Reheating Food on Shabbat

31 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

Reheating Food on Shabbat

Chazal forbade putting fully cooked food on the fire on Shabbat because one could come to stoke the coals. Additionally it is mechzi k’mevashel, it appears as if one is cooking. However, if one satisfies five requirements, then bishul becomes chazara and is permitted l’chatchila.

 

The five conditions are,

1.      the flame must be covered,

2.      the food must be fully cooked,

3.      it must still be warm,

4.      one may not release one’s hold on the pot, and

5.      one must have intention to return the pot to the fire.

 

Two issues arise with reheating food on Shabbat. The food is no longer warm and it is no longer in hand. The Magen Avraham explains that chazara is permitted because it is a continuation of the original act of putting the food on the fire, rather than an initial placement on the flame. The first three conditions create this distinction. Therefore, the Mishna Berura rules that bdi’eved if one does not have one of the last two conditions one may still do chazara.

 

The Biur Hagra notes a disagreement between Rashi and the Rosh whether the rule of ein bishul achar bishul (cooked foods cannot be recooked) applies only to solid foods or also to liquids. The Rambam holds that it applies equally to both. The Rama takes a middle position and rules that a dry food with liquid gravy may be placed near the fire, but a liquid is prohibited. The Shulchan Aruch rules like Rashi who holds that yesh bishul achar bishul b’davar lach (cooked liquids can be recooked – and therefore, it is asur to do so on Shabat).  The Rama notes that the custom is to be lenient and one may return liquid to the fire as long it did not cool down completely. It seems like the requirement of it not cooling down does not belong to the trilogy distinction between chazara and mechzi k’mevashel. The Gra and the Rama maintain that putting cold cooked liquid back on the fire may be a prohibition of bishul d’oraita. Rashi and the Shulchan Aruch hold that this requirement pertains to chazara. According to the Magen Avraham, the condition of lo nitzanzen (not having cooled down) applies equally to liquids and dry foods. The Gra maintains that it only pertains to liquids.

 

According to the Ran as quoted by the Rama, all five requirements of chazara only apply if one took the food off the fire before Shabbat. Therefore, if the pot was on the flame when Shabbat began and you served from it on Friday night and then put it down, you could still return it to the stove if it did not fully cool down.

 

The Mishna Berura says there is a basis for this leniency but it is better to be stringent as many poskim disagree. The Shulchan Aruch writes that it is permitted to rewarm dry food on top of a pot filled with food, since it is not a normal way of cooking.

 

A “kedierablech is a wide pot filled with water. Some maintain that you can put food on top of this and some say since it does not contain food, it is has the din of a regular blech and has not solved the problem.

 

The Shulchan Aruch notes that warming food near a fire is permissible because it is not actually putting the pot on the flame. If the food will not reach yad soledet (boiling point) it is permitted.

 

Can one do chazara by putting food back in an oven on Shabbat? Rav Moshe Feinstein held that to satisfy all five requirements of chazara one would need to use an oven insert to conceal the heating source. Rav Aharon Kotler ruled leniently as long as the knobs are covered.

 

Does a hotplate have the same din as a stove? Rav Moshe maintained that if one cannot cook on it and it only has one setting one may do chazara. Rav Elyashiv rules stringently against this. One can place an oven rack to make a hefsek kedeirah on a hotplate and then put food on it to rewarm. Differing circumstances and situations may vary. Therefore, all questions should be addressed to a competent Rav for a final decision.





Parshat Mishpatim: The Seventh Point

28 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Mishpatim-The Seventh Point

The eved ivri (Jewish slave) was a rare occurrence during the Temple era and is certainly not relevant today. Why then is it discussed first in this parsha?
Chassidut teaches that space consists of six sides, namely: up, down, left, right, front, and back. There is an epicenter within this three dimensional cube, which is the seventh point. This parallels the human experience. Most of our life encounters touch us externally. However there are certain experiences that are so profound that they affect our inner core. This, the Avnei Nezer explains, is why the eved ivri works six years and goes free in the seventh year. The eved ivri is a common criminal or at best a social outcast, sold into slavery to repay his debts. He is bound to serve his master six years, signifying the six external points of his life that have experienced a terrible breakdown. Yet his inner seventh point remains pure and indestructible. This is why he is set free in the seventh year.

 

What is the secret of this indomitable inner core? At Har Sinai, Hashem said, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.” I am Hashem who redeemed you from Egypt. This seems strange. The redemption was certainly incredible, but the creation of the world was even more so. Why does Hashem specifically introduce himself as our redeemer rather than our Creator?

 

The Shem MiShmuel notes that in halacha something that is hekdesh (sanctified) is not subject to human claim. When the Jews became a nation, they reached the level of hekdesh, and therefore the Egyptians could no longer have a hold on them. Our special relationship with Hashem over and beyond the other nations is the kedushat yisrael, the seventh inner indestructible point which connects us as a people to Hashem.

 

At Matan Torah, when the Jews said naaseh v’nishma they became entirely sanctified. All seven levels were freed and no nation could dominate them. After cheit haegel, the six external sides were contaminated again, but the seventh inner core remained pure. This state has stayed with us until today. The vagaries of life cannot affect us because inwardly we are eternally free. Even the eved ivri retains his pure core. Externally, he may have been broken, but his inner seventh point remained untouched, and that is why he is eventually set free.

 

Similarly, the Rambam notes that the world will exist for six thousand years. In the seventh year, we will be redeemed. Mashiach will come and the world will finally recognize the unique bond between us and Hashem that has kept us strong and indestructible throughout our long exile.





Do Married People Still Need Friends?

25 01 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 14

Question:

What does Judaism say about friendship? Is my husband supposed to be my best and only friend? Although I have a good marriage, I find there are things I just can’t share with my husband, the way I used to with friends.

Answer:

Our Sages say, “Oh chavruta oh mesuta,” either companionship or death. Your husband is the one person who can give you things on every level that no one else will ever give you. However, he definitely should not be your only friend. He does not want to listen to feminine chatter nor is he particularly interested in sharing his innermost feelings all the time.

 

Renew your old friendships. Make time for yourself. Go to a play, talk to your friends on the phone while you are doing laundry, straightening the house, or feeding the baby. The social chitchat, personal validation of emotions, experiences and girl talk are meant to be shared with your friends, not your husband.

Be careful though, not to cross lines or undervalue what your husband does give you. His loyalty, provision, intimacy, absolute caring, and commitment can never be filled by any friend no matter how close or understanding.





Optimal Environment: Appreciating Eretz Yisrael

21 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

Optimal Environment: Appreciating EretzYisrael Class #1

The first verse in the Torah is, “Bereishet bara Elokim. In the beginning, Hashem created heaven and earth.” Rashi explains bereishit to mean, bishvil reishit. The purpose of creation was Torah and KlalYisrael, who are reishit. He further adds that Hashem specifically began with the story of creation rather than with the first mitzva of kiddush hachodesh to emphasize that Hashem is Master of the world and that the Jews have full rights to Eretz Yisrael. The Torah immediately explores our connection to the land to teach us that we need Eretz Yisrael to fulfill our destiny of being reishit.

Why does the land of Israel play such a critical part in our ultimate purpose? In Parshat Shelach, when the spies returned from their mission, they reported, “Eretz ochelet yoshveha.” It is a land that consumes its inhabitants. The spies noticed many funerals while they were there. Hashem made the natives die so that they would be busy burying their dead and not notice the spies. Why the strange word ochelet? Would it not have been more appropriate to use the term horeget, to kill? The Zohar explains that just as everything a person eats becomes absorbed into his essence, one who enters Eretz Yisrael is immediately transformed and becomes a part of the land itself. Eretz Yisrael changes a person, and the spies were afraid of this. One who ascends to the holy land exchanges his soul for a higher soul. Living on a more elevated plane lends itself to achieving loftier goals. And just as the digestive process involves chewing and breaking down food, attaching oneself to the land involves suffering and hardship.

Hashem commanded Avraham, “Lech lecha m’artzecha, m’moladetcha. Go from your land, from your birthplace.” Rav Nosson explains that to a certain extent everyone feels bound by their physicality. Hashem tells us, go inside yourself, see how you can live without the materialism that holds your soul in its grip. Similarly, people are branded by the society they live in. When the holiness of the land consumes a person, he is given wings to fly. New vistas open up, enabling him to come closer to Hashem. Hashem tells Avraham to go the land “asher araeka, that I will show you.” When we go to the Land, Hashem will show us how great we can become, what latent potential is hiding within us waiting to be developed.

The Sefer Hayirah writes that one who wants to ascend to the land needs azut d’kedusha and akshanut gadol, boldness, bravery, and great determination. This desire to grow, of never being complacent, can be drawn mainly from Eretz Yisrael. The entire avoda of a Jew is dependent on this. Indeed, the first halacha in Shulchan Aruch is, “Be bold as a leopard…to do the will of Hashem.” The Orchot Tzaddikim writes in Shaar Haratzon that the people who will merit to sit next to Avraham in the World To Come will be those with the iron will to come close to Hashem. Eretz Yisrael gives us this power of desire.

The Midrash says that when Sarah was taken to Pharoh, she cried that Avraham came to the land with the promise that he would grow into a great nation, while she only came with the strength of emuna. Immediately, Hashem sent an angel to strike Pharoh ten times. Later Hashem struck the Egyptians with the ten plagues. As Sara left the king’s house, the Jews eventually left Egypt. This is the meaning of the statement, “In the merit of righteous women our forefathers were redeemed, and in their merit we will be redeemed.”

Mashiach will come in the zechut of emuna. Indeed Tehillim tells us, “Trust in Hashem and do good, dwell in the land and live emuna.” Just as every seed has the potential to grow, every Jew has the power to come close to Hashem. And just as all vegetation needs the right sunshine, soil, and climate to flourish, the Jewish people need Eretz Yisrael to blossom and bring out their hidden strengths. There is no greater place for a Jew to grow than in the holy land. The mitzva of challa connects all Jews to the land. It is the only mitzva of the seven gifts given to the kohanim that is practiced outside Eretz Yisrael. At the moment of separating the dough, you can mentally bring yourself to Eretz Yisrael and pray to be zoche to come back again.

May we merit to live the verse, “Shechon eretz u’reah emuna..,” to dwell in the land with true emuna.





Parshat Yitro: Torah & Shabbat

20 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Yitro-Torah and Shabbat

The Gemara writes that the Torah was given to the Jews on Shabbat. This is hinted at by two verses that share the same expression of Zachor, namely, “Zachor et yom hashabbat, Remember the Shabbat day,” and “Zachor et yom asher amadata lifnei Hashem b’Chorev, Remember the day that you stood before Hashem at Chorev.” Why did Hashem choose to give the Torah specifically on this day?

In its account of Matan Torah, the Torah says, “Vayered Hashem al har Sinai. Hashem descended to Mt. Sinai.” Targum Unkelos translates “Vayered” as “Vayitgala,” meaning Hashem revealed himself. Indeed, according to Chassidut, the Almighty is everywhere, but there are barriers between our perception of Him and reality, which prevent us from seeing Him. At Har Sinai, Hashem removed this blindfold.

Chassidut further teaches that there is a relationship of itaruta d’latata, an arousal from below, which causes Hashem to respond with an itaruta d’lmaleh, movement from above. This is the power of repentance. Our first move is the crack the wall, which causes the edifice blocking our perception of Hashem to crumble.

In Mishlei, King Shlomo writes, “Deep waters are the thoughts of man’s heart.” Chovot Halevavot explains that just as there are subterranean pools of water waiting to be discovered, there are profound wells of spirituality hidden within our souls.  Latent within every Jewish soul is the ability to connect the Creator. This is itaruta d’latata, believing in our powers and opening ourselves up.

Shabbat is the optimum day to dip into these spiritual reservoirs. When we abandon our daily weekday focus and immerse ourselves completely in Torah, prayer, and avodat Hashem, we are one with Hashem. Shabbat supports itaruta d’latata” It is a day to find our true selves, a day of revelation, connection, and profound elevation. That is why Hashem particularly chose this day to give the Torah.

The Shem Mishmuel explores the paradoxical concepts of yesh and ayin, existence and non-existence. Does man have worth, or is he nothing compared to Hashem? On the one hand, man is the purpose of creation. On the other hand, he is but a speck amid the vast celestial bodies and galaxies spinning around the universe. The Shem Mishmuel answers that there are two ways to serve Hashem. One can serve Him through yesh, tapping into our spiritual powers and elevating them for higher purposes. On the other hand, one can serve him through bitul hayesh, losing oneself in the grandeur of Hashem’s spirituality. This is a very high level, one reached by Avraham, Moshe, Aharon, and David.

All of us straddle this dialectic balance. There are times when we need to use our energies in order to achieve great things. We cannot be passive and we must fight to eradicate evil. But there are times when we must be ayin. Trying too much is pride. At some point we must give ourselves over to Hashem and let Him take us where He will lead us.

The six days of the week and Shabbat parallel this concept. During the week, man is a yesh, he toils to accomplish his purpose. On Shabbat we become ayin, null and void in proximity to the Almighty. Spirituality envelops us and we are filled with infinite holiness. On this day, sin falls away, and the barriers separating us from our Maker disintegrate.

Torah also is both yesh and ayin. The Gemara writes that a talmid chacham is in the category of yesh. By interpreting the Oral Torah, he becomes an actual partner with Hashem. Yet our Sages note that in order to acquire Torah one must make oneself into a desert by nullifying one’s personal interest and ego. The balance of greatness in Torah is recognizing one’s abilities, yet personifying humility.

May we be zoche to the Torah of the six days of the week, and to the Torah of Shabbat, to knowing that we are nothing yet something, incomplete yet holy, and may this new level of awareness help us reach ever greater heights in avodat Hashem.





Tu B’Shvat: Focus on Eretz Yisrael

18 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Tu B'Shvat: Focus on Eretz Yisrael

The Mishna tells us that there are four periods in the year that are called Rosh Hashana. Tu B’shvat  is the New Year for the trees. What is the meaning of this quasi-holiday?  When the Temple stood the Jews needed a time to count the life of a tree in order to determine Shemita and Neta Ravai, and Tu B’shvat was the day chosen. However, clearly there is more to this unique day.

The Torah tells us, “Ki ha’adam eitz hasadeh“-Man is compared to a tree which consists of roots, a trunk, branches, and fruit. The Ramchal writes that the early generations before Avraham   were involved in defining reality.   It was the era of roots. Avraham gave us the trunk-the visible side of spiritual projection.  Unlike spiritual thinkers of his time, he saw that this world could be uplifted.  Not everyone followed his path and from Avraham’s tree sprouted branches and sub -branches which still remained part of one reality. In essence, we are all one people and we draw our spiritual energy from one source. If we look at it from this perspective, Tu B’shevat is in many ways the Rosh Hashana of our identity. A person’s roots are his past, yet some of these roots are meant to be our inherent emunah which the Baal Hatanya says is the ultimate definition of every Jew. There is something within us that desires connection and tikkun and that part of us cannot be denied. We must become more aware of this point of emunah inside of us. If we make it real, it will show itself in our thought pattern and actions. This is the trunk because if one looks at a tree that is all one can see -the trunk and branches, not the roots.  Fruit doesn’t benefit the tree, it benefits others. Yet every parts of the tree works in consonance to produce fruit. Similarly, one’s good deeds are one’s fruit. They are what affect others. Additionally, a person’s speech is his fruit. In Hebrew, “Niv” can mean either expression or bud. To a large extent a person is what he says.

On Tu B’shvat we pray for a beautiful etrog.  Why are we thinking about Sukkot now? The four species taken on Sukkot reflect four different parts of the body.  The lulav is the spine, the hadassim are the eyes, the aravot are the lips, and the etrog is the heart.  The heart bridges the mind to the body.  It is the most central part of a person. It is easy to believe intellectually, but true emunah is found in the heart. So when one prays for an etrog, one is really praying for a straight heart, for passion and for a profound connection with our Father in heaven.

Tu B’shevat is the yom tov of Eretz Yisrael which is the etrog, the heart of the world. There is no place in the universe where the spiritual flow from above is as visible or accessible. Therefore there is a custom to partake of the Shivat Haminim, the seven species, of Eretz Yisrael, on this day.

Wheat – Wheat relates to the mind which is an integral aspect of our connection to Hashem.  It takes human intellect to produce flour. Indeed we find in the Gemara that a child begins the process of becoming a thinker in the human sense, when he can eat wheat.

Barley-In early times, barley, was used as animal fodder. It is a tragic mistake to dismiss the animal self. What we are meant to do is uplift physicality by letting our souls tell our bodies who and what to be.

Figs-The Gemara tells us that the eitz hadaat was a fig tree. Figs are usually eaten for pleasure. The pleasure of creativity is almost equaled by the pleasure of destruction. Our challenge is to bring both pleasures into the process of growth.

Pomegrante-All Jews are potentially as full of mitzvoth as a pomegranate.  Every Jewish soul is constructed in a way that the mitzvoth will resonate within, if reached and addressed in the right way. It is impossible for one Jew to keep all the mitzvoth since some mitzvoth are only applicable to Jews in specific circumstances. The idea is that we are one entity and that the collective of Klal Yisrael can fulfill all the mitzvoth.

Grapes-For a vineyard to flourish, it needs the right soil, climate, and rain.  The soil is Eretz Yisrael, the vines are the Jewish body that contains a spark of the merit of our forefathers, the rain is Torah which runs from a high place downward and gives us life, and the sun is the light that shines through the mitzvoth.

Dates-A tzaddik is compared to a date tree. It grows straight and sprouts leaves on top. What defines a tzaddik more than anything else is his straightness. We all have different inclinations. Some are inclined to be givers, which can lead to manipulation and crossing lines. Some believe in justice and punishment which can lead to corruption and cruelty.  Being a tzaddik means maintaining a balance. This can only come from working on ones middot.  Life is about reaching that perfect equilibrium.

Olives-Olives must be pressed to extract their oil. Until one applies pressure, olives have little value. So too, who we are in essence, comes forth not in times of ease, but in times of challenge.

Tu B’shvat is a holiday of joy, a time to contemplate who we truly are.  May we merit to see the fruits of our labor- our children, our words, and our deeds, reflected in the emunah implanted within us.





Parshat Beshalach: Emancipation of the Mind and Heart

14 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Beshalach: Emancipation of the Mind and Heart

The Midrash writes, Hashem tells Israel, “Remember the day of Shabbat as you should remember the Exodus of Egypt.” Just as the seven days of creation culminate with Shabbat, so too the first and last of the seven days of Pesach are compared to Shabbat. How do we understand this? Additionally, we see that the redemption was accomplished by both Moshe and Aharon.  However, once the Jews left Egypt, only Moshe remained as the sole leader. What happened to Aharon? Thirdly, why is Moshe praised as a  “chacham lev,” for performing the mitzvah of taking Yosef’s bones out of Egypt, while the Jews who were also involved with the mitzvah of taking gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors, are not called so.

 

To answer this, the Avnei Nezer notes that when the Jews took the gold and silver, they received a certain level of holiness for performing the deed.  In contrast, Moshe’s mitzvah did not generate any additional kedusha and therefore it was considered a greater act of divine service. This teaches us that doing a simple mitzvah with alacrity and enthusiasm is more beloved to Hashem than a mitzvah that comes with an automatic spiritual high.

 

The Shem Mishmuel explains that the souls of the Jews in Egypt were a reincarnation of the souls of the dor hamabul (generation of the Flood) and the dor haflaga (tower of Bavel.)  Dor hamabul faltered with sins of the heart-immorality and theft.  Dor haflaga sinned with the mind-they rebelled against Hashem. In Egypt, the Jews rectified the sins of the heart. They exemplified themselves in areas of morality.  Moshe represented the power of the mind while Aharon symbolized the heart.  The Exodus was in a sense taking the Egyptian mentality out of the Jews. For that, both Moshe and Aharon were needed to liberate both the corruption of lev and moach. However, the redemption came too early. The Jews had not managed to rectify their idolatrous mindset. Once they were already freed, Aharon’s role in the Egyptian exile was completed as the hearts of the Jews were already pure.    At the splitting of the sea, when the Jews saw the downfall of Pharaoh and his henchmen, their idolatrous mentality collapsed. “And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant.”  In a sense, Moshe engineered this and the Jewish people only participated in Moshe’s mindset and knowledge of Hashem. The Shem MiShmuel explains that sometimes a person needs the elevated connection of a tzaddik to inspire him to greater heights. However in order for the tzaddik’s inspiration to have lasting power, the person himself must toil and sweat to acquire these levels. And indeed we see that although the Jewish people reached enormous heights at the Yam Suf, it was not a tikkun gamor (a complete fixing) and they sinned with the Golden Calf shortly after.

What is the double Shabbat referred to on Pesach? The first day is a celebration of the heart which was rectified in Egypt. The second Shabbat signifies the mind of Moshe, absolute belief in Hashem, which was  temporarily achieved at the Yam Suf.  The third Shabbat will be when Mashiach will come and we will celebrate the final rectification.  Jewish faith and belief in Hashem will then be rooted deeply in the heart of every Jew, acquired through thousands of years of their own toil, effort, and suffering. It is then that the Jewish nation will reach the level of chaya and yechida-the ultimate point where both mind and heart, now completely rectified, will merge in an overwhelming  symphony and ode to Hashem.