Rebbetzin’s Perspective I Class #2

3 07 2011

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

Rebbetzin Perspective

Question:

How do I balance listening to lashon hora with developing a deep and meaningful relationship with my teenage daughter?  Are there different rules when dealing with teenagers who need to be able to talk freely in order to understand themselves and their circle of friends?  

 

Answer:

 

If you care about someone, you want to give them what’s best for them. If you had a brilliant child who wanted to become a doctor, you’d do whatever you could to get him through medical school. If you had a special needs child who required extra intervention, you’d surmount all obstacles to help him progress. Your daughter desperately needs to learn how to differentiate between actual lashon hara and  lashon hara l’toelet, and how to developing a positive eye. As her mother, you are responsible to guide her.

 

Some people have the illusion that if they confide in their spouse they are drawing closer. In fact they are doing quite the opposite, notes the Chofetz Chaim, because their relationship is based on the common desire to tear people down. If you don’t set your daughter straight now and she continues analyzing and discussing people endlessly, the day may come when you’ll be the bull’s eye. She’ll be talking about you in a way she’s been talking with you all along about others.

 

The first step would be to gently get her to focus on what is unique, special, and precious, in every person. The next step would be to steer her to look for constructive solutions to her social problems. The final stage would be to have her come to these conclusions on her own. This will change your relationship with her in a very pivotal way. It will now be based on the common goal of finding resolutions and developing positivity rather than constantly putting others down.

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Pure Money-Verbal Agreements #2

1 07 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by  Dayan Shlomo Cohen

Money Matters What constitutes ownership in Jewish law?  At what point is there a transfer of possession from seller to buyer?

Every transaction has several stages. The first is the final decision to buy, the second is when the buyer and seller come to a verbal agreement, and the third stage is paying for the item. The overriding rule in what causes a transfer of ownership is gemirat daat-a final decision that the buyer and seller will now proceed with the transaction.

Asking and comparing prices does not create an obligation to buy.  However, once the buyer makes a positive decision to purchase the item, our Sages say those who fear Hashem should stay true to their thoughts. Beit din will not take a stand if the buyer retracts at this point. However the next stage, when a verbal agreement is formed, creates an obligation. The Sages term buyers or sellers who retract at this level “mechusrai emunah“-unfaithful people. Beit din cannot force the buyer or the seller to keep his agreement, but the one who retracts is called a rasha and beit din will attempt to make him keep his word. If there is a fear of loss involved, then either of the parties may renege on the agreement.

There is an argument in the Shulchan Aruch and other Poskim whether a change in a situation allows a buyer or seller to go back on his word. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it makes no difference and each party must stand by his word. The Rema agrees with this. If either the buyer or seller dies, according to some opinions, his heirs should keep the agreement.

According to the Chasam Sofer, a change in a situation may allow a person to go back on an agreement but it does not apply to every change. Indeed Rav Wosner rules that one may nullify an agreement due to a significant change but not because of a small change. Overcharging 1/6th more than the market value, nullifies a sale. If it is less than 1/6 it is valid. If it is exactly 1/6, one must return the 1/6th and the agreement remains valid. The same holds true for the seller. If he finds out that he can now sell an item for 1/6th more he may go back on the agreement. If it is less than 1/6 he cannot.

Once an agreement is reached and it is written down and signed, there is an obligation to supply the goods and pay. A signature is considered a kinyan and obligates both the buyer and the seller. It is considered more severe than mechsurei emunah.

What happens if you make a verbal agreement with two people simultaneously? The stigma of mechsurei emunah can be removed by appeasing one side verbally or monetarily. You can sell to the second and appease the first or visa versa.

 Giving a gift also depends on gemirat daat. Telling someone you will give a gift doesn’t create a transfer of ownership.  A small gift creates an obligation. Offering a large gift doesn’t create an obligation because the listener does not believe you anyway. A rich uncle who promises his nephew a bike must stand by his word. On the other hand if he promises him a car, there is no obligation. A poor uncle who promises a bike is not obligated.  However if he promises him a small gift such as a book, he must keep his word.

 A decision to give to charity involves no change of ownership. However according to some Poskim, a final thought creates an obligation akin to a vow and beit din can force someone to keep it. Other Poskim disagree and maintain that thoughts do not create a vow.  All opinions hold that a verbal donation is a vow. Generally children cannot be forced to keep their parent’s vows to charity but it is fitting that they should.  If after a vow was made, the situation changes, the obligation can be nullified.  If you pledge tzedakah on the condition that someone will survive, and he does not, there is no obligation to honor the pledge. If you say, “In order that he should live,” one must follow through with the donation. The same way a debtor must pay his debts, one must keep one’s charity obligations even when it becomes financially difficult.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that one should not take charity from a married woman because she may not have her husband’s permission. Poskim today rule differently since times have changed and woman are more in charge of the home.

In the diamond exchange, a verbal agreement usually finalizes a transaction and the buyer and seller wish each other mazel u’bracha. In Jewish law, this is considered a final agreement and a transfer of ownership.





Times of Separation, Times of Closeness-Netivot Olam II #5

30 06 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Times of Seperation, Times of Closeness Shalom is the key to putting the fragmented puzzle pieces of this world together again.  The Torah tells us to actively pursue peace because it completes everything including our own piece of the puzzle. A Jew’s purpose is to be mashlim (to make whole) everything he encounters.  If you are about to eat a pear, say the bracha with kavanah. If you meet someone you don’t know, realize that Hashem engineered the meeting. Get acquainted with the person. In this way you will be fitting the puzzle pieces of you and him together.

The deeper we feel that there is a lack, the more intuitively we try to fill it. The more aware we are of our incompletion, the more we will proactively pursue wholeness. Pursuing peace means giving of ourselves to others in a generous and unstinting way, so they become a part of us. Shalom requires us to look for opportunities to give of ourselves so that we can make wholeness happen. Say hello to the woman in line after you at the supermarket. Treat people who serve you with respect and dignity. Express appreciation and be generous with praise and compliments.

People are naturally drawn to completion and closure. This explains the insatiable desire people have to vicariously experience the resolution of  life-struggles through literature, drama, and film. We enjoy the experience of closure when everything finally comes together at the end.  Similarly, when we plant a seed, it develops and grows and only rests when it is fully complete. So too there’s a growth impulse inside each of us which says, “Complete yourself.”

Shalom has unifying power. If a person doesn’t return someone’s shalom greeting, he’s robbed the other person of the opportunity to feel whole and connected with him. To become part of a greater whole we have to pursue peace. However we cannot be everyone’s best friend, nor is it necessarily a desirable goal. Friends influence us greatly and we need to be selective.  There’s a difference between offering something of yourself to someone and sharing your intimate secrets. You can be discerning, yet kind and giving. When each piece of the puzzle maintains its own integrity, the puzzle is complete.

Doing chesed-tapping in to our Elokut so that it pours forth to others, is the idealized way to make peace. Pursuing shalom means wanting to make everyone more whole, by giving of ourselves. It does not mean acknowledging our integrity and the other person’s integrity to the point of having no borders. There are times to give freely, times to withdraw, and times to leave things as they are.

May we reach perfect sheleimut in our quest to become true lovers of peace.





Sefirat Haomer-The Inner Count

4 05 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles 

Sefirat Haomer-The Inner CountUsefartem lachem mi’macharat hashabbat miyom heviachem et omer hatnufa sheva shabbatot temimot tehiyena, ad mimcharat h’shabbat hash’viit… “And you shall count from the day after Shabbat from the day of the waving of the Omer sacrifice, seven full weeks it shall be until the day after the seventh week…” Why is the phrase “Mi’macharat haShabbat” repeated? Why do we first bring an offering of barley and then of wheat? Why do we count towards Shavuot instead of counting down?

 In Shir Hashirim it is written, “Mashchaini acharecha narutza he’viani hamelech chadarav…”- “Draw me towards you and I will run. The King has brought me into his chamber.” Mashchaini refers to Pesach, narutza is Sefirah, and he’viani is Shavuot. On Pesach, Hashem took the initiative and drew us towards Him. He revealed Himself to us and redeemed us. This is why Pesach is called Shabbat. It is an eternal gift from Hashem independent of human intervention. On Pesach, the Jews reached lofty spiritual levels which they could have never attained on their own.  After this great illumination, they were given the challenge to regain it again. They were commanded “narutza“-to count 49 day.  They were to elevate themselves by degrees, until they could once again reach the level they had attained at Yetziat Mitzrayim. We count towards Shavuot and not down. We must not look at the ultimate goal which we cannot yet appreciate. We must gain strength from what we have already accomplished instead of feeling overwhelmed about what is left to do.  If we look at the omer, the first simple offering, our hearts will be uplifted to ascend higher and higher until we can bring the more elaborate wheat offering on the holy Yom Tov of Shavuot.

 Rav Tatz notes that counting the omer is not just a sentimental marking but a build up towards a goal. It is developing each component of a process. We received that burst of inspiration on Pesach. Our challenge during Sefirat haomer is to return to that level again through our own toil and effort.

  The Ishbitzer Rebbe explains that there is a custom to eat eggs at the Seder night. This is symbolic of a spiritual transformation. On the outside of an egg one cannot tell if a chick will eventually emerge. We need to wait and see what will happen. That’s us on the Seder night. We’ve been touched even though we may not sense anything initially. Sefirat haomer is our incubation period. It is during these weeks that we develop ourselves so that we can eventually emerge as deeper human beings on Shavuot.

 Next week, we will discuss the ways in which we can embark on a path of growth during Sefirat Haomer.





Maggid: A Blueprint For Self

11 04 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Maggid: A Blueprint For SelfMagid begins with the words “Ha lachma anya, This is the bread of poverty.” In what sense is matza the bread of poverty?  The Maharal explains that matzah is a simple food. It contains only two ingredients: flour and water. We should approach Pesach with simplicity.  Simplicity implies bitul hayesh, self-nullification. Self-discovery entails going back to being ourselves, which is what liberation is about.  Animals have no ambition and no yearnings. This kind of passivity is our enemy. In our hearts we have a whole menagerie which keeps us from discovering ourselves. The more we focus on our failures and disappointments, the more paralyzed we become.

We have to believe in ourselves. A person can make a decision to improve himself and Hashem will help him. This is contingent on telling Hashem, “I am who I am. I want to approach You with simplicity. Help me.” Receiving this level of siyata d’shmaya at the seder is encapsulated in “Ha lachma anya,” our statement of simplicity. At the end of this hymn, we invite all those in need to join our seder.  Although it is only a ceremonial statement, it teaches us an important lesson. Our goal should be to imitate the ways of Hashem. The animal self is passive. The spiritual self is active and wants to give. That is why we begin Magid with a declaration of kindness.

We proceed to Mah Nishtana. One of the mystic names of Hashem is Mah, the one who brings forth questions. Mah Nishtana questions a series of contrasting pairs: chametz and matzah, dipping out of pain and dipping as a sign of freedom, reclining as kings and eating the bitter marror. Although we live lives that are in some ways paradoxical, we must search with open hearts and admit that sometimes we do not know.

We then recite Avadim Hayinu, which tells how we were enslaved to Pharoh. Pharoh comes from the root word paruah, wild. The same letters spell oref, the back of the neck, the source of involuntary motion. Pharoh took us to the world of subconscious, where rational thinking was irrelevant and where there were no moral choices to make.  In Kabala, galut mitzrayim is called the exile of daat because we did not know who we were and what we were meant to accomplish.

If Hashem had not redeemed us we would still be enslaved to everything Pharoh stood for. Mitzrayim comes from the root word metzar, narrow straits. Egypt was a wide open place with no moral strictures to hold a person down. In truth, there is nothing more constricting than a wide open place. The endless possibilities paralyze a person from pursuing a life of growth. When we left Egypt and received the Torah, the strictures of the Torah opened us up to a life of purpose.

The Maharal notes that the enslavement was a step towards redemption. We often do not discover who we are until we figure out who we are not and who we do not want to be. In Egypt, the Jews learned that they did not want to be Egyptians. They did not desire broadness that was really narrow, or freedom of thought that was really enslavement to the subconscious. This rejection made the Jews free, together with the inspiration that came from above.

We continue the Hagadah with a discussion of the four sons. The four sons live within each of us at different times in our life. There are four different levels of awareness. The wise sonasks, What are all these mitzvos? What do the paths look like? He wants to know how to get from where he is to where he wants to be. Chochma comes from the words koach mah, the potential that lies in essence, rather than how it can be used or how it feels. Ultimately we have to come to a level of not speaking. We have to look for a higher awareness and channel it. That is what makes someone a chacham.

The rasha asks, “What is this service to you?” He calls Judaism avodah (service) and not halacha (Jewish law) because he does not see himself as going from one place to another. He has no destination, but lives in the present. It seems senseless to him to burden himself with seeking. The difference between a tzaddik and a rasha is that while the rasha sees only the top of the mountain, the tzaddik sees the path. He is willing to live in the world of process. The rasha lives only in the world of product. People become reshaim by being reactive and losing themselves. They allow their emotions to control them.

The Hagadah says that you should “grind the teeth” of the rasha. Teeth break large pieces into smaller pieces. Similarly, reshaim take ideas that are grand and trivialize them into nothing. We answer him with “Ba’avur zeh.” These halachot are important because they redeemed us from Egypt. They transformed us from living a life of constraint to one of walking with Hashem. Judaism is not avodah. Halacha, from the root word ‘halach‘, to go, takes us where we want to be. We have to learn to silence the rasha within us.

The Tam says, “Mah zot? What is this?” According to the Zohar, zot is the Shechina. The Tam asks, “Where is Hashem?” He wants a religious experience without having to keep halacha. We answer, “B’yad chazakah…” Hashem displayed miracles and took us out of Egypt. However, he did all this because he wanted us to take it further. Tam also means straightforward. Yaakov was an “ish tam,” he was the same inside and outside. Our simple self tells Hashem, “All I really want is to know you.”

The fourth son does not know how to ask. In today’s society, most people are incapable or unwilling to ask about Hashem. The biggest enemy in kiruv is apathy. Telling about our personal experiences and what has given us meaning can kindle a spark within the hearts of our lost brethren.





Dosh/Sechita Demonstration Part II

6 04 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

Shabbat Scenarios: Dosh/Sechita DemonstrationsThe Torah prohibition of Dosh traces back to the times of the Mishkan when wheat kernels were separated from their external shells by threshing. The most common toldah (derivative) of Dosh is Sechita or Mefarek – extracting a liquid from a solid.

·         Can you milk a cow on Shabbat? This appears to be a classic case of sechita, squeezing the cow’s udder, a solid, so that milk can flow out. The Gemara limits sechita to gedulei karka (vegetation, which grew from the ground). However, the accepted view is that milking is prohibited on Shabbat, since a cow is sustained by vegetation. The son of the Rambam adds that the condition of gedulei karka only applies to the av melacha as it was done in the Mishkan, and not to the toldah of sechita.

·         Similarly, the view of the Magid Mishna is that extracting blood from humans who are also sustained by vegetation is prohibited. Therefore, blood transfusions should not be done on Shabbat, except when a person’s life is in danger.

·         Squeezing a liquid directly on to a solid so that the juice is completely absorbed into the food is permitted. Therefore, you can squeeze a lemon onto a slice of fish on Shabbat. Dousing the fish with copious amounts of juice so that the excess liquid pools around the plate is prohibited. The Gemara gives an example of milking a cow directly into a pail of oats which will be fed to animals. If the cow gives such an abundance of milk that the oats can no longer absorb it, it is prohibited.

·         Extracting liquid from grapes and olives, which were offered as libations in the Temple, is prohibited mi’doraita.

·         The Rabbis prohibited squeezing fruits that are commonly juiced such as strawberries and pomegranates.

·         Sucking the juice out of a fruit directly into your mouth is generally permitted. The exceptions are grapes and olives, which

are   prohibited mi’doraita. Although the Rama writes that there is room for leniency, it is best to avoid doing this.





Students Experiencing Growth from Naaleh Classes

20 10 2010

With all the inspiring classes available at Naaleh.com, students are making strides in their learning and growth. Recently one our students wrote it with the following comment:

‘I just wanted to say how much I love Naaleh. The shiurim are amazing and I am learning and growing so much from the site, thank you!’ -Anonymous

This is exactly the purpose of Naaleh and we hope you are taking advantage of all the free classes we have to offer. We hope to hear from you too- so please send in your comments to contact@naaleh.com.