steal. For others, it will impact the way that we treat others or prioritize our needs. When does this influence of Esau leave us? When we daven Nei'lah and ask to be released from these wrongful priorities.

R' Frand closed with a quote from R' Chatzkel Levenstein. He said that R' Chatzkel once gave a shmuz in which he talked about Hollywood. In the shmuz he said that there is a place where actors and actresses make great sums of money. But what do they say when an actor dies? Do they stand at the open grave and say he was handsome? Or that she owned many cars or he owned many houses? No, they discuss how the actor honored his parents or never forgot a childhood friend or devoted time to charity. Why? Because before the open grave the falsities of this world must give way to the truth of what is important in life.

Yom Kippur is that day when the cellphones are away, the TV is off and we are sitting in shul thinking about our lives. If we are worthy, we can use that opportunity to recognize that this world really is a corridor to the world to come and that the physical is merely there to get us where we need to be. If we can intenalize this we can write off the Esau influence and incorporate Ya'acov into our lives.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings - Vol XXVIII - Football, Boxing and Life

In my opinion, today's Max Kellerman show was classic Max, heavy discussions of football (the Giants), some boxing and life experiences. I will try to summarize the limited portion that I was able to listen to in this post.

Max started the show with a story about how this weekend he had been out on the West Coast doing a boxing show (Boxing After Dark) and that when it finished on Saturday Night he wanted to catch a "red eye" flight back to New York. Why? Partially because Erin is eight months pregnant (hope you're feeling well Erin!) and partially because he wanted to catch the Giants game at home. Unfortunately, the airline schedule was not cooperative and he was forced to stay over until Sunday. But once he could not get a flight to NY which landed in the AM, Max decided to catch a late afternoon flight so that he could try to watch the whole Giant game in LA. I use the term "try" because the network did not cooperate, as it cut away from the Giant game in the Third Quarter to the Skins/Eagles game because the Giant/Seahawk game was a blowout.

Speaking of the Giants, there was a discussion about whether the Giants were trying to send a message to Plaxico Burress as the team amassed 44 points in their victory over the Seahawks (more points than they scored in any game in 2007 or 2008). There was a spirited debate involving both Louie and Lundberg (welcome back to the airwaves guys) as to whether the team was trying to show up Plaxico and if so whether it was effective.

There was also an interesting hypothetical discussion about whether Eli Manning could be traded for Ben Roethlisberger in an even swap. Max has always been of the opinion that the Giants (rather than trading up for Eli) should have traded down for Ben and kept the draft choices and used them to pick Shawn Merriman and Nate Kaeding. I think the debate of Eli vs Ben is an interesting topic in and of itself. However, there is no way to know whether Ernie Accorsi would have picked Merriman or Kaeding with the picks that went to San Diego.

Speaking of Erin, Max had a special message to her (one of those "Erin if you are listening" moments). He talked about how Erin thinks that its not fair (cue the T.O. clip) because she has to endure pregnancy and Max does not. Max said that Erin wants science to do something to men to even things out. I wish I would have listened to more on this, but I had to turn it off and did not hear the rest of the show.

Max's talk about boxing reminded me of a story told by Rabbi Frand about a boxer. (I heard this in his speech at the Daf Yomi siyum in 2005). R' Frand told a story about a young man who had gone away to yeshiva to learn. When he returned home, the boy used to sit at the dining room table and learn, while his dad (a former boxer) watched the fights on TV in the other room.

One night, the father approached his son and asked what he was learning. The boy replied that he was learning gemara (talmud). The father asked if he could learn with the son and the son obliged. Over the course of the next series of months the father and son learned together until they had finished a page of gemara.

When the two had completed their study, the father told his son that he felt a great deal of accomplishment and wanted to make a party. The son was skeptical as one normally celebrates finishing a tractate of gemara, not one page. Nonetheless, the dutiful son asked R. Moshe Feinstein, zt'l whether the party could be made. R' Moshe answered in the affirmative and asked for permission to attend the party.

Not long after the father passed away. When he was informed of the loss, R' Moshe asked whether he could speak at the funeral. Upon being given an opportunity to speak, R' Moshe commented that it is widely known that a person can obtain a place in the world to come in one hour ("Yesh koneh olamo b'sha'ah achas"). R' Moshe then remarked that the boxer had secured a place in the afterlife with the one page that he had learned ("Yesh koneh olamo b'daf achas").

The actions of the boxer could not be more important than this time of year. When we are being judged on Yom Kippur it is important to remember that if we take positive beginning steps we can be granted wonderful rewards.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review looks at Brooklyn Brewery's Oktoberfest. As my good friend Charlie H says, there is no time like the fall for beer. Since its the first Sunday in October, I figured that I would follow his lead and review an Oktoberfest beer.
As explained by the sages at Beer Advocate:
Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content. The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies'n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.
Brooklyn Brewery's Oktoberfest is true to the definition of an Oktoberfest brew as it has the dark color copper (both in the beer and on the label). Additionally, the beer has a rich hoppiness without the bitterness of an IPA. I found that the one I had on shabbos went very well with chicken (and cholent). I am certain it would also hold up well when consumed with pot roast, turkey and other sukkos dishes.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are nearly all beers brewed by Brooklyn. For the experts' take on the Oktoberfest please click here

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

Finally, on a cheerful note, I received an email from the Va'ad of Detroit in which they indicated that they give hashgacha on another beer (besides those brewed in the FX Matt plant shared by Saranac, Brooklyn and Pete's). The beer is called Shiner and is brewed in Shiner, Texas. It is not available in NY at the present, but I hope to bring some back from my sukkos trip and review them in later columns. Stay tuned.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday's Torah Tidbits - Vayeilech

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. 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 Devarim 31:19 the Torah mentions Moshe's final instructions to the Jewish people which includes a direction that they should write this shirah (song) and teach it to the children of Israel. Chazal learn from this pasuk the mitzva of writing a sefer Torah.

The Pnei Yehoshua brings a kabbalistic tie in between the mitzva of writing the sefer Torah and the commandment which occurs with the Jews on the precipice of entering the Land of Israel. He notes that there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah and there were 600,00 Jews who left Egypt. He uses an acronym to teach this concept - Yisrael is comprised of Yud (for "Yesh") Shin (for "Shishim") Resh (for "Rivo") Alef (for "Osiyos") and Lamed (for "L'Torah"). He then mentions the Shlah and Zohar (among others) who teach that each Jew who left Egypt had a letter in the Torah that corresponded to his nishama.

R' Frand then said in the name of R' Asher Weiss that when you observe the celebration of a hachnasas sefer Torah (welcoming a new Torah to a synagogue) there is a great deal of happiness and celebration, despite the fact that the shul has quite a few sifrei Torah already. He explains that people get very emotionally involved in the celebration because each Jew has a connection between their soul and a particular letter in the sefer Torah.

R' Frand then mentioned the Gemara in Avodah Zara which talks about how the Romans killed R' Yosi Ben Kisma because he taught Torah to Jews in spite of the Romans ban on such teaching. The Gemara then describes how the Romans took him and wrapped him in a sefer Torah and set it on fire, while keeping wet cotton between him and the parchment to prolong his agony. The Gemara then related that when his students saw him in this state, they asked him what he saw. He responded that the parchment was burning, but the letters of the Torah were floating to the heavens. R' Frand postulated that they did not ask R' Yosi what he was actually seeing, but instead were asking what will be in the future. To this R' Yosi responded, they may burn us like the parchment, but the letters of the Torah are eternal and will never be destroyed.

R' Frand then finished with a little chizuk related to the concept of Teshuva [Ed. Note - there will be a R' Frand teshuva drasha broadcast on-line next Tuesday evening. I hope to reproduce some of his thoughts in my Tuesday Night post in place of the Thoughts on the Daf segment]. R' Frand mentioned that the blessing in the shmoneh esrei dealing with teshuva concludes with a statement that Hashem is "Harotzeh B'Tshuva" that Hashem wants us to do Teshuva. R' Frand then explained that if a person even takes the beginning step to repent, Hashem will assist him in receiving teshuva. This is a classic mussar concept as it taught "Haba L'taheir Misayin Oso" - one who wants to become pure, Hashem assists him. Similarly there is a statement that if we open ourselves to the level of the eye of a needle to the concept of teshuva, Hashem will assist.

R' Frand concluded with a story which I heard a variation of from R' Zev Cohen in Chicago a few Pesachs ago. As told by R' Frand - there is a boy who when he graduates high school announces to his parents that he wants to see the country. His father argues with him and tells him that he needs to go to college. The son disagrees and is adamant that he wants to travel cross-country. The father then says - if you leave, the door is closed to you forever.

The son leaves and begins to travel across the country, doing odd jobs to make money. Eventually he tires of touring and begins to hitchhike back to the east coast. When he is in Iowa he writes a letter to his mother asking her whether he could return home. He says that he knows that his father was upset, but if he has changed his mind and would allow him back, the son is ready to do so. He asks his mother to hang a white towel from a certain tree that adjoins the train track near his hometown if the father will take him back.

The son eventually gets on the train which will pass by his hometown. However, he is too nervous to look to see if the towel is in tree. He confides in the guy sitting next to him on the train and asks him to look whether there is a towel in the tree. After the train has passed the spot, the boy asks the other passenger whether there was a white towel in the tree. The man responds that there was not one white towel in the tree. Rather, there was a white towel hanging from every limb of the tree.

This story is symbolic of the Jews relationship with Hashem at this time of year. If we are willing to take the step of genuinely asking for forgiveness, Hashem will welcome us back with open arms.

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